Who are your Champions of Reason?

After a long day of studying, I turned to reddit to relax a little before bed. I stumbled upon this artwork in r/atheism titled “Champions of Reason”:

The artist explains:

“This is a depiction of people I intellectually admire. I say admire because it is rather impossible for me to take someone as a hero, looking past their human flaws. But it is their flaws that makes them human, which makes their intelligence all that more admirable. There are many, many others who didn’t make in this art who are just as awesome. They have my appreciation although not on this art.”

I couldn’t help but notice a pattern in the selection of champions. But I didn’t have to say anything; on reddit ADMcD76 already brought it up:

“I like it, but…not a single woman? Not even Ayaan Hirsi Ali?”

guysholliday replies:

“Why does a work of art need to be an equal-opportunity enterprise? He didn’t choose Hawking because he was disabled or Kaku because he’s Asian.”

The artist explains:

“I couldn’t think of one that influenced me as a person of reason, unfortunately.”

I’m fine with the artist choosing whoever he wants. This is supposed to represent people he personally admires, which happen to be all men (and overwhelmingly white). If this was commissioned for a conference or supposed to represent rational thought in general, I’d be a little peeved. But instead of being annoyed, I’m just sad. You can’t think of a single woman who’s influenced you as a person of reason? Not one? Yet again, there are plenty of wonderful female atheists and skeptics out there that so many people just don’t know about. It’s a really shame.

So how about you guys? Who are your champions of reason? Anyone who draws their champions of reason (stick figures acceptable!) get bonus points.


  1. Robert B. says

    Carl Sagan, Eliezer Yudkowsky, Greta Christina, Ludwig Boltzmann, and Fredrick Douglass. Honorable mention to Ayn Rand for getting me into rationalism and epistemology, despite her wretched ethics and many other flaws.

  2. Stacy says

    In no particular order: David Hume, John Stuart Mill, Martin Gardner, James Randi, Frederick Douglass, Katha Pollit, Barbara Ehrenreich, Molly Ivins, Carl Sagan, Dan Dennett, Dawkins, Angela Carter, PZ Myers, Mary Wollstonecraft.

    o-|-< <–And that's Mark Twain. Hey, at least it's not mall art.

  3. Utakata says

    My first thought when I saw this pic…is how on earth do they reproduce amoungst themselves? O.o

  4. says

    Mark Twain. Carl Sagan. Matt Dilahunty. Beth Presswood. Jen Peeples. Tracie Harris. Especially James Randi.

  5. says

    Here are people I intellectually admire and who have inspired me in some way (intellectually, out of religion, academically, etc): Greta Christina, Adam Lee, John Stuart Mill, Philippa Foot, Rosalind Hursthouse, my older sister and Richard Dawkins.

  6. PDX_Greg says

    Feynman was my idol (and amazingly became technically one of my professors when I was accepted at Caltech; although he no longer actively lectured directly in class by the time I arrived on campus, he would hold frequent open sessions that even us lowly undergrads could attend, and I would almost never miss them).

    But hands down, the person that was most influential in my path to rational thinking was … drum-roll please … my mother. Although she never claimed to be an athiest, she was always a very rational thinker and taught all five of us children fantastic critical thinking skills by her shining example. My father tended to jump into fad-thinking and readily accepted whatever hogwash was popular if it sounded the least bit plausible in his mind. How fortunate we were that we could contrast that with my mother’s clearly far more rational approach to living, learning, and experiencing reality.

  7. Marion Delgado says

    Mine is Christine O’Donnell. Lots of people bitch about tea baggers. She makes her living off them. I think she has practical reason. Though maybe it’s simple witchcraft :)

  8. says


    I think your criticism is a bit off target.

    The artist went looking for people he admired intellectually. He did not specifically think of either skeptics or atheists. You can be a great intellect, without being either a skeptic or an atheist. Wouldn’t you call Leonardo da Vinci a great intellect? Was Aristotle not a great man of reason? Yet, none were atheists.

    Likewise, when looking for persons you admire for their reason and intellect, why would you look for what gender they are? Reason is not dependent on gender.

    Reason, intellect, skepticism, atheism, feminism, equal rights advocacy. One does not require all the other.

    The artist did try to remember female intellects he admire, but he couldn’t come up with one. He had only room for so many people. So what?

    I think I see Nietzsche there as well (the colossal beard is either his, or Groucho Marx’).

    Nietzsche? Really? That’s an intellect he admires?

    …M’kay. Personally, I’d go with Groucho.

  9. jamesfish says

    I think this may be the first specimen of atheist kitsch I have encountered.

  10. Kevin says

    Nevermind, found this in the reddit post: From left: John Cleese, Penn Jillette, Bill Nye, Stephen Hawking, (above) Frederick Nietzsche, (below) George Carlin, Carl Sagan, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Charles Darwin, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Adam Savage, Michio Kaku.

  11. StevoR says

    who are my champions of reason?

    In no particular order – except, yeah, Asimov was the first iI ever encountered (His ‘Nine Tomorrows’ anthology when I was about five or summin’) and still my all-time fave!

    1. Isaac Asimov,
    2. Carl Sagan,
    3. Hypatia,
    4. Ayaan Hirsi Ali,
    5. Ophelia Benson,
    6. Taslima Nasrin,
    7. Phil Plait
    8. PZ Myers
    9. Christopher Hitchens
    10. Henrietta Swan Leavitt

    Oh & not forgetting my Mum, “skepchick” Rebecca Watson, Arthur C. Clarke, Jessica Ahlquist & Stephen Hawking plus Alan Turing, Tim Ferris and many, many more.

