Just a small side thing, about reading and disagreeing with an opponent fairly.

A reader pointed out to me a post by Damion Reinhardt at Skeptic Ink about a post of mine. Here’s how he paraphrases my post:

Her argument seems to be something like this:

  1. Skeptics assent unquestioningly to moral propositions of the form “You must not [commit atrocities against humans]” without stopping to ask for further evidence.
  2. Checkmate, skeptics!

I may have missed out a step there, but that seems to pretty much cover it. My answer to this is twofold.

Here’s what I actually wrote:

One of the things that proud or “movement” skeptics like to say is “you have to be skeptical of everything.” No sacred cows!

But I don’t think even proud or “movement” skeptics really believe that, apart from a few psychopaths. I can think of lots of things I think no one should be skeptical of, and I’d be surprised to get much disagreement.

  • you must not push small children in front of speeding cars
  • you must not punch a child in the face
  • you must not kill all the Jews
  • you must not commit genocide
  • you  must not kidnap and imprison women
  • you must not force a woman to abort a pregnancy by first starving her and then repeatedly punching her in the abdomen as hard as you can
  • you must not set fire to people’s houses
  • you must not enslave anyone

They don’t match. What I wrote is not what he said I wrote.


  1. says

    What I wrote is not what he said I wrote.

    That’s because Reinhardt – in stark contradiction to his pretense of being a reasonable voice for, erm, men – elides, misrepresents and goes out of his way to distort the words of his declared “enemies” (that is, when he’s not invoking the Nazis or McCarthy or witch-hunts or book-burning or indulging in some other rank hyperbole).

    But I’m not skeptical of the fact that you knew that.

  2. says

    Well, I didn’t really know it in detail, because I’m not familiar with his work. If that’s a fair sample – he’s just a liar and a hack.

    I really hate that kind of thing. I wasn’t being dogmatic, I said what I said reasonably carefully, it wasn’t a very outrageous thing to say – and that creep simply asserted that I’d said something abrupt and unargued and stupid.

    God what a pack of assholes.

  3. says

    But what would have been the point of arguing against your actual argument if the fake one is so much easier to argue against?

  4. says

    He did actually point out the difference between
    scientific skepticism and moral reasoning now
    so am assuming the former is what you meant
    As long as the actual quote is given or linked to
    then what anyone thinks is immaterial because
    if there is manipulation or distortion it will show

  5. says

    The problem is that they see themselves clearly when you refer to ‘psychopaths’, they assume most people are just like them, and therefore they see your dismissal of the “psychopath’s position” as an unfair trump card. The fact that their position is obviously evil doesn’t consciously register to them, but their refusal to engage honestly and their need to erase all context in favor of the “merely disagreeing” lie shows that they understand that their position fails when stated openly.

  6. says

    @ 4 – Good grief. The actual quote was NOT given. I would have said so if it had been. All that was given was that short and dishonest summary. Of course the distortion doesn’t “show”!

    And no, none of what he said is what I meant. I meant what I said, and what I said is actually very clear. He has zero excuse for warping it. He could (and should) have simply quoted it.

    Dayum. What is there to argue with? He didn’t quote me, and he did misrepresent what I said.

  7. says

    Interesting point, Joe. It prompted me to notice that although I’ve seen them say “but those things can be discussed” a few times I don’t think I’ve seen them claim to be actually skeptical of them. If I have I haven’t seen it as much. That, again, is a change to what I said – I didn’t say the items couldn’t be discussed, I said there are things no one should be skeptical of. It’s possible to discuss things as if skeptically without actually being skeptical. People can do discussions of moral fundamentals but that doesn’t mean they actually could bring themselves to hit a small child with a baseball bat (for instance).

    Most of my point was just that official, “movement” skeptics talk a lot of self-flattering bullshit about questioning everything, and that itself is quite stupidly unskeptical.

  8. says

    The quote itself was not given but there
    was a link which any one could access
    Had he not done that then it would have
    been wrong of him but he did so end of

  9. says

    That’s bullshit. People don’t necessarily follow the link. Everyone knows that. No it doesn’t make it okay to distort what someone says, that people can go to the trouble of checking and find that it’s a distortion. Of course it fucking doesn’t.

