The ideology-spotter

I’ve been getting a barrage of hostile tweets and comments today about four fatal words in the post I did when I first learned of the Sydney siege, soon after it started. The one or ones I got that day – Sunday here – were reasonable and accepted my explanation and apology for clumsy wording. The ones today not so much.


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Secrets and lies

The whole interview with Chris Boyce is on the CBC website.

There’s one clear discrepancy between his account and that of other people. He says he asked people who worked with Ghomeshi if they had anything more to report, and to tell him about it. The Fifth Estate people (see what I mean about awkward?) polled all those people to ask if Boyce had asked them that and every single one said no, there was nothing like that at all.

So…yes, it’s all too reminiscent of the way the JREF and DJ Grothe and even James Randi dealt with reports of sexual harassment and even rape. Silencing and lies.

And it’s in the same cause – the protection of popular Star men, and the organization’s ability to profit from the popularity of the Star men.

It’s all too familiar.

But it ain’t his movement

Damn, there are such good comments on PZ’s post on Dawkins on American women complaining about being groped at work that I have to share a few extracts.

CaitieCat @ 7

How can we make the Deep Rifts wide enough so we don’t have to constantly hear his whining drone note about how muzzled he is, carried in every major media source? He’s like a bagpipe made of living cats at this point – the last thing you want to do is squeeze him or poke him, because then he’ll start playing his only tune, the MRA anthem “Restrainin’ Men”, to the tune of “It’s Rainin’ Men”.

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How not to stage an intervention

Doubting Tom wrote a Dubito Ergo Sum post ten days ago, on Michael Nugent, Vice Principal of Atheism. (Good title. Nugent does carry on as if he’s somehow been appointed to scold some people into obedience while protecting others from unwelcome attention to their more appalling behaviors. Nugent hasn’t been appointed to do that.) This post, I was saying, is worth catching up with.

DT starts by summarizing Nugent’s previous work in this vein, then describes a pattern:

Nugent demonstrated a pattern of behavior that he has since escalated: butt in to an issue that doesn’t involve you, adopt the pretense of mature authority, treat the issue as an academic subject to be studied or hashed out in formal debate, and then move on to some other issue once it gets too real.

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Closing ranks

Adam Lee has a post about the obfuscations and denial about Michael Shermer by some Big Names (he more politely calls them prominent individuals) in atheoskepticism.

One is Randi, because of what he told Mark Oppenheimer – you know, that whole thing about how Shermer’s a naughty boy, and if there had been any actual violence then somebody would have done something, but as it is it’s just a matter of getting drunk and boys doing what boys do, but hey if he gets many more such reports he might possibly ask Shermer to show up less often. [Read more…]

Guest post: Nothing to compensate for the exclusion of multitudes of diverse and valuable people

Originally a comment by Jennifer Phillips on Whom you name, and he won’t.

I hate “the atheist movement.” If this is what it is, I hate it and want nothing to do with it. If it’s going to act like a mirror image of the fucking Vatican, I want nothing to do with it.

I completely agree, and would go further to say that, as it stands, it’s professionally damaging to me to be associated with Movement Atheists, as represented by Dawkins, Harris, Shermer and their supporters.

It’s paradoxical, because when I first discovered ‘the movement’, the science and reason elements embedded within lit a fire in me. I had already been involved in science outreach throughout my academic pursuits, but listening to DJ Grothe interview the denizens of the Reality Based Community on POI made me aware of how much more I wanted to invest myself in science education and science literacy.

The intervening years have been wonderful in that regard, and I’ve tapped into many local, national, and international science outreach opportunities, particularly focusing on outreach to women and underrepresented minorities in science. Therein lies the obvious problem: By publicly associating with the movement most closely identified with Dawkins, Harris, Shermer and their allies, I risk alienating the generation of young women and minorities that I’m trying to bring into the realm of professional science and reason.

It’s not worth it. Those ‘leading lights’ offer nothing to compensate for the exclusion of multitudes of diverse and valuable people.

Not the sexist pig

Sam Harris has posted his response to objections to his claims about women in atheism.

He doesn’t start well. The title is not propitious.

I’m Not the Sexist Pig You’re Looking For

Not good. Why assume we’re “looking for” sexism? Why dismiss our objections from the outset by assuming that we wanted to find them, for some evil purpose? And then the pig part is outdated, and dismissive. He’ll be complaining about political correctness next.

Also? He illustrated it.


But onward. What did he say? He recaps what he said and then comments.