  12. StevoR says

    PS. D’oh! Greta Christina (who I always typo as ‘Great Christina’ which is also kinda apt!) certainly deserves inclusion there too – how could I forget! *facepalm*

    Plus a certain blogger, now what’s her name again, Jen Mc~something? ;-)

    Seriously, Blag Hag cheers and keep up the good work!

  13. says

    I tend to relate to a different type of champion for reason. I am not an academic, and am only recently learning proper critical thinking skills now in my 30s. Some of the huge academic names at this time go over my head or I have trouble being able to be engaged. I respond better to the “every-(wo)man.”

    Folks that have had the greatest influence on me since finding the skeptical/atheist community: James Randi, Rebecca Watson, Steven Novella, Greta Christina, Seth Andrews, Hemant Mehta, Matt Dillahunty and Beth Presswood.

  14. says

    The artist did try to remember female intellects he admire, but he couldn’t come up with one. He had only room for so many people. So what?

    so, that’s a problem. because it’s not like this dude is some sort of exception, and can you really not figure out why it may be a problem that a lot of people are incapable of thinking of women or people of color that have inspired them, despite the fact that there’s many inspiring women and people of color out there?

  15. StevoR says

    Oh & just a couple more of the many* who I’ve just remembered** and really think absolutely must be added :

    – Whoever it was who write the ‘Shroedinger’s Rapist’ piece because that really made me think and evaluate my views and provided one hell of an inight.

    – Plus Fred Clark who runs the Slacktivist blog deconstructing the Worlds Worst books (‘Left Behind’) and much else

    and, um, “eccentric” as some of her comments and works may be also Germaine Greer when it comes to feminism too. The first feminist author I encountered &, go us, an Aussie too!

    * Reason is a team effort, there are so many others who contributed and championed reason in various ways at various times, impossible to name them all.

    ** Yes, I’m tired, I’m drunk, I’m a fallible human. This ain’t news to anybody surely? Last post for tonight (my timezone) I promise.

  16. 'Tis Himself says

    Michio Kaku is a “champion of reason”? He’s more a champion of egotism when he’s talking about anything outside his particular field.

  17. says

    I would say that my top three personal intellectual heroes have to be Neil deGrasse Tyson (his passion and eloquence puts him at the top), Daniel Dennett and Jane Goodall.

  18. Louis Wasserman says

    I am almost embarrassed to admit that I can’t think of any famous lady-rationalists except possibly Jen herself. But then, I’m kind of new.

  19. julian says


    Yeah, I’m not going try to explain it to you. I’m also not going to call you stupid. I’m just going to point out the obvious.

    That neither you nor the painter consider women personally inspirational and have a very clearly biased view of who’s a great thinker.

    It’s actually really pathetic but a good reflection of just how little mind anyone pays the contribution women have made throughout the many disciplines.

  20. Louis Wasserman says

    …Let me say this: I’d like to think that I’m not biased against women. It’s that I don’t *know* any lady rationalists. Not well enough to remember their names off the top of my head.

    That’s…kind of embarrassing, but I suspect that the painter might have had the same problem.

    On Reddit, I see quotes from Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, and Carl Sagan on a daily basis, and therefore I know their names off the top of my head; I don’t see lady-rationalists getting quoted.

    That’s sort of a chicken-and-egg problem to which the only solutions are to do more research myself, and to mention lady rationalists more often myself so that _other_ people gain more familiarity with their work.


  21. says

    I didn’t say it was a unique event, nor am I living in a bubble of any sorts. I just don’t think it merits such hubbub.

    After all, we don’t know if the artist excluded women, or was incapable of thinking of women. There are a lot of assumptions here that need to be proven, before we can even begin to make a case of the artist being either ignorant or obtuse.

  22. says

    I gotta add one I haven’t seen yet. Long before the “New Atheist” movement, before “The God Delusion”, the first author I ever knew to identify as atheist was Barbarah Ehrenreich.

  23. says

    Every post you’ve made on my blog (not just this post) has distorted or ignored what people are saying in order to derail the thread. This is your one chance to shape up before you’re banned. You’ve been warned.

  24. dianne says

    It’s that I don’t *know* any lady rationalists.

    Dude, you’re saying this on the blog of a woman rationalist. This suggests a problem with your perception rather than your environment: you know women rationalists, you just don’t think much of them. Ask yourself why.

  25. Sas says

    Hmm, a comic and fantasy artist who can’t think of any women whose intellect he admires … I wonder what I’ll find in his portfolio?

    *five minutes later*…

    Well, that was completely unsurprising.

  26. sumdum says

    To be honest, the only female rationalists I know of, are either bloggers here or hosts of either the atheist experience or godless bitches. Don’t know where I’d encounter more.

  27. says

    I hope I don’t sound too pander-y here, but I would totally have Jennifer Michael Hecht at the front of that group– not just for reason and atheism, but for scholarship and a super-successful melding of that world with the humanities, the arts, and perhaps most importantly, humor. Now *that’s* inspiring to me.

  28. bobo says

    Jen, without making a list, I must let you know that you are on the list I that I would make.

    I have learned more about women’s issues from you than from any other woman. Ever.

    Thank you.

  29. Kimi says

    In my teens

    Frank Zappa
    David Hume
    Immanuel Kant
    Stephen Hawking
    Dave Brock
    Robert “Bob” Calvert
    Ian Scott Anderson
    Esa Saarinen

    In my early adulthood

    Isaac Asimov
    Stanislaw Lem


    Phil Plait
    PZ Myers
    Tim Minching
    Pamela L. Gay
    Ethan Siegel

  30. Kimi says

    Myth Busters made their best episodes when I was in my early adulthood so

    Jamie Hyneman
    Adam Savage
    Kari Byron

    in that box also!

