Atheism seems to be amazingly doomed

As long as we put up with clueless clowns like the “Amazing Atheist” we are, that is. Martin Hughes, a black atheist, watched one of the “Amazing Atheist”‘s ranty little videos in which he made a whole series of ignorant, racist comments and tore it apart. Just a small sample:

When asked, “What are you going to do about systematic racism?”

He says:

[Racism against black people] is not my problem in the first place. What are [the people in the video I’m responding to] going to do to end discrimination against atheists? Right, you ain’t gonna do shit, because it’s not your problem and you don’t give a shit.

Yeah. That’s what I’m seeing. Atheism is a white America thing, and white atheists are increasingly, proudly, not caring about black people.

Like…why am I going to fight for atheists rights when they are made up of so many bigots, over and above the black church that’s fighting for my rights day in, day out? Why would I care about a predominantly white atheist club who cordons off race issues, when that impacts my day-to-day life far, far more than what I do or don’t believe about some nonexistent God?

I don’t believe in God. But frankly, when I hear sentiments like this, I want to turn in my atheist card and go back to church.

But let’s not single out the “Amazing Atheist” here — if he were alone, if he were just the ‘lone wolf’ that seems to be the standard label attached to any white guy with hideous opinions, we could just ignore him. But he and many other youtube atheists have large followings. As Hughes points out…

More atheists have watched The Amazing Atheist in the past few days than atheists who have attended all major atheist organization events in the past year combined.

We are in over our heads in racism here.

526,000 views. Over 35,000 likes, only 4,000 dislikes. He makes over a thousand dollars a month on Patreon with his bigotry.

Yeah, that’s a larger atheist problem.

P.S. The “Amazing Atheist” made a reply. I skimmed through it. It seems to consist mainly of “Nuh-uh, I am not a racist, I have black friends.”


I just have to say that I totally despise the “e-begging” nonsense: not the requests for donations, but all the assholes who come squirming out of the woodwork to sneer at people who have financial difficulties, who make pleas for donations to support the work you are reading, who think it is somehow a mark of inferiority that someone does not have a prestigious job to support the leisure activity of writing, and are offended that they’re asked to maybe, voluntarily, donate a small sum to an author who’s having a hard time making ends meet.

Ultimately, the complaints are rooted in classism and bigotry. I’m in the odd position of being financially rock-solid — not rich by any means, but economically stable, with good health insurance to protect me from catastrophe, which, come to think of it, does mean I’m wealthy — yet here I am promoting people who are the less widely heard voices in freethought, and they generally have less robust incomes than I do. There is a big gay and transgender pay gap, and an even wider pay gap for racial minorities, and yet, when someone with less dares to hold out a hand and ask for some help, the hecklers all come to mock me, which is just plain weird. It’s as if they not only scorn the underprivileged, but they despise them so much they don’t want to even talk to the person, but instead come to spit in the face of the old white man, because he’s the one with authority.

The first time this happened, years ago, I was so discombobulated that I actually asked the asshole what he was complaining about; I said that I whole-heartedly supported people who asked for voluntary donations, and that those of us who could, should be chipping in to promote talent. Apparently, that was the problem: that I was enabling “freeloaders”, so I was responsible for the epidemic of begging that was annoying him.

Apparently, too, writing is something people should do for free, because hey, anyone can do it. It’s strange how so few authors get paid what they’re worth, then.

Well, fuck that.

Also, have you noticed all the outrage directed at Anita Sarkeesian because she’s held wildly successful fundraisers? These are donations by people who appreciate the fact that she promotes an important and interesting perspective, and they freely give to support her work, and this stirs up intense resentment among certain other kinds of people…who say nothing about the “e-begging” of Thunderf00t or Sargon of Akkad, which, apparently is something fundamentally different and isn’t even called “e-begging”.

And, as a mentioned, I get to be the recipient of all these bullying complaints about people who ask for a few dollars to support their writing. All that means, of course, is that I get to witness first hand how these whiners react to people of color, or gay or transgender people, reminding them of their privilege. I also get to be dumbfounded at my privilege, which is to be treated as the master who is supposed to keep all the little people in line.

