Creative destruction

We hear a lot about “tearing apart” this or that – skepticism, the atheist movement, the world of skeptoatheo science-loving nerdery. Sometimes the idea is that the tearing apart is mutual, and sometimes it’s that it’s only the pesky feminists (or the mythical Atheismplussers, who are always people who aren’t in fact Atheismplussers, like PZ and Rebecca and me).

Anyway – this idea of tearing apart is interesting. It seems like an odd thing for people who see themselves as involved in a movement to object to, because being involved in a movement also tears things apart. That’s the point of being in a movement. A movement about Keeping Everything Exactly the Same needn’t bother to be a movement. It can relax.

Movements tear things apart. Movements oppose the status quo; they’re about change; they move toward change. Change tears things apart.

Ok, the defender of movement purity could reply to me. Ok, the movement is about change, but it has to unite and work together to make that change happen, so a new movement within the movement that tears the movement apart will defeat that goal.

Maybe. Then again maybe not. Maybe what it will do is change the movement in such a way that it becomes better and thus more attractive and thus bigger. Or maybe it will split into two halves, and both halves will become bigger, or one will and the other won’t, but the two combined will still be bigger. There are a lot of possibilities.

But the point is that “tearing apart” is really just another word for change, and change isn’t necessarily bad – and we all know that, or else we wouldn’t be in a movement in the first place.

Shit’s dynamic, people. Change is all the time. You can’t freeze anything at one particular moment and declare that the Platonic ideal of what it’s supposed to be. Right now the atheist movement is torn apart by battles over feminism. Well I know I’m not going to stop arguing for feminism and against noisy belligerent sexism, and I know I’m not the only one with that commitment, so there you go.


  1. Bjarte Foshaug says

    Or maybe it will split into two halves

    Some of us would even go so far as to suggest that this has already happened. And it’s a good thing. The further apart, the better. As I keep repeating, there is no possible benefit of having a united movement that can outweigh the cost of having to share it with the pro-harassment crowd. There sure as hell isn’t any “community” or movement that includes both them and me at the same time.

    On that note, I would like to encourage everyone to stop talking of them as part of “our” community and start referring to them as “the other atheist/skeptical community”.

  2. R Johnston says

    You can’t freeze anything at one particular moment and declare that the Platonic ideal of what it’s supposed to be.

    Libertarians disagree. Libertarian economic “philosophy is 100% about declaring a certain distribution of income and wealth a platonic ideal that must be enshrined in perpetuity by law. It’s exactly like communism that way.

    There’s a reason that libertarians suck at being a part of a movement. At their core they’re all about ossification, stagnation, and the idea that at some platonic ideal state change is inherently a bad thing. They’re religious fanatics.

  3. rnilsson says

    Lemme see if I get this: You can freeze a peach, but then it will split in half? So, what you get is a pea each? Cool. VERY cool.

  4. says

    I’m with Bjarte.

    And just to be absolutely explicit about this, I’m here because the split happened. I’m one of those women who’ve always stayed well away from the atheist community, because my couple of times trying to get involved before had been more sexist than a WWE smackdown video. The movement repulsed me, with virulent racist behaviour, misogynist sexism rampant, transphobia off the charts.

    The thing that made me come over to check it out was hearing about the Deep Rifts. I am one of the people who would not be here, like Bjarte, if the pro-harassment types were here. Simple as that. I would not be in the atheist movement at all.

    Now, I don’t reckon everyone in the world will share an opinion on whether that’s a good thing or not. But count me as one of the statistics. I’m here because the split happened, and inviting back the bullies without first ensuring they know how to share the playground equipment would be disinviting me.

  5. Physics or Stamp Collecting says

    CaitieCat–you and me both.

    For me, I started out reading Greta Christina’s sex writing, wandered on over to her pieces on atheism, and became interested in atheism as a movement when I saw there were other people like her with similar values to my own. That was, hm, about the time of the “where are the women in atheism?” “we’re here, hi, if you’d like to notice us” conversations, before the pro-harassment/passively sexist factions descended on Rebecca Watson and made themselves obvious to an outside observer. The growing pushback makes me want to be here and has made, say, Pharyngula into a welcoming space that I actually visit fairly regularly.

  6. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    Same here. I have no interest in being a part of any movement that includes the slymy wing of the atheoskeptical sphere. If they were hanging around here, I wouldn’t be.

  7. John Phillips, FCD says

    I’m in agreement with the OP and the comments above and sometimes, division is the only logical answer. I don’t want to ‘man the barricades’ with people who dismiss the genuine concern about sexism racism harrassment etc in the atheoskeptic community and who see skepticism as a very narrow feature set not to be applied to social justice issues.

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