All claims

Brian Dalton has a follow-up to his “how to say no to more wine” video.

It’s obnoxious. For some reason he makes a big issue of the fact that the “no more wine thank you, I’m good; see how easy that was?” segment was about this one bit of PZ’s post and not about the other bit. Well I knew that but it doesn’t amaze me that other people didn’t, and anyway, I don’t see why he makes a big issue of it since he didn’t spell that out in the original video. If you do a parable and people don’t figure out exactly what the reference is, it’s conceivable that that’s your doing and not theirs. It’s obnoxious to get belligerent about it.

And then there’s the fact that six seconds in he casually refers to “Slandergate,” as if that were a real name.

And then there’s the text on the screen at the end.

P.S. All claims require evidence, whether they are extraordinary or not. And a claim, in and of itself, is not, by definition, evidence.

Oh, please.

In the first place, what does that even mean? What does it mean for a claim to require evidence? He must mean something like “all claims, to be reasonably believed, require evidence.” But that’s not what he said. Claims don’t require anything.

In the second place, a claim is evidence that a claim has been made.

In the third place, lots of claims can be reasonably believed without evidence. Countless everyday claims can be perfectly reasonably accepted and believed and acted on without evidence, and yes that is partly because they’re so ordinary. If a friend says she’s thirsty it’s perfectly reasonable to believe her unless you have some reason not to. Belief is the default with ordinary claims like that. Dalton doesn’t mean “all claims” at all. He probably means something like all contested claims, or all controversial claims – but then he should have said that. He shouldn’t have made such a big smug obnoxious deal of setting us all straight on the matter and then done a sloppy job of it.

So – meh.


  1. zhuge, le homme blanc qui ne sait rien mais voudrait says

    Question I’ve had about the libertarian critics of PZ on this: Did they accept Greenwald’s reports on the NSA spying before Snowden was outed. If so, how is this different from the accusations against Shermer that doesn’t require absurd conspiracy theorizing on one part or the other?

  2. badgersdaughter says

    Don’t ever get him in a jury panel with me or the bailiffs might throw me out first.

  3. LeftSidePositive says

    How is one supposed to provide the evidence that these people are requesting? If you demand a standard of evidence that one would not normally see in that type of wrongdoing, you are functionally declaring that type of wrongdoing okay.

    By the time someone realizes what happened, zir BAL is not going to be as high as it was when ze was incapacitated. What physical evidence does Dalton expect from someone manipulating someone into submission–bruises, lacerations?! Well, those don’t generally happen when am experienced abuser’s goal is to keep abusing people under the radar. Names & dates & locations of alleged harassment? Look at all the people who have been so viciously harassed for putting their names out there, and look at how conference organizers have reacted to having their events criticized, and THEN figure out why the slymers (and rape apologists in general) are actively suppressing the kind of evidence they say they want. Besides, that evidence that Dalton demands–he himself saw an assault before his very eyes and didn’t even realize what it was!! The only evidence presented since was the statement of the woman in question. I guess that’s credible evidence when it’s one of HIS friends (and, significantly, not-a-feminist in his estimation), but no one else should believe it from THEIR friends

    Maude, what an asshole.

  4. Al Dente says

    Thank you, Brian Dalton, for showing that my decision to unsubscribe to your videos was the correct thing to do. Have a nice rest of your life.

  5. A Surprise to Many says

    I’ve been meaning to say this somewhere: according to Dalton, women alcoholics pretty much deserve to get raped, because we didn’t say ‘no more wine, please.” Or are women alcoholics not supposed to be part of the skeptic community?

    This might be a useful time to discuss the central role of alcohol and alcohol abuse in the skeptic/atheist community…

  6. karmacat says

    Hmm. He’s trying way too hard. Makes me wonder if he’s taken advantage of a drunk woman or gotten a woman drunk. Just wondering…

  7. Sili says

    This might be a useful time to discuss the central role of alcohol and alcohol abuse in the skeptic/atheist community…

    Is it any more central to our community than the rest of society?

    Not that that would invalidate the wish to address the issue of course.

  8. Jason Dick says

    Yup. All claims do not require supporting evidence to be reasonably-believed. It’s largely a question of probabilities: given the fact that a claim that Michael Shermer has raped someone, how likely is it that the event actually occurred?

