David Silverman and “Woke Math”

Here we go again. David Silverman is racing rightwards, and is considering voting for Trump, because he doesn’t like the idea of defunding the police or what the Right are calling “Woke Math”.

Nobody changed, Dave. If you’re seriously considering voting Republican now, you were never on the side of the Left, which we should have figured out from all the CPAC chasing you were doing. Biden & Harris are very much center left politicians, so all the caterwauling about how radically socialist they are is absurd — the people I know who are unhappy with the Democratic candidates are rejecting them because they aren’t Left enough, which is actually an honest position.

But what about this “Woke Math” nonsense, which is a Fox News talking point? All this crap about schools not teaching 2+2=4 is made up propaganda. It’s not true.

You can look it up for yourself. Go to the Seattle Public Schools K-12 Math Ethnic Studies Framework, and read it. It doesn’t say anywhere that 2+2=5.

Here’s what it actually says. I don’t know how anyone can disagree with it.

Origins, Identity and Agency, as defined by ethnic studies, is the ways in which we view ourselves as mathematicians and members of broader mathematical communities. Mathematical theory and application is rooted in the ancient histories of people and empires of color. All human endeavors include mathematical thinking; from humanities to the arts to the sciences.

It’s saying that mathematics is a universal, multicultural thing. Do you disagree?

Power and oppression, as defined by ethnic studies, are the ways in which individuals and groups define mathematical knowledge so as to see “Western” mathematics as the only legitimate expression of mathematical identity and intelligence. This definition of legitimacy is then used to disenfranchise people and communities of color. This erases the historical contributions of people and communities of color.

They are explaining that math has often been used to justify oppression, whether it’s that slaves only count as 3/5ths of a person, or that the people of African nations have an average IQ of 70. Do you disagree?

The history of resistance and liberation, as defined by ethnic studies, is the stories, places, and people who helped liberate people and communities of color using math, engineering, and technology. Access to mathematical knowledge itself is an act of liberation.

What a radical idea, that knowledge is power and that learning math can set you free! Do you disagree?

Any atheist that doesn’t think that science and knowledge are vastly important can just fuck right off, Dave.

Student action, as defined by ethnic studies, is fostering a sense of advocacy, empowerment, and action in the students that creates internal motivation to engage in and contribute to their identities as mathematicians. Students will be confident in their ability to construct & decode mathematical knowledge, truth, and beauty so they can contribute to their experiences and the experiences of people in their community.

That’s a beautiful goal to have in any classroom. Do you disagree?

Even more dangerously, they have a list of questions that are appropriate for the subject. Oh no! QUESTIONS!

Where does Power and Oppression show up in our math experiences?
● Who holds power in a mathematical classroom?
● Is there a place for power and authority in the math classroom?
● Who gets to say if an answer is right?
● What is the process for verifying the truth?
● Who is Smart? Who is not Smart?
● Can you recognize and name oppressive mathematical practices in your experience?
● Why/how does data-driven processes prevent liberation?

How is math manipulated to allow inequality and oppression to persist?
● Who is doing the oppressing?
● Who does the oppression protect? Who does this oppression harm?
● Where is there an opportunity to examine systemic oppression?
● How can math help us understand the impact of economic conditions and systems that contribute to poverty and slave labor?
● How does math contribute to how we value natural resources?

My god, this is a recipe for making students think about the broader context, and also emphasizes over and over again how important it is for the students to understand math.

No wonder Fox News hates it and invents false claims about it, like that it’s all about teaching kids that 2+2 is not equal to 4. The far right has an anti-education agenda, and that’s why they’re spreading these lies.

And David Silverman has gullibly swallowed it whole. And is using it as an excuse to vote for Trump.

David Silverman is out, again

The word from Atheist Alliance International is that David Silverman has resigned.

At a Board Meeting on Sunday, David P. Silverman resigned as Executive Director. Accepting his resignation, AAI President, Gail Miller, thanked David for the contribution he had made in reorganizing the AAI board and its operations. This, together with a successful year-end fund-raising drive, will leave the alliance in a stronger position to take its campaigns forward in 2020 than in previous years.

AAI is now looking for an Executive Director, and will begin its search immediately.

That didn’t last long. It’s interesting how certain people crumple at the threat of an investigation. I wonder if a lawsuit will be next — that’s the usual trajectory for these sorts of things.

I do wonder how hiring a guy, and then firing the same guy, can both have the effect of strengthening an organization.

Yikes, Silverman is SLAPPing some more

Look upon this document and moan.

