A bully, plain and simple


You know, I certainly understand the concept that not every stupid thing someone says is worth responding to. It’s the reason why I don’t devote a post to every time Ken Ham or Focus on the Family update their blogs. I also understand that sometimes people post terrible things with the sole intention of getting you riled up, and responding probably gives them some sort of smug satisfaction.

But sometimes, even the craziest of tirades deserved to be shared. Not because I think I’ll change the mind of the writer, but because people deserve to see what pure, unhinged, vitriol looks like.

This is a message to me from Abbie Smith of the blog ERV, with my response:

btw, my response to Jen:

Rebecca Watson is a loser. She leeches off the skeptical movement to exist. Its disgusting.

You have (had?) potential to be more. And you are flushing it down the toilet.

You are in graduate school. That is your job. You spend way too much time going to these stupid conferences (hey, like Skepticon this weekend), that are not even tangentially related to your job (contrary to what you wrote in the small portion of your proposal I read).

Indeed, graduate school is my job. It is not, however, slavery. I thought you would understand that since you’re also a biology graduate student, but maybe they’re particularly rough over at the University of Oklahoma. You see, people – even graduate students – are allowed to have free time. Yes, we’re allowed to unshackle ourselves from the lab bench and head home for dinner. Some of us will read books or watch movies. Some will head out for beers with friends and coworkers. Some will even – gasp! – take vacations. We are allowed to have lives, and hobbies.

It’s intriguing that you claim I spend way too much time at these conferences, since you don’t know my schedule at all. Like how I purposefully did not schedule any speaking engagements for August, September, October, and early November because I knew I would have to spend extra time preparing for my Research Reports departmental presentation and the NSF fellowship proposal. Or how I’m not scheduling anything January through February because I’m preparing for my committee meeting and have to, as my 2nd year PhD student duties, run graduate student recruitment weekends. Or how I never schedule speaking events in back to back weeks, because I wouldn’t have the time. Or how if I have to miss a half day or day of work for travel, that I make up the time earlier that week or while traveling (which I can do since my project is currently completely computational).

But I’m sure all of the graduate students who decide to attend skeptical conferences will be glad to know that you have deemed them to be a waste of time.

And as for them not being “even tangentially related to my job”… Are you really saying that communicating science is not related to being a scientist? Would you say the same thing to students who spend their weekends helping with science fairs, or giving talks to classrooms or the community? I, like many scientists, want to be more than a pipetting machine.

These speaking engagements have given me much more practical experience in public speaking than most graduate students ever get, and it shows. I am consistently told by multiple professors in my department how excellent my speaking abilities are, and how clearly I can communicate my research.

You are behaving in an utterly unprofessional manner, posting pics of seminars you attend making fun of them, accusing your professors and classmates of being anti-science. The portion of your proposal I read was horrible, to the point of being shockingly horrible for someone of your education and writing experience. It bears absolutely no resemblance to my NIH proposal (which was funded).

This is a drastic distortion of what I’ve talked about here. Yes, I giggled at some particularly horrendous slides from a single seminar (not seminars) that the department as a whole was publicly cracking up about. And I have never accused my professors and classmates of being anti-science. I explained how because of the religious culture surrounding creationism, even some evolution-accepting scientists become uneasy about aggressively supporting evolution.

And while your comments about my proposal were probably meant to hurt my feelings and pad your ego (you got funding, good for you), it just makes me laugh. For one, the NIH fellowships don’t require a personal statement at all, unlike the NSF fellowships. And I explicitly stated my excerpt was from my personal statement, where you are required to talk about your motivation for becoming a scientist and doing outreach.

Second of all, it’s ludicrous that you think you can judge a 6 page application from two paragraphs of a personal statement. A draft personal statement that I openly admitted still needed revision, nonetheless. Unless you’ve been hacking into my computer and reading my finished application, I’ll just assume you’re bitterly taking pot shots. Especially since multiple professors and classmates have told me my application is excellent and very well written.

Which brings me to the worst part of your behavior, and why I know you are well on your way to becoming a professional loser– your proposal sucked, and you blamed your critique on your colleagues supposed anti-science. Youve already said your proposal isnt going to get funded ‘because youre an atheist’ or something stupid like that. And do I remember right, you didnt get into Harvard ‘because youre an atheist’ too, right? When you were properly chastised for behaving inappropriately and unprofessionally, you declared that it was because they couldnt handle you speaking out. Poor you for fighting the system! Career suicide! Bitch, please. I killed a Godfather of Retrovirology, and Ive still got a career (technically, it opened up locked doors for me). Heaven forbid your brain entertain the thought, for a moment, that you just fucked up. You are too stuck up your own ass to take responsibility for your own actions. Youre too old for this kind of immaturity.

My brain almost exploded from the irony that the same person who’s writing an unprovoked diatribe and coined the phrase “Rebecca Twatson” is the one calling me immature.

I’ve never said my proposal isn’t going to get funded because I’m an atheist, or that I didn’t get into Harvard because I’m an atheist. I don’t know why I ultimately didn’t get accepted to Harvard after my interview. And if I don’t get the NSF, it’s probably going to be because they don’t always like discovery based research without clear alternative hypotheses. My point in writing those posts is that I hate that I even have the inkling in the back of my brain that it may be because I’m an atheist. Because sadly, that shit happens. I know people who have lost their jobs because they were atheists, so I can’t help but worry and wonder. It’s one of the reasons I’m an activist – because I don’t think people should ever have to wonder that, even for a fleeting second.

But you can continue thinking I’m a sucky scientist with no social skills who can never admit she’s wrong. I don’t care, because I know it’s not true, and I know the people around me know it’s not true. I’ve demonstrated multiple times on my blog that I’ll edit, clarify, or even remove posts when I find conflicting evidence. I’ve greatly changed my talks because of feedback people have given me when they dispute certain points. And hell, in grad school I’m excited when I’m actually right. Classes challenge the way you think and what you think you know, and professors and classmates constantly challenge your data and interpretations. It’s how science works.

Oh, but right, I suck at that. Moving on.

If you went to my uni and you were in my department, you would be kicked out this coming Spring. And it would have had jack shit to do with your atheism.

But I am not your mother and you are not my problem. If you want to bitch on the internet for a living, more power to you. But you need to deal with the fact that people are going to call you a loser if that is what you choose to do with your life. Because you will be.

If you want to grow the fuck up and be a professional scientist, I would be happy to have you and happy for you.

But I just dont think its going to happen.

The irony of someone bitching on the internet about how I shouldn’t bitch on the internet.

It’s great to know that you would fire me just because you dislike a couple of things I’ve said about feminism (even though you apparently used to think I was awesome), and that you would make that decision knowing literally nothing about my academic achievements. How about the NIH training grant that I’m currently on? How about my two published papers? My grades? Work ethic? Scientific ability at all?

Nope, you know nothing, but you’d be childish enough to fire me.

You’re worried about my ability to become a professional scientist? I’m worried that you will become a professional scientist. We don’t need people who are so divorced from reality that they go on public, outrageous, denigrating rants. I’ll be the first to say that sometimes I can be a bit blunt, or rude, or abrasive. I don’t mince words when I have something to say. But what I’ve never been described as is pointlessly mean. Mean to the point where it’s frankly scary.

But really, it just makes me sad. I used to love your blog, but after “Elevator-gate” you did a Jekyll and Hyde. I can forgive people for occasionally saying something dumb or sexist or mean. But your cruelty isn’t occasional – it’s become an unhealthy obsession, with you lashing out like this at many different people. It’s not my place to psychoanalyze you on my blog, but I sincerely hope you find peace somehow. It’s one thing to strongly disagree with someone, it’s another to say stuff like this.


  1. Great American Satan says

    Holy crap… ERV went crazy. Been a while since I read that one. Don’t think it’s happening again, esp. now that I’m only looking at FTB (and occasional links out of SciAm’s TetZoo to the old version).

  2. says

    It doesn’t seem like you are, but please don’t let this sort of stuff get to you. You’re a great activist and a great science communicator, and I’m sure you’re a great scientist too, and FSM knows we need more of all those.

  3. cmv says

    Wow. The irony, it burns!
    She blogs how often? Oh, but most of that is directly related to her subject area, I guess, so that’s different. Maybe Real Scientists ™ at not supposed to have outside interests.
    How sad. I had just discovered ERV via WEIT before things blew up, and now I can’t make myself go back there.

  4. says

    Other things have gotten to me, but honestly this one has not. I just can’t ignore people who diminish my scientific accomplishments, especially in such shockingly hateful ways.

  5. says

    Wow, that was a lot of transparent nonsense from ERV. Even if you had just posted her words without commentary, you still would have proven your point.

  6. penn says

    Jen, I firstly want to agree Jonathon that you shouldn’t let her get to you (even though she doesn’t seem to be). She doesn’t know anything about you, your academic achievements, your work ethic, or your research abilities. She is just a petty jerk, who seems to be having a public mental breakdown. It is sad, and like you said, hopefully she finds peace somehow. It seems like she should just walk away from the internet since she finds it to be such a waste of time, and finds so many things to get infuriated about.

  7. Palaverer says

    I have only read ERV’s comments on other people’s blogs, but they are typically nasty, ignorant, and/or misogynist. Which is why I will never read her blog.

    Jen, you do wonderful work. Keep having fun and being super smart and awesome.

  8. abadidea says

    I think I literally scratched my head at the suggestion that you not do anything not directly related to your employment. Buh???

  9. alexanderjohannesen says

    Um. Wow. Er.

    I’ve read ERV for a long time, and that she is feisty is one of the reasons I’ve hung around, but this, this is just vile but most importantly *stupid*. ERV is saying some remarkably stupid things, and even though I read some blogs by stupid people on purpose (gotta get both sides, even if it hurts your head), ERV is not going to be one of them. ERV seriously pissed in the cup of both you and Watson, not because she was right and full of thrust, but because of *stupid*. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

    And I have been taken quite by surprise.

  10. says

    Jen – I *love* that you posted her comments, and that you responded. Publicly talking about things like this often result in people saying “Don’t feed the trolls” or generally espousing sentiments that indicate that the person who pretends not to care about the words of others is the one who wins. But I don’t think it really works like that – I think that calling people out for being dreadful is a valuable, reasonable, and valid thing.

    It’s really encouraging to see you dealing openly with your career and your concerns about it. I’m not a scientist – I’m doing my master’s in public history – but the tangles of academia are interesting things to navigate, and I get frustrated with how cautious I need to be in order to be politic about who I criticize or what opinions I espouse. I think that your open but considered approach to talking about your career is inspiring, and eminently reasonable.

    I love reading your blog. And I know how the specter of Boobquake haunts you, but that was the phenomenon that led me to discover your blog, which I’ve been avidly reading ever since. And thanks to reading it, I’ve become much more open about criticizing religion, and defending my right to be non-religious. I really appreciate your blog, and the way you write and express yourself. And the way you delicately skewer the absurdities and cruelties of unreasonable people, of course!

  11. says

    I’m a little unclear how she thinks any of this, one way or another, disproves the thesis that women should speak out about sexism in public in order to fight it. Even if you were a loser and a bad scientist—which I doubt!—so? That in no way makes your argument, which remember is, “Women should speak out about sexism”, wrong. The phrase “ad hominem” gets thrown around incorrectly, usually by people who believe that it means “one cannot mock a conservative for being stupid”, but in this case, it genuinely applies. What next? She’s going to claim sexism doesn’t exist because your mom dresses you funny?

  12. penn says

    I loved this from Abbie’s post in March:

    Um, ‘that boobquake chick’ is Jen McCreight. Shes a graduate student in biology. ‘Boobquake’ was a really cool counter-attack to Muslims attack on womens personal rights and freedoms.

    Jen, who brought attention to that very serious topic in a lighthearted, non-intimidating way, is just ‘that boobquake chick’.

    A ‘feminist’ thinks its appropriate to dismiss (thus discourage) the positive actions of a young, intelligent activist female, with decades of activism ahead of her.

    She seemed to think that your atheist/secular activism was just awesome a mere 8 months ago, but now it’s an unprofessional waste of time. Speaking of unprofessional wastes of time, home much time does Abbie spend writing blog posts and comments, facebook comments, and emails shamelessly insulting and demeaning other people?

  13. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    That’s just sad. There’s really no other way to see it. Sad to see someone with so much potential, but so divorced from reality that you have to question whether it’s all going to go to waste.

    I had NOT heard of ERV or Abbie Smith before “Elevatorgate.” Consider what a first impression she has made on me. “Twatson” and all.

  14. Physicalist says

    I’m really sorry you have to deal with this, Jen, and I’m glad you’re handling it so well.

    I actually feel somewhat sorry for Abbie; it’s clear she’s got serious issues of some sort. I take it part of her blow-up over the elevator issue was due to her feelings about having her fears of rape dismissed by police. Clearly that’s not the only thing driving all this viciousness.

    At this point she’s ostracized herself from many in the community, and has surrounded herself with some pretty nasty people at her blog. It’s all pretty sad. Don’t let yourself get dragged down by it.

  15. says

    By the way, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Bashing women who speak out against sexism does, in fact, get male attention. But it gets the wrong kind of male attention. Men who get off on hearing a woman denigrate other women for having the nerve to speak out and set boundaries don’t—believe it or not!—respect women’s boundaries. They may imply you get a pass because you twirl your hair and agree with sexism. But when push comes to shove, you’re still just a bitch in their eyes, and you will be treated that way. Getting the attention of assholes is easy, sure, but it just isn’t worth it. Putting the time and effort into having respect for women and not apologizing for it generally saves you the time you’d otherwise waste on assholes.

  16. gwen says

    It seems that women are special targets of vitriol for these threatening vile rants. I know the men get threatening emails, but it seems like they bring the threats to women up to a whole new level.

  17. penn says

    I think Abbie was somewhat shocked that she became the bad guy post elevator-gate. Then she stubbornly doubled-down on her position and quickly became persona non grata in the atheist-blogosphere. That can’t feel good, so her new argument seems to be that it’s all a stupid waste of time anyways and you’re a loser if you bother with non-science “activism”.