    We actually do have relevant evidence here. There have been multiple studies to this effect, and they generally find a very small prevalence of false reports of rape (those that have higher numbers generally consider, “police reported as no-crime” as being a false report of rape, despite copious evidence of mishandling rape cases). Furthermore, false rape reports are, in the main, not done to single out a particular person. They’re usually calls for attention of some sort, with the person generally not wanting to falsely accuse another.

    So not only are false reports of rape rare, but this report doesn’t even come close to fitting the usual profile. It also helps that there have been other accusations in Shermer’s case. Yes, there’s a high probability that Michael Shermer is indeed a rapist, given the evidence we have available.

  9. Hazelwood says

    Given that he was raised Mormon, I wonder if he is a non-drinker.

    Either way, he is wrong. It isn’t easy to refuse drinks and alcohol is specifically mentioned with regard to the original post made by PZ, so this ‘I wasn’t talking about that’ excuse is nonsense. The additional testimony was given precisely as support of the original testimony, as further evidence of the SAME behaviour. So suggesting it is only about the second and not the first is disingenuous at best.

  10. says


    Hmm. He’s trying way too hard. Makes me wonder if he’s taken advantage of a drunk woman or gotten a woman drunk. Just wondering…

    That’s always my first thought. Does “that isn’t rape” really mean “I’ve done that, but it doesn’t count as rape”?

  11. says

    I’ve been meaning to say this somewhere: according to Dalton, women alcoholics pretty much deserve to get raped, because we didn’t say ‘no more wine, please.” Or are women alcoholics not supposed to be part of the skeptic community?

    This might be a useful time to discuss the central role of alcohol and alcohol abuse in the skeptic/atheist community…


    This is probably not the place for that discussion, but it’s absolutely a discussion that needs to take place. Especially when you realize that most commonly suggested way of dealing with alcoholism/substance abuse–and many people insist the only way–is AA/NA or some other form of 12-step program. Even most secular rehab facilities are based on the 12-step philosophy, which is at best based on religion and therefore uncomfortable (I’d say utterly impossible) for an atheist, and at worst, it’s an outright cult.

    I’m not as well-read as I’d like to be, I pretty much just flit around a handful of blogs, so if y’all know of some blog posts of forums on this topic, I’d love to see them.

  12. says

    Dalton proved in the comments of the first video that he cares more about the risk to Shermer’s good name than the entire female half of the species. I know its hard to admit when you’re wrong, but hiding behind “Pure Skepticism” “Special Pleading Denialism” just makes Dalton more wrong.

  13. says

    I’ve been meaning to say this somewhere: according to Dalton, women alcoholics pretty much deserve to get raped, because we didn’t say ‘no more wine, please.” Or are women alcoholics not supposed to be part of the skeptic community?

    This might be a useful time to discuss the central role of alcohol and alcohol abuse in the skeptic/atheist community…

    I’ve brought it up before.

    And the real problem is that alcoholism doesn’t strike in an instant, it is usually a problem that progresses over time from what most people would consider ‘normal drinking’. The point where individual people realize they can’t say no to alcohol varies for everyone with a substance abuse problem.

  14. says

  15. maudell says

    I’m ticked off by the ‘I said something against rape in the past therefore I can’t be victim blaming’ argument. I’m also wondering why he mentions his comments on healthyaddict’s YT channel. It is good that he changed his mind, but he specifically mentioned witnessing the event but concluding that she was into it. So, witnessing an event directly is the threshold to do nothing but confirm allegations later. And to the women who aren’t known to the community, well… tough luck.

  16. HappyNat says


    Well, some of my best friends are black . . .

    Dalton and many others bring up they don’t know what “where I could not consent, and then had sex with me” even means. So to clarify, it means rape, there is nothing else it could possibly mean. People picking on the wording and feigning ignorance really creep me out. How does sex without consent mean anything else?

  17. says

    So, witnessing an event directly is the threshold to do nothing but confirm allegations later.

    Just coincidentally, males witnessing a rape is the threshold required in wretched places like Saudi Arabia.

  18. says

    @ HappyNat #22

    Yeah, exactly, My thought is always, “OK, if you can’t figure out how not to have sex with me against my will, you’ve pretty much confirmed that you are not a person I ever want to be alone with. Thanks for clearing that up!”

    In one of my favorite posts on consent, Auguste said:

    Consent is defined according to the quality and quantity of assent, not the quality and quantity of dissent.

    Why do people have such a hard time with the concept of enthusiastic consent? As Auguste said, it’s “possibly the easiest concept in the history of the world.”