The latest case: Tony is trying to make ends meet. So I get to hear all these weirdly inappropriate insults because, obviously, I have something to do with allowing these “e-beggars” to pollute their internet (I also get supportive suggestions, so it’s not as if the internet is entirely a cesspit). It’s weird because Tony is on a different network, I’ve never met him, and he doesn’t even like me very much, but because I’m the Emperor of all things SJW within atheism, I’m responsible. They have such a blithely authoritarian perspective. Note also: these are people who are so ravingly anti-black, anti-gay, and anti-SJW that the only reason they can be reading Tony’s blog is to metaphorically spit on it, and they’re complaining about a donation request that won’t take a penny out of their pocket.

So I’m going to come out and say it: if you want to see a greater diversity of ideas on the internet, if you want to promote greater equality, and if you’ve got the financial ability to do so, you should seek out people other than us noisy old white cis-het men, and put your money where your mouth is. If you like Tony’s writing, give him a little help. If you want to hear more from other than the usual suspects with the big bullhorns, look around, explore, and read what they write…and if they have a “donations” button, click on it. It’s good for everyone.

And now when the jerks come complaining to me that I’m enabling freeloaders, I’ll be able to say that yes, I try to enable writers, but you’re mistaken. My job is to shut down assholes, goodbye.

Crooked Donald

Why isn’t this man in jail for fraud? In addition to his phony Trump University, there was also a Trump Institute, that used plagiarized materials to peddle real estate advice.

Ms. Parker said she did venture to one of the Trump Institute seminars — and was appalled: The speakers came off like used-car salesmen, she said, and their advice was nothing but banalities. “It was like I was in sleaze America,” she said. “It was all smoke and mirrors.”

He clearly has the votes of sleaze America locked up.

No, not my alma mater!

It’s yet another academic scandal, this time at the university where I was an undergrad, the University of Washington. A top virus researcher, Michael Katze, has been committing all kinds of inappropriate behavior.

In the summer of 2014, as Ebola ravaged West Africa and unleashed panic across the U.S., Michael Katze was a voice of reason. As head of one of the biggest virus labs in the country, he frequently appeared on TV news spots — sharply dressed, with his signature black glasses and deep tan — preaching calm in the face of fear.

But away from the cameras, the University of Washington lab in Seattle that Katze had led for nearly 30 years was descending into chaos. Over the next year, one of his most important collaborators severed its $1.2 million partnership. Employees left in droves. And a lab administrator filed charges accusing him of sexually harassing her and a colleague. In August 2015, the university banned Katze from entering his own lab.

This past January, a university investigation concluded that Katze, 66, had violated the school’s sexual harassment policies with both employees. A second investigation, by the university’s School of Medicine, determined that in the process, he had misused university resources for personal gain, including by asking an employee to do chores for him and solicit a prostitute. It recommended a comprehensive internal audit to determine how far this misuse of public funds went.

This was a guy who was rolling in grant money — he was sitting on top of $30 million in awards — and he acted like some petty pimp, doling out grant money explicitly for sexual favors. And no one noticed?

One of the employees was an administrator whom Katze had hired, at an unusually high salary, on the implicit condition that she submit to his sexual demands. He personally rewarded this woman, known as Mary Roe in some court documents, with “thousands or even tens of thousands” of dollars a year in cash and gifts, the investigation found.

The university found that Katze also sexually harassed another administrative employee, known as Jane Doe in court documents. According to the investigations, Katze asked her to clean his apartment, purchase marijuana and Percocet for him, email escorts and place personal ads for him, and “schedule his manicures, pedicures, haircuts, and hair lightening appointments.” Meanwhile, he joked about having sex with her, made sexual comments about her appearance, sent her sexually suggestive emails, and, on two occasions, tried while drunk to kiss or touch her

He’s still getting paid, but he’s lost his lab, his employees, and his grant money. I guess that’s good. But I still can’t imagine the lack of oversight that would allow such a sleaze to run rampant. There’s clearly a problem with Katze, but there’s also a problem in UW grants administration.