  18. A. Noyd says

    Abbie sure spends a lot of time and energy tearing down people who are “not her problem” for, um, spending too much time and energy on things she deems unimportant. (I guess she saves time by not reading her opponents’ words for comprehension; she can’t paraphrase worth a damn.) And it’s disturbing how much “here’s how I’m so much better than you” bragging she does. I don’t get that, especially in someone who insists she’s the mature one.

  19. Chris Lawson says

    Jen, this is just another variation on the “You’re Not Helping” argument and can be safely ignored. Abbie’s writing is becoming more incoherent and bizarre over time and it makes me concerned for her.

    I don’t comment often, but I wanted to let you know you have plenty of supporters too.

  20. strange gods before me says

    If I were to accept the premise that someone is a loser, I do not believe I would act like Abbie toward that person.

    Hm. I guess at worst I would treat them as I treated Phil Giordana, which was with much less interest.

    But then I don’t get the amount of fan mail ERV gets, which must be at least an email every couple of weeks. I guess I might continue in a behavior if I was being praised for it.

    I suppose ERV also has some legitimate grudges about treated wrongly; she has been called sexist names and this probably keeps her agitated.

    But not by you. Apparently there are other things keeping her agitated and I’m not sure all of them are worth anyone’s consideration.

    One of the reasons this has gone on for so long is that most people are convinced that reasonable people can disagree about McGraw, particularly if they have not read her post in question. For some people this serves as a socially acceptable pretense to do other stuff, like let off steam from work, be stupid misogynists, or stumble across a long-running argument and insert themselves unnecessarily (hi how’s it going).

    I think I usually keep staring because of the sexist horrors directed at women who say Watson was not unreasonable. I wish this stuff would stop, particularly the private communications. If anyone involving themself is going to say something they know someone is likely to regard as sexist, they should probably say it publicly, so at least it’s available for criticism. This is at least an attempt at minimal accountability. (Anybody disagree?) Of course it’s still better to just keep that to one’s self.

    Anyway, it’s all very unfortunate and I don’t envy anyone heavily involved.

    If anyone cared what I think, I’d tell ’em it’ll probably stop when Abbie gets bored.

    But damn have seen a lot of misconceptions going around. Some people have been told that so-and-so said something I know they didn’t say. So we get SIWOTI on several levels: factual, ethical, and zomgwomenaretalking.

    That’s just about all I can handle for tonight. First ten callers get a discount on their porcupines.

  21. says

    You really don’t need to justify your life and work to anyone, let alone someone who attacks you like that. I really hope you know that. But thanks for doing it anyway. Nil illegitimi carborundum and all that.

  22. says

    If the NIH predoctoral fellowships are anything like the postdoctoral (F32), who the applicant’s research advisor is can significantly change the likelihood of being funded; i.e., having a famous advisor can make a mediocre proposal fundable. Now I know nothing about Abbie’s advisor, but her implication that having NIH funding makes her a better writer is incorrect for at least one reason besides what you mentioned.

    Also, having also read part of your proposal, I strongly disagree with Abbie.

  23. says

    I have to say this and I need to say it in public. I’ve met Abbie on two occasions. She spoke at the Texas Freethought Convention in Dallas and I interviewed her for the Non-Prophets. She was also one of the speakers at the Oklahoma Freethought Convention.

    Both times, I found her to be an intelligent, charming and entertaining speaker and I really liked her. I saw some of her responses to elevatorgate and it was clear that there was another side to her that I clearly knew nothing about. Until then, I’d have easily encouraged event organizers to book her at any event that needed another science speaker.

    I’d like to say that I still would…after all, this sort of thing doesn’t actually diminish her credentials or capabilities as a science educator. Unfortunately, I think that it matters who you have on your bill and someone who seems to actively seek out conflict in such a spiteful and irrational manner simply isn’t worth dealing with.

    I not only admire and respect Jen and Rebecca, I find them both to be rational, well-informed, dedicated, passionate and valuable assets to the skeptic and atheist communities. Even if I sit back and attempt to assess this all objectively (admittedly difficult as I tend to agree with both of them on so many things) I can’t find that either of them have done anything to even remotely justify the sort of venom that Abbie (and others) have directed at them.

    Having had the good fortune to spend time with all of them, online and in person – I think I’ve got a pretty good read on their “true colors”.

    Jen is one of the best of us. Of that, I remain confident.

    I only wish I was going to Skepticon so we could have a drink and laugh in befuddlement at the strangeness of this…


  24. cbc says

    Recently delurked to add to the chorus of support. It’s ridiculous for anyone to try to tell someone else how to deal with haters. Deal with it how you want. And in this instance, we can all shake our heads with you at this insanity. Honestly…I don’t know what she was thinking. Maybe if she’s smart (not likely) she’ll take the Weiner approach…”I was hacked.”

  25. strange gods before me says

    Also, what’s with the hating on Skepticon? I often don’t like conferences either but jeez. Having fun while talking about your interests with similarly inclined people? Shame on you all.

  26. says

    I’m sorry you were sent that mean letter. But, I’m glad you shared it. I’ve often wanted to write a blog, but the fear of people coming out and attacking my character, intelligence and competence, has made this a more of a fantasy than anything.

    A lot of the vitriol both you and Rebecca Watson have received on the net, is exactly what I’ve been afraid of. But you guys are still here; you guys don’t let that silence you. It made me realize that, yes, people can be vicious, but that isn’t the end of the world, life goes on.

    So, thank you for that. You’ve inspired me to reconsider doing something I’ve been long afraid of.

  27. says

    There was some nasty drama over Skepticon a while back: some people were claiming there were too many atheists there, and it wasn’t a True Skeptics™ conference.

    There’s no reason to hate on it from any perspective, though. I’ve been giving nothing but science talks there; this year we have two talks on math and skeptical thinking. Then we’ve got people like Richard Carrier tearing into biblical scholarship, and last year we had Vic Stenger lecturing on physics. There is some serious science communication going on at this meeting.

    If Abbie thinks skepticism/atheism conferences are inappropriate for grad students, she’s been missing out. Audiences at these things love to hear about science, and it’s a fantastic opportunity for communicating. Speaking as a teacher, I find these events wonderfully invigorating. I have to lecture all the time to students who are sometimes just worn out and jaded with it all, and these conferences give you an enthusiastic audience and a chance to stretch out and try new approaches. That’s incredibly useful stuff.

    And then on top of that Skepticon is one of the more fun and casual conferences on the circuit.

  28. Alexandra says

    I have to say Jen, that was a brilliant, perspicacious, and truly compassionate take-down of a jealous, bitter, and spiteful personal attack. I wish I could respond to criticism one tenth that virulent with one tenth that grace and composure.

    In response to Abbie’s attack, holy shit THE IRONY, IT BURNS! It actually made me feel gross the way pro-theist arguments make me feel gross.

    And thus ended the most structurally repetitive comment I’ve ever made on the internet!

  29. says

    Yeah… it was a nasty, elitist, arrogant, needlessly-personal and irrelevant rant.

    Aside from anything else, I hate, hate, hate, hate the competitive “winners and losers” mindset, which Smith displayed in that rant and which seems to permeate the whole of American (and, to a lesser extent, other countries’) culture and society. I don’t have the energy right now to say anything more intelligent on this subject (and I should really go to bed; it’s the middle of the night here), but the whole thing really set my teeth on edge.

  30. Hamilton Jacobi says

    As we all know, swaggering, jeering, and taunting are the marks of a truly great scientist. Darwin and Einstein were notorious for this.

  31. NateHevens says

    I don’t get it.


    Okay, so… some background.

    When I stumble on a new blog, I don’t generally start on the most recent post. I usually like to play “catch-up”, to get a general feel for the blog to see if it’s one worth following.

    Now, while I stumbled onto ERV quite a while after Elevator-gate, I stumbled onto it by one of Abbie’s blogs about ERVs. And so I went backwards. Not all the way to the beginning, mind you, but to the beginning of 2010. And I’ve read most of her blogs from January 2010 onwards.

    They were all wonderful! Well-informed, highly educational, easy to read for a laymen like me, and more. Finding the ERV blog was such a help to me because I’m the type of sadomasochistic moron who seeks out Creatards like those who inhabit the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM) forums to actually debate over why Evolution is a fact, and ERVs are such incredible evidence of this fact that I like to use them every once in a while as a sort of “case closed!” argument.

    And then Elevator-gate happened and it was like… well… Jen, you nailed it on the head with Jekyll and Hyde. I mean… WTF?

    So this is why I don’t get it. What, exactly, is going on? How is Abbie, someone who I always read as intelligent, rational, and free-thinking, so close-minded when it comes to this stuff? What makes it weirder is that, as you and others point out, she was a fan of yours as early as 8 months ago.

    I mean… what happened? I was such a fan of Abbie’s blog until this sudden turn. Does she want to surround herself with the misogynistic “men”? Is that what this is all about?

    Part of me is hoping to wake up tomorrow to find out that Abbie’s been on vacation since Elevator-gate and some asshole has been writing this stuff for her without her knowledge. I’d question her ability to handle stuff with a modicum of responsibility, but at least it’d explain what the hell’s going on with her.


  32. says

    A Parable

    One day two monks walking by a river looking for a place to cross. After some walking they come across a ford, where they meet a woman in some distress.

    It seems she needs to cross the river, but fears to do so, being a small person and the river being a strong one.

    After some discussion the older monk agrees to carry her across, for he is a large and strong man. So it is the three cross at the ford, with the woman riding on the shoulders of the elder monk. Once across he sets the woman on her feet, bids her a good day, and he and his companion go their own way leaving her to go hers.

    For the rest of the day the younger monk goes on an on about how the older monk had dealings with a woman. The sort of creature who, back in The Garden got Man tossed out.

    Finally, after about an hour of this, the older monk takes the younger by the shoulders and asks, “I set the woman down back at the river. Why are you still carrying her?”


    Tell me, MS. Smith, why are you still carrying her?

  33. says

    Yes, Abbie the busy graduate student spoke at a couple of freethought conventions (I saw the one talk on youtube, and it was good). That rather demolishes her complaint right there.

    I’ve also recommended her as a speaker to other conferences — she was on my short list of women I thought deserving of more promotion.

    She’s not on that list anymore, I’m sorry to say.

  34. says

    There has to be something else going on. I find it very hard to accept that we are talking about ERV here. It’s not what I expect from her at all. What a meltdown.

  35. Laura-Ray says

    This is a thing that makes me sad… that someone who was once a rational person could fall into such terrible thinking. Reading that whole thing almost made me cry. It’s hard enough to educate dumb people who honestly just don’t know any better. That’s nuts to having to re-educate people who were on your side.
    I’m sorry you had to deal with this. I only know of you tangentially really, but what I’ve read is good stuff. Most of what I know of Abbie is… Well, maybe 50’s sci fi is a real thing, and she got body snatched. One can dream.
    In any case, I’m really sorry she said such nasty and dismissive things about you, especially since you seem to be a pretty cool lady. You handled the situation beautifully. I’m gonna have to keep an eye on your blog in the future :)

  36. says

    Excellent response. Way to show skill and levelheadedness in the face of bullying. I would not have been able to do that given my seething cocktail of mental disorders (Depression, Asperger Syndrome, and Borderline Personality Disorder). I probably would have flailed a bit trying to respond before collapsing under their words and doing something rash to myself. But not you. Because you’re awesome, the polar opposite of everything she said. What you do matters. Keep it up.

  37. says

    It is entirely possible for someone to be a decent scientist and still have a blind spot (or two) that makes them embrace the CRAAAZY. Such seems to be the case for Abbie — and I share the concern expressed earlier in the comments on her behalf, as she does seem to go off the rails far more frequently these days. A good scientist she might well be (I have no means of evaluating her on that score due to lack of information). But she is (a) not a good writer (that IS my area of expertise), and (b) far from consistently rational. Over the last year and a half (or more), I’ve watched her engage in all kinds of frothing-the-mouth, crude personal attacks against many people — including those she formerly liked (eg PZ).

    Honestly, it’s best to just ignore her. Read her science posts if her style appeals to you, but skip over the personal attack screeds.

  38. Mandrellian says

    Holy crap, look at the pointless hatred, the air of superiority, the name-calling, the put-downs, the presumptions and especially the rank fucking hypocrisy – it’s mind-boggling that anyone could think that’s a reasonable response to what Jen said. Then again, this is from the woman who thought Rebecca’s “don’t do that” was tantamount to men-o-cide.

    I wish Abbie could step back for a minute and see what she’s becoming: a goddamn laughing stock of the skeptosphere, as much as any Mooneyite accommodationist or ranting creationist or dedicated troll. I think even her mate Jerry Coyne would think that response is way out of line.

    Until “Twatson” and the subsequent meltdown I visited ERV daily; now I’m at the point where I don’t think I have any respect left to lose.

  39. Zach Moore says

    Admittedly, taken in a vacuum, one is likely to be struck by a sense of profound discontinuity. But the context is extraordinarily complex, and exacerbated by the virtual setting. My hopeful guess is that half a bottle of tequila and a couple hours in meatspace with all involved parties would erase most of the lines in the digital sand.

  40. Nick says

    If I had any respect left for Abbie after how she treated RW, it’s all gone now.

    Counterintuitively, this may increase the frequency with which I visit her blog. We’re probably only months away from a serious meltdown, and I wouldn’t want to miss that. Schadenfreude, thy name is Nick.

  41. NateHevens says

    I have a funny feeling we’ll be hearing about any complete and total meltdown all around the blogosphere. No need to drive traffic to ERV for it all…

  42. Eric O says

    I started reading ERV’s blog about a year before the whole Elevator-gate thing, and like many here, I was a fan. It’s disappointing to see her go from an intelligent, rational person to a frothing-at-the-mouth e-bully.

    I don’t have to agree with my skeptical heroes on every point. I admire Penn and Teller despite their libertarianism. I like Christopher Hitchens but I found his “Why Women Aren’t Funny” article to be sexist and stupid. Thunderf00t’s views of the whole 9/11 “mosque” debacle didn’t seem particularly enlightened to me, but he’s still awesome in my book. Dawkins made me grit my teeth with that infamous post-Elevator-gate comment (Dear Muslima), but he can be forgiven since he does seem to take feminism seriously in other contexts and this just seemed to be a bit of a blind spot for him.