    People who claim to not understand this simple standard a) creep me the fuck out and b) demonstrate a serious lack of critical thinking skills.

    PS: Thank you for the links, Ibis3! I’m going through them now! 🙂

  19. mildlymagnificent says

    Hmm. He’s trying way too hard. Makes me wonder if he’s taken advantage of a drunk woman or gotten a woman drunk. Just wondering…

    I was thinking that way too. But then you look at the statistics, only 6% of men are in that repeat rapist group. I now think it’s much more often a case of people having close friends or relatives who are obviously in that group, but people cannot bring themselves to acknowledge that someone they admire or love or respect is a rapist.

    Which kind of brings together the thoughts of those who are so adamant that they’d never, ever rape anyone but are equally, if not more, adamant that these predatory behaviours are not rape. No, no, no, not ever. They stand to lose a friend – and the whole social circle where that friend’s sexual exploits are praised or admired or laughed about. They stand to change the whole family balance of relationships – love, respect, the casual comfort of knowing you’re loved and accepted – all of this can get turned on its head. Much easier to deny, deny, deny.

    Rather than defending their own rapist behaviours, facing up to people saying these events are unquestionably rape means that a lot of people are defending themselves against acknowledging that they’ve been inadequate, and have some responsibilities they’ve failed in, as bystanders. You don’t even have to have been there at the time of a rape. We all know that you’re just as responsible if you’ve congratulated someone’s “score”, or laughed at the anecdote, or participated in the group teasing or laughing about it after the event.

    (Steubenville is the classic example here. Only a few, but far too many, people were directly involved in those events – but hundreds of people were involved at second hand.)

  20. says

    In addition to all the other problems with this video mentioned above, I’d also note that:

    1) Mr. D apparently doesn’t know the difference between libel and slander.
    2) Mr. D apparently didn’t read the clarification PZ gave where he mentions that alcohol played a role in the first assault he reported.
    3) Mr. D apparently didn’t pay even the slightest bit of attention to all the careful explanations people gave of exactly how the “getting someone drunk” thing works. He responded *directly* to a comment of mine in which I explained a more benign experience with that that’d I’d had, and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who was trying to explain this to him. Apparently all our hard work made exactly zero impression on him.

    He does not seem to *want* to get this, or, at least, he’s sure as hell not putting any actual effort into confirming that he knows what he’s talking about before he runs his mouth, and he’s actively ignoring any effort others put in to try to educate him. What a fucking waste.

  21. BradC says

    I don’t know how Brian can say, with a straight face, that he wasn’t victim-blaming with his little “see how easy that was?” bit, after turning down a wine refill.

    After all, this wasn’t a standalone story, this was a story that even Brian acknowledges was told to illustrate the kind of technique that Shermer is claimed to have used to coerce the original victim “into a position where she could not consent.”

    He is correct that the originally quoted story doesn’t expand on that vague phrase “coerced into a position where she could not consent”, but PZ does clarify very early in the comment thread (#51):

    The coercion involved a rather standard technique for this sort of thing: alcohol. Lots of alcohol.

    Next up: “well, it was her fault for getting drunk.” We all know the routine.

    Sounds like he was a bit prophetic, too.

  22. Robert B. says

    And a claim, in and of itself, is not, by definition, evidence.

    *facepalm* I know they don’t teach Bayes’ theorem in math class, because I’m a math teacher, but you would really think that people who call themselves skeptics and feature evidence prominently in their philosophies would, in the age of the internet, bother to take an hour or two and learn what the hell they’re talking about.

    A is evidence of B iff P(B|A) > P(B|~A).

    If someone accused of rape is more likely to turn out to be a rapist than someone who hasn’t been accused, then rape claims are evidence of rape. According to the studies people have been citing in these threads, P(B|A) is somewhere from .9 to .95. You don’t actually even need Bayes’ Theorem here, a frequentist could do this. It’s not hard.

    Ignorance. We’re surrounded by ignorance.

  23. says

    P.S. All claims require evidence, whether they are extraordinary or not. And a claim, in and of itself, is not, by definition, evidence.

    Pfff, a woman’s testimony is never evidence. Didn’t you know that you need 4 men to fill the hole left by the lack of evidence a single woman creates?

  24. davehooke says

    Apparently Dalton doesn’t understand the importance of juxtaposition. As in, if you put paternalistic advice about the alcohol consumption story in the middle of your pontifications about the rape allegations, then yes there is an implication.