  31. MurOllavan says

    1. Bertrand Russell
    2. Gilbert Ryle
    3. Ludwig Wittgenstein
    4. Socrates
    5. Daniel Dennett

    1. Charles Darwin
    2. Stephen Hawking
    3. Lisa Randall
    4. Richard Dawkins
    5. Ed Witten

    1. Greta Christina
    2. Alonzo Fyfe
    3. JT Eberhard
    4. Rebecca Watson
    5. PZ Myers

  32. Blueaussi says

    Yeah, Rand is a tough one to explain to people, but she was one of the pebbles that started the avalanche for me, too. I was raised in a small southern town with a limited library, and a library staff that actively tried to force me to read books that they considered appropriate for girls. Actively as in called my mother to warn her I was trying to check out Science! Fiction! by some man named Andre Norton. *sigh* We’d have had to break out the smelling salts iffen I’d tried to check out books by that awful Tiptree fellow!

    Anyway, yeah, I understand the mention of Rand.

    And, yeah, I recognize the droplet of irony in mentioning Tiptree and Norton in a thread that, in part, wonders why more women aren’t mentioned as inspirational.

  33. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    Likewise, when looking for persons you admire for their reason and intellect, why would you look for what gender they are? Reason is not dependent on gender.

    Which makes it very jarring when it looks for all the world like someone purporting to praise intellectual accomplishments WAS looking at gender and excluding half of them.

    The artist did try to remember female intellects he admire, but he couldn’t come up with one. He had only room for so many people. So what?

    Okay, having read Jen’s warning to this jackass further down, I’m just going to say this for everyone else who “thinks” like this:

    Do you really think it’s an accident, that (mainly male) people just happen to, fail over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and ….. over and over and over and over to think of any women whose intellectual accomplishments they respect or admire?


    Bull. Fucking. Shit. This happens so frequently that even with no other evidence of pervasive societal sexism (and there’s tons) the most charitable of the only reasonable explanations would that there is a persistent attitude in society in general and taught to men in particular that leads them to ignore, dismiss, and not internalize any legitimately admirable qualities of, the accomplishments of women.

    As it stands, you need to pop your fucking head out.

  34. says

    My all-time champions of reason (people who actually influenced my mind) 00are:

    Isaac Asimov, who managed to shape my atheist form through his robot series

    Stephen Hawking with his Brief History of Time, which I still use as a base for my conferences on science and technology

    Carl Sagan and his beautiful view of the universe.

    Yes, I know, no women, but then this is the kind of authors you get exposed to when you live outside the USA. Looks like a typical closed loop problem of exposure, which can be partially solved by keeping getting exposed to great ideas (regardless of genre, etc.)

    So, influential people as of recently:
    In my case I am basically a fanboy of Jessica Alquist. The cause she is famous for might not be the uttermost important cause for skepticism, but the passion she exudes and the amazingly articulate way in which she expresses her ideas are definitely an influence for me.

    Cheers from the Hippo

  35. says

    Someone mentioned Mary Roach, who I would call one of my heroes without hesitation. Other (currently alive) women who would make the short list of people I admire intellectually, who have influenced my thinking:

    Carol Tavris (Mistakes Were Made, But Not By Me)
    Martha Nussbaum (Hiding From Humanity: Disgust, Shame, and the Law)
    Griet Vandermassen (Who’s Afraid of Charles Darwin?)
    Eugenie Scott
    Leda Cosmides
    Susan Blackmore (Consciousness: An Introduction, The Meme Machine)

  36. says

    There are so many to list without forgetting names, so I’ll just offer the two examples which have been in my mind the past week.

    I’m going to go with Greta Christina, for her merciless and powerful articulations on religion, and also changing over time the way I viewed and identified within the feminist movement.

    Richard Wiseman is one of my favourites too, he’s also from the UK and his “Paranormality” book is one I enjoyed very much.

  37. Robert B. says

    If it didn’t matter what gender they were, if he didn’t care whether they were male or female, how did it happen that he drew 13 men and no women? The prior odds against that are about 8000:1. In other words, bias is beating the null hypothesis at a confidence of about 0.02%, on a sample size of one person (and as folks have pointed out, this isn’t an outlier.) You really can’t see why that’s a problem?

  38. Robert B. says

    Well, people are mentioning plenty of them in the thread. Go check some of them out!

  39. Wonk says

    I honestly don’t understand why people get all misty-eyed about Neil deGrasse Tyson. He’s a passionate advocate for science, certainly–but then he opens his mouth and says something about history or demographics or sociology, and he gets it so, so very wrong. He’s also fond of playing an irritating “catch me if you can” game about atheism and secularism.

    I’m going to try to avoid naming secularists who have already been on a lot of lists.

    In my childhood: Bill Nye, Ursula K. Le Guin, Margaret Atwood.

    Lately: Maryam Namazie, Robert Ingersoll

  40. fanty says

    My #1 hero is and always was Ayaan Hirsi Ali. (And also Aung San Su Kyi, but she has nothing to do with atheism.)

    My more current heroes are Maryam Namazie and PZ Myers.

  41. says

    Back in the 70s, my Champions of Reason were philosophers such as Nietzsche and Bertrand Russell; mystery authors in the vein of Conon Doyle and Agatha Christie (sleuths who solved crimes by logic rather than fists and bullets); science fiction writers Frank Herbert, Mary Shelly, Robert Heinlein, Ursula K LeGuin and others, science writers like Stephen J Gould. Mostly male because there were more males writing in thej genres I was reading.

