You have to decide which part of the club charter matters most


Remember when Francis Collins published a book containing his goofy, ridiculous testimonial about how he became a Christian because he was out hiking and saw a waterfall in three parts, demonstrating the Trinity? Oh man, that was stupid. Then he became director of the NIH.

Remember when Francis Collins announced that equality in science was so important that he was refusing to speak on non-inclusive science panels?

“It is time to end the tradition in science of all-male speaking panels, sometimes wryly referred to as ‘manels,’” Dr. Francis Collins wrote in an online statement this week. “Too often, women and members of other groups underrepresented in science are conspicuously missing in the marquee speaking slots at scientific meetings and other high-level conferences.”

“When I consider speaking invitations, I will expect a level playing field, where scientists of all backgrounds are evaluated fairly for speaking opportunities,” he continued. “If that attention to inclusiveness is not evident in the agenda, I will decline to take part.”

Good for him. That’s the right decision.

Hey. Hey…remember when swarms of popular atheists proudly declared that god is a fiction, and that feminism is a cancer and women can’t be funny and atheism doesn’t have the estrogen vibe that would encourage women to disbelieve in gods? Remember that?

Fucking hell. You get to choose between the club that still does silly prayers and wacky rituals, but thinks women are people, or you can choose the club that supports the obvious conclusion that gods don’t exist and girls and brown people are inferior. I hate choices like that, but I guess they aren’t choices at all — I’m part of the former, at least until atheism wises up.

I think it’ll be a long time before that happens. People are sneering at Collins not for his religious beliefs, but for his ideas about human equality — people like Geoffrey Miller, evolutionary psychologist and atheist.

What an ugly clubhouse…

Comments

  1. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    Right, it is a conundrum when the sides (NB the plural, ie more than 2) are presented as a binary choice, like that. One of them (guess which one) is a little more fluid (ie a generic label for many forms) than the other.
    I would choose the club whose objectionable parts are incidental details. Not the one whose core is the objectionable part. IE church is the club whose core, is that of belief, and worshiping a fictional entity, who is nothing more than a metaphorical concept personifying ethics and morality.
    The objectionable aspects of some Atheism, is male supremacy, which I think are personal aspects of some atheists, not the core of Atheism, itself.

  2. raven says

    I hereby refuse to speak on panels at scientific conferences that are all Democrat, all atheist, or all monogamist. Is this how we play this game?

    Why not.

    I hearby refuse to speak on panels any where that are all creeps like Geoffrey Miller.
    Why would I waste my time hanging out with creeps any way?

  3. Rich Woods says

    Geoffrey Miller needs to evo psych his way into understanding the difference between the two categories of what you’re born with and what conclusions about the world you might come to. Perhaps one of his students can conjure up a caveman just-so story that would convince him.

  4. PaulBC says

    Collins sounds like a decent human being who cares about fairness and thinks about how to put it in practice. Good for him!

    What stands in contrast, I think, are those who have reached a certain conclusion about what they really want (which usually comes down to more power for people they share an affinity with, their in-group) and then they play word games to make this look like fairness. Sometimes the word games are clever enough to suck all the oxygen out of the room from the underlying principle of fairness.

    What has puzzled me my whole life is whether reasonable people who claim to be religious actually believe what they say. They must believe something. There is clearly compartmentalization going on as well. I think this is just human, and it does not bother me at all compared to obvious attempts to deprive out-group members of influence, generally carried out through word games.

  5. colinday says

    I would distinguish between atheism as a philosophical position and secularism as a social movement.

  6. numerobis says

    raven: unless you’re a creep like Miller, you can’t speak in an all-creep panel!

    But really I’d rather not speak except on a no-creep panel.

  7. unclefrogy says

    @4
    if the guy in question thinks he is a decent human being then he is either a fool and dupe or a sanctimonious hypocrite or both
    uncle frogy

  8. petesh says

    @7: Actually it was PaulBC who suggested that Collins sounds like a decent human being, with which I agree. Collins himself shows no signs of such egotism. I for one am not a believer, and do not approve of being “humble in the sight of the Lord” (humble in awe of nature, yes) but I strongly suspect that Collins does. Let him.

  9. says

    PZ, I am sure you remember that there was a tremendous outcry from the skeptic/atheist community when Collins was nominated. Sam Harris, in fact, wrote an impassioned Op-Ed piece in the NY Times arguing the following: 1) Collins is a Christian. 2) Christians believe a lot of really stupid stuff. 3) No one who believes a lot of stupid stuff should be the Director of NIH. Well, how did all that turn out? Turns out that the guy who brought the Human Genome Project to completion on time and under budget has turned out to be a damn fine NIH Director, with an expansive humanism that puts many so-called humanists to shame.
    Bottom line: being a Christian is not necessarily an impediment to being a fine scientist and an excellent administrator. Thank you for recognizing Collins’ progressive views on scientific inclusion!