    But Abbie is different. I can overlook someone being wrong – pig-headedly wrong, even – on factual or (some) moral matters. It’s harder to overlook the fact that someone’s turned into an asshole.

    I wish that she could take a step back, realize that she sounds crazy and mean, and apologize with sincerity. She’d re-enter my cool books instantly and even get bonus points for self-awareness. Until then, I can’t bring myself to read anything she writes.

  43. Azkyroth says

    Before I found your blog I really appreciated Abbie, partly because she found certain prominent “feminist” bloggers (*cough*Zuska*cough*) as irritating, intellectually dishonest, and obnoxious as I did. I’m now a little unnerved by having ever agreed with her, but it’s still kind of shocking to see her coming unhinged like this. In retrospect, she’s reminding me uncomfortably (both in terms of her behavior now, in terms of how she handles criticism and disagreement in general, and in terms of the traits that initially made her writing and voice interesting to me) of a former friend who would be diagnosed with histrionic personality disorder in about 10 seconds. I will refrain from speculating any further in this vein.

  44. robertm says

    Sadly erv’s final elevatorgate post from august is still one of the most active threads on scienceblogs, fueled by others spewing the same deranged obsessive bile we’ve seen from abbie.

  45. HTB says

    Another delurk. I rarely comment but just had to add my support given all the vile stupidity that you (and others) are being subject to. I enjoy your posts (recently became a regular reader) and am horrified at the crazy that comes your way for *gasp* speaking out rationally – and apparently it no longer matters what the topic is, you should just shut up anyway. But it’s really important (for all of us) that you don’t shut up. Thank you for what you do.

  46. Ichthyic says

    What, exactly, is going on?

    You didn’t go back far enough, or read enough of Abbie’s non-science posts.

    I recommend searching on the Pepsico/sciblogs affair.

    you’ll see the same attitude there.

    She has a petty streak a mile wide, and isn’t afraid of marching an army of strawmen down it.

    I lost a tremendous amount of respect for her, even with that incident.

    It seems whenever she gets crossed, she gets petty and vindictive.

    It really isn’t pleasant.

  47. julian says

    Right, so, I clearly must have no idea what professional means.

    Anyway, the saddest part of that rant for me is that I can see some legitimate points (or at least issues) being raised. Particularly how a peer responds to or discusses peers outside of the work place. (Still very much on Ms. McCreight’s side, though.)

    But there’s so much vindictiveness behind it… Christ.

  48. Susan says

    I’ll say. Some of the most interesting, and accessible, science lectures I’ve ever experienced have been at atheist conventions. It’s a great way for non-scientists to be exposed to some of the giants in their fields, who just happen to be atheists. I don’t think there’s any other place I would have crossed paths with them. Abbie is deluded.

  49. Jack says

    I used to really enjoy reading erv back when I could rely on it all being weird sciency things or stuff related to her work. Then all of the post-Elevatorgate fallout happened. I want to be clear I’m not upset to have heard about all the unpleasantness — in no way do I want people to stop talking about yucky things.

    Keeping silent about being bullied only benefits the bullies.

    Thank you for speaking out and for all your work as a feminist, skeptic, and scientist. In my eyes, none of those things is less than the others.

  50. utakata says

    For what it’s worth, I see only one professional in all this, and her name Jen McCreight. I suspect though this Abby Smith still see’s herself as the only professional…in the same way Ann Coulter sees herself as such. But it looks like in reality that Abby’s professionalism has all but evaporated…if that makes sense.

  51. says

    So, having interests outside of your chosen career is now bad? Has she never heard of networking?

    Your blog, your writing, your speaking, your activism all give you opportunities to meet people and go places that most other people don’t have. Grants and jobs and funding and promotions aren’t given in a sterilized environment. The saying is “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

    Perhaps someone, somewhere won’t hire you or fund you because of your atheism. However, you’re also being afforded numerous other opportunities because of it. Being a great speaker and a great writer and demonstrating commitment to a cause and ability to manage multiple activities makes you a better candidate for jobs, etc., not a worse one. Having the chance to meet movers and shakers makes you more likely to get a job, not less.

    Make she’s just cranky that she lives in Oklahoma?

  52. Azkyroth says

    I’m not sure how this is a legitimate issue. If you’re off the clock they don’t own your time.

  53. benjaminsa says

    It is confusing when an otherwise intelligent person acts so stupidly, thanks for taking a step back Matt. I hope Abbie get some help.

  54. James says

    I have tried reading ERV on multiple occasions only to go away with a headache. Her style is so rapid fire and unfocused I can hardly stand it…so many more effective blogs on SciBlogs before people started migrating out, although maybe it was better in the past. That being said Jen, your blog is a daily read for me. Along with PZ and Greta you’ve taught me a ton about atheism, skepticism, and feminism. Keep on doing what you are doing!

  55. kosk11348 says

    Yeah, Abby seems to have some serious competition issues with other female scientists/writers. It’s an ugly side of her.

  56. says

    Yeah. I was a very long time reader of Abbie’s blog and the first oddity I ever saw was a couple weeks before Elevator-Gate when she casually mentioned not liking feminists. It seemed a bit odd and shocking to me. Especially since she actually talked on the subject rather lucidly. She went into biology because of the sexist atmosphere of the engineering program. Then I blinked and suddenly there was “The Monument” and she was double and tripling down on the wrong side of the issue, and cackling at PZ who both originally introduced me to her blog and went to bat for her with Science Blogs.

    I’m still very thankful for what she taught me. I actually understand HIV and retroviruses, quasi-species, and some rather good virology which is hugely under-represented and for which there are roughly zero reasonable mainstream media sources. You can’t even get any good for general consumption books on the subject. I know this, because I asked her. And then there was Mr. Hyde. It was notably shocking.

  57. says

    Yes. I find it hard to believe too. It’s like she was a very nice charming run of the mill E. coli which was both useful and helpful and nice. But, then some virus came around and inserted a few genes and changed the entire behavior by teaching it the secrets of projectile diarrhea. Which isn’t really the E. coli’s fault but the MORON that infected it, and changed it’s normal and seemingly helpful nature into something that can just about kill you.

    E coli’s pretty much everywhere and useful but sometimes it gets a virus and you get really sick.

  58. Glenn Davey says

    Abbie Smith is pathological. It goes to something deep inside of her, and when her amgydala gets hi-jacked and that cortisol starts pumping, she’s out for blood.

    “Therapy” is a word that comes to mind.

    Abbie — are you increasing the overall positivity in the world, or are you adding to the friction?

    Are you for the Greater Love or the Greater Hate?

  59. jose says

    Is the proposal public? Just so we can actually read it and determine whether or not it sucks. (Sorry, I don’t know how academia works over there.)

    Still, declaring it sucked without reading it is kinda bad.

  60. Hertta says

    This is not enough of a meltdown for you? You don’t consider hosting a months long hate fest and calling it “a monument to everything I hold dear” a meltdown? What are you waiting for? For Abbie to literally start melting down like a wax dummy?

  61. Elerena says

    Sadly, even if you changed it to “evolution-accepting biologists”, it would not be redundant.

  62. Al B. Quirky says

    No, scientists don’t ‘accept’ things -that’s what religionists do- scientists start with a hypothesis, then develop a method to test the idea to find out if it’s true.

  63. Erin Winslow says

    She is feeling very threatened by you, Jen, and is trying to belittle you in order to make herself feel better.

  64. James says

    I don’t necessarily agree with you on “elevatorgate”, nor do I like Rebecca Watson, but this message was over the line. Honestly Abbie hasn’t posted anything of interest in a while anyways, so this is a perfect excuse to take her off the blog list.

  65. says

    This was worth it. I’m certainly worried about people like her becoming professional scientists as well. Also, I don’t think this post is going to do her any good professionally. Unless her department is filled with people like her. The consequences will only come after the end of her grad studies.

    Jen, we will need more scientists like you. If you can manage to keep working on your very promising public speaking career and manage to attain an academic position, that will be another brick taken out of the ivory tower. I wish academia was just an ordinary ground level building, where people wouldn’t be afraid to come knock at the door and asking questions because they have seen the people working in the building in the streets with them.

  66. killertapir says

    I’m just interested as to how one becomes a ‘professional loser’. Surely if you’re that good at losing that people are willing to pay you for it, you’re a success? Like making a so-bad-it’s-good movie. And everyone loves those.

    But mostly I’m just confused as to how one becomes a loser for pursuing something they care about and enjoy.

  67. Tom Foss says

    If she thinks you’re a bad scientist for speaking at freethought conferences, can I think she’s a bad scientist for not using apostrophes?

  68. says

    Nicely done, Jen. I’ve rss’d your blog for a while now, and have watched your writing develop in much the same way that your career appears to be developing. That is, becoming sharper, smarter, and more complex. I also have enjoyed some of Abbie’s writing, but ERV has become a cesspool. Even her still-interesting science posts seem to be a side note to her and her commenters obsession with RW. It’s just weird and creepy, and I am sorry that you got caught in the cross-hairs of crazy.

    But still, your response demonstrates that you’re able to see Abbie’s “critique” for what it is, and irrational obsession. Good for you, and shame on her for trying to intimidate you.

  69. Timid Atheist says

    It’s like Ms. Smith is building a Jenga tower. The more she pulls pieces from the bottom to build it higher, the closer she will come to have it toppling down. I’ve never read ERV. I likely never will now.

    I’ve no interest in a person who tears other people down so viciously because they don’t like certain things about them. That kind of behavior I would see often in grade school and high school. I was happy to get away from it in college and as an adult. And then I realized it didn’t go away, it was simply being displayed on the inter net.

    Jen. I found your blog months ago, slightly before you didn’t cause an earthquake with your chest. I have to say, you are one of the ladies that started me on the path to considering atheism. (Note the user name. :) Please don’t stop doing what you are doing. You are making a difference, even if it is one person at a time.

  70. Stephen Foster says

    Remember, we’re dealing with human beings here; people, just like you or I, prone to delusion and insanity.

  71. illuminata says

    Bingo. Its the exact same reason she doesn’t like Watson. She’s intensely insecure, and desperately wants male attention – any male attention – so, she attacks women who are better than she is (whether or not this is in her own head or not).

    She needs some serious, long-term help and I hope she gets it.

  72. Svlad Cjelli says

    I’m uncertain. Increasingly, more is expected for the same pay. Often not even in the contract, yet it’s apparently an accepted form of demand. There are even implicitly coercive festivities – in which case a superior somehow feels entitled to expect participation – which seems insane from an oldfashioned rural swedish perspective.

    As parts of organisations, Bug Girl and others are disallowed some public expression. Related?

  73. Carlie says

    Jen, that was a fantastic, mature, professional response.

    And yes, taking time to go to skeptic conferences means that you get less research done. Time management is a zero-sum game. But how much less time? All of your outside activities together would probably be about what, one paper’s worth through your graduate career? At most two? When comparing two job applications, a difference of one/two publications between them is a pretty negligible difference.

    What isn’t a negligible difference is the added benefit of all of those talks on your CV, showing that you are passionate about communication, that you do a good job of it because you keep getting invited places, the implication that you would make a good colleague because the people like you enough to keep inviting you back. What isn’t a negligible difference is the presence of posts like these, where your potential colleagues can get insight into how you think and what you stand for and how you react to criticism and outright attacks.

    A person can’t get away with being a raging asshole and expect to keep their job unless they’re bringing in a few million dollars’ worth of research, and even then only if they’re at an R-1 that is large enough for people to all ignore each other. Institutions are looking for a lot more than “hours spent each week in the lab” in their employees, both academic and commercial. You’re filling all those other areas well.

  74. BCPA_Lady says

    Jen, I’m a long-time lurker here and all I can say is I’d never read Abbie Smith before Elevatorgate and saw no reason to start after it, whereas I’ve been reading your blog for the last 18 months or so.

    Is it wrong to hope that such an unprofessional personal attack against a peer might cost Ms. Smith professionally, at least in the future when she attempts to find academic or professional employment?

  75. Gus Snarp says

    You know what tells me this rant isn’t worth the electrons used to display it on my monitor? The repetitious use of the word “loser”. One use of the word is really enough to tell me not to take the writer seriously, repeated use usually reveals the work of a 14 year old boy, so I’m a bit surprised that the writer is actually a graduate student. I hate the word loser, it should never be used unless you are talking about a particular sporting event. My five year old picked out a middle school book from the school book fair, and I decided to go ahead and read it to him, only making minor edits mid stream to keep it age appropriate. One thing I edited: the word loser. Did I mention it’s a middle school book? The word is in the dialog of a twelve year old.

    Here’s the problem with it: It’s basically one person making a sweeping generalization about someone else because of some life choice they don’t agree with. Some segment of someone else’s life doesn’t meet your expectations, so you basically tell them their whole life is worthless.

    Well, that and the fact that the word is most commonly used by teen aged jock bullies, the sort who end up spending their adult lives pumping gas (well, I guess no one does that anymore, so whatever job it is we give to people who we loved on the high school football team but who now have no marketable skills whatsoever). I’m not saying those bullies are losers. Many of them outgrow their bullying and become decent human beings and raise good families, and maybe they have a crappy job, but they have a great family life, so who am I to call them a loser? Which brings us full circle to why the word is idiotic.

    But wait, she coined “Rebecca Twatson” too? Are we sure she’s not really a twelve year old, pimple faced bully hiding behind a fake grad student persona?

  76. tarian says

    First reaction: That’s a really ugly message, I’m sorry you had to deal with it.

    Second reaction: The dichotomy between ERV-the-science-blog that I used to enjoy reading, and current Abbie… has me worried. I’m speculating from total lack of knowledge here, so discard this if it doesn’t fit the facts, but didn’t she have an extra-scary IRL stalker a while back? That kind of thing can make some people react by doubling down on the patriarchy compliance in hopes that it won’t happen again. Her recent behavior raises red flags for me; she sounds like somebody who has taken damage. Does somebody know her well enough to go ask if she’s okay? Maybe this is totally uncorrelated, but I’d hate to be in the “I wondered if something was wrong and didn’t say anything, and now I’m sad” position again.