It took me a moment to interpret this thing. OK, Silverman is suing American Atheists…isn’t that old news? Wait…this is about Silverman’s lawyer withdrawing from the suit, and substituting…David Silverman, who is now going to act as his own attorney.


This is not going to go well for him. I am almost feeling some sympathy for the guy, since someone seems to be ruthlessly and persistently fucking him over. It’s just that the someone is David P. Silverman.

Silverman screws up, again

I think I’ve been on this rollercoaster before: David Silverman Suspended Pending Investigation Into Touching Incident.

Silverman was accused by Vitsmun of violating her bodily autonomy by “caressing” her back as she put on her shoes at a party with other like-minded non-believers. She provided screenshots purportedly showing their interactions following the incident.

Yeah, I was following this story as it was emerging on Facebook. It sounds harmless at first — she’s bent over to put on her shoes, he just touches her lower back — but then I thought about it, and realized I would never do that to anyone. Why? Why are you touching her? Especially when you’re on notice already for crossing boundaries? And when I read Vitsmun’s account, it’s clear that she is very sensitive to these kinds of touching issues for good reason, and it stressed her…and it doesn’t matter if you think your behavior was fine, if the other person doesn’t, you did wrong.

Now Silverman is calling Vitsmun “evil” and a “shitty fucking asshole liar”. I think it’s clear who the bad guy is here.

So AAI is suspending him with pay while piously climbing up onto a high horse.

“AAI has very high standards of behavior for its Board of Directors and staff. We fight for human rights around the world and do not tolerate any Board Director or staff member violating anyone’s rights,” the statement says. “We also believe strongly in evidence, reason, and due process. We have today initiated an investigation into this incident and we will make our conclusions known in due course. In the meantime, we have suspended David Silverman on full pay until the investigation is completed.”

Where were these “very high standards of behavior” when they first hired him? That statement is not honest. Since hiring him, AAI has received nothing but shocked dismay and bad press, and they’re slowly realizing that this person might well be a catastrophe for their organization, and that’s why they’re trying to kick him to the curb.

Silverman, Sargon, and the ongoing self-immolation of the atheist movement

The last time I saw David Silverman was in October of 2016, in China. We’d both been invited to speak at a small conference in Beijing, and we were treated like royalty. For an hour of talking, we got swept off to fantastic restaurants, to guided tours of the Forbidden City and the Great Wall, and basically treated like heroes. For me, it was something of the last gasp of the glorious atheist movement, but it had started dying years before. Silverman was a dead man walking, guilty of betrayal of our goals even then, and I was so irrelevant I had no idea of the stories swirling around him that would lead to his abrupt downfall.

All I knew was that, despite his bombastic style, he was effective at getting attention for American Atheists. I was annoyed by his efforts to woo conservatives to atheism at CPAC — I considered their values antithetical to the egalitarian, pro-science views an atheist movement ought to endorse — but at the same time he was a prominent atheist leader openly (one could even say bombastically) promoting feminist ideas of social justice. He was an annoying combination of good words often said badly, and lip service to high ideals contradicted by his courting of people who opposed them. But hey, it got his face on the news.

All that fell apart when he was fired by American Atheists, and suddenly (to me) all the behind-the-scenes unsavoriness was exposed. He was accused of financial malfeasance, using the organization’s money to promote his book, and worst of all, of an ugly history of sexual abuse of women, including young students. He was unemployed and unemployable, his false front was exposed, he was a meteor falling from the sky with his ass on fire, in possibly the most spectacular act of self-destruction I’ve ever witnessed. He’s gone and nobody wants him back.

But he’s still trying, still the eager self-promoter. If respectable organizations won’t give him the time of day, well, there’s always the bottom of a barrel to scrape for sustenance for his ego. He has announced that he’ll do anything for anyone who’ll give him air time.

Anything. So now he’s appealing to misogynistic fascist YouTube. He has appeared on Sargon’s channel.

I’m sorry, but as you can see, I’ve only listened to one second of that poison. The blurb was enough for me.

After falling victim to the #MeToo movement, ex-leader of American Atheists David Silverman had his life totally destroyed by false allegations made by feminists in the atheist movement.

His life totally destroyed! That seems to be a common refrain by all the Harvey Weinsteins and Louis CKs and Lawrence Krauss’s who got wrecked by their own selfish, self-destructive acts. How dare well-off abusers and exploiters get exposed? It’s all the women’s fault.

As for “false allegations”, ask the women. Silverman’s depradations have been documented.

She and Silverman had known each other for years, and he flirted with her throughout the evening, she wrote in the complaint. After the other guests left, R. wrote that Silverman asked her to join him in smoking marijuana on the roof. But before they left the room, he suddenly forced himself on her.