  10. unclefrogy says

    @8
    I plead not enough coffee! I confused Collins and Miller with the comment
    was miller being funny? (not very)
    uncle frogy

  11. mountainbob says

    So sick of these either-or demands. I’m a secular humanist and see nuance in many areas of thought and deed.

  12. says

    Yeah, religious belief seems at most, very loosely correlated with reactionary values and politics and I’d much rather just get straight to the point, and work with explicitly progressive movements than worry about the whole “god” thing.

  13. says

    Fucking hell. You get to choose between the club that still does silly prayers and wacky rituals, but thinks women are people, or you can choose the club that supports the obvious conclusion that gods don’t exist and girls and brown people are inferior. I hate choices like that, but I guess they aren’t choices at all — I’m part of the former, at least until atheism wises up.

    Welcome to the world of “being human is a fucking complicated and contradictory condition”.
    People can be horribly wrong in one aspect and wonderful in another and sometimes it simply boils down to “pretty is who pretty does”.

  14. chris61 says

    Fucking hell. You get to choose between the club that still does silly prayers and wacky rituals, but thinks women are people, or you can choose the club that supports the obvious conclusion that gods don’t exist and girls and brown people are inferior.

    What a silly conclusion.

  15. threethoughts says

    Hoping I’m less controversial on this topic… Seems to me, Francis Collins’ point:

    “I will expect a level playing field, where scientists of all backgrounds are evaluated fairly for speaking opportunities.”

    Is a pretty level headed point, and it’s hard to imagine anyone disagreeing with it.

    The other guy seems to be interpreting this as meaning more that Collins wants to artificially inflate the number of women above what is fair, or that an all male/female panel could never be fair.

    Isn’t there a pretty moderate middle ground position here (not sure if you guys might agree with this position actually). That we should put all our efforts into fairly evaluating the best people, held in the highest regard, with the most different opinions. And the gender ratio should fall where it falls, presumably with a correlation to the ratio within the field.

    So you could still get occasional all male/ all female panels, but not caused by discrimination, at least as best as we can achieve.
    For example I did bioscience, and it was pretty female skewed at my campus atleast. And vets was even further.
    So it would leave me pretty surprised if now, or in the coming decades panels on veterinary are not female heavy, with some exclusively female, and the opposite for say computer science or whatever.

    After that you can argue about how to get more men into vets and more women into computer science (or in power positions of both) etc. But isn’t that a more reasonable middle ground argument glossed over here?

  16. John Morales says

    threethoughts:

    Isn’t there a pretty moderate middle ground position here

    Why do you imagine a middle ground position is somehow preferable, whether or not it exists?

    (Religious maniac: Stone them to death!
    Reasonable person: Spare them!
    You: Stone them half to death!)

  17. threethoughts says

    John: I don’t, necessarily. Of course sometimes an extreme is correct, like in your analogy. But it’s important to address the nuance. Seems pretty obvious to me that if black is “we shouldn’t fairly evaluate people at all”, you’re missing a lot of grey before siding with white.

  18. John Morales says

    threethoughts, fair enough.

    But it’s important to address the nuance.

    PZ has done so; for example, are you familiar with the allusion to the “estrogen vibe”?

    (That’s a statement bespeaking prejudice, is it not?)

  19. John Morales says

    PS (can’t resist)

    Seems pretty obvious to me that if black is “we shouldn’t fairly evaluate people at all”, you’re missing a lot of grey before siding with white.

    Interesting choice of example from someone who had immediately preceding claimed “Of course sometimes an extreme is correct”.

    (You’d rather have some shade of gray than white, in your example?)

  20. John Morales says

    chris61, indeed it is, and thus you could not say it is not.

    (You’re agnostic, I take it)

  21. rietpluim says

    scientific conferences that are all Democrat
    Well, the thing is, underrepresentation of Republicans at scientific conferences is caused by an actual lack of talent and motivation, while underrepresentation of women is not.

  22. rietpluim says

    Wonderful news today.

    The Eindhoven University of Technology is hiring women exclusively in new positions for the next 1.5 years to balance the m/f ratio.

    I think that is worth a compliment.

  23. says

    Didn’t Ruth Bader Ginsburg say something like that to really be fair the Supreme Court should be all women for some time to balance out the time the Court was all men?

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