    If I wanted to do my friend a favour I would try to separate the two accounts, not preserve the link. Excuse my cynicism.

  25. says

    All claims require the same amount of evidence. The reason that we say extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence is because the ordinary claims have already accumulated mountains of evidence that we’re casually aware of. It’s extraordinary to say a unicorn exists; it’s not extraordinary to say a tree exists. The reason for this is not because we have different standards of evidence, but because I can look out my window and see a tree. I have almost thirty years of experience dealing with trees and knowing about trees and seeing trees every day. That’s a wealth of evidence that I don’t have for unicorns.

    Similarly, with rape, we have a wealth of evidence to establish that it exists and how common it is and the types of people likely to commit it. That Dalton doesn’t seem to understand that is evidence of pretty shitty skepticism, and a profound ignorance of the basic facts of the matter. Willful ignorance, it seems at this point.

  26. says

    @ davehooke #30

    I thought the same thing. As gross and upsetting as most of us find the video, I also wonder what Shermer thought of them. I’m thinking…probably wasn’t a fond feeling.

  27. spanner says

    I wonder if it has occurred to Dalton that he might know, like, and trust Shermer’s “anonymous” accuser as just as well as he knows, likes, and trusts healthyaddict. I mean, he knows PZ and Carrie and they know the accuser so it does not seem outside the realm of possibility that the woman might be someone who considers Dalton to be a friend. Or, did.

    I also wonder how anyone could doubt the ability of a man who has written scores of articles and several books on the subject of how easy it is to deceive and manipulate people into acting against their own self interest to, in fact, deceive and manipulate people into acting against their own self interest. Including Brian Dalton.

    Sorry if I’m repeating what others have wondered – I haven’t read everything everywhere.

  28. says

    Tom – yes but what about first person claims? That’s why I used one as an example. Dalton’s point is meant to be about first person claims (even though he was dippy enough not to spell that out). Yes, we have evidence that trees exist, but we don’t have direct evidence that our friend is thirsty when she says she is. We can extrapolate from our own experience to know what she means by saying she’s thirsty (but then it’s always possible that actually each person’s thirst is different…), but not to confirm that she is in fact thirsty at the moment she says she is. But does that mean that her “claim requires evidence”? No – not unless there are special reasons to need confirmation.

    In other words he wildly overstated what he meant, and did it while coming across as angry and condescending. Go, skepticism.

  29. sawells says

    Did he ever provide evidence for his claim that all claims must be backed up with evidence? Self-refuting dingbat is self-refuting.

  30. b. - Order of Lagomorpha says

    See the check. See the pretty, pretty donation check. See the pretty, pretty donation check being torn into tiny, tiny pieces. See it not get flushed down the toilet solely because of my respect of and fear for the septic system. See new pretty, pretty donation check. See the “Pay To” line–Doctors Without Borders. See the money helping people regardless of their race, color, gender, creed or religion instead of to a fuckwit who doesn’t understand what the words, “anonymous”, “evidence” or “slander” mean among many, many others. Maybe the next donation check should go to a charity that deals with basic literacy.

    I can see it now:
    *scene fades in on a still of Dalton*
    *dramatic voice-over, choking up a little in pity* “See this man? For only a dollar a day, less than the price of a cup of coffee, you can make a difference. You can make sure that others understand the meanings of reasonably basic words in the English language. Don’t let others end up like him…” *voice-over chokes up and is unable to continue.*

  31. chrislawson says

    I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch this video, but can I ask those of you who have if Dalton is claiming that the wine refusal part of the script wasn’t meant to be blaming victims of rape for being drunk and instead was meant to refer to PZ’s saying he was handed a grenade with the pin pulled, i.e. that he should have said no to repeating the accusation in public?

    Because if that’s the case, it’s only a marginal improvement in Dalton’s position. Sure he’s not victim blaming, but he’s making a terrible analogy about turning down an unwanted glass of wine as if it was the same as refusing to make public a serious claim. Here’s how Dalton’s script should have read:

    PZ: You look upset, my friend.

    PZ’S FRIEND: This is really hard for me, PZ, but I feel I have to come forward to let people know that I was raped by someone important in the skeptic community. And it wasn’t just me. I have spoken to other women with the same experience. I don’t want to take this to the police, but I can’t go on thinking that this skeptic will continue to sexually abuse women if I say nothing. I wish I could make this public myself, but it’s too much. I’ve kept this to myself for years and it’s too painful and I couldn’t bear to be treated the way other women have been treated for making even the most mild, obviously defensible statements in favour of women’s rights. You have a history of sticking up for women and opposing sexual abuse and anti-feminism. I am asking a lot of you and I know you’ll take a lot of criticism for it, but would you allow me to use your blog to make my experience public?