“I think it may have to do with my person[al] slant as an author, being very critical of bad ideas. This can sound very angry to people… People just don’t like to have their ideas criticized. There’s something about that critical posture that is to some degree intrinsically male and more attractive to guys than to women,” he said. “The atheist variable just has this—it doesn’t obviously have this nurturing, coherence-building extra estrogen vibe that you would want by default if you wanted to attract as many women as men.”

It is a measure of the ridiculous paranoia engendered by political correctness that in the second it took me to make that joke about my sex appeal, I worried whether my assuming that most women are heterosexual would offend some number of lesbians in the audience.

Oh look, he actually does talk about political correctness! I thought I was kidding.

He says the reporter pretty much set him up, which may be true. Allowances for that.

Let me be clear about what I was trying to say (and actually do believe):
1. I started by claiming that my readership seems more male than female. And when I shifted to speaking about atheists as a group, I was referring to active atheists—that is, the sort of people who go to atheist conferences, read atheist books, watch atheists debate pastors on YouTube, or otherwise rally around atheism as a political identity. I was not talking about everyone on Earth who doesn’t believe in God.

Oh. Right. Exactly what Michael Shermer said, then – he’s not saying the kind of atheists who just passively sit in chairs and listen are mostly men, no no, he’s saying the active ones, the sort of people who go to atheist conferences, read atheist books, watch atheists debate pastors on YouTube, or otherwise rally around atheism as a political identity, are mostly men. So that’s way less insulting and patronizing.

2. Although I share the common perception that there is a gender imbalance among active atheists, I don’t actually know whether this is the case. I used to joke that my average “groupie” was a 75-year-old man. Happily, my audiences are now filled with young people, but I still encounter many more men than women. I wouldn’t be surprised if the split were 70/30. I would be very surprised if it were 50/50. Again, I am talking about active atheists. I have no idea whether there are more male unbelievers than female.

You know, I can think of an explanation for that that’s nothing to do with Our Essential Womanly Natures. It could be that a lot of women think Sam Harris is kind of an asshole about women, and don’t feel like going to his talks.

Then he goes on to repeat what he said, at more length, as if we hadn’t understood. Men in the aggregate like pugnacious commentary, and women in the aggregate don’t. Yes, we got that; we understood that that’s what he was saying.

And then he quotes an exchange he had with a woman after the interview.

She: I’m not saying that women and men are the same.

Me: Okay, great. So I think you misunderstood the intent of what I was saying. I was just acknowledging that some differences in the general tendencies of men and women might explain why 84 percent of my followers on Twitter are men. Unfortunately, we don’t have time to get into this, because there are 200 people standing behind you in line patiently waiting to have their books signed.

She: You should just know that what you said was incredibly sexist and very damaging, and you should apologize.
Me: You really are determined to be offended, aren’t you? It’s like you have installed a tripwire in your mind, and you’re just waiting for people to cross it.
She: No. You’re just totally unaware of how sexist you are.

Me: Listen, I was raised by a single mother. I have two daughters. Most of my editors have been women, and my first, last, and best editor is always my wife.

Etc etc etc.

I remain unconvinced that he’s not at all sexist.


Oh zing.


Retweeted by D.J. Grothe
Sam Harris @SamHarrisOrg · 30m
.@OpheliaBenson The problem, Ophelia, is that you seem not to know the difference between being critical and being unfair.

Sommers thinks she is liberal-minded

bspencer at Lawyers, Guns & Money points out one of Christina Hoff Sommers’s latest sneers at feminism.

Anita Sarkeesian Kickstartered a video project continuing her work on women and tropes in video games. Gamers everywhere responded with measured skepticism by threatening her with rape and death. She was even temporarily hounded from her home. But she was a feminist on the internet–she should have known what she was getting into. Christina Hoff Sommers, vile faux-feminist, approves.

Christina H. Sommers @CHSommers

I always expected other liberal-minded scholars to join me in exposing 3rd wave feminist lunacy. Never happened. But now the gamers r here.
7:21 PM – 30 Aug 2014

Yes, that’s right. Christina Hoff Sommers is backing doxxers and men who think making rape and death threats is a reasonable response to a video project exploring sexist tropes. Oddly, this should surprise no one, as Christina Hoff Sommers is an old school Chill Girl.

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Not in attendance

So that’s another no-show.

A comment by Carol on He promised to do so:

I know that DJ also didn’t appear at CSICON 2011, even though he was scheduled to present there.

Yes, he was scheduled to present there. He was scheduled to present at the Houdini Seance, along with Randi and Massimo Polidoro and Ray Hyman.

DC in Detroit did a long, detailed post covering the whole conference, and she reports that he did not appear. [Read more…]