  77. says

    Yes. Thank you. I hate that word “losers” that Abbie uses so energetically. I kept wanting to say that yesterday, but I was too much of a loser to come up with a good way to say it.

  78. Epinephrine says

    Weird stuff. Erv is totally hit or miss for me – she covers science pretty well, and I like virology/immunology, as it relates to my work. But she’s a little unhinged about some issues, and launches the strangest arguments. I recall her showing a photo of her abs when talking about Pepsi/nutrition. Because, of course, if a single example can be shown of a person who eats crap but has firm abs, clearly … um, something about it being ok for Pepsi to have a blog, or something. Made no sense.

    Glad to have here around for science sleuthing on faked data, great reporting on XMRV. I don’t bother reading anything she writes on non-science topics, as it’s pretty pointless.

  79. niftyatheist says

    I don’t think this had anything to do with anything in particular that Jen has or has not done. I know nothing of Abbie Smith (and won’t be checking out her blog now, either), so you can take my remarks or leave them. I don’t see science and criticism, etc. I see naked jealousy. A poster upthread said that this person feels very threatened by you, Jen, and that is exactly what I see, too. All of the flailing around and random “professional” criticism of Jen strikes me as nothing more than throwing mismatched clothes to cover the ugly skeleton of pure jealousy. The attempt to affect condescending “motherly advice” is the ultimate tell.

    This woman fears you and is incredibly jealous of you. It doesn’t matter what you do, she will find fault with it. It isn’t anything you do, it is who you are and the threat that you represent to her. In other words, her (wow!) problem, not yours.

    I am glad you are determined not to be silenced by people who have all of their own messed up reasons for wanting to silence others.

  80. Rose Boy says


    I think this grad student is disgusting, and agree with everything you said, except that NIH fellowships don’t have personal statements. While I didn’t write an F31 graduate fellowship application, I did write and F32 postdoc fellowship application, and can assure you it has a personal statement (actually multiple personal statements; it’s quite annoying).

    Otherwise, keep up the good work.

  81. Brownian says

    I agree with Abbie.

    Specifically, I agree with this part:

    You have…potential to be more.

    I don’t know why she’s fucking around with the tenses there, but you do have potential to be more Jen, and you’ve been steadily realising that potential. Growing. Improving. Evolving. Becoming better than you were before.

    Keep it up. You’re an example to all of us.

    Why’s everyone looking at me funny?

  82. Predator Handshake says

    Other commenters have said most of what I was going to say here, but I do have one thing to add.

    I have met many hyper-focused graduate students and currently have one working in my lab; they aren’t very pleasant to be around and in my experience they don’t get any more work done than people with outside interests. Criticizing (and outright insulting) someone for being well-rounded in hir personal life is completely ridiculous.

  83. Vene says

    I’ve read ERV for a while now, even pre-science blogs. She has now lost a reader. I’ve considered stopping in the past, both with the Pepsi fiasco and when the elevator incident first started. But she kept saying interesting things about immunology and microbiology (and did a good job exposing XMRV woo with clear arguments). But I’m done now. Blag Hag has replaced her in my RSS feed.

  84. Brownian says

    I have met many hyper-focused graduate students and currently have one working in my lab; they aren’t very pleasant to be around

    There’s a fun game one can play with certain grad students: mention the word ‘supervisor’, watch them spring to life, then change the subject to something, anything else. Mention the word ‘grant’, watch them spring back to life, then change the subject to something else. Repeat as needed, using variations on the theme.

    If your timing is good, you can use them to communicate in binary or Morse code.

  85. Kyle Scott says

    I have only posted once or twice before, but this sort of shit gets me upset. I’ll keep it short and simple.

    At the risk of sounding like I am telling you how to live your life, good for you Jen. Keep doing what you do. You have what seems to be a well rounded life that you enjoy. On top of all that, you are successful at what you do.

    Do what you do. Those of us who enjoy it are going to continue to watch. Unfortunately, so are a number of people who do not enjoy it. And they are going to comment on it. And they are going to be assholes about it.

    Stay classy.

    I love your blog.

  86. keith says

    Add another person to the crew who are delurking.

    I find the elevatorgate issue and the subsequent fallout to be amazing and sad. I have not followed it terribly closely, as the original issue seemed rather minor. A clueless dude was a bit creepy, and a woman blogged about it. Not a terribly big deal overall, other than illuminating a bit of ugly male behavior.

    The subsequent threats, name calling and character assassination are appalling. That any man, or woman, feels justified in saying some of the things thatbhave been directed at Rebecca Watson and Jen McCreight is shameful. I had hoped that the skeptical/atheist society would be less violent and mysoginistic than this.

    Jen, Rebecca, and all others who have born the brunt of this, I am sorry that this has happened, and for what little these words can do, you have my support.

  87. Zuche says

    Whatever the cause, the demonstrated behaviour lends itself to the GIFT. At times like this, it becomes important to limit communication by computer to the essentials only, and to replace that interaction with a similar amount of offline interaction.

    I’d rather not tell you why I know this, which should tell you all you need to know.

  88. slc1 says

    I find it quite interesting that the same folks who object to the Twatson sobriquet, when referring to Rebecca Watson, raised no objection when she referred to Mooney and Kirchenbaum as Mooneytits and invited Mr. Mooney to perform an anatomical impossibility.

  89. SaraDee says

    I think I’m with the people who focused on the word “loser” being used here, and the attack on Jen’s professionalism and scientist cred. I’m not sure she’s attacking Rebecca and Jen solely for the Not-a-Feminist cookie from assholes. I think she’ll take them, now; but based on her previous support of Jen, she wouldn’t have gone for it if someone hadn’t opened up something else that threatens her a lot.

    She clearly has a very clear idea of what a scientist – in particular, a woman scientist should be like. She isn’t telling PZ he’s a bad professional for writing his blog or going to conferences, or being photographed riding a triceratops (is she? Did I miss that?). I think she’s convinced herself that to get ahead as a woman in a STEM field, to not be a loser, to be worthy to be a female scientist in a male-dominated field, she’d have to suck it up, not rock the boat, be Ginger Rogers and do all the same steps as the men but backwards and in high heels. Don’t complain about “little” episodes of sexism, it’s not rape-rape and we’ll all get along fine.

    If Jen is right, and women can be taken seriously scientists without having to be single-minded robots who never make the men uncomfortable, who can work just as hard as she wants and needs to (and not twice as hard for half the respect) then Abbie may have really forced herself to swallow a bitter pill for no reason. And Rebecca, well… if she can have the audacity to say “please don’t”, and not be ejected from society – I mean – think of all the shit female undergrads the world over wouldn’t have had to grin and bear from frat boys, if that was the sort of world we lived in. Please don’t. Like you’re a freaking person, or something.

    But I might just be projecting… ;-) I remember having to grapple with my own fear of the loser-bucket that I could fall into, as a woman with dreams of high achievement in the world of men’s work (disabled and unable to work: check; stay at home mom?: check. Not get a job in the field I educated for and waste my degree: check. There were more… but it gets steadily more ridiculous). When you think there is a loser-bucket, there is only a very narrow rim you can walk around it on, and it’s draining. Seeing someone else happily walk around in the bucket you’ve defined, clearly oblivious to the fact that they should feel nothing but shame and degradation …almost like… there is…no loser bucket… but no….can’t be…. you worked so hard…. put up with so much…. cut off so much of yourself…. Serious rage-inducement.

    I dunno. That’s my pyscho-analysis of the day.

  90. LawnBoy says

    I assume that we’ll see a response from Abbie at some point. It would be wonderful to see her taking a step back, admitting responsibility for some errors, and attempting to rebuild bridges.

    It would be nice.

    We’ll see.

  91. Erulóra Maikalambe says

    I guess I’m not supposed to go see you speak this weekend, since it’s not related to my job of computer programming.

    I’m even skipping a day of work for the trip. *eerie music*

  92. SherryH says

    Wow. She seems to have gone off the rails, there. Sorry that happened to you. Not that you need yet another affirmation from a regular reader, infrequent commenter, but I just have to pile on.

    You are an excellent writer. You are an excellent blogger. You are SO allowed to have a personal life, even as a graduate student. Bleh. I think I lost IQ points just reading what you quoted. You’ve got it together AND you’re not afraid to be silly and have fun with science.

    Keep on keepin’ on.

  93. says

    Indeed, graduate school is my job. It is not, however, slavery.

    Very true. In fact, I would go so far as to say that anyone who works for an advisor who believes a graduate student should have no outside life should immediately think about changing advisors.

    Two things come to mind:

    1. As a graduate student, I ended up taking up skydiving, martial arts, figure skating, and long-distance running. My advisor wasn’t necessarily happy about it all the time, but I did good work. Now I’m a tenured professor. One of the benefits of the academic lifestyle, in my opinion, is that one’s overall productivity matters, not the amount of hours you clock in for.

    2. Having varied interests is a *good* thing for a scientist. My blogging work has led me to consider topics outside of my area of expertise, and has made me a better writer and communicator. This has served me well both as a professor and as a scientist in general, and professional organizations are really starting to appreciate it. In other words, having a broad range of interests helps avoid the “I have a hammer, everything looks like a nail” phenomenon.

    Sorry to see you getting unfairly attacked this way.

  94. theobromine says

    Actually, there are those of us who have: Some time ago, when ERV was taking down the Casey Luskin (of the Diso ‘tute), I (calmly and politely) asked if it was useful or helpful (or even amusing) for her to call him “Caseytits”. I asked what was wrong with tits, and why it should be an insult for someone to be one or have them. (Unless she was calling him a birdbrain?)

    (By the time ERV did this to Mooney and Kirchenbaum, I was only an occasional reader, and didn’t even bother trying.)

  95. Rieux says

    Two points that aren’t at all novel this far into the thread but still worth reiterating:

    McCreight is right and ought to keep on doing what she’s doing; Smith is far in the wrong and indeed seems to be coming unhinged.

    I hope McCreight is getting the message that a whole lot of people in this community have her back.

  96. says

    I ended up taking up skydiving, martial arts, figure skating, and long-distance running

    Dang. I got married and we started having kids. Boy, was that ever a gigantic time-suck.

  97. Physicalist says

    Yeah, I almost mentioned that being a grad student might not be slavery, but being a parent certainly is. But then I thought there was no reason to depress people with reality.

  98. Azkyroth says

    It made perfect sense. She was dishonestly representing the actual concerns people raised as “all Pepsi stuff is crap and will ruin your life eleventy.”

  99. Kate from Iowa says

    Yes, the continued survival of ERV was one of the things that finally drove me away from ScienceBlogs as a reader. All the crap that kept happening behind the scenes that was driving the blogs I read off, and then ERV getting what felt like a free pass to be the vile little cesspool of hate against…well, seemed like everything that it was…why give my clicks to a site with no problem with that?

  100. Kate from Iowa says

    Ditto thay. She’s been off the rails for a long time now, it’s just getting more overt (or maybe just more public) faster. Least that’s how it seems to me.

  101. Sili says

    Grad school can be incredibly stressful, so I guess her work ethic could be what’s gotten to her and driven her mad.

    I never did well, myself, but I’m not nearly as strong or persistent as either Smith or McCreight.

    (Love The Calculus Diaries btw.)

  102. Paul says

    I disagree with one thing you said: Graduate students are NOT allowed to have free time. It’s not just a job, it’s an indenture.

    Yes, I dropped out with a masters. Bitter? What makes you say that?

  103. Sili says

    Part of me is hoping to wake up tomorrow to find out that Abbie’s been on vacation since Elevator-gate and some asshole has been writing this stuff for her without her knowledge.

    Then how do they match her style so well?

  104. Sili says

    I can’t find that either of them have done anything to even remotely justify the sort of venom that Abbie (and others) have directed at them.

    They’re women. With success.

    What more reason do you need?

  105. Paul says

    As we all know, swaggering, jeering, and taunting are the marks of a truly great scientist. Darwin and Einstein were notorious for this.

    Well, the more I read about Einstein’s personal life, the less he seems like a responsible, likable person. The way he left his first wife to deal with their mentally ill, violent son all alone really sucked. I am willing to at least listen to the arguments that he took credit for the work of others.

  106. Tom Singer says

    It occurs to me that this is exactly the kind of thing for which the Spiral of Silence is effective.

    On the other hand, since it’s been brought back up, Jen, have you decided on a direction to go with on the NSF personal statement?

  107. says

    Yes yes yes.

    For further corroboration, check out the Fresh Air interview with Nobel-winning physicist Saul Perlmutter a couple of days ago. Terry Gross said your father had a PhD in chemical engineering, that must have been an influence – Perlmutter said not that so much; both his parents were academics, his mother had a PhD in social work, and there were always friends around who were curious about all kinds of things: that was really what got him going. Curiosity about many things; you can’t beat it.


  108. says

    Trying to armchair-diagnose Abbie Smith with disorders is a mistake. There are explanations for her behavior that are within the scope of normal functioning of human cognition. Smith has reasons for self-confidence: her posts on science are good, she has vocal supporters etc. The idea of being wrong or even stupidly wrong is dissonant with the reasons for her self-confidence, and she’s also dug her heels in on the issue, raising the stakes for her self-image. Motivated reasoning and confirmation bias can preserve even absurd beliefs, and strong dissonance can actually ramp up these biases and thus increase certainty. Ignorance of dissonance theory actually highlights the same vulnerability in those who can’t think of a better explanation for being stubbornly wrong than a mental disorder. People who understand dissonance theory should be able to imagine themselves in Smith’s shoes after being led down the same slope by their circumstances. Knowing about dissonance is a positive message, since it shows the way to resolve differences: instead of focusing on justification, the focus should be on common goals and dialogue. Love of science is obvious common ground in this case, and the best solution would be to ultimately write off the mistakes. It doesn’t mean tolerating sexism or bullying, but just going about it in a empathetic and maybe more productive way.

  109. Richard Simons says

    As far as I am concerned, Abbie is one of the last people to complain about writing style. I used to try to read her blog, but found large parts were incomprehensible because of the lack of attention to grammar and general presentation, with no consideration given to her readers. I got the impression of a supreme arrogance – ‘I am brilliant and you mental midgets should feel honoured to have the benefits of my outpourings’. I looked at one of her posts a month or two ago to see if she had improved, but was again overwhelmed by the level of incoherence.