Urrgh, physicists.

I actually have a lot of respect for physicists doing physics, but sometimes some of their most prominent practitioners are really good at getting everything else wrong. Like Stephen Hawking, for instance.

“Six years ago, I was warning about pollution and overcrowding, they have gotten worse since then,” he said. “More than 80 percent of inhabitants of urban areas are exposed to unsafe levels of air pollution.”

Oh. Six years ago, huh? That’s not very impressive, Mr Prophet, when Rachel Carson was warning everyone about environmental pollutants almost sixty years ago, when the filth and disease of major cities like London have been the subject of concern for centuries, and Malthus’ An Essay on the Principle of Population was published in 1798. But I’m glad you’re finally catching on to what everyone else already knew.

But after citing those real problems, guess what Hawking thinks we ought to be worried about?

Hawking warned about artificial intelligence and the fact there is no way to predict what will happen when machines reach the ability to self-determine.

“Once machines reach the critical stage of being able to evolve themselves, we cannot predict whether their goals will be the same as ours,” he said.

Jebus. We do not have self-aware, conscious robots, and their production is not imminent. We do not have an artificial intelligence. We don’t know how to build an artificial intelligence. Skynet is science fiction. The Matrix is not real (and is actually rather hokey). If I had to make a list of real problems we ought to be worried about, it would start with overpopulation, over-exploitation of resources, environmental destruction, and global climate change. It would include the rise of a new fascism, oppression, poverty, growing disparity in wealth, emerging diseases, and a host of other genuine concerns. The sentient robot uprising wouldn’t even make the top 100; it would be somewhere down in the bottom 100, along with the zombie apocalypse, Kardashians taking over the planet, Nazis emerging from their secret base at the center of the hollow earth, and sharknadoes.

But, I know, Stephen Hawking! It takes a world class physicist to make malarkey about nonexistent problems important to the media, I guess.

My panels at #CVG2016


I’m leaving for Minneapolis later today, and I’ve been planning out my panels, like a responsible participant. Here’s what I’m doing:

The Reproducibility Problem: How Serious is it?
Thurs 12:30 Atrium 2

There’s been a lot of discussion about the ability to reproduce experiments, especially in the social sciences. How serious is the problem? What can be done? Panelists: PZ Myers, Vernon McIntosh, Laura Okagaki-Vraspir, Peter Larsen, Topher Hunter (mod)

This one could get heavy: it’s all about statistics. Contrary to the description, I’m going to focus on the cancer reproducibility project, because this isn’t just about those fuzzy social sciences — it’s about any field with an extremely complex data set and a fair amount of individual variability.

What Does God Need With a Starship?
Thurs 2:00 Atrium 4

From the Christ-like figure of Superman to the metaphysical adventures of the Enterprise, fantasy and science fiction have long explored religious and philosophical questions. What is it about SFF that touches our spirituality? Panelists: Amanda Larsen, Cetius d’Raven (mod), PZ Myers, phillip andrew bennett low, Kristina Halseth

My role on this panel is to cross my eyes and make gagging noises every time someone says “spirituality”. No, not really, I’ll be nice. My points will be a) science fiction celebrates naturalism, and effectively undermines religious myths, because every time a supernatural being is invoked, they’re treated as a complex material phenomenon rather than magic, and b) SFF doesn’t touch our spirituality, it touches our humanity. Humanism FTW.

Twin Connection: Myth, Science and Confirmation Bias
Thurs 3:30 Atrium 3

Cultures worldwide have different myths and legends about twins. How much can science explain? Do twins share a special connection that transcends scientific understanding? This panel will explore myths and facts about twins. Panelists: PZ Myers, Kathryn Sullivan, Windy Bowlsby

The answer to the first question: all of it. Twins are a simple, entirely comprehensible phenomenon. The answer to the second question: NO. Won’t this be fun?

The mention of confirmation bias in the title suggests to me that we’ll all be resonating on the same wavelength (like twins!), so really, it might be fun.