    I learned in school about the canadian Women Sufferage Movement and the Person’s Case. So in general I understood that women were equal at at early age. I also have a very intelligent Mother an dtwo older sisters.

    My Champions change as I learn more about them. I had more respect for Sam Harris a few years ago, he is slipping in my regard lately. Of course, it is relatively lately I have discovered Hirshi Ali, and all the bright lights here and on other blogs.

  42. Silvia says

    I don’t now, but trying to select champions of reason seems to me an anti-reason endeavour. It sort of stimulates a personality cult and a love of authority that I don’t find very conducing to a rational way of thinking. Sorry, I don’t want to derail anything just give more food for thought.
    As to the people that helped me get more rational, I think that the ones that mattered most were the ones you don’t know: my brothers, my parents and even my daughters. It is with them that I’ve had practice of reasoning and have learned (and still do) to think on a daily basis.

  43. mnb0 says

    As I am Dutch nobody should be surprised to read the names of

    1. Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis (made it even to English Wikipedia)
    “To derive a divine world from the concrete world is a salto mortale” (1922)
    2. Anton Constandse
    Book: God is het Kwaad (1924) Who’s going to translate this? The title speaks for itself: God is Evil.

    To balance things out a bit:
    3. Bertrand Russell.
    4. Simone de Beauvoir.

    Still there is something wrong with this list – only whities.

  44. mnb0 says

    I don’t like the painting btw – reminds me too much of 80’s-metal albums (Dio for instance).

  45. gworroll says


    I can think of female rationalists that influence me, and that I respect greatly, easily. Anyone who can’t at least get this far has problems.

    Getting to the level of a “champion of reason”, though… I can’t. I hope I’ve just not encountered the females that would qualify on the same grounds as the men. I might have, and just have trouble seeing the generality of what they say. In a more restricted domain, say, “rational approaches to sexism”, some females definitely make the list(dominate this one, in fact), but reason in general… not so much. Just not sure if i’ve been blind or just unlucky to have not encountered them(tips on women to check out will definitely be investigated, my list below might give some insight on the qualities I’d look for)

    Carl Sagan
    Neil DeGrasse Tyson
    Isaac Newton
    Galen of Pergamon(many of his specific theories were wrong, but his general approach was centuries ahead of its time)
    Alfred the Great(Major champion of literacy and education, remarkable for the 9th Century)

  46. gworroll says

    Also, tips on people to look at that are outside Western civilization would be great. Being American, my list will naturally be dominated by people from western culture and history, but I’d love to broaden my perspective a bit.

  47. dianne says

    Neil’s an astronomer, and a popularizer, rather than a researcher, at that. I don’t know why anyone even asks him about biology, history, sociology, etc. He has no training in any of those areas and is as likely as the next person to come up with something really off in response to random questions.

  48. says

    Let’s see, off the top of my head I would come up with for 20 options:

    Richard Dawkins
    Susan B. Anthony
    Elizabeth Cady Stanton
    PZ Meyers
    Isaac Asimov
    Percy Bysshe Shelley
    Mary Wollstonecraft
    H.P. Lovecraft*
    Hemant Mehta
    Arthur C. Clarke
    Jennifer Michael Hecht
    Stephen Hawking
    Hélène Cixous
    Luce Irigaray
    Greta Christina
    Isaac Newton
    Aayan Hirsi Ali
    Albert Einstein
    and our own Jen McCreight

    *his views on race not being subject to my admiration

    I’m sure I could come up with a larger sampling of inspiring people if I took more than five minutes, but this is what came out in that time span.

  49. Eric O says

    In no particular order:

    Carl Sagan, Daniel Dennett, Greta Christina, PZ Myers, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ophelia Benson, Ian Cromwell, Steven Pinker, Rebecca Watson, and Richard Dawkins.

    … and at the risk of sounding sycophantic, Jen McCreight. Out of all the atheist/skeptic blogs on the Internet, this is one of the few that I check on a daily basis.

    Of course, there are a lot of other skeptics that I admire, but the above are the first few that come to mind.

  50. Kevin says

    Since nobody have mentioned these yet and you requested someone not American, I have a couple suggestions. First is Derren Brown. He is basically the equivalent of James Randi for the UK. He uses a lot of psychology in his act and did an episode on debunking faith healing. Also not mentioned is Brian Cox from England. He has a series called the Wonders Of The Universe and has done research at CERN. Peter Singer from Australia is a notable ethicist.

  51. dandy_lion says

    My champion of reason, though she wasn’t an atheist, is Mary Seacole, for her acts during the Crimean War. She has been mostly left out of history classes, sadly but not really surprising, because she dared to practice medicine while both a woman and black.

  52. gworroll says

    I’ll look into those, but I’m more interested in people from outside Europe and the nations founded by European colonists. I’m not the most ignorant person on the world outside Europe and her descendants, but I’m more ignorant than I’d like to be.

    Forgot to mention Stephen Hawking, actually. For all that the man has been through, to still cling so strongly to reason is amazing.

  53. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    Well, would it hurt him to just say that if asked?