“He physically pressed me to the wall and began to kiss me forcefully, grabbed my breasts, and put his hand into my leggings where there was actual penetration of my vagina,” she wrote.

R. believed Silverman knew she was interested in BDSM and wrote that he began using insulting language, calling her a “dirty little whore.” He then pushed her to her knees, “where his penis briefly made contact with my mouth,” she wrote.

R. got her feet and said “no,” she wrote. Silverman then lightly slapped her face and said, “You don’t get to say no to me.”

At that point, R. said the widely used BDSM safe word, “red,” which stopped him, and then she left. The next day, R. took photographs of bruises where she said Silverman had grasped her, and these pictures were included in her complaint to American Atheists.

Or how about this?

The third allegation reviewed by the American Atheists board involves a student, Rose St. Clair, who alleged that Silverman used his position of power to pressure her into having sex with him. “At several points during this encounter, I hesitated to continue,” she wrote. “I believed that if I did anything to upset him, my chances at being involved in the secular community, especially with American Atheists, would be ruined.”

In 2012, St. Clair was an undergraduate at the College of William and Mary in Virginia who hoped to make a career in the atheist movement. At the annual convention of the Secular Student Alliance in Columbus, Ohio, she was invited to go to a bar with a group of speakers at the conference, including Silverman.

St. Clair said that she quickly became drunk, but remembered Silverman flirting with her and then suggesting that they go to his hotel room. “I don’t believe I was in a position to be able to give consent. I was very intoxicated,” St. Clair told BuzzFeed News. She said that Silverman did not have any condoms, and pressured her into having anal sex.

Afterward, St. Clair said that Silverman told her she would have to leave early in the morning because his wife would be arriving at the hotel. She said he told her not to apply for an internship with American Atheists because appointing her could be seen as preferential treatment.

“I felt my interest in working for the organization was used as a way for him to have power so that I would have sex with him,” St. Clair said.

Silverman has admitted that these events occurred, has even elaborated on the unsavory details in interviews, but is trying to claim that they were entirely mutually consensual.

“I certainly behaved sometimes in a manner that was unworthy of the office of president of American Atheists,” Silverman, 52, said in a phone interview this week, the first time he has spoken publicly about being accused of nonconsensual sexual contact with two women, one of them a student, at atheist gatherings.

Silverman denies the women’s allegations that their relations were nonconsensual, and American Atheists say he was not fired due to sexual relationships.

I’ll say that he certainly was unworthy of the office, with the caveat that if American Atheists did not find those particularly incidents sufficient to fire him, then the office wasn’t worth much. What actually got him finally fired was this:

American Atheists placed Silverman on paid leave while it investigated a complaint from staff concerned that he had not disclosed financial and personal conflicts of interest relating to the promotion of his book, Fighting God: An Atheist Manifesto for a Religious World, and the appointment to a senior position of a woman with whom Silverman was allegedly having a sexual relationship. (That appointment has been rescinded.)

These scummy activities had been going on in 2012-2015, at least, so when Silverman and I were being good buddies on a junket to China, all of this was playing out in the background, and this ugly history was a missile waiting to explode on him. One of our touristy events was a tour of a silk factory, and I remember him ordering a set of gorgeous silk sheets that I would never be able to afford (although they really were a bargain) that he thought his wife would love, but all the while he had betrayed his family and the cause I thought we were both working for, and the whole thing was a charade.

And now he’s pandering to anti-feminist YouTube. Sargon and Silverman deserve each other, and perhaps the best and most appropriate use of Silverman’s talents is his current occupation, selling insurance. Although I would never buy insurance from him.

My disillusionment with the atheist movement continues.

David Silverman is failing Redemption 101

When last we heard from David Silverman, he was involved in some new enterprise called Transformative Humanists of America. Tragically, that seems to have vanished off the internet. Whoops.

Now he’s started something new, a website for himself called Firebrand for Good. Good for him. He should be scrambling for redemption after the disgrace that led to his ouster from American Atheists, and that’s the right thing to do.

Unfortunately, the path he’s taking is to simply deny the accusations, and blame it all on a conspiracy of liars. That’s not the right thing to do.

Stephanie Zvan goes through all the details he gets wrong and misrepresents, and doesn’t let him weasel away from the wrong he did. He also makes another point I want to address — he argues that he did a lot of good in his prior position. That’s true!

Do you remember the strict codes of conduct, the gender neutral bathrooms? the ERA speech on the capitol lawn? the first atheist contingent at a choice march? Those were good ideas. I’ve been a feminist for 30 years and I did a lot for us.