Our Place in Space
Fri 2:00 Atrium 4

What are the dreams and practicalities of colonizing space? How might humanity reach beyond our planet? We’ll discuss the science of human spaceflight in reality and fiction. Panelists: Emily Finke, Ryan Consell, Nicole Gugliucci (mod), PZ Myers

As the biologist on the panel, I’ll be there to bring everyone down to Earth. I don’t think “colonizing” is at all likely or practical — we’re not going to establish stable, self-sufficient human populations on other moons or planets in our solar system. We’re just not that adaptable, and the environments are just too hostile. The only possibility is radical genetic modification, in which case the ‘colonists’ won’t be human anymore, and they’ll probably reveal other defects in human potential.

But I still think we ought to be out there: exploration and temporary scientific colonies are a good idea. There is also the possibility of extracting useful resources, but the economics of that seem a little far-fetched.

If somebody suggests that we need colonies to ensure the future of the human race in case of catastrophe, I might just explode, which would be entertaining.

Look at that, though: I get all the work done on Thursday and Friday, leaving the weekend totally free for fun. I’d take credit for my genius, but I didn’t plan out any of the timing, so it’s all by chance.

It’s also science-heavy, which is great. I thought about signing up for some of the more bookish fiction panels, but man, there were a lot of people volunteering to get up on the stage for those (some had a dozen people vying to get up there, and that’s just too many for a good discussion).

See you there!

Tim Tebow, HERO

A man had a heart attack on a flight, and one man heroically leapt into action and is being praised in all of the news stories now. That man was Tim Tebow, HERO.

What did he do that was so helpful? He prayed. He organized a group of people to pray for the sick man, heroically.

According to people who were there, flight attendants and passengers tried to help: they did chest compressions. They tried to help the man breathe. They started an IV line. These people are not named. The True HERO was Tim Tebow, who is a famous Christian, and who publicly prayed for the man.

The crew on the plane apparently responded with commendably swift action to help the unconscious man, and did merely material things, like chest compressions, starting an IV, helping breathe life into this man, but then Tim Tebow, HERO, strode up the aisle like a boss and prayed.

I observed a guy walking down the aisle. That guy was Tim Tebow. He met with the family as they cried on his shoulder! I watched Tim pray with the entire section of the plane for this man. He made a stand for God in a difficult situation.

Fuck yeah! Because God was in such a difficult spot here that he needed a cheerleader. And this is the big news, that a pious man stood and did nothing but mumble at an invisible man to come fix a problem. We should all be glad that someone was there to make a stand for a god.

Unfortunately, the sick man died.

The only appropriate thing to do now, of course, is to blame Tim Tebow, FAILURE. He obviously did not pray hard enough. After all, if he was notable enough to get all the attention and credit for doing nothing, he’s notable enough to get all the blame for doing nothing.

Women are so bad at computer games…


But that’s the stereotype, that men are more competitive and better at playing games, so of course women are just naturally squeezed out of the gaming environment. The thing about computer games, though, is that performance is stored in digital data, so researchers can take it apart case by case and assess performance objectively. In a study of 11,000 players, researchers found no gender gap in performance.

Do men advance faster than women in MMOs? Prior research found a perceived gender gap in participation and performance, suggesting men as playing more and better than women. This article challenges this gender gap through a longitudinal performance analysis of men and women in two MMOs in the United States and China, EverQuest II and Chevaliers’ Romance III, respectively. Controlling for extraneous factors such as play time and guild membership, our results showed that women perform at least as well as men do. Perceived gender-based performance disparities seem to result from factors that are confounded with gender (i.e., amount of play), not player gender itself. The stereotype of female players as inferior is not only false, but it is also a potential cause for unequal participation in digital gaming.

However, while men and women are just as good at playing the games, there’s a huge difference in participation: the sample for this study was 18% women, 82% men. That’s something that has to be explained, but at least now we can throw out the old ‘girls suck at games’ excuse. As the authors suggest, it may be that the stereotype itself is self-reinforcing.