  54. Bjarte Foshaug says

    Michelle Goldberg should defintely be on everyone’s list. Her masterpiece Kingdom Coming is far more frightening than anything Stephen King has ever written and still the best book I have read on the American religious right. Naomi Oreskes is also very high on my list as the most effective voice countering climate change denialists. If you haven’t yet read Merchants of Doubt, do it now! Greta Christina is on my list for reminding me of 99 things that would normally put me in a very bad mood… and still managing to make me feel better! :D Barbara Ehrenreich managed a similar feat with her glorious demolition of the modern ideology of positive thinking in Bright-Sided. Maryam Namazie is on the list for being the most eloquent and fearless champion of the idea that rights, equality, tolerance and respect are for people, not ideologies, beliefs, or practices. Susan Jacoby should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. You don’t have to be American to recognize a new Age of Global Unreason. Other names that deserve a mentioning are Susan Blackmore, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Taslima Nasrin, Rebecca Watson, Natalie Angier, Susan Haack, Elizabeth Loftus and Carol Tavris, just to mention a few…

    Oh yes, and there are a few men on the list as well. One who definitely deserves to be mentioned more is Steven Pinker who’s masterpiece The Blank Slate has probably influenced my thinking more than any other book since Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene.

  55. Bjarte Foshaug says

    Btw. In what sense is Nietzsche a “champion of reason”?! It’s been quite a while since I read Jenseits von Gut und Böse, Also sprach Zarathustra, and Zur Genealogie der Moral, admittedly. But if that clown ever expressed anything but infinite contempt for reason (or anything other that 100% pure, unfiltered, unreasoning emotion), it sure hasn’t registered with this particular reader…

  56. Gordon says

    Jessica Ahlquist, Isaac Asimov, Julia Galef, Carl Sagan, Derren Brown,

    can I have Hypatia of Alexandria?

  57. grumpyoldfart says

    It’s not enough to bitch about no women in the poster … Where are the Mongolians, Uzbekistanis, Transexuals, and Australian aboriginals?

    New Rule:
    Whenever artists portray their heroes, they should include other people’s heroes as well.

  58. dianne says

    Probably. People with small egos don’t become major television personalities, even as experts in astronomy.

  59. fragzilla says

    I’m sure the artist is very upset that he forgot to shoehorn women into a piece of art that’s meant to represent a group of people who influenced him.

  60. msironen says

    Oh so we’ve now decided that exactly 50% of great rationalists in history have been women and all of them are equally accomplished. How convenient!
    Btw, does this apply to other things too, like chess? Check out what’s going on with FIDE and their horribly sexist ELO rating system: 20 highest rating players in history all men? PHAW!

  61. julian says

    That’s not the complaint.

    Suppose we were talking about great world leaders and all it included were Americans. Would you agree that the clear American bias in the piece was problematic and that it reflects the artist’s limited exposure and appreciation for global politics? And would it be terribly unreasonable to believe this to be a consequence (at least in part) from the American belief we are the most active and important global players?

  62. julian says

    Thank you for reminding me just what a contemptible idiot you are. It’s actually really refreshing. With all the passive sexist fucks out there “just asking questions” it’s nice to see your honesty.

  63. Sas says

    Being transsexual is a nationality now? That’s awesome, now I can emigrate back to Transsexualvania and not have to put up with all the bullshit in America.

  64. sambarge says

    Phaedra Starling is the pen name of the author of Schrodinger’s Rapist. And I agree that the articles was paradigm-shifting, even though I hate that expression.

  65. Sassafras says

    Yeah, but that’s a planet! I hope we have an embassy here on earth at least!

  66. says

    I ended up posting about this today. The short answer is that the all penis (and almost all white) review of thinkers strongly discourages anyone who does not fit that criteria from being interested in the field, or from feeling as if they have anything to contribute to the field.

    It is more than acceptable to point it out, unless you really don’t think women and PoC belong or are capable as major contributors to the field.

  67. says

    Realizing the next day that nowhere did I remember do include Carl Sagan, a man whose birthday I am proud to share, makes me shake my head.

    So adding Carl Sagan to the above list.

  68. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    …I’m not even sure why those are supposed to be appealing. O.o

  69. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    Of course he isn’t upset. I’m not sure he actually realizes women are people, just like you don’t, so the complaint must seem strange, like suggesting he draw lions in a seascape.

  70. fragzilla says

    wow, he wasn’t influenced by women so far as reason is concerned, means he doesn’t think they are people. please walk me through that one because your line of reasoning escapes me completely.

  71. julian says

    Crotch shots are pretty sweet.

    The biggest allure in much of erotica is the promise of sex. Notice how so many of the shots accent the woman’s bottom and how that part of her is thrust outwards or towards the viewer? It’s one way artist do the ‘tease’ aspect of a character’s personality. Another, as you saw in the mario pic, is the obliviousness combined with overly revealing attire and the men completely unable to control themselves.

    Fanart tends to follow very predictable patterns in its portrayal of characters, people and themes whether it be from a cartoon series or the artist’s imagination. Whatever reason you want to attribute to it, it’s undeniable sex is uniquely linked with women. Where as men may have will have either their masculinity, foolishness or other traits take center stage, the vast majority of pics involving women have their sex (not necessarily their sexuality) overly stressed by the artist. With the exception of the mario pic, those aren’t particularly bad. There’s way worse out there.

    Not sure why I typed that. A good bit passed buzzed right now. How’s my coherency and relevance rating doing?

  72. Jeanette says

    I feel like this is a really broad category. My “intellectual heroes” are far too many and varied to list, ranging from friends and family to authors to scientists to musicians…hell, even Flight of the Conchords are my intellectual heroes of cleverness.

    I think the question is about critical thinking skeptic/atheist/feminist/science heroes though. For me they would be: Amanda Marcotte, Rebecca Watson, PZ Myers, Greta Christina, Jason Thibeault, Dave Futrelle, Noah Brand, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Joy Reidenberg, Paul Farmer, Dave Gorski, Harriet Hall, and Ed Yong among many others.