  110. says

    Dang. I got married and we started having kids. Boy, was that ever a gigantic time-suck.

    Ha! Fortunately, my utter lack of social skills at the time prevented me from suffering such a fate. ;)

  111. says

    Abbie’s posted again on Ed Clint’s post. It turns out she has nothing against Jen at all, she was just offering helpful advice. I pointed out why that’s not 100% convincing.

    Abbie: ‎*shrug* No arrogance, and I have nothing against Jen either. Im rooting for her, as a fellow scientist. I hoped she had only bought her ticket to Loser Town. Maybe she wouldnt cash it in. But it is apparent at this point she has already gotten on the train, ordered a Coke, and gotten comfy in her seat. She does not take her job seriously (grad school is not undergrad where you can skip out now and then to go to conferences, much less at the frequency she attends them). She does not take writing grant proposals seriously (it was horrible). She does not take her colleagues seriously (on what planet is it a good idea to take pics of a visiting professors presentation and put them online making fun of them? on what planet is it a good idea to bitch about your professors and classmates online?).

    And any/all criticism is ‘OMFG WHY MEEE??? WHYYYYYYYYYYY POOOOOR MEEEEEEEEE!!!! OH GAAAAAAAAAAAWD!!!!’ (eg her posts on me)

    I feel bad for her. She has no one around her to say ‘Hey, you need to refocus if this is what you want to do with your life’ (including PZ, who is enabling her self-destructive behavior) except apparently me, and I *really* dont give a fuck. Sad, but it looks like this is what she wants.

    *shrug* Whatevs. Like I said, Im not her mother, and shes not my problem.

    Me: What nonsense, Abbie. If you really had “nothing against Jen” you could have just given her all this helpful advice *in private*. You posted it on your blog *and* here, complete with repeatedly calling her a loser. That’s not “rooting for her,” it’s trying to shame her.

  112. Lewin says

    Long time lurker, first time poster. Also a grad student. I agree with all the above that Abbie’s diatribe is crazy and mean. The one possible nugget of truth in her rant, imo, was about the post making fun of a guest seminar speaker. Looking at the pictures, I don’t disagree with the assessment, but it could certainly be seen as unprofessional to badmouth a visiting speaker publicly, regardless of how bad he was. Just offering constructive criticism.

  113. illuminata says

    @97 – LOl wow. Smith is not only a tap dancer, she’s a really, REALLY bad liar. What a joke she is.

  114. says

    Oh Abbie. Really, this is just sad.

    I already responded to most of her points, which she has chosen to regurgitate, but one more thing I want to add. I have plenty of people in academia giving me advice on what to do with my life who aren’t PZ. And you know what? My professors love that I blog. The ones that read my NSF proposal said my blogging (which I do talk about) comes off as very impressive. Others have noted how it has made me an excellent writer and public speaker, especially for a 2nd year graduate student. Multiple professors have asked me when I’ll be writing my book. My PI even suggested I add a Science Communication professor as my GSR* on my committee since he knows it’s important to me and that I’m good at it. I probably won’t for various reasons, but it was his idea – I never even considered it.

    *Graduate School Representative. At UW, you need one person on your thesis committee that isn’t in your department. They don’t need to be related to you project at all, since their main purpose is to make sure your department is treating you fairly. There are a lot of different strategies in picking a GSR, but that’s neither here nor there.

  115. says

    I never really let her writing style bother me — all it really amounts to is a slightly different dialect of English with funky punctuation and a strong 4chan influence. Honestly, when you’re talking about Abbie’s other issues, her writing style isn’t so much of an issue because, you know, it is what it is.

  116. slc1 says

    Unfortunately, Ms. Marcotte, back during the Duke lacrosse incident, referred to the three players in question as rapists, this after it became clear that the case was totally bogus. Ms. Marcotte has no credibility in these matters.

  117. says

    Well quite – what the hell makes her think she knows that you have no one giving you advice but PZ? Any more than she knows that Rebecca “literally” does nothing but “fuck around on the internet”?

    Aren’t scientists supposed to be alert to what they don’t know they know? Isn’t that part of the, you know, job?

  118. illuminata says

    Oh dear. Now shes REALLY going to be stewing. $10 says she’s sitting at home makng a Jen voodoo doll right now.

  119. penn says

    I love how she takes the “I’m too cool to even care about this.” tact when the existence and tone of her multiple rants clearly indicate that she does in fact care.

  120. slc1 says

    Hey, don’t knock Ginger Rogers. Later in her career, she appeared in some film noirs where she played tough broads, including one with a certain Ronald W. Reagan from whom she stole the show (“Storm Warning”).

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

    Can we please stop blaming teh Crazy for Abbie? I know crazy. I am crazy. I don’t do things like this. Just because someone has serious mental health issues doesn’t make them a jerk. No, being a jerk makes them a jerk.

    I find it far more likely that Abbie has other people in her life that are important to her that are freakin’ sexist as hell, and that because of those persons who are important to her emotional/ professional/ educational/ whatever life, she has come to accept that feminism is evil and that bashing anyone who shows a hint of feminism (except to the extent of saying that Abbie is competent at her job and deserves to be rewarded and not locked in a kitchen) **is** a rational thing to do, necessary even.

    She’s acting sexist. She’s acting like a jerk. No need to throw on crazy.

    In fact, we have the better half of a yotta-tonne of evidence that people can be sexist, a jerk, or both **without** being mentally ill.

    So, please: don’t use evidence of meanness or sexism as if it were evidence of crazy. It isn’t rational.

  122. LawnBoy says

    Here’s a bit more, in which she extends her attacks to Ophelia:

    Abbie: I posted it in a conversation I was having with Ed, and two people Jen was attacking. Someone took a screen-cap and sent it to Jen, as Eds profile is hidden to people Eds not friends with, and Im guessing it was you because you are fucking nuts.

    me: Abbie’s mistaken here as well; I can see the text on Ed’s wall and I’m not friends with him. It seems that anyone and everyone can see Ed’s wall, so maybe Jen grabbed the screenshot herself (just speculation – I have no idea, and it wasn’t me).

    Either way, the idea that Ophelia is “fucking nuts” is ridiculous, and it’s further ridiculous that only insanity would explain someone wanting Jen to know about this sort of insulting smear on her.

  123. Carlie says

    That’s the part I’ve been mulling over – one of the main jobs of grad school is to make sure you understand just how much you don’t know. Yes, you’re supposed to gain more confidence in your own area of expertise, but you’re also supposed to be exposed to more and more information to the point where you realize just how much is out there, and how you’ll never be able to get to all of it. This creates a lifelong learner, rather than a megalomaniac.

  124. ildi says

    Well, she does refer to her red-neck/gamer nature in the OP where she extolls the virtues of Mountain Dew…

  125. julian says

    A better explanation I think is she’s just a mean spirited, insecure woman. Her family and friends have nothing to do with it.

    Anyway, I agree. A jerk is a jerk. No point in speculating about their mental health. It may be comforting to think a pill will make so-and-so nice but it’s naive. (And it strikes me as at least a little insulting towards those who really do have to struggle with their mental health.)

  126. NateHevens says

    I just sent Abbie a message. All it said was that I thought she ought to know that I’m not at all friends with Ed, nor do I share any friends with Ed as far as I know, but I can see the wall post and discussion with no problem. I can’t respond, but it is open for all to view.

    That’s all the message said. I hope it clues her in, because now I think she believes her rants was totally private so no one (specifically Jen) would actually see it. Obviously this is not the case.

  127. NateHevens says

    And it appears I *do* share a friend with Ed.


    I’m betting the post is open to “friends of friends”, though I am unable to respond to the wall post.

  128. says

    That would be amusing. I picture Jen standing over the puddle demanding “Who’s the loser now, ERV? You can’t even stand up. I mean, I’ve been like that, but at least I was drunk at the time. You don’t even have that excuse.”

    …except knowing Jen, she’d have too much class to taunt her like that.

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

    The latter was my more important point, but I think you also hit something when you say that it encourages the “pill will solve it” mode of thinking.

    Serenity much?

    Who would want a pill that would make it impossible for them to insult anyone? Even those with Turette’s have legitimate cause to insult folks from time to time…and TS isn’t really about insulting people anyway – just saying things that are “inappropriate” (which could include insults). And this is assuming that we don’t have Reaver-creating side effects.

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

    and this has to do with mental illness how?

  131. LawnBoy says

    Good point – it may be “friends of friends”, not “anyone and everyone”, as I assumed above.

    Either way, Abbie apparently doesn’t realize how visible the conversation is and is incorrect to assume Ophelia brought it to Jen’s attention.

  132. says

    Not quite. “Believe” is what scientists don’t do (at least not when they’re thinking scientifically). Accepting results that have been peer-reviewed and stand on solid evidence is not only done in science: it’s necessary. You don’t have time to test every scientific theory; you have to accept, for instance, that gravity or electromagnetism or evolution is well enough established that you can use them in your research without having to personally test each before you make use of it.

  133. says

    I’ve been giving Jen academic advice? That’s news to me. I’m a bit far away and remote from her situation to be able to help, and jeez, she’s at the UW, surrounded by awesome faculty. Why would she even think to come to me?

  134. says

    Total nonsense. Griping to Ed Clint on facebook about Rebecca Watson and Jen McCreight is NOT a way to seriously give a fellow graduate student career advice.

  135. says

    No one sent anything to me – I could see every post on Ed’s wall despite not being friends with him or Abbie. I only looked when a commenter mentioned that Abbie was trash talking me.

    If it had been a private comment someone secretly sent me a screen grab of, I wouldn’t have shared it. But I consider public comments fair game. Especially since her main diatribe was also explicitly worded for me to read.

  136. Horse-Pheathers says

    ….or result in an incredible bar fight featuring broken tequila bottles brandished as weapons, smashed tables, fisticuffs flying, people ejected into the street through plate glass windows, and at least one comic moment involving the well-lubricated lush “saving” a bottle of whiskey from the bar and staggeringly navigating the chaos through a variety of improbable maneuvers, only to have his bottle smashed just as he goes to pour a well-earned drink in what he believed to be a safe corner.

  137. DSimon says

    Strongly agreed. It’s not a good idea to call things “crazy” or “insane”, as a straightforward synonym for “bad”. I don’t think that people who do this are thinking about this implication, just like most teenagers who call a crappy movie “gay” aren’t talking about homosexuality.

    But regardless of intention, these words are jarring and discomfiting to people who are primed to them, i.e. people who have been on the receiving ends of these words as insults because of mental illness. Even when used innocently, the words are still loaded, which I think is a good enough reason to avoid them.

  138. says

    I assume that we’ll see a response from Abbie at some point. It would be wonderful to see her taking a step back, admitting responsibility for some errors, and attempting to rebuild bridges.

    It would be nice to see that from Dawkins as well.

  139. DSimon says

    I don’t have much of use to say that hasn’t already been said in the comments above, Jen, but I want to add in my support; you’re totally in the right here.

  140. says

    Where was this, Lawn Boy? That same Facebook thread? I don’t see it now…Maybe she deleted it?

    Anyway, I certainly didn’t send it to Jen or anyone else; I didn’t even know about it until I read Jen’s post about it.

    As for fucking nuts…because? Because I think that endless thread at ERV is a squalid monument to obsessive hatred?

    Who knows. (Those last were just questions to the air, not to LB.)

  141. Azkyroth says

    I have someone of a different take on this, as I’ve been an advocate for a while of acknowledging and promoting the use of “crazy” to refer to bizarre, irrational, alarming, and possibly dangerous behavior, whether or not produced by mental illness, because the concept is useful in both a descriptive and normaitve sense. Only a minority of mentally ill people are actually crazy, and it is likely that only a minority of crazy people are actually mentally ill.

  142. says

    Oh and Nate, about Abbie thinking her rant was totally private – she doesn’t and didn’t, because she posted it first at ERV. So that’s more bullshit, come to think of it – pretending I did a fucking nuts thing by sending Jen a screenshot of the FB post when it was sitting at ERV anyway. Jeezis.

  143. NateHevens says

    It wasn’t deleted, Ophelia. I can still see it.

    I had no idea she originally posted it to ERV. I couldn’t find it when I looked yesterday, but I have no interest in looking now, so…

    I made that assumption because of her comment to you about how Ed’s wall was private or whatever. She didn’t actually say that she assumed such.

  144. says

    Let me ‘splain. No, it would take too long.

    Let me sum up: projecting much, Abbie?

    (Apologies to Inigo Montoya.)

    Jen – nice takedown, and thank you for showing us what’s going on. I think the only thing Abbie missed out on was telling you that your mother dresses you funny.

    I don’t understand how she can even remotely consider herself a feminist.

  145. says

    Thanks Nate – I took another look and realized I can’t see any of her comments now, which means she blocked me. Nice. She blocks me and then talks a lot of (untrue) shit about me when I can’t respond. Famously brave forthright gutsy Abbie.

  146. LawnBoy says


    Yes, it’s still there, and I can see your comment about being blocked.

    What I quoted is her last statement in the thread at this point.

  147. NateHevens says

    No problem, Ophelia.

    Though I’m wondering how you’re responding, because I can’t. Are you friends with Ed or what?

  148. says

    I’m breaking my lurky comment silence to basically say what DSimon said up there. I have a great deal of continued admiration for yourself, Jen, and for Rebecca Watson, along with many other bloggers and podcasters and activists whose passion and dedication are a large part of what keep me engaged in the skeptical world. I’m sadly inefficient at leaving people comments to the effect of “I think what you’re doing is awesome and I hope you keep doing it”, but I’m coming out of the woodwork for this one. Don’t let the bizarre, unjust, spiteful criticism grind you down.

  149. Laurence says

    Jen, I think you do pretty good work here on your blog, but you could probably improve some things. I think you could have handled the “Don’t Shut Up” thing a little better, but it was terrible.

    I will never understand why anyone would ever want to be associated with Abbie or would defend her. She really just seems like a jerk.

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

    got it.

