The content is vetted

Heina is disappointed with the Sunday Assembly Los Angeles.

When I was invited to be the main speaker for the first-ever Sunday Assembly Los Angeles, I felt very optimistic. The people with whom I worked were so incredibly helpful, I got to cover an awesome topic that gave me an excuse to further educate myself, and the event went swimmingly. The press coverage wasn’t bad, either. I later spoke at the first Sunday Assembly Orange County as well.

As rarely happens, I had hope about something. But, as always happens when I do have them, those hopes were dashed. I have recently found out that this April, Sunday Assembly Los Angeles is hosting Michael Shermer. His talk is promoting the latest of his many books.

The topic? Morality. Yes, really.

So, with regret, she has cut ties with them.

When I brought up my concerns with one of the SA-LA organizers, I was told that the content is vetted rather than the speakers and that there is no “publicly available falsifiable evidence” against Shermer.

There are easily-accessible, multiple accusations against Shermer, some of them by women who are known, named entities and very much a part of the movement (or were at the time). Many of the other allegations were made by women who didn’t want to be named but who were vetted by known, named entities who are part of the movement. Women have been warning each other against being alone and/or drinking around Shermer for years in the Southern California skeptic scene. Apparently, it’s more likely that all these people are lying through their teeth and making it all up than that a powerful man is doing what more than one powerful man has done with said power.

It’s all so…papal.


  1. Markita Lynda—threadrupt says

    That’s disappointing. What do they expect, signed depositions from Shermer?

  2. Matt Penfold says

    I seriously doubt that those who say Shermer and others should be given the benefit of the doubt until evidence is presented in court sufficient to establish guilt are quite so forgiving in other areas of their life.

    How many do you think would trust their savings to someone they have been told has misused clientvfunds ? And manyvwould trust someone to provide childcare when there are doubts about that person’s suitability ?

    Of course, the difference is that most of those willing to be quite so trusting will not suffer by doing so.

  3. says

    Matt: they’re probably refusing to back down simply because they can’t bring themselves to admit they were wrong about Shermer. The “no publicly available falsifiable evidence” bit is just an after-the-fact rationalization.

  4. iknklast says

    JT suggested video evidence would be acceptable – maybe that’s what they want, too. Plus DNA, plus at least 2 (male) witnesses that the participant was unwilling, plus…..each bit of evidence leads to more evidence needed, of course.

  5. Blanche Quizno says

    Remember! Unless he’s been CONVICTED of a crime, he’s INNOCENT and everybody should think of him that way no matter how many women are saying otherwise. Because we all know that the only CONVICTED criminals are in prison! That means that everybody who’s NOT in prison is INNOCENT!! Has the Bill Cosby circus taught us nothing thus far??

  6. sambarge says

    You know, Blanche, as sad as it is, if you hadn’t used ALL CAPS, I wouldn’t be sure that you weren’t sincere. I fully expected that comment presented sincerely.

  7. moarscienceplz says

    sambarge #7
    There is a world of difference between ‘not guilty in the eyes of the law’ and innocent to anyone with common sense. The preponderance of evidence is strongly against Shermer. His many accusers deserve as much weight be given to their testimony as is given to his. As things now stand, he almost certainly doesn’t have to worry about losing his freedom for his past actions. He should be very glad of that. But that doesn’t mean that thoughtful people who are aware of the accusations are obligated to treat him as an upstanding human being.

  8. grumpyoldfart says

    When somebody is accused of a crime there are many different ways to handle the situation before the case goes to court. In the workplace the person can be suspended with full pay, or suspended without pay, or requested to take annual leave, or stood down, or dismissed.

    My point is that it is not necessary to just carry on as if nothing happened. There are socially acceptable ways to let it be known that you are dubious about the person who has been accused.

  9. Chaos Engineer says

    Can anyone figure out what the phrase ‘no falsifiable evidence’ means?

    It seems like it’s the same as, “All the evidence is unfalsifiable.” But if something is presented as evidence, then it’s falsifiable; unfalsifiability implies a lack of evidence. As in: “The reason there’s no evidence of a conspiracy is that the conspirators have done a perfect job of destroying it.” or “Everything that happens is Part Of God’s Plan, which is so mysterious that we mere mortals can’t tell it from random chance.”

    The only explanation I can think of is that this is some kind of cargo-cult skepticism. The speaker knows that the concept of “falsifiability” is important to skeptics for some reason, and thinks that if he inserts the word into his argument, then skeptics will be more likely to agree with him. (My guess is that real skeptics are too smart to fall for that, but I could be wrong.)

  10. Kevin Kehres says

    In certain parts of the world, a woman cannot accuse a man of rape unless it was witnessed by four other men.

    That’s what this sounds like to me. Are you sure it’s an atheist assembly and not a mosque?

  11. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    What I hear the organizer saying: “lalalalaican’thearyouthisisgoingtobeasuccesswhichwillmakeMElookgoodwhycan’tyoujustshutupsoIcanlookimportant”

  12. Pierce R. Butler says

    Hey, next month the SALA will feature Bill Cosby on “The Importance of Skepticism Regarding Sensational Accusations”.

    They’re still working on arrangements for Roman Polanski’s remote-video talk on varying cultural standards.

    Alas, Dick Cheney continues to tell their program committee to go fuck themselves.

  13. johnthedrunkard says

    If Shermer had multiple accusations of, say, purse-snatching, would anyone suddenly impose these ‘standards’ of evidence?

    The politics of sex (and alcohol) are so corrupted, and so personal, that whole communities paralyze themselves rather than make simple, real-life decisions.

  14. Lady Mondegreen (aka Stacy) says

    @Chaos Engineer

    (My guess is that real skeptics are too smart to fall for that, but I could be wrong.

    Sadly, you are wrong.

    I know a number of LA-based skeptics who still attend Skeptic Society lectures. Their rationales for it aren’t any better than “but the evidence isn’t falsifiable!

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