Intercepted message from the hive mind

On Sunday morning I had another opportunity to participate in a Google+ hangout with some of my fellow FTBorg:

We talked about, among other things, why these ‘social justice’ issues – feminism, anti-racism, gender and sex equality, etc. – are so prevalent on the Freethought Blogs network. The video is below the fold:

I came into the discussion with four points I really wanted to make:

  1. Freethought is a set of critical methods that we can use to separate useful ideas from bad ones. Just as we become adept at recognizing faulty reasoning at work in theology or anti-science, we see identical types of cognition from people who either oppose or fail to understand social justice issues.
  2. There is an inherent value to increasing diversity above and beyond it being the right thing to do. When we create more just and equitable spaces in the atheist/skeptic/freethinker movement, we attract more people who bring us better perspectives and make us all better for the experience.
  3. Atheists are not necessarily better thinkers or ‘more rational’ than the general population – it’s just that we care when things are self-contradictory. We are still, however, prone to make the exact same handful of mistakes that we deride believers for committing.

The fourth point, which I made at the top of the discussion, is that FTB was not created as an explicitly feminist liberal organization with schemes for world domination. If you listen to the triumphalist crowings of the pack of morons calling the recent fracas with Thunderf00t an example of FTB’s commitment to silencing dissenting positions, you’d think that we’re a bunch of arch-villains (or the unwitting puppets of a tyrannical overlord). I’ll spend a bit more time on this ridiculous zombie meme in a follow-up post.

I really enjoy these opportunities to interact with my co-bloggers. Of course we ended up talking a lot about ethics and metaphysics and a whole host of other things where I talked too much and knew too little. In my defense, this chat happened at 8 am on a Sunday, and I had been at a kegger the night before. I think I managed to work in a few coherent points from time to time.

Is there a topic that you’d like to suggest for the next hangout? I may or may not be involved (I would rather see some new faces participating than be in the room every time), but surely there’s something you’d like to see us discuss? Bonus points if you think you can find something we’ll disagree on (trust me – they’re out there).

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  1. johnwalker says

    I’m really glad that as a group, FTB has stood its ground on the these issues, even when it required some pruning of FTB itself. The discussion of whether or not skeptics should demand evidence to support an outlook that includes empathy social justice is ridiculous. As you and Ophelia pointed out, this type of calculation requires a large amount of interpretation if you decide not to just be human about it. It can be informed, but it’s just not the same as measuring vaccine efficacy, for example.

    And that is the only counterpoint I’ve seen lately that even remotely resembles a logical discussion; I don’t even want to make a comment on the misogyny and privilege that makes up the bulk of comments. Just kidding, yes I do: I can’t help but point out the hypocrisy of crying about “free speech”. I may be conflating two groups here, but my impression is that the people demanding free speech in these privately-operated forums and conferences are the same ones that demand the right for private businesses to discriminate based on a freedom argument. The only way that is consistent is if your goal is “maximum privilege for me, personally”.

    The last couple of google hangout videos have been enlightening to listen to; I think an FTB podcast would be a good idea, even if it’s just an unpolished feed of the videos. I’d like to see the same group discuss accommodation vs. confrontation (last year’s divisive topic) as it relates to harassment vs. free speech or whatever you want to call this year’s divisive topic.

    Please don’t misunderstand my suggestion and excuse the false dichotomies. I’m not suggesting that this is a legitimate debate, but I’m interested in the nuances in the discussion about accommodation. For example, I tend to think of myself on the confrontation side, but in day-to-day life I notice that I am pretty accommodating for selfish reasons. But I’ve also been lucky to never encounter discrimination in person (or even really things like evolution denial) and I can guess this would motivate me to be more aggressive.

  2. davidjanes says

    The only way that is consistent is if your goal is “maximum privilege for me, personally”.

    I think that there is a subset of the atheist / secular movement that has become attracted to it for precisely that reason. They see in it a way to justify their selfishness. These folks often, but not always, intersect with the subset of Libertarians who are attracted to Libertarianism for exactly the same reasons.

  3. leftwingfox says

    More substantively, I generally dislike the sort of bloggingheads format video casts, but this one is really quite good. Thanks for the post, this was really enjoyable.

  4. benjaminsa says

    I enjoyed it, I was a little worried with so many people and such a broad topic it would devolve into noise, but it worked.

    I think atheism is splintering and that a is good thing. Build a community of feminist, pro-lgbt, sex positive etc bloggers and readers. Accommodation will leave you with the trolls and drive away the people you really want to attract. I just wish it wasn’t so ugly and angry.

    How about a podcast with all the newbies?

  5. Cory Albrecht (@Bytor) says

    Atheists are not necessarily better thinkers or ‘more rational’ than the general population – it’s just that we care when things are self-contradictory. We are still, however, prone to make the exact same handful of mistakes that we deride believers for committing.

    Hmmm… I’m not sure you can make such a broad statement about atheists caring about being non-contradictory as if that is something different from society at large.

    After all, not all Atheists are Atheists because of Sagan-style Skepticism. In fact, in my anecdotal experience the large majority of Atheists are most definitely not Skeptics. Those of us atheists who like the CSI part of CFI instead of CSH or go to TAM or NECSS are decidedly in the minority. It’s just that the FTB atheists tend to be atheists who are also skeptics, and for a number of them Atheism is clearly the focus of their activism rather than Skepticism.

  6. says

    That’s true, and probably the result of a selection bias on my part. I only really interact with the atheists who are the bloggy type (and those I know from Vancouver).

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