    PZ: No, I won’t. (Turns to camera.) See how easy that was?

    (Hint for the irony-impaired: it’s only easy to say no if you don’t care about your friend or about future victims.)

  32. hoary puccoon says

    I was one of three women over on Lousy Canuck who reported getting far more drunk than we meant to, when someone kept topping off our glass. (Apparently, in none of the three incidents did the man then try to have sex with the woman. In my case, I staggered home, virtue intact, on the arm of my lawful husband– who was not the man who poured the wine.)

    But now, I’m thinking that explaining how easy it can be to lose track of your drinking leaves the impression in some people’s minds that if a drunk woman has sex without giving consent, it’s not “really” rape. After seeing Dalton’s and others’ comments, I’d like to point out–

    Guys, if a beautiful but deeply troubled young woman breaks down your locked door with a crowbar, enters your home without your knowledge, breaks the lock on your liquor cabinet, still without your knowledge, grabs your best booze and drinks herself into a stupor, takes her clothes off and passes out stark naked on your bed– if you have sexual intercourse with her while she’s passed out, that’s *still* rape under the law.

    The fact that you had nothing to do with getting her drunk, and, in fact, had taken measures (locking your door and liquor cabinet) to prevent it, does not change the fact that forcing sex on someone else without consent is rape. So the discussion about drunkenness is not really on point.

  33. says

    I’m very confused about what he’s trying to say, or even what he thinks he’s trying to say. I’ll take him at his word that he missed the follow-up comment about alcohol on the grenade post. But he’s obviously recognizing the connection between this other woman’s account and a sexually predatory intent – he refers to Shermer’s “supposed ‘MO’,” he makes the comment in the first video about Jesus turning water into wine for the nefarious purpose of getting women drunk, and he discusses the drinking and the rape allegation together in the same video. The story he quotes here is clearly implying that this MO is a sexually predatory one. What would the woman be suggesting otherwise? That his MO is to encourage or pressure women to drink more so he can…talk them into doing karaoke? Mock them the next morning when they have a hangover? Blather at them about libertarianism? Obviously not. I don’t see how it makes sense to claim that talking about this account alone means he wasn’t blaming the victim in the other account, but I could be missing something.

  34. DLC says

    Dear Mr Dummy. Alcohol does not equate to consent, no matter who’s buying. Drunkenness does not equal consent to be robbed, raped, beaten or killed, it means drunkenness. Claiming otherwise is simply convenient bluenosery . The proper response to coming across someone who has passed out from drink is to find them a convenient place to sleep it off, and to be kind and turn their head to the side so they don’t aspirate their vomit.
    If they’re a particular friend, you might be so kind as to take their shoes off and throw a blanket over them, but it’s not required. Forcing intercourse on someone is never the proper response to finding them too drunk to manage their own affairs. Nor is it proper behavior to deliberately ply someone with drink in order to make it difficult for them to resist your rapine activities.
    All this shit is “party etiquette 101” , Mr Dummy. I don’t care if the anonymous person PZ Myers quoted is Satan and Michael Shermer is Jesus. It doesn’t excuse your idiotic stupid response.

    (in case anyone is confused, by “Mr Dummy, I refer of course to Mr Dalton, also known as Mr Deity, who has lost many respect points from me for making those stupid comments. )

  35. kagekiri says

    Wow, Dalton, way to keep digging.

    You know the last time I heard this stupid an argument with someone concerning evidence? When a friend of my mother tried to debunk my atheism with a “you need more faith to believe in atheism” load of shit.

    Dalton’s shit is about as bad as that Christian’s bullshit equivalency analogy of “would you believe if I said your friend was coming over later? Then why not believe in God?” And this person was Cornell educated.

    A claim of someone being sexually abused is not fucking extraordinary. Trying to compare the possibility of that unfortunately common event with a ridiculous conspiracy theory designed to attack Shermer is fucking pathetic, an utter failure of basic reason or a total failure of honesty.

    And to say the victims are avoiding “personal responsibility” with no fucking sense of irony or hypocrisy? It’s a bullshit cherry on top of your “I’m a tribalistic, unempathic, hypocritical lying shit-face” sundae. Go fuck yourself, Dalton.


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