  73. Jeanette says

    I do want to add that that’s kind of a hilarious painting though. Definitely feeling the John McNoughton vibes.

  74. says

    I was just at INR2 and Maryam Namazie gave an amazing and stirring speech…and got a standing ovation at the end of it. She also posed in the nude calendar to support the protest of Islamic oppression of women.

    She, and ex-Muslim women like her, are some of my freethought/atheist heros.

    Jen, you’re pretty cool too…you put yourself out there and stand tall and strong in the face of mysogyny and religious thuggery. You’ve got moxy.

  75. dianne says

    HP Lovecraft as a champion of reason? As the creator of a mythos, sure, but as a champion of reason? I don’t get it.

  76. jose says

    Gould: Particularly his 90s stuff. Eight Little Piggies is pretty much why friends consider me an evofreak today. Bully for Brontosaur, my second favorite. I had read other popularizers of science, I learnt about evolution from them, what it is, how it works; but it was Gould who made me see this stuff is not only correct but awe-inspiring and wonderful.

    Evelyn Fox Keller: My favorite because of the casual way she uses while offering real data so you don’t have that problem you have with many popsci writers, that you’re left wondering “yes, yes, I understand the concept, but what actually happens? Get your hands dirty dammit!”. She gives you specifics while somehow managing to remain popsci.

    Judith Kroll: Her book on Sylvia Plath just opened my eyes to the imagery and the point of the text, a very clear, concise analysis and most of all operative, as in useful. That’s why, by extension, she basically enabled me to access a whole new area of the arts which so far had meant to me about as much as a Maya hieroglyph.

    It’s sad that the artist draws men as champions of reason and women like hyper-sexualized children. Considering that, it’s not surprising he can’t think of any inspiring woman, he probably never even considered looking for them.

  77. jose says

    Nietzsche is funny to read but I agree, as a champion of reason, well…

    The problem is reasonable philosophers like Bertrand Russell are often a little boring to read.

  78. says

    How come no one mentioned Madalyn Murray O’Hair? It seems like every time I see a list that talks about famous people in history of reason or atheism, Madalyn never seems to make the list. I’ll grant, that she wasn’t specifically an agent of reason, but she did a hell of a lot more then some of the other females I see listed in the comments thus far.

    I know she was a bit of a jerk in her approach to things, she founded American Athiests back in 1963! In 1959 she started a lawsuit that eventually made it’s way to the supreme court that stopped bible readings in public schools.

    I understand that most of us may not be happy with her approach. But, I think it is wrong for us to ignore her contribution.

  79. StevoR says

    Well you can certainly list Hypatia – just as I did! ;-)

    I see many of the same names keep coming up from different people – and I’m sure there are many more that we’re overlooking too.

    PS. Also seconding the addition to the list of Naomi Oreskes for her fight against Climate Change Deniers.

  80. StevoR says

    I think Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s lawsuit against the Apollo 8 Genesis reading – the first thing I personally think of with her – was petty and backfired against atheism.

    Wikipedia notes Madalyn Murray O’Hair :

    … became so controversial that in 1964 Life magazine referred to her as “the most hated woman in America.”

    Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madalyn_Murray_O%27Hair

    Plus it seems from there that she had some major family issues and problems with her estranged son making a lot of pretty serious allegations against her.

    Of course, none of the chmapions of reason are entirely perfect I’m sure but still, yeah.

  81. says

    Ha, love it. Care to list who’s who? I think I spot Matt Dillahunty, Rebecca Watson, Jessica Ahlquist, and Greta Christina, but I’m not sure about the rest.

  82. gworroll says

    Yeah. Upthread where I mentioned I might just have been blind and not noticed the women deserving a spot on my list? Jessica Ahlquist. The courage she’s shown in the face of such public hatred is phenomenal, she should have been on my initial list.

  83. John says

    I have to admit, there weren’t any women freethinkers/atheists I could name off the top of my head when I became an atheist. When I started reading things to get myself out of Christianity, everything I found or was pointed to was written by a dude.

    Thanks to FTB though, now I can not only name Jen McCreight, Greta Christina, and Ophelia Benson; but I can say that they’re so intelligent that I want to read what they write about daily.

  84. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    Tell me, what is so freaking terrifying about vagainas that you scared little boys can’t do anything BUT deliberately misrepresent what has been said, misrepresent the argument and misrepresent the response?

    Is it really that hard to READ what’s been posted and RESPOND to what’s ACTUALLY THERE?

  85. Sassafras says

    A good place to start would be his portfolio, which is supposed to be a showcase of his work, and consists of men doing lots of interesting and/or amazing things, and women doing … sexy poses. Out of 300+ images on his site there was only handful (I counted ten) that had a woman not posed to show off her sexual traits.

    Does drawing sexy pics of women mean he doesn’t think of them as real people? No, but the way he does it looks like he doesn’t really think of women at all except when he draws a sexy pic, so it’s no surprise he can’t think of one whose intellect he admires.

  86. says

    Oh man, I’ so excited that you recognized a bunch, I was worried…

    Matt Dillahunty, PZ Meyers, JT Eberhard, Natalie Reed, Rebecca Watson, Jen McCreight, Jessica Alquist, Tim Minchin and Greta Christina.

  87. betsumei says

    Would it be inappropriate to suggest that, perhaps, misogyny and illiteracy could have a correlation?