I became a lifetime member of American Atheist when I saw what Silverman was doing, because I thought it signaled a good direction for the organization to be taking, so I supported it with my dollars. Really, I think that’s what we have to do, positively reinforce good approaches, and … negatively reinforce bad ones. When Dave was found to be on the shady side on a number of issues, I retracted my support for him personally.

He is not winning me back with this strategy of denying the problems. That just tells me he isn’t going to change.

I also support my local humane society. If I learn one of the staff people likes to kick puppies in the privacy of their homes, I’m still going to support the goals of the society, but I’m also going to expect that that individual will no longer be working there. It would be wonderful if they could work their way back into our trust, but it would take something other than crossing their heart and swearing that no sir, they never did kick no puppies, they sure did love them puppies, can they please come back and work in the puppy room? Because we know they kicked those puppies before. Trying to bury the truth instead of confronting their own ugliness is not going to persuade me that they’ve changed. Quite the contrary.

So sorry, Dave. Your new direction is diametrically opposite the one I’d support. There is no ratchet, and those things you’ve done that I do support aren’t permanent advancements. You can slip back out of grace, and you’ve done so.

I’m worried about David Silverman

He may have joined a cult.

He’s the new executive director for a shiny new organization, Transformative Humanists of America, which may not be so new: their web pages sometimes refer to themselves as humanist.com, which seems to be some kind of generic humanist forum. But they’ve gotten together and put together a nearly unreadable mass of words. I’m not sure what they’re all about, but what they seem to consider their main selling point is their mediocrity.

Society is fracturing at an alarming rate with the right hemorrhaging integrity while the Left is cannibalizing itself. As a result the majority middle is increasingly apathetic, disillusioned and without a home. Most people are good, which means suffering is increasing at our own hand. Transformative Humanism can and will help reunify society so we can get back to the business of the Greater Good.

They’ve got a whole section on the Extremism Horseshoe. Yup. Horseshoe theory again. The idea that the left is just as evil as the right, but those who straddle the fence are the best people. Politics are just the worst.

Trump took over and he was more polarizing than Obama had been. Now the left is doing anything it can to make Trump fail, even if it is good for the country. Just imagine the dehumanization and echo chambers that are in effect when we cheer for the failure of nuclear arms talks with North Korea! Trump is a pussy-grabber, so he hates women, so all of his supporters hate women to some degree – that is what the left is saying – dehumanizing en masse, shouting in their echo chambers, and indeed posting things like “please unfriend me if you support Trump”.

How dare you dehumanize Donald Trump for dehumanizing women and minorities! Don’t you realize that makes you as bad as he is?

I tried to figure out what “transformative humanism” is, but the section on “About transformative humanism” wasn’t at all helpful.

Humanism is not a religion, and therefore, is secular by default, like golf is secular. You can be a religious or nonreligious golfer, and you can be a religious or nonreligious Humanist. The rules in golf are secular, because they have no religious position, and the secular morality that we champion here at Humanist.com are also devoid of religion. “Secular Humanist” organizations by definition are exclusionary, divisive, and can be pretty hostile to religious people, but we at Humanist.com are doing this right. Everyone who agrees with our secular reasoning and wants to be a good person by the definition we set forth, is invited, whatever your opinion is on God.

Wait a minute…they differentiate themselves from other organizations that are hostile to religion, but they hired David Silverman as their director? The David Silverman I saw at the World Humanist Congress a few years ago, in which he pissed off a fair number of humanists for aggressively telling them they were all actually atheists, and they ought not to be pretending otherwise? Dave Silverman, Firebrand Atheist? I am mystified.

But maybe this explains the association. It has a whole section that emphasizes forgiveness, and condemns that whole social networking thing.

On-line, with echo chambers in full effect, redemption is often hard to come by. The ability for people to just disconnect from others makes redemption easy, because dehumanized ostracized people are easily replaced, so there is very little incentive for anyone to go through the process that goes against their outgrouping brain and take someone back in, even if they deserve it. Additionally, the outward, proud ostracization that accompanies the echo tunnels creates the Culture of Fear, making it incredibly scary for people who disagree with the outgrouping to voice their support for the ostracized person for fear of being outgrouped themselves. So the silent majority sits in fear of the social extremist minority and the latter rules and the former sits in fearful silence.

Then there’s the section on civil discourse that starts with a quote from Steven Pinker.

“Left-wing and right-wing political ideologies have themselves become secular religions, providing people with a community of like-minded brethren, a catechism of sacred beliefs, a well-populated demonology, and a beatific confidence in the righteousness of their cause.”