    And y’know, I’m someone who claims to like sarcasm & facetiousness!


  151. says

    Yes, I’m friends with Ed. I didn’t know I was, until this came up – I’m easy, at FB, and accept a lot of friend requests. That’s not meant as a putdown, just that I know nothing about him apart from these recent posts.

  152. says

    Just a note: I’m not Facebook friends (or friends of friends, AFAIK) with anyone involved in this and I can read the posts on Ed’s wall. His obsession with Rebecca is rather repulsive.

  153. NickS says


    She still pulls out some neat science posts though, but the misogynistic crap is just depressing.

  154. Diane G. says

    “…indenture.” LOL!

    “…just a masters.” I dropped out without even that. (One of my all-time biggest mistakes.)

  155. says

    You ever have the moment, when you’re busy doing the dishes when all of a sudden a solution to a problem pops into your mind? That seems to be what happens when you stop fretting about a quandary and let the back of the mind take on the task. So having a variety of interests gives you something to distract yourself with.

  156. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    There is a difference between not getting along and being an asshole. Jen is not getting along with Abbie. Abbie is being an asshole.

  157. says

    Jen, you fucking rock. You’re an example to be followed.

    Good luck on your NSF proposal, I sincerely hope it gets funded. Because you deserve to be an NSF Fellow. Speaking of which, quit reading this and get back to your proposal!!

  158. Arius says

    Allow me to wax Solomonic:

    You are both noxious mediocrities, along with 99% of internet atheists. Evolutionary biology does not attract the brightest bulbs, that’s for sure.

    Incidentally, you all have quite the clown car here at FTB.

  159. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    I purposely set out to get a masters. It was a year less time and the job I wanted (and got) required a graduate degree. Am I sorry I’m not Dr. ‘Tis? Not in the least.

  160. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    Do you have anything useful or interesting to say or are you just here to sneer at your betters?

  161. Stevarious says

    I’m pretty sure Solomon never said any such thing, or anything remotely resembling what you said.

    Perhaps you are implying that you’d be willing to chop a baby in half to settle their dispute? Sounds like the kind of thing a religious person would do.

  162. scramble says

    Yeah, I’d like to second this. I know nothing of Abbie either, and this is the first I’ve heard of her being stalked, but…if I got stalked, I know I’d be pretty messed up after the fact. Who’s to say how I’d react? If it’s true, she may need some help (I mean that in the most un-patronizing possible way…)

  163. Ichthyic says

    …like I said.

    and, yes, I know, and knew, what the phrase he used actually refers to specifically.

  164. SaraDee says

    uh… I was referring to the oft-repeated Anne Richards quote “Being a woman in politics is like being Ginger Rogers. You have to do all the same dance steps as Fred Astaire, but you have to do them backwards and in high heels.”

  165. Ichthyic says

    I hoped she had only bought her ticket to Loser Town. Maybe she wouldnt cash it in. But it is apparent at this point she has already gotten on the train, ordered a Coke, and gotten comfy in her seat.

    wow, wrong, condescending, and bullying in one short paragraph.


    I doubt I could do as well, were I to try being a condescending, hypocritical, teenage, ass.

    Seriously, if she actually spoke to someone like that in my old department, people would be wondering if she simply bypassed high school and went straight into grad school from elementary school.

    zero social skills.


  166. Ichthyic says

    I know crazy. I am crazy. I don’t do things like this.

    sorry, but this is stupid.

    It’s like you are trying to say there is only one kind of mental illness, the one you suffer from, and that makes you an expert on all mental illness.

    You might have some health issues you are dealing with, but that hardly makes you an expert on all things mental.

  167. julian says

    It’s unlikely that Ms Smith has no social skills. Much more likely she’s just aiming to hurt and belittle.

  168. Ichthyic says

    …because they aren’t just “bad”, when they show pattern and pathology.

    this wasn’t a one-off for Abbie; it’s becoming more and more clear this is the way she deals with her own personal issues.

    It’s not just “bad”, it’s decidedly unhealthy, and it’s really not hard to make that judgement.

    If someone is coughing all the time, it’s pretty obvious that they have a health issue.

  169. Ichthyic says

    wax Solomon

    aside from the fact he likely never existed, did they even DO wax jobs in those days?

  170. Azkyroth says

    There’s another side to this. Maybe not in your case, or Abbie’s, but mental illness does often cause or contribute to behavior that makes victims of others. As one of those victims, I find your eagerness to brush over this in trying to equate the general case of mental illness with, say, being gay (which harms no one) disturbing and offensive. There certainly are cases where the stigma and suspicions are unjustified, and they may well be the majority, but to pretend that they’re equally baseless as anti-gay prejudice, and the moral analysis is similarly uncomplicated at a general level, is…

    Well, quite frankly, per my definition above, “crazy.”

  171. Azkyroth says

    Seriously. Poor impulse control and emotional dysregulation are not the same thing as actually struggling with “correct” social interaction. >.>

  172. says

    Wow. Nice handling of some uncouth and unwarranted nastiness… Keep up with your real life and with your work on science communication and public speaking–they will make all the difference in the long run..

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

    I don’t know an adolescent teen-age boy who hasn’t engaged in a pattern of sexist statements by that age. If being sexist is a “cough” or a sign of a health issue, then those boys who have said sexist things over a number of years – which would be nearly all of them – are mentally ill, correct?

    Get your thinking together. Have you ever known siblings that didn’t call each other nasty names? Have you ever known siblings that didn’t do it more than once over a period of years? Right, so then, mentally ill, correct?

    Doing mean things, doing sexist things, calling people names, ranting vituperatively: these are not signs of mental illness. We, here, are talking about the tendency of people to assume that bad actions are signs of mental illness. Even shooting someone to death is not a sign of mental illness. It has serious enough consequences that you would want to look into the reasons why someone did such a thing, and, should evidence lead you in that direction, that could include exploring the hypothesis of mental illness, but the fact that one has caused the death of another human being is not proof of mental illness anywhere in the world, in any society at all. We, in fact, hire people and pay them money for the job of killing other people. If killing a person, arguably the worst thing that we can do to another person, is not proof of mental illness, then ranting certainly isn’t either.

    Tell me, Ichthyic: have you ever ranted against anyone? Have you ever said anything sexist or racist or ableist or homophobic? Have you ever ranted or said something oppressive 3 times in a single month? Should we lock you up now?

    If not, then maybe you could think about why you shouldn’t be locked up for having done such things and begin to apply the same reasoning to Abbie. Then you will have an idea why we are saying that the problem is not mental illness. Saying that the problem is mental illness both stigmatizes people with mental illness unfairly **and** makes sure that Abbie doesn’t have to take full responsibility for what she has actually chosen to do.

  174. Luna_the_cat says

    it’ll probably stop when Abbie gets bored.

    This kind of crazy has gone on for, what is it, nearly five months now? Abbie seems to have a remarkable capacity for not getting bored with it.

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

    You both have it wrong.

    1st, Ichthyic: “I know crazy,” and “I am crazy,” are two separate statements. They were separated into two sentences, even. I did not say that the first was **because** of the second. I know crazy because of my education and professional experience.

    Further, you don’t get it that if being crazy = being bad, then I would not be able to be crazy without being bad.

    Take the syllogism: All swans are white. Kelly is a swan. Therefore Kelly is white. This syllogism fails if not all swans are white. However, even though the reasoning fails and that we have proven the syllogism false, we have not actually proven that Kelly is non-white. With people asserting that bad & crazy are interchangeable, I said that I am crazy and don’t do things like this in order to disprove the first sentence of the syllogism. A hypothetical 2nd sentence, “Azkyroth’s neighbor is bad,” is not disproven. Nor is a hypothetical 3rd sentence, “Azkyroth’s neighbor is crazy.”

    In other words, your anecdote can be true and it can still be wrong and harmful to equate bad and crazy.

    You both get better at the end with this most recent pair of comments when you say that there exists **some kind of crazy** that can “contribute” to or “cause” bad behavior. However, this does not justify treating badness as proof of craziness (it’s possible you only mean to say “repeated badness” or “patterns of badness” but let’s abbreviate these as “badness for the sake of this example). Let’s take the gay comparison which so enrages you.

    Imagine a man, Adam, who engages in what might be called feminine speech (if you like, you can say this is a pattern, not one or a few isolated incidents). Another person, Billie, calls him gay. Person 3, Charlie, interrupts and insists that calling Adam gay might or might not be correct, but that we don’t know if we are correct and that what is happening here is that 1 quality that is NOT gayness is being equated to gayness. Charlie further points out that this equation is related directly to stereotypes and that those stereotypes have been harmful to many people in the past.

    Billie says, “But some gay people really do display this (quality/pattern)!!! It’s not wrong if the stereotype is occasionally true!!!”

    What would you say to Billie? Is Billie correct? If not, then why does the existence of evil/mean/bad people who are also crazy make it okay to conflate evil, meanness, or badness with craziness?

  176. says

    Engaging in risky and anti-social behavior is a mark of adolescent boys. Unless they’re being mindful of the adults. It’s all part of the period of life we call adolescence, where the child’s brain undergoes a period of rewiring, and new capabilities come online.

  177. Munkhaus says

    Abbie didn’t coin Twatson, as many on here already know (Benson, I’m looking at you) but haven’t mentioned it because of… hmm, what to call it. Tosspottery?
    It was coined by Justicar, and he has been very vocal about that fact.

  178. Pramod says

    Clearly, Abbie’s tirade is disgusting.

    I do think you shouldn’t have made fun of the guest speaker. That was unprofessional.

    I wouldn’t have written this entry either. Standard advice given to kids in India: never get involved in mud-slinging matches, especially in public.

    I think you shouldn’t have admitted your fears about your atheism denying you opportunities for two reasons: (1) life’s really random so speculating about things you can’t control and can’t measure will do you no good (2) the internet is tone-deaf, so you’re now gonna get misinterpreted eight ways to Sunday.

  179. julian says

    Oh aren’t you all adorable. Arguing about which of you is the most post feminist enough to come up with Rebitcha Twatson.

  180. julian says

    never get involved in mud-slinging matches, especially in public.

    Yes. Let the circle around you and hurl mud at you and never ever respond in anyway. Just wait for them to finish.

  181. Munkhaus says

    Julian, who are “you all”? It seems a bit silly. I’m merely pointing out a factual error in the original post that has been taken up by several other posters as fact, one of which is followed by a post by Ophelia Benson who does not correct the error. As far as I know, no-one has, but I may be wrong as there is only so much group-think comments one can stomach.
    When did “skeptics” stop caring about facts? When it suits them…

  182. julian says

    That’s right. You guys become individuals when it suits you and Legion when it doesn’t.


    Abbie Smith came up with Rebitch Twatson (which, if I remember right, Justicar complimented her on because he found it such a creative addition to Twatson) so she’s essentially stuck with the whole Twatson thing now. She approves of it. She spread it throughout her blog and friends. And it completely summarizes her feelings about Ms. Watson.

    But you’re right. The proud MRA Justicar did come up with Twatson to the smiles and nods of the entire Anti-Watson Brigade.

  183. qwerty45 says

    @95 reņģis

    thank you. it always annoys me when people try to claim that they’re worried about the mental health of someone at the centre of a controversy, usually without much to go on. i think they try to give a facetious impression of somehow having a level of care for said ‘opponent’ when really quite often you can tell they’re just being demeaning. quite tasteless.

  184. John Morales says


    Crip Dyke:

    Take the syllogism: All swans are white. Kelly is a swan. Therefore Kelly is white. This syllogism fails if not all swans are white. However, even though the reasoning fails and that we have proven the syllogism false, we have not actually proven that Kelly is non-white.

    No; the syllogism is valid, but unsound (therefore not necessarily true).

    Specifically, it is not the case that “the reasoning fails”, rather that the premises are flawed.

    In other words, your anecdote can be true and it can still be wrong and harmful to equate bad and crazy.


    If it’s true, then it cannot be wrong (definitionally), it can only be inappropriate or misapplied.

    (You should probably void attempting to use logic until you can fathom it)

  185. Liyan says

    “I, like many scientists, want to be more than a pipetting machine.” – This is a fantastic statement. I’m a first year PhD student and believe that science isn’t about huddling in the lab, churning out paper after paper.

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

    @ John Morales

    Take the syllogism: All swans are white. Kelly is a swan. Therefore Kelly is white. This syllogism fails if not all swans are white. However, even though the reasoning fails and that we have proven the syllogism false, we have not actually proven that Kelly is non-white.

    No; the syllogism is valid, but unsound (therefore not necessarily true).

    Specifically, it is not the case that “the reasoning fails”, rather that the premises are flawed.

    Sigh. The syllogism fails. A syllogism can “fail” due to being either unsound or invalid. In this case, it was unsound. The fact that it was unsound does not mean the syllogism didn’t fail as an argument. The fact that it was unsound tells us HOW the syllogism failed as an argument.

    Also, reasoning != to logic. Reasoning in this case refers to the entire enterprise of constructing the argument. The argument relied on correctly constructing a syllogism. The syllogism has failed. Thus, the argument has failed. Thus the reasoning has failed. QEeffin’D

    Try: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reason

    In other words, your anecdote can be true and it can still be wrong and harmful to equate bad and crazy.


    If it’s true, then it cannot be wrong (definitionally), it can only be inappropriate or misapplied.

    (You should probably void attempting to use logic until you can fathom it)

    Wow, are you being snarky.

    First, I say again that reason != logic. You want to be so precise with un/sound and in/valid but you don’t even know the difference between logic & reason? When have you ever seen a course titled, “Predicate Reason,” for example?

    Second, read this sentence:

    “it can still be wrong and harmful to equate bad and crazy EVEN IF an anecdote is true.”

    This statement means exactly what I said before. I did NOT say that an anecdote can be true and be wrong. That would have been ridiculous and you would have been right to hold me in contempt. However, since the meaning was, in fact, plain (reread the original just now if you are about to embarrass yourself by disagreeing – if your interpretation was right I’d be missing an entire subject), your contempt is much better directed at yourself.

    You should probably Avoid attempting to use English until you can fathom it.

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

    Oh, they’ll beat that out of you, poor dear!