    Let’s see, who have I been influenced by? (for the sake of staying on-topic while being a smart-aleck)

    Let’s start with just about everyone on FtB that I’ve read so far (including that nice Jen McCreight person), MouthyB has given me a lot to think about (is it cheating to include fellow commenters?), Ayaan Hirsi-Ali has already been mentioned quite a bit but bears repeating, Phil Plait of course, the fantastic Skepchick team(s?), Terry Pratchett. That’s what springs to my mind when I try to think of my major influences. Mostly bloggers, because I never seem to make a dent in that books-to-read pile. :S

  88. says

    Ok, so not a woman, but Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī is thought to be from Khiva, which is a town in Uzbekistan. Mathematical genius, who we owe lots and lots:


    There’s also Ali-Shir Nava’i, again a man, but at least he’s a great Uzbek poet. Perhaps not a champion of reason (I believe he was probably quite religious) so much as a champion of literature and art.

  89. betsumei says

    I haven’t clicked through to the other examples of his works (the NSFW tag discourages me, being at work at the moment), but I’m imagining from the descriptions that it would have been just as offensive (perhaps moreso) if he had included women in this painting, given his “style”.

  90. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    Her estranged son apparently became a fundy kook (well-known for their willingness to butcher the truth in the service of the “Truth”) and so far as I’m aware saved those accusations until after she was murdered and unable to respond to them.

    Kilofuckton of salt, plz.

  91. Pieter-Jan van der Veld says

    Just the say the obvious, Champions of Reason are not necessarily champions of Science, Atheism, Social justice or otherwise. Isaac Newton was a Titan in Science, but also liked to dabble in murky stuff like Alchemy. Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Florence Nightengale are Heroes in my eyes, but not Champions of Reason. My list of Heroes of Reason therefore includes figures that may or may not be atheists or agnostics. They are people who have contributed, or are still contributing, either to Skeptical thinking or to Science, or both, and have the ability to bring this contributing the general public.
    My list of Heroes and Heroines of Reason:
    1. Carl Sagan, by far, for his capacity to awake the sense of wonder in reality, his combat against scientific analphabetism and his style.
    2. Jacques Cousteau, for his exploration of oceans, seas, rivers and lakes, and his talent to bring his discoveries to the great public.
    3. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, for her magnificent description of her life and her exposal of the abuses suffered by woman in the name of Islam.
    4. Jared Diamond, for his books “Guns, Germs and Steel” and “Collapse”, and the fact that his views come both from academic study and experience in the field.
    5. Greta Cristina, for her clearly written views expressed in her blog.
    6. Stephen Jay Gould, for his essays
    7. Richard Dawkins, for his work in both in Biology and in Atheism.
    8. Gary Larson, for his humor in combination with science and skeptic thought
    9. Bill Watterson, who give us the Two Wise :”Calvin and Hobbes”
    10. Edward FitzGerald / Omar Khayyám. Here I prefer to ignore the discussion if Omar Khayyám was a Sufi or a Skeptic, I am concentrating on the FitzGerald version of the Rubáiyát, a work that is a wonder of skeptic poetry.
    11. Bill Bryson, for his book: “A short history of nearly everything”
    12. Oliver Sacks, for his work in general.
    13. Stephen Hawking, for his ability to explore the Universe while bound to a wheelchair.
    14. James Randi, for his debunking talent
    I liked it that someone mentioned Hypatia and Jane Goodal. I would like to add Aristarchos of Samos and Dian Fossey. I am not including them in the above list because they have had less impact on my “Weltanschauung”. For the same reason this list does not contain the names of great scientist like Charles Darwin and Einstein.

  92. says

    There is little which is more complimentary than someone saying they’ve been inspired to think by something you’ve said.

    Thank you.

  93. Jaki says

    My list:

    Bill Nye, Rebecca Watson, My dad, Madeleine L’engle, Geena Davis, Jennifer McCreight, Amy Davis Roth, Phil Plait, Mark Twain, My brother – Nick King, Greg Rucka, Hayao Miyazaki, and Philip Pullman

    I’ll email you a drawing later (it will be stick figures, you know me so well).

  94. Henry says

    Gee, Jen, why are you so fuckin stupid?

    I agree absolutely with the artist: There is not a single female Skeptic/atheist that influenced me. And yes I would argue that this is because there is NONE! There is no female Hawking, Dawkins, Hitchens or Tyson. That’s what you should be concerned about.

    And Rebecca fuckin Watson? I don’t even know what to say to that!

  95. Sassafras says

    Well, he prized intellect, education, science, and the pursuit of knowledge. He dismissed religion as ill-informed myth and was an atheist. I haven’t read a lot of his non-fiction writing but apparently there was enough that was critical of religion to compile a book’s worth.

  96. bybelknap says

    First and foremost – and I have no idea what her religious views are – is Jane Goodall. When I was a kid her chimp documentaries were what got me excited about science. I was mad about apes. It didn’t take long for me to get excited about all sorts of science, but the natural history of great apes is what got me started.
    I am only artistic in the kitchen, so perhaps I could make a Goodall shaped pancake or something…

  97. says

    If you’re citing Goldberg, then I will one-up you by citing Marci McDonald, author of The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada.

    The key words in the title are the last two, because Canada is often cited as the glorious Promised Land for atheists wanting to leave the US because of the increasing religiosity. McDonald makes it very clear that this is a huge misconception.

  98. Henry says

    I’m willing to give you Lisa Randall. she’s certainly a brilliant scientist, but not an outspoken skeptic/atheist.

  99. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    I’m suddenly reminded of the utility of cowpox in preventing smallpox.

  100. gworroll says

    Not a single one who has influenced you?

    If you set the bar for “Champion” beyond simply influencing you, ok, not having any females on your Champion list I guess is ok.

    But not a single female sketpic has influenced you, at all? If that’s the case, that’s pretty bad.