― Steven Pinker, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress

If there is one place where the need for social improvement is most evident, it is the area of civil discourse. All over the country and all throughout the Internet, the apparent demise of calm civil discussions and their replacement with hate, extreme labeling and dismissal, and intellectual echo chambers dominates those of us who miss such ideals.

Yeah! The left and right are indistinguishable, just look at the hateful extremism that condemns people like Donald Trump. We need calm civil discussions to deal with Nazis…oh, fuck it. This is just another centrist gang of status quo warriors who want to adopt rules that promote stasis and acceptance of whatever the assholes at the top tell us to do. We may be sliding into a pit, but don’t you dare criticize the people who pushed us in, and you will accept your fate graciously. Namaste.

I find it hard to believe that Silverman has joined these do-nothing wankers, but he himself announced it. I guess it’s all about desperately trying to retain relevance, although I don’t think he’ll find it with these do-nothing babblers.

They really do go on and on at painful length without saying anything. For instance, I read their Who and What We Are page to try and find out who was behind it, who the organizers are. They don’t say! It’s just more platitudes, with a little rebuking of the Left, but nothing specific. It’s tediously empty of any specific content.

You know what else it’s missing? Any mention of major social issues, like racism or misogyny. I guess they’re taking the middle ground on that, too. There’s nothing about science, or concern for the environment — I guess they don’t want to risk colliding with the righties they want to woo! Nothing about politics other than “why can’t we all get along”? No concern about church/state separation. Its only message seems to be that they won’t criticize anyone for being far right reactionary assholes, therefore you should join them.

I don’t think the American Humanist Association has to fear any competition here.

So, what has David Silverman been up to lately?

The Washington Post has a longish article on l’affaire Silverman. It’s a bit unsatisfying, because we still don’t know the specifics of what American Atheists considered a good reason to fire him, and he denies everything.

But where it gets interesting and more than a little dismaying is when it starts listing all the problems in the atheist movement. I remember the days when you’d go to a meeting and there all these enthusiastic, diverse people who were thrilled to just be there and meet like-minded peers…and now the ones who are most enthusiastic are dudebros who see it as an opportunity to bash feminazis with other dudebros. It’s taken a lot of joy out of the movement.

A couple of interesting points, though: 1) David Silverman is the first and only atheist to face any consequences at all for his behavior from an atheist organization. All the other sleazoids are still doing just fine, are still getting invited to speak at conferences, are still drawing a crowd. 2) All of the accused deny all wrong-doing, no matter how solid the evidence. The Bart Simpson approach seems to work: rape or harass someone, then just say, “I didn’t do it,” and among atheists, you’re golden.

Here’s the depressing section of the article.

Organized secularism has been struggling with charges of misogyny, sexism and sexual harassment for almost a decade. The problem went public in 2011 when a then-little-known atheist blogger, Rebecca Watson, described unwanted sexual advances from a man at an atheist conference who followed her into an elevator and to her hotel room.

Correction: Watson was a well-known atheist blogger, active on Skepchick and SGU, and frequently invited to speak at conference…like the international conference where this event occurred. Also, the man didn’t follow her to her hotel room. But the rest is deplorable truth.

She was flooded with both supportive and haranguing comments. World-renowned atheist Richard Dawkins told her to “stop whining” and “grow up.” Dawkins — whose appearances at secularist gatherings can make or break attendance — has been called out multiple times for sexist statements but remains much in demand as a speaker.

Richard Carrier, a science historian and popular secularist speaker, has both apologized for and denied accusations of unwanted sexual advances at secularist and atheist events. He has been banned from at least one conference.

Michael Shermer, organizer of the popular Las Vegas Skepticon event, has denied allegations of sexual harassment and assault from several women, and remains editor of Skeptic magazine and a top speaker at secularist events.

Most recently, cosmologist Lawrence Krauss, another star speaker and best-selling author, was suspended in the spring by Arizona State University for what it described as a decade of inappropriate behavior, some of it at secularist events.

Sikivu Hutchinson sums it all up.

The alleged misconduct of these leaders, “was tacitly co-signed by an atheist leadership that is largely hostile to social and gender justice and complicit in the marginalization of women’s issues,” said Sikivu Hitchinson [sic], an activist who is often critical of organized atheism on the subject of women and people of color. “The atheist movement is no different from other male-dominated bastions in which sexual harassment and predatory behavior toward women are part of the culture.”

Ah, those heady days when I was blind to the injustices implicit in the movement, and could just think happy thoughts and be optimistic about the future. Why did you people have to open my eyes and ruin it all for me?

Maybe because it wasn’t so great for many people who didn’t happen to be old white cis heterosexual men.