  188. SAWells says

    I’m still utterly baffled by the “grad students shouldn’t have time to go to conferences” claim. To me it sounds like “athletes shouldn’t have time to compete”.

  189. Chris Lawson says

    It’s worth reading up on Marcotte’s, um, contribution to the Duke Lacrosse scandal, where she continued to call defenders of the accused “rape-loving scum” after the case was dropped and the prosecutor’s malfeasance made public. It is not demanding infallibility to criticise her for making incorrect and prejudicial statements that were widely known to be wrong at the time.

    I have read Marcotte’s piece, her cowardly explanation of why she redacted her post (while allowing her accusations to stand), and the way she happily hosted a long comment tree where her friends claimed the prosecutor was disbarred as part of a conspiracy to protect Duke’s reputation, where the lack of evidence against the accused was presented as further proof they were guilty, and anyone who pointed out the factual errors in Marcotte’s argument was called “either an MRA or a future one” or a rape apologist, these accusations even being extended to a self-identified rape victim, of whom it was said, “you’d think as a rape victim what would bother you would be all the unavenged rapes out there, but funnily enough, you’re worried about all those lying women. How odd.” It would be nice to say that these comments don’t reflect Marcotte’s opinion, but she contributed to the comment thread herself — not to correct any of the crap, but to add a charge of wrongdoing that she misattributed to the accused men.

    So, you know, if she wants to post and you want to read it, so be it. But all this chatty acceptance of her presence here makes me feel ill.

  190. John Morales says

    But you wrote “the reasoning fails” — it doesn’t in the case you adduced: the reasoning is the inferential process; the premises are not part of that process, but rather what the process is processing.

    (Analogically, consider a mathematical expression with variables; the premises represent the variables, the inferential process the calculation. When the correct formula gives incorrect results due to the variables being incorrect, one doesn’t claim the formula itself is wrong.)

    Thus, the argument has failed. Thus the reasoning has failed.

    Those two statements are not synonymous, though they can simultaneously share truth-status.

    Try: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reason

    Try: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reason#Deductive_reasoning

    Wow, are you being snarky.

    I think you deserve it.

    You want to be so precise with un/sound and in/valid but you don’t even know the difference between logic & reason?

    Whatever makes you imagine that? :)

    Second, read this sentence:

    “it can still be wrong and harmful to equate bad and crazy EVEN IF an anecdote is true.”

    This statement means exactly what I said before.

    I read it the first time around; I’ve just re-read it.

    (I didn’t dispute it earlier, I don’t dispute it now)

    You should probably Avoid attempting to use English until you can fathom it.

    Such bluster is beneath you; care to show my inadequacy at English in the same manner I have shown your inadequacy at logic? :)

  191. Chris Lawson says

    C’mon, people. I’m 100% on Jen’s side here, but can we stop with the long-distance psychologising? We don’t know Abbie’s motivation, and I think it’s highly presumptuous (not to mention sexist) to insist she’s jealous for male attention.

  192. Chris Lawson says

    Poor choice of words, Human Ape. If it was accidental, then don’t be such an idiot. If it was deliberate, then don’t be such a slimeball.

  193. Forelle says

    Jen, among other things I gather that Ms Smith lashes at your professional conduct, but you can and do defend it here. And that she is indeed a bully.

    Maybe one day (I sincerely hope not — but you’re young), you’ll slack a little, get distracted, have any sort of trouble that somehow undermines your confidence. Please remember then that this sort of bullying behaviour is utterly wrong both when the accusation of slacking is false and when it’s true. This is most certainly not about work ethics — this is about trying to cause great hurt in a very sensitive area, hit or miss. A friendly correction, however harsh, has a very different tone, so maybe you should keep in mind this letter for comparison.

    I’m trying here to work out something useful from this nasty piece. Otherwise, I couldn’t agree more with people like Amanda Marcotte (this is a good example of an ad hominem), Watson and Ophelia (fuck that noise about winners, losers and cut-throat competition).

  194. Carlie says

    She had exactly the same attitude towards people who disagreed with her during Pepsigate, too. There may be something exacerbating it for this situation, but the basic personality has been there for a long time.

  195. slc1 says

    Fair enough. However, my point was that Ginger Rogers was considered a lightweight performer because of her roles in song and dance pictures, many with Fred Astaire (who was also considered something of a lightweight). She proved that she was, in reality, a fine actor, very much underrated, in the later film noir roles where she played tough broads with the best of them (e.g. Joan Crawford).

  196. slc1 says

    Re Chris Lawson

    I was unaware of the later developments cited by Mr. Lawson, which, in my opinion, make Ms. Marcotte’s behavior far more egregious then I had thought. Ms. Marcotte and her acolytes appear to be from the Andrea Dworkin/Catherine McKinnon school of feminist extremism where any sexual intercourse between men and women is considered rape by the former.

  197. VikingWarriorPrincess says

    What the ever loving was all that about?

    “I, like many scientists, want to be more than a pipetting machine.” – My professors would be horrified if what their students ended up as was robots, no thoughts or interests of their own.

  198. julian says

    But all this chatty acceptance of her presence here makes me feel ill.


    Go ahead and puke. She fills you with that much complete and total disgust that you can’t bear to be in the same comment thread as her, can’t be that healthy to hold it in. Puke. You’ll feel better.

    And next time, do it before you decide to post. It may spare everyone a derail. And you can’t object to that, can you?

  199. julian says

    Ms. Marcotte and her acolytes appear to be from the Andrea Dworkin/Catherine McKinnon school of feminist extremism where any sexual intercourse between men and women is considered rape by the former.

    Oh such a wonderful insight. Thanks for the comments, slc1 and Chris Lawson. Without you two I might have actually had to visit ERV to hear that again. Saved me so much.

  200. Pramod says


    It’s not like her advisor is making uninformed statements about how Jen is spending her time. This is just some lunatic on the internet.

  201. Stevarious says

    I think it’s more specific than that. To ‘Wax Solomonic’ now means ‘To masturbate while thinking about murdering babies.’

    Again, sounds like something only a religious person could do.

  202. says

    hey you know what is weird? A handful of studies about pit bull ownership show that owners of pit bulls have psychological and legal problems way more often than owners of other breeds of dog. It explains a lot about the pit bull community, who I have researched thoroughly in an attempt to get pit bull claims examined by skeptics more often.


    Other breeds of dog with dangerous behavior problems tend to have hyper-vigilant ownership, with enthusiast groups urging people NOT to buy the dogs if they don’t understand this (I am chiefly thinking of akitas and wolf hybrids).

    ANYWAY, yes ERV clearly has some kind of emotional problem and is a total jerkass to other women. She gets a lot of status with misogynist dudebros for doing so though. They all get to use her as an example when a lot of women are upset about something sexist but Abbie is not. If abbie isn’t offended, why should any other women be, right? Sexist dudes are so shitty at reasoning. They have quite a fan club going over there…

  203. theobromine says

    First, I have to say that ERV’s behaviour in this situation is unconscionable, and support and kudos to you, Jen, for how you are handling this.

    However, correlation is not causation. It may very well be that the type of people who acquire pet pitbulls have anti-social tendencies. It is my recollection that Abbie did not seek out a pitbull, but rescued an abandoned puppy, and is a responsible and vigilant owner, understanding (as befits a biologist) the peculiar challenges of the breed. I am a cat person myself (or maybe that should be cats’ person), and here I am defending a dog, mostly because I am getting a bit put off by the amateur psychoanalysis, as people try to dredge up dirt from other areas of Abbie’s life. Let’s just say that the behaviour is unnaceptable. The psychoanalysis might *explain* it, but should not *excuse* it.

  204. says

    I know crazy too. I’m crazy. I’m fucking loco, man. You fuck with me, I’ll fuckin curl up in a corner and mutter about fuckin chemtrails.

    I mean, I’m so fuckin batshit that I will repeatedly apologize for my existence for no good reason. You get what I’m sayin? I’m fuckin crazy, man.

    (This is all by way of saying that just because two people might be insane, that doesn’t mean they’re insane in anything like the same way.)

  205. theobromine says

    Am I missing something? Someone who has a blog called “thatweirdatheistgirl” is objecting to ‘the kind of person who would say “I’m not like normal girls.”’? (Since I’m that kind of person, though myself I would rather say “I’m not like normal women”, since I’m an old enough feminist that calling female adults “girls” is uncomfortable for me.)

  206. Pieter B says

    I’m late to the party, as I’m convalescing from surgery.

    Jen, you rock the house. Allow me to join the crowd in the “I’ve got your back” seats.

  207. says

    I’m merely pointing out a factual error in the original post…

    WOW, that’s such an important and long-overlooked point! In light of this very important quibble about which hateful idiot “invented” the word “twatson,” I’m sure we’ll all be forced to re-evaluate who’s right or wrong in this much larger dispute. Can we continue to accept that Jen is a decent person, in light of this new fact? Truly the mind wobbles.


    Seriously, Munkeyhaus, do you really think it matters who first used a certain junior-high insult? Is your mind too small to accomodate anytning bigger than that? Or are you just that desperate to find some excuse to bash someone here?

  208. Laura-Ray says

    Yeah that’s kind of a shitty straw man argument. Just because she owns a pitbull doesn’t mean she has psychological problems. I own a pitbull, and I don’t endorse any of the bullshit this woman is saying about Jen. Big reason there might be a correlation between people with psychological problems and their ownership of pitbulls? Would it be a big duh to say a lot of those people got the dog because it has a bad reputation as a vicious fighter, and they want that kind of dog, because (as in the study, it implies) they are abusive people, who want others to fear them? Would it make sense for them to post cutesy photos of their pitbulls if this were the case?
    Now I’m not saying that my argument is any better than than the others on Abbie’s sanity. I’m just saying, what a dumb fucking thing to say that a woman who adopted a dog with a purportedly bad nature and is a bitch must be exhibiting anti social behaviors. It’s rather insulting to other people who own and love and advocate for pitbulls (I’m one of those people, and I see a psychiatrist on a monthly basis for ADHD, and she hasn’t noticed any alcoholism, abuse, or antisocial behavior in me, so do with that information what you will). Not saying pitbulls ain’t dangerous (they are INCREDIBLY devoted, and will act aggressively against things they see as threatening their family), but generally, they’re only dangerous when people use them dangerously, which- really? I haven’t extensively read her blog, but does she really seem like that kind of person? Petty? Absolutely. Criminally violent?? I doubt it.
    Judge the woman on being a flaming illogical bitch who makes incredibly shitty arguments when she’s emotionally charged, don’t judge her on the fact that she loves her dog.

  209. barracuda says

    That whole screed boils down to “guys, don’t do that,” only said with a lot more anger and hostility.

  210. witless chum says

    Am I the only one who’s done worse things in my life than be wrong on the Internet, so I don’t demand that Amanda Marcotte go and hide herself forever because she was wrong about the Duke Lacrosse case? Even if she went as overboard as the above claims, which I don’t remember and I’ve been reading Pandagon for a long time, why does it need to be angrily shouted about on a comment thread that has nothing to do with Duke, rape allegations, prosecutors, North Carolina, tobacco, Duchesses, devils of any color or great college basketball programs?

    The years-later fixation on that seems pretty ironic in a comment threat to a post about a blogger going seemingly-unhinged over people disagreeing with her.

  211. says

    I’m a young woman, so being called a girl isn’t that big of a deal for me, as long as it’s not being used as an insult (e.g. silly little girl). If you’re also referring to the “weird” part, that’s because I’m frequently called weird by other people.

    My objection to someone saying “I’m not like other girls” (and I use girl in this case because it’s the phrase I’ve specifically heard/seen used) is that it implies that “other girls” or females in general are all one way.

  212. Laura-Ray says

    Okay guys. The logic shit is irrelevant. The point is, RAISE YOUR HAND IF YOU ARE LICENSED TO DIAGNOSE MENTAL ILLNESS. If not, shut the fuck up and stop speculating on who’s crazy or not. It’s not your goddamn job, you are not qualified, and it’s the same goddamn thing as Abbie saying Jen must be a shitty scientist because [insert all the bullshit Abbie said]. If someone with a goddamn degree and a PhD and a license can comment and say, yes, Abbie is nuckin’ futs, then okay, we’ll call her crazy. A person with a cough can be a smoker. A person with a cough can be choking. A person with a cough can be gagging on their own vomit. A person can cough whenever they are uncomfortable with a subject they don’t want to talk about. THAT DOES NOT MEAN THAT THEY NEED TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL.
    You know how people who don’t understand evolution use it as a crutch for creationism? That=this.
    Words mean shit to people other than you. Crazy means mentally ill to a lot of people. That is why it is OFFENSIVE to those people. You can be sensitive and not use crazy and bad interchangeably, or you can be a dick. You don’t get to have it both fucking ways.

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

    @ John Morales:

    let’s try again:

    I said the syllogism “fails”. You said:

    No; the syllogism is valid, but unsound (therefore not necessarily true).

    Specifically, it is not the case that “the reasoning fails”, rather that the premises are flawed.

    To fail is decidedly NOT a technical term of logic. Therefore, I cannot possibly be making a claim about the logical form of the syllogism. Therefore, whether the syllogism “fails” because of being unsound or “fails” because of being invalid makes no difference. I made neither claim, and cannot be wrong about a claim I haven’t made.

    Despite this, when I pointed it out, you said:

    But you wrote “the reasoning fails” — it doesn’t in the case you adduced: the reasoning is the inferential process; the premises are not part of that process, but rather what the process is processing.

    No. the FORMAL LOGIC doesn’t fail. The REASONING does. This is part of your inability to distinguish reasoning from formal logic, which is apparent to most people who have taken a class in formal logic. In fact, there is a difference between logic and formal logic. This is why classes are titled “Formal logic” and not just logic. This is part of the use of the English language at which you are failing. When Plato compares the mind to the city, his “reasoning” includes choosing the model. A sentence, “Plato’s reasoning in choosing to compare society and mind is quite productive,” is not at all incoherent or wrong because the author did not choose to use the language of formal logic. To use your equation analogy, we can say that equations of thermodynamic equilibrium “fail” as models of vehicular motion, and this makes perfect English sense.

