Sam Seder vs. Jordan Peterson

Jordan Peterson was on Bill Maher’s show, and I didn’t watch it — those are two names I find utterly repellent. Bill Maher is a terrible host, because he loves to pack his little panels with politically diverse people, and then preside over some of the most inane, horrible apologists for idiocy who have nothing to add to the conversation, and Maher not only nods and strains to find something to agree with them on, but will then invite them back over and over again. Case in point: Jack Kingston, Trump apologist, seemed to have a permanent slot on the show.

So you knew that when he had Jordan Peterson on, there would be little pushback, and as a centrist, he’d agree with every criticism made of the left…and you knew he’d only criticize the left, not the right, will playing the non-partisan. And that’s what happened.

But Sam Seder does not feel any need to fawn over Peterson, and in this clip, jumps all over the stupid arguments Peterson makes in the way Maher should have.

Seder would be a far more interesting talk show host than Maher. Unfortunately, he’d also have the conservatives frothing rabidly for his blood in a way that Maher doesn’t get. They may not like some of Maher’s views, but they know that at his heart, Maher is a warrior for the status quo.

How to deal with a Shermer attack

It could happen at any time. People are still inviting Shermer to give talks at various events, despite his sordid history. He could suddenly show up on your campus! Do not fear, however. One thing we know about the Shermer is that he’s toothless. He’ll bluster and threaten, but he’ll back down, just as he did in his threats to Santa Barbara City College and their campus newspaper, The Channels.

Following threats to pursue legal action against The Channels, Professor Raeanne Napoleon, and City College as a whole, Dr. Michael Shermer announced in an email Saturday that he was dropping his case.

Although we have an excellent case that I was defamed, it is not worth the time and cost pursuing legal recourse for what is (hopefully) an inconsequential incident, Shermer wrote in his final letter regarding the matter. The letter was circulated on campus email by instructor Mark McIntire.

This is what he always does. He tries to silence people who mention the ugly things he has done with legal intimidation, and when that doesn’t work, he wilts. So don’t let it work! Stand strong!

His threats are empty. The Channels did stand strong.

The Channels maintained its position that the article was not libelous, and again decided to ignore the request to remove it from the website. The editors agreed at this point, however, to postpone publishing any more articles related to Shermer.

“It seemed apparent that there was no case of libel here,” said Aidan Anderson, the Editor-in-Chief of The Channels. “Because of that, we didn’t feel it was necessary to respond to the letter at all, let alone fulfill the demands.”

On April 4, Shermer sent a second Cease and Desist to Wallace and Beebe, listing the same demands, but with an extended deadline of 5 p.m. April 12. This time, Anderson responded to the lawyer via email on behalf of Wallace and The Channels.

He wrote that The Channels would not take down the article, and instead invited Shermer to submit a Letter to the Editor. In that letter—which The Channels would publish—Shermer could outline his objections with the article. Shermer never responded.

I guess Shermer’s lawyer agreed. I suspect Shermer’s lawyer has a stack of form letters at hand, ready to go, whenever he gets a phone call: “Who are you mad at today, Michael?”

But also notice that his complaints were effective: “The editors agreed at this point, however, to postpone publishing any more articles related to Shermer.” That’s exactly what he wanted, and he got it.

You should read Shermer’s surrender. It’s pitiful. One of his major complaints is that it was stated that he was investigated by the police, and he quotes his accuser to show…that that was…NOT true?

The newspaper did not fact check the claims nor did they even offer me a chance to respond. That was bad enough, but Napoleon did not simply repeat lies told about me in these blogs, she added a new one:

Although the police did not bring formal charges against him, there have been many witnesses that have publicly corroborated the stories of the victims.

What police? Where? When? Never in my life have I been investigated by the police—or any law enforcement agency—for anything anytime anywhere.

You will not be surprised at his other defense. It was Buzzfeed. Buzzfeed has a solid news division that is quite distinct from their goofy listicles and quizzes section — I think we can guess which one brings in more ad revenue — so it has become de rigeur for the pseudoskeptics to dismiss any uncomfortable facts that the news division brings up by pretending it’s just another bit of clickbait. Read critically, people.

Fact Checking. That’s all it takes to debunk Alternative Facts and Fake News like this, which is why the way The Channels newspaper handled this issue is so inexcusable. There is a reason why no newspaper or print publication or journalistic source of any repute has ever published anything about the allegations against me: they fact check. The author of the BuzzFeed article that launched this whole affair four years ago is a regular contributor to The New York Times and Los Angeles Times. There’s a reason he ended up publishing it on a click-bait site that features such articles as “Butt Facts That Will Surprise You” and “Can We Guess Your Favorite Sex Position?”

Yeah, and the Los Angeles Times still publishes horoscopes, and the New York Times publishes David Brooks (I’ll leave you to decide which is more appalling.)

There’s a reason why I am still a professor at Chapman University, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, a regular public speaker at colleges and universities around the country, and my books are published by one of the most respectable book publishers in the world: they fact checked the allegations against me and dismissed them. Social justice activists whose priorities veer far from the truth-value of claims and allegations have actively tried to get me fired and failed. Why? Fact checking.