  101. Allison says

    Geeze, I was just thinking about how sad this painting made me and then I stumbled on it again on your blog.

    I can’t even begin to describe how disheartened I was to see a crowd of old, white men (plus Neil deGrasse Tyson) with Hitchens up at the front (I loved him, seriously, but some of the mysognitic shit he said…)

    I looked for Ayaan Hirsi Ali immediately. Super disappointed she was missing. :(

  102. Rumtopf says

    “I couldn’t think of one that influenced me as a person of reason, unfortunately.”

    Couldn’t think or never even considered thinking about it?

    I’m adding Alice Roberts. No idea of her religious views but I loved her evolution and archaeology documentaries and appearances as lead archaeologist on Time Team.

  103. says

    WHAT ARE YOU talking about?

    Those are all female atheists in that laughable illustration! Beta males without an ounce of virility pictured as fearless challengers. Good grief, give me a break~

  104. Adam G says

    Thanks for your pointed contribution to the discussion. Your use of the terms “beta males” and “virility” makes it especially obvious that you’re a giant moron. Why exactly does one have to have “an ounce of virility” in order to be a “fearless challenger”? Are you unable to come up with any women who are ‘fearless challengers’?

    Give us a break, idiot.

  105. Sophie Lagacé says

    I’ll ignore the trolls and just post my belated list (catching up with feeds today):


    Susan Jacoby
    Carl Sagan
    Greta Christina
    Harold Morowitz
    Bart Ehrman
    Albert Jacquard
    Stephen Jay Gould
    Rebecca Watson
    Jen McCreight
    Maryam Namazie
    Adam Savage
    Ophelia Benson
    James Randi
    Richard Dawkins
    Sam Harris
    Michael Shermer
    Neil Degrasse Tyson
    Ann Druyan
    Jacques Monod
    Hubert Reeves
    Ken “Popehat”
    Phil Plaitt
    P.Z. Myers

    Outside my lifespan:

    Elizabeth Cady Stanton
    Thomas Paine
    Robert Green Ingersoll
    Johannes Kepler
    Galileo Galilei

    And many, many more. But I gotta stop somewhere.

  106. Patrick says

    That’s a convenient way of avoiding his point, and feeling righteous about it all at the same time.

    Is there evidence that these Chess organizations are specifically banning or hindering women from competition? I’m not especially familiar with chess so that may be the case.

    However as far as I can see the analogy is a potentially illuminating one, although since you declined to offer a counter point besides emotive name calling and I can’t think of a decent counter point myself, I have no way of knowing if thats an incorrect assessment.

    It highlights a potential reason for the absence of women in the above painting that isn’t a deliberate or accidental to blindness of women in rationality.

    Namely if the sample base from which you’re drawing is predominantly male then its unlikely, even if there is no gender bias, that women would be featured (assuming an even chance of any woman being selected).

    There have been over 1,300 chess grandmasters. Only 24 of these have been women. Given an exactly equal chance of any grandmaster being featured in a painting of 10 grandmasters, what is the chance of ANY female grandmaster being painted? Pretty low. In fact the presence of a woman in such a painting would be more evidence of gender bias than the absence.

    Whether this analogy is fair depends on what the equivalent numbers are for rationalist/skeptics. I would assume though its a similarly male dominated field, especially since the vast majority of rationalists/skeptics there have ever been existed before womens suffrage and other developments in equal rights such as access to education.

    Now there are many arguments to have about why there may not be that many female rationalists/skeptics, of which sexism definitely plays a part, but that is a separate argument, and it is disingenuous to automatically assume bias if its merely an even representation of a disproportionally gendered field,

    Unless your argument is that the artist should have included a disproportionate number of women in his painting in order to compensate for the disproportionate lack of women rationalists/skeptics.

  107. Dean says

    So, let me get this straight. The guy painted the people he intellectually admired, who are all male, therefore he’s sexist? Your self-righteous condescension is beyond moronic. No one has an obligation to include women in everything they admire, just for the sake of equality. People earn their peers’ admiration.

    It’s not a “failure” to not recognize females as figures with respectable dominance in the fields of rationalism. If you want more people to recognize more females within those spheres, then you should do something about it. Popularize, don’t flame people that don’t know about or aren’t majorly influenced by them.

  108. Tom Singer says

    This is incredibly late to the party, but I ran across the name of Luce Irigaray today, and knew I’d seen it somewhere before. Irigaray writes that we have devoted more attention to solid mechanics than fluid mechanics because solidity is more masculine; that turbulence is poorly understood because of its perception as feminine. She writes that E = mc^2 is a sexed equation because “it privileges the speed of light over other speeds that are vitally necessary to us.”

    Fashionable Nonsense (available here: http://goo.gl/UMBky ) addresses these and other of her misguided attempts to portray the entire endeavor of science as sexist. That’s not to say that there is not sexism in science, or that it has not had some influence, but she’s seeing patriarchal boogeymen in the strangest places.

    Whatever good she’s done as a feminist (and I’m admittedly entirely ignorant of that), she’s hardly a “champion of reason”.

  109. says

    Thanks for posting about this. I wasn’t inspired by the drawing alone, but also by the comments on this and some other blogs. As a result, I decided to analyse this drawing myself: http://www.discasting.net/champions-of-reason/

    Also drew some comics to make it more fun to read. And to have a reason to return at desk, grab a brush once again after some hiatus.

    And yes, I agree with some people here who think it’s artists own choice if he puts women on it or not. Yes, it totally is his choice. However, how he represent all the things he has chosen (his message) is intriguing. And the fact this is so accepted all over the net by atheists and such. So much for skepticism, at least when its about atheist kitsch?

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