Not lord of the manor

Tessa Kendall has a post on Bullies and predators, expanding on Michael Story’s post yesterday.

Because of the stupid libel laws in this country, the Offender cannot be named publicly, which makes him harder to deal with.

I’m one of the hosts of London SitP, along with Carmen and Sid. When I started going to SitP, very few women came. Sometimes I was the only woman there at the King’s Head in Borough. Over the years, we’ve worked hard to encourage women to come and now a lot do. We want them to feel safe and comfortable. This isn’t a major problem, we don’t want to blow it out of proportion, but we do want to act responsibly and nip it in the bud. [Read more…]

Raising their voices against known enemies

Salman Rushdie talked to Der Spiegel about his memoir of the fatwa years.

Some senior cops didn’t approve of him much.

I wasn’t like the others, those who deserved protection because they had done something for the country. I was someone who received protection because he had made trouble. In their view, it was my own fault that the Muslims were after me. Some members of the police, not all of them, didn’t understand how anyone could be willing to cause such a fuss for such an far-off issue. At least if my book had been about England … [Read more…]


There’s also an epistemological point in Michael’s post, which is interesting too.

The issue of the day is sexism/feminism and the debate is splitting down two rough sides: those who find religion immoral or irritating and want to campaign against it with no time devoted to anything else, and those whose objection to religion is part of a generally progressive agenda (frequently called ‘social justice’), and who feel that organised atheism is in danger of replicating the same old problems which religions have perpetuated.

Part of the problem here is that skepticism and feminism are coming from different traditions: feminism has historically been less concerned about evidence and more about consciousness-raising, while skepticism treats evidence as a gold standard and denigrates anecdotes (valued in feminism as ‘lived experience’) as meaningless. Many feminists treat a speaker’s identity as central to their credibility (this is where concepts like ‘mansplaining’ come in) while skepticism is about ignoring the identity of the speaker and focusing solely on the quality of evidence or logic they present. It’s easy to see how these different ways of looking at the world could magnify any argument and turn mild disagreements into longlasting bitter hostility, even before the current level of childishness, name-calling and abuse started.

I hope skepticism doesn’t treat anecdotes (and/or lived experience) as meaningless for all purposes and in all contexts. If it does, that sounds like what people mean by “scientism,” those who use the word without quotation marks, which I never do. Anecdotes are out of place in science, but they’re not meaningless in all senses and for all purposes. Anecdotes and their larger cousin, fiction, are often very meaningful. Imagine life without them!

Also, feminism is political while skepticism is epistemological. One is about what we value and how we think things should be; the other is about how we can figure out what there is and what we can know. They’re not radically different – feminism can be seen as skepticism about traditions and rules, for instance – but they’re not side by side in the library.

A distinct way of thinking

Pakistan is working hard to model mindless slavish submission to religious mandates for the rest of the world, and to bully everyone else into doing the same.

Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf ordered Internet service providers to block YouTube — all of it, not just the offending videos. Interior Minister Rehman Malik has asked Interpol to take up the matter. And he wants the United Nations to develop international legislation to stop the circulation of material deemed blasphemous.

Think of all the religions in the world. What a lot of material could meet the description “deemed blasphemous.” Just imagine a world in which all such material was forbidden to circulate. Just imagine the mental poverty. [Read more…]

The importance of respecting all prophets

Michael Nugent tells me a bit of news I didn’t know – that the EU has joined the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the Arab League and the Commission of the African Union to release a statement “expressing ‘the importance of respecting all prophets’, and ‘strongly committing to take further measures’ to work for ‘full respect of religion’.”


The joint statement begins by saying that ‘we share a profound respect for all religions,’ and absurdly adds that ‘we believe in the importance of respecting all prophets, regardless of which religion they belong to.’

Or to put it another way, we believe in theocracy, and if you don’t we want you to keep quiet about it.

Why is the EU teaming up with the OIC to do anything at all?

The world has gone mad.

Getting disturbingly touchy-feely with women

Oh, so it happens in the UK too, eh. Michael W Story says it does, at least.

I like going to public lectures; I’ve met some great friends and friends who became colleagues there, many of whom I saw last weekend at the post Pod Delusion Live drinks. I’ve spoken at Ignite, done the odd Skeptics in the Pub as part of a double act with Martin Robbins and will be giving a solo presentation about my own hobby horse at Leicester in January, but I don’t feel that my attendance at things like Skeptics is an identity that represents me the way that some of the hardcore members do. So maybe it’s not my place to join in with the current schism, and plenty of very knowledgeable people have already written on this topic, but it seems like recently everyone has been having their say over the latest atheists/skeptics contretemps  so I’m going to demonstrate the levelling power of the internet and stick my oar in. [Read more…]

A must-read

They’ve added a great new blogger at Talking Philosophy, Claire Creffield. Alert readers will figure out quite quickly that she is a woman, a type which is generally in short supply there. She’s a dazzling writer, with interesting thoughts.

She is wasted on some of the he-man commenters there, like Michael Reidy.

The question is: What is it like to be woman? Is there a what it is like’ness to the consciousness of a woman? This is a deep question. Is there such a thing as female qualia? Is there inversion in the moral spectrum so to speak? These are bold speculations which led philosophers and others to perhaps consider whether women were ready for the onerous task of voting and the grave responsibility that property brings in its train. You can’t be too careful to whom you allow free speech.

Hawhaw; by jove old chap; pass the cigars.

I’m not allowed to comment there but you are; make her feel less amid the alien corn, if you have a moment and feel like it.

Maryam speaks

Speaking of Maryam, she has her talk yesterday at the NSS conference posted. Richard Dawkins said on Twitter that she was on good fiery form.

A taste –

Hiding behind ‘rights’ and ‘choice’ to excuse misogyny is a betrayal of human principles. After all, years ago, certain men only had the ‘right’ to vote and own slaves.

Remember good old fashioned international solidarity – how I miss it – when we actually joined forces with those suffering under racial apartheid in South Africa for example. [Read more…]

Last February

Marianne (Noodlemaz) tweeted a very nice picture from the Free Expression rally organized by Maryam in London last February;  it’s of her and Rhys. She gave me permission to post it.

She has a great post on the rally, full of pictures and videos. In the second video there’s Rhys telling about his adventure in censorship-by-being-offended, and there’s Richard Dawkins in the background, cool in shades.