    You say,

    When the correct formula gives incorrect results due to the variables being incorrect, one doesn’t claim the formula itself is wrong.

    Yeah, but I didn’t say that the formula was wrong. I said the reasoning failed, and the reasoning includes the process by which we choose which formulae to use. This is much more analogous to someone trying to solve a story problem. They choose a formula, try to extract appropriate values. They plug in the values and get the wrong answer. The equation isn’t wrong, but it is the wrong equation. The reasoning that the person used to solve the problem **failed**.

    How is it possible that you don’t see this? If you truly don’t get this and think that a sentence with “fail” cannot make sense when talking about reasoning, I must conclude that you really do have a problem understanding English.

    I said: Thus, the argument has failed. Thus the reasoning has failed.

    you said: Those two statements are not synonymous, though they can simultaneously share truth-status.

    :facepalm: Where did I say those two statements are synonymous?

    If you are using reasoning for the purpose of constructing an argument, and that argument fails, then you can say quite plainly that your reasoning failed.

    “I spend time fixing the car in order to be able to make it possible to drive to work. The car failed to drive all the way to work. Thus my repair effort failed.”

    No, the repair effort is not synonymous with the driving. But yes, you can connect them in a logic chain. If I thought the two statements were synonymous, then I wouldn’t have needed “thus” between the statements.

    I believe your inability to understand that two separate statements were always seen as two separate statements, that the endeavor of reason is different from the process of formal logic, and a total inability to understand the colloquial, common use of the word, “fail,” all give me reason to believe that you don’t fathom English in a manner sufficient to comment on what I’ve written.

    More than that, when I didn’t make claims that were a part of formal logic, you made the assumption that I don’t know how to make claims or that the failure to state a formal logical claim was identical to stating an obviously incorrect claim of formal logic. These were unjustified and led you to make snarky, uncalled for comments.

    I was attempting to be ironic when I said earlier that you should “Avoid” English (calling attention to your insistence that I “void logic,” though I admit perhaps something other than mere capitalization might have made the point more effectively).

    But that you can read the second post on the topic and still fail so hard makes me truly wonder if there isn’t something going on seriously impeding your understanding.

    Finally, despite your provocative and trollish behavior, what I said stands: Using crazy as a synonym for bad is fucked up. Just don’t do it. Not Ichthyic, not Azkyroth, not anyone who doesn’t want other people to see that first person as a jerk.

    I have no idea what so motivated you to jump into a conversation with someone arguing that we shouldn’t treat each other like jerks and start making jerky statements, but it really doesn’t paint you in a good light.

  214. John Morales says


    Look: you provided a valid syllogism with unsound premises, and then claimed it fails because the reasoning fails. Now, you claim I equivocate between logic and reasoning, though you employed ‘reasoning’ in reference to a syllogism rather than to its adduction.

    Anyway, I stand by what I wrote, and shan’t engage you on this digression further, other than my response to your last paragraph below.

    Finally, despite your provocative and trollish behavior, what I said stands: Using crazy as a synonym for bad is fucked up. Just don’t do it.

    In your opinion; in current English it’s one of the senses of that word*. I don’t like that ‘gay’ has become a synonym for ‘homosexual’, but I can accept that it has — and I don’t kick against the pricks insisting that it’s fucked-up to thus lose a perfectly fine word.

    I have no idea what so motivated you to jump into a conversation with someone arguing that we shouldn’t treat each other like jerks and start making jerky statements, but it really doesn’t paint you in a good light.

    My motivation is pretty simple: I thought you were wrong; I pointed that out.

    (You think your recalcitrance paints you in a good light?)

    * Feel free to consult dictionaries to confirm this claim.

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

    I don’t need to consult a dictionary to determine whether bad is used as a synonym of crazy. I didn’t say that it was incorrect English. I said it was **fucked up**. I have no idea how you could come to the conclusion that I was unaware of such a usage while arguing against it. It is truly bizarre.

    And, no, I don’t particularly think my recalcitrance paints me in a good light, which I why I posted on TET to see if I’m completely out on a limb distinguishing reasoning from formal logic, among other things.

    I am still agog at how things that appear to be clear when they hit the keyboard seem to be interpreted so very differently by you. I’ve seen you argue quite cogently multiple times before. This experience truly baffles me.

    I am okay with you not posting again on this topic, but it still makes me dizzy that words like “fail,” “reason,” and “fucked up” would be the source of such vast conflicts in understanding.

  216. John Morales says

    [OT + meta]

    I said it was **fucked up**.

    And I said that was your opinion. :)

    (So far, so good)

    But you went further: you also added “Just don’t do it.”

    You’re asking me (the reader) to not do something on the basis that you have a problem with it.

    If you wish to convince me not to do it, you’ll have to come up with (ahem) reasoning that will convince me, rather than rely on diktats and an authority that you (clearly) don’t have over me.

    PS Contextuality and scope are, I think, the source of our disputation on the other matter.

    (I tend to be literal)

  217. Pteryxx says

    Not really… they DO keep the side conversations more or less contained, but while lurking it’s hard to find where the new comments went. The Recent Comments sidebar helps but has too narrow a range. Any way to make the “20 Most Recent Comments” widget apply just to a single thread?

  218. Stevarious says

    I just subscribe to the thread and read em all in order posted. Occasionally I need to click on a link if I need context for a reply with no quotes….

  219. julian says

    My point in writing those posts is that I hate that I even have the inkling in the back of my brain that it may be because I’m an atheist. Because sadly, that shit happens.

    A little late for this but, yeah, it’s hard not wondering if the reason so-and-so got the position you wanted because he’s a believer and you aren’t. Especially if you’ve seen it happen.

    People do a 180 when they find out you’re an atheist. It’s like they suddenly don’t know you despite the fact you were rack mates all through boot camp and ended up going to Com School together.

    I’m sure the science community is different from the military (much stronger Christian influence in the latter) but such examples are so terribly removed from people’s experience for it not to be on their minds.

    Now I do sorta see where Ms Smith is coming from. It is not (at least in my opinion) productive to have a narrative running that seems to assume your failures are the fault of others. It’s self-defeating. But that shouldn’t keep us from recognizing when we are being descriminated against or worrying about it when it’s such a common experience for us.

  220. John Morales says

    Now I do sorta see where Ms Smith is coming from. It is not (at least in my opinion) productive to have a narrative running that seems to assume your failures are the fault of others.

    I suppose not.

    On what basis do you characterise Jen’s narrative thus, so that you “sorta see where Ms Smith is coming from”?

  221. John Morales says

    [threading utilisation failure]

    My #124 was intended to be a reply to #123, for anyone who might be puzzled.

  222. julian says

    I don’t think Ms. McCreight is guilty of that. (I assumed my first couple paragraphs would make that clear. Sorry.) The suspicion in the back of her head is something anyone who’s been repeatedly exposed to descrimination is going to have. It’s perfectly reasonable and not something to blast people for.

    Maybe it would be more accurate to say ‘I think this is what Ms.Smith thinks you are doing and, even though I know you aren’t and that it isn’t at all that common, it’s still something I think people should avoid.’

  223. John Morales says

    I dunno if it’s more accurate, but it’s not something I would likely have challenged.

    (Thanks for the clarification)

  224. Ichthyic says

    I don’t know an adolescent teen-age boy who hasn’t engaged in a pattern of sexist statements by that age.


    now take that and apply it to the fact that Abbie is NOT an adolescent teenage boy.

    and you at least begin to understand what is wrong.

  225. Ichthyic says

    Further, you don’t get it that if being crazy = being bad, then I would not be able to be crazy without being bad.

    I’ll address your strawman, since what I said was mental illness is just that, an illness like any other.

    but, since you want to address the issue of “good and bad”, how about cancer?

    is that good or bad?

    the flu?

    a broken leg?



    any of these good or bad?

    aside from your strawman…

    are you an educated (as in UNIVERSITY, not “internet”) expert on personality disorders?

    I’m guessing you actually aren’t based on what you’ve written so far.

  226. Munkhaus says

    Well, I find your responses quite unreasonable, and yet not entirely unexpected. Rather than concede an error (“But wait, she coined “Rebecca Twatson” too?” – asks Gus Snarp… alas no truthful response was forthcoming) you call names.
    Then Melody Whats-her-face gives us a nice: “Will this woman ever go away?”
    enter Amanda Marcottes:
    “…get off on hearing a woman denigrate other women for having the nerve to speak out ”
    hmm. But which woman to listen to? That’s the question. I know, let’s ask Paul Zed!

  227. Aquaria says

    Says the guy who never met a Likudnik repression tactic he didn’t like, and will tell any lie, believe any lie that says Israel is never, ever wrong.

    And who actually tried to claim that a 6.9 movie rating on IMDb wasn’t chopped liver. Remember that slc1.

    You’re hardly one to talk about credibility.

  228. Aquaria says

    It’s not the sexism!

    How many times does this have to be pointed out? She did this over PEPSI. And you can see traces of it in her non-science posts, if you go back far enough, this judgmental, vicious, hateful person.

    This isn’t sexism–this is how she deals with DISAGREEMENT.

  229. John Morales says

    If someone with a goddamn degree and a PhD and a license can comment and say, yes, Abbie is nuckin’ futs, then okay, we’ll call her crazy.

    Silly claim; you are essentially stating that someone can only be called crazy after “someone with a goddamn degree and a PhD and a license” says so.

    Words mean shit to people other than you. Crazy means mentally ill to a lot of people. That is why it is OFFENSIVE to those people.

    Is offensiveness always unwarranted?

    Analogous: Some strict muslims find it offensive to see women’s hair; therefore all women should cover their hair?

    You can be sensitive and not use crazy and bad interchangeably, or you can be a dick.

    They are not generally interchangeable; they merely share a sense.

  230. Chris Lawson says

    1. slc1 you don’t speak for me, and it’s clear from your comment about Marcotte being a Dworkinite that you either haven’t read enough Marcotte or Dworkin.

    2. Witless chum, just because you haven’t read that particular post on pandragon doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Try Google. I agree with you that most everyone makes mistakes on the internet, but you know what would make a difference to my feelings on this matter? Not the four years since she wrote her post, and not the fact that she is now supporting someone I like to see supported. What would make me leave this matter alone would be a retraction and an admission of error. And I feel the same way about Mooney and Kirshenbaum, not to mention Abbie Smith herself. If they were to start saying nice things about the people I like without acknowledging their previous egregious behaviour, then I will happily bring up their past writings.

    3. Julian… Firstly, I am not a fan of ERV (I used to like the science in it, but now I refuse to read it) and I am very much on Jen’s side in this and other issues — as you would know if you had read any of the other comments I made on this thread. Secondly, there is a direct relevance here. The point of divergence between Abbie and the sane universe can be tracked back to Rebecca Watson’s elevator story. Which was, if you recall, about sexually inappropriate behaviour. I do not think it is an irrelevancy that one of the people supporting Abbie here argued that certain Duke lacrosse players are sexist bastards (and I agree) and therefore it is a terrible blow to justice that they weren’t prosecuted for a rape they did not commit…and then she allowed her friendly commentators to verbally abuse a rape victim for disagreeing with her. Not only do I think Marcotte’s past behaviour is relevant, I think it is right on topic.

  231. Chris Lawson says


    I agree and would go further: as someone who does have a medical degree and does make diagnoses of mental illness on a regular basis, I still wouldn’t go around making diagnoses based on internet comments. Even experienced psychiatrists and psychologists can disagree wildly about diagnoses after many hours of face-to-face consultation.

    At best, internet comments can raise concerns about mental health, but unless they contain frankly psychotic rantings or expressions of suicidal ideation or some such, I would caution against using them as fodder for free-range diagnostic speculation. It reminds me of when that idiot Bill Frist, heart surgeon, watched a lousy video and decided that he knew more about Terri Schiavo’s diagnosis than her treating neurologists.

    (This is not to say there’s anything wrong with the colloquial use of “crazy” and “insane”. Calling Michelle Bachmann a flaming nutcase is fair rhetoric provided it’s not followed by a request to have her involuntarily admitted to a psych hospital.)

  232. SLC says

    I have no opinion on the movie that Ms. Aquaria is referring to as I haven’t seen it. My comment is that the reviewers over at the IMDB web site have the temerity to have an un-Aquaria thought in their heads so as to disagree with her assessment.

    I also fail to see what Israel or war movies have to do with Ms. Marcotte’s actions in the Duke lacrosse episode.

  233. says

    You don’t seem to understand that the majority of people who own them call themselves responsible owners and deny that there is any difference between dogs bred for bloodsports and ones that are not. 99% of the time the owners of the dogs that have already killed someone insist they were responsible and that their dogs must have been provoked. Members of responsible pit bull ownership groups have been killed by their pit bulls. ERV says the same crap as those people. She has alleged a media conspiracy whenever stories of maulings are brought to her attention. It is a totally irrational belief, it should be considered on par with vaccine or AIDS denial. There is ample study of dog behavior (especially aggression) available, and the evidence says that in dogs there is a strong genetic component to aggression that cannot be eliminated through “socializing” or any other known method. It is the same reason that some dogs point without having to be trained, while others herd people or animals without having to be trained, etc. Dogs bred for bloodsports can fight and kill without someone mistreating them or training them to do so. There is also ample evidence available that pit bulls are over-represented in attacks involving serious injury and death. It is kind of a big deal because the pit bull community is saying that these dogs are *great* to have around children. A lot of people have needlessly died or been disfigured behind all the propaganda. Spreading ignorance about a preventable cause of death and injury is kind of disgusting too. I am surprised that people responded to my comment with an insistence that what ERV said about jen was bad, but the stuff she says about pit bulls is not. Is it shitty to spread dangerous misinformation? I certainly think so, especially when the person who says it knows how to look into actual research on the subject refuses to do so. It isn’t just animal journals pointing out the specific danger of these animals, it is also injury prevention, surgical intervention, and forensic science journals pointing out how much of a problem this is nationwide. There are literally pages of scalping victims of pit bulls from the past couple of years on dogsbite for you to look at.

    Also-I wasn’t arguing that the personality study is proof of anything about ERV specifically, just a coincidence. If I wanted to say “this is evidence that ERV is mentally unstable” I woulda said so.

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