  10. says


    My wife is calling me to get off the damned computer so we can start Movie Night, so I’ll have to save the bulk of my response for morning. But in the meantime, a quick comment about this bit: “People can do discussions of moral fundamentals but that doesn’t mean they actually could bring themselves to hit a small child with a baseball bat (for instance).”

    The problem is that there’s a big bright line between completely hypothetical “discussions of moral fundamentals” and potentially real-world policy discussions about when you CAN hit people with baseball bats, focused on a minimum age and/or size below which children are exempted from being beaten with bats… and the ‘pitters are on the wrong side of that line. Because if you think about all the things they’ve said explicitly, it is never “we hate all women all the time just for being women, and we want the right to abuse all of them all the time” but they’re always trying to carve out spaces where they can argue that maybe SOME women deserve abuse, and sure equality is a nice idea in principle but aren’t some people more equal than others? They are like “race realists” who reject outright overt hostility towards non-whites, but are really into “debating” how much freedom and how many rights non-white people are really able to handle, and isn’t it unfair to get their hopes up by trying to elevate them beyond their station?

  11. Sili says

    you must not kill all the Jews

    May I kill some of the Jews at least?


    You’re no fun.

    (You’re not gonna stop me kicking puppies, though. Never!)

  12. tonyinbatavia says

    “Pack” of assholes? I thought a group of assholes was known as a “crack.”

  13. says

    Of course links are not always followed
    though that is not the fault of the poster
    Even if the quote was given in full there
    is no guarantee everyone would read it
    Or if they did there is no guarantee that
    they would do so with an open mind so
    not giving it makes zero difference now
    The best any one can do is to state the
    point of view they believe and hope that
    others shall under stand and respect it
    Be prepared for this not to happen also

  14. maudell says

    @ surrepticious57
    You sound like a robot.
    It has been demonstrated many times that people simply don’t follow links. Especially when they are seen as “opponents”; many believe Ophelia has become a powerful millionaire due to the high number of clicks from her ‘manufactured crises.’ You can find plenty of data on the internet, I just have so much time to give a robot.

    The most generous explanation for him doing this would be that he did not take the time to actually read the original post (maybe he forgot to ‘shut up and listen’ instead of fabricating straw feminists). Or maybe he’s part of that group who thinks it’s terrible that Ophelia actually posts the full quotes (no paraphrasing) because it doesn’t generate enough original material. Regardless, it’s always easier to argue with what someone has not said.

    Maybe the unbiased thing to do to ‘prove feminism’ (whatever that means) would be to make sure that every instance of sexism or harassment is backed up by four male witnesses. Coming for the true book of skeptics, the Hadith. When men have problems though it’s not ‘an extraordinary claim requiring extraordinary evidence.”

    Notice how he wrote “2- checkmate, skeptics”, implying that she is outside of that group of people called ‘skeptics’.

  15. says


    Reinhardt has a long history of hyperbole (e.g. inappropriately invoking Nazis and McCarthyism), obtusesness, cynical and bloody-minded hyper-skepticism, misrepresentation of FtB bloggers and other feminists and of defending and siding with MRAs, anti-feminists, pro-harassers and anyone else with a chip on their shoulder against FtB and feminists in general. He long ago cast in his lot with that crew and has always been unapologetic about it.

    Don’t do him the favour of giving him the benefit of the doubt because he hasn’t earned it. Quite the opposite.

  16. says

    How does:

    “You must not [commit atrocities against humans]” without stopping to ask for further evidence.


    Here’s a list of atrocities against humans I doubt anyone would question, apart from a few nutters.

    I hope my paraphrase was a more accurate one.

  17. says

    It reads like a post that should have stayed at the pit and not exactly worthy of a blog post. Which is probably a lot of the problem, how can anyone write a reasonable critique of your words when they uncritically hang out there? FTB bloggers are treated like they are mentally damaged with the Pittizens in the role of super geniuses with a strange obsession with what the inmates of FTBs are up to. Knowing Damion “dialogue” Reindhert his was probably the most charitable interpretation and he felt it the best at the pit so it needed airing. But best of a bad bunch can still be pretty rotten.

  18. A Hermit says

    Seemed to me he that after he took a shot at you he just made the same argument you were making; that we don’t apply rigorous scientific skepticism to everything.

  19. Aratina Cage says

    “I may have missed out a step there,” he said as he fell into the pit.

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