That is incorrect. Before I posted any accusations against him, the first thing I did was check the facts — they’re pretty much unassailable. Multiple women stepped forward to complain about his creepy behavior. The reason is not fact checking at all, it’s more like fact ignoring that permits him to get away with it. There are two real reasons he still gets that positive attention:

  1. His chosen domain is the skeptic movement, which you may have noticed has a sexual assault and harassment problem. Major figures in that movement have a history of turning a blind eye to harassment problems. This is the kind of response he gets from skeptic leaders:

    “Shermer has been a bad boy on occasion — I do know that,” Randi told me. “I have told him that if I get many more complaints from people I have reason to believe, that I am going to have to limit his attendance at the conference.

    “His reply,” Randi continued, “is he had a bit too much to drink and he doesn’t remember. I don’t know — I’ve never been drunk in my life. It’s an unfortunate thing … I haven’t seen him doing that. But I get the word from people in the organization that he has to be under better control. If he had gotten violent, I’d have him out of there immediately. I’ve just heard that he misbehaved himself with the women, which I guess is what men do when they are drunk.”

    He only misbehaves himself with women. Well, that’s alright then!

  2. The other reason, the biggest reason, is that he is goddamned litigious. He is litigious as fuck. If you listen to his accusers, he will cheerfully sic a lawyer on you.

I just want you all to know that the power of #1 is fading, as more of these enablers in the movement find themselves out of power. And he’s effectively weakening his main tool, #2, because he threatens but backs down. He has to back down, because if he followed through he’d find himself exposed in the court of public opinion.

Ark Park stats

Dan Phelps just sent me the attendance numbers for Answers in Genesis.

I just received my KORA package from Williamstown. The winter has not been kind to Ken Ham in spite of his twitter posts concerning people “pouring in” to the Ark Encounter. I don’t see how, even if they have fantastic attendance for the remaining months, they will make 1.4 million visitors as Ham and AiG have repeatedly claimed. Here are the numbers I just received:

November 2017: 51,914
December 2017: 36,472
January 2018: 13,250
February 2018: 17,961
March 2018: 62,251

Last Fall I obtained the following numbers:

July 2017: 142,626
August 2017: 106,161
September 2017: 83,330
October 2017: 93,639

The total for July 2017 to March 2018 is: 607,604

To make 1 million visitors for the year, they will have to average 131,000 visitors per month for April, May, and June 2018. That is not impossible, but unlikely (note July 2017 had more than 142,000 visitors, their best month since figures have been available to the public). To reach 1.4 million visitors in the year since figures have been public record, they will have average about 264,000 visitors per month for April, May, and June 2018. AiG appears to have a lot of money, but one can’t help suspect the Ark is bleeding money.

Those would be respectable (but not spectacular) attendance numbers if Ken Ham hadn’t been setting extravagant expectations. Also, the ten-fold reduction in attendance between July and January is notable — it’s a very up-and-down business.

Omniology fails to check Snopes

Ah, yes…the familiar “There were giants in the Earth in those days” spiel. I’m always surprised at how credulous creationists are.

You may be wondering where you can see the bones of the 12 meter tall man, like this fellow:

The answer is…find someone good with Photoshop. Also, be ignorant of the square-cube law. You could also try watching the recent HBO documentary about Andre the Giant, who was ‘only’ 7 feet tall and suffered terribly from the difficulties of joints that couldn’t cope with the weight.

By the way, the image seems to come from the Mt Blanco Creation Museum and Journal of Omniology, the less well-known creation ‘museum’ in Texas. It’s one I’d like to visit someday, because the owner, Joe Taylor, seems wackier than most, but it’s got a history of financial woes and was up and down for years. He doesn’t seem to be quite as venal as Ken Ham, but he is pretty cranky.

Have you ever wondered why the #MeToo movement hasn’t caught up with Michael Shermer?

I can tell you why: it’s because he bullies people, is litigious, and does his best to make life miserable for anyone who squeaks. I publicized a woman’s first person account of how he took advantage of her at a conference — she was terrified that he’d go after her and he did — and he responded by encouraging conference organizers to blackball me, and threw a lawsuit at me (he later backed down, since it was just going to be a parade of witnesses describing his deplorable behavior).

That turns out to be a common reaction on his part.

Shermer spoke at a west coast college lately, and one faculty member objected, sharing articles others had written about his behavior to the college’s in-house e-mail list. Shermer went ballistic. He sent a long, angry email to the professor; had another person who writes for his magazine contact them; made legal threats; defamed them (confirmed by a lawyer); sent multiple aggressive emails to the campus email list; blustered as he does, and eventually backed down on his threats of a lawsuit, after compelling my correspondent to hire a lawyer to deal with all the sabre-rattling. A portion of their email to me:

Shermer was a recent campus speaker at my college and after I shared articles about the allegations against him, I received legal threats from him (among other things in a 10 paragraph long email), intimidation from someone that writes for his magazine, I had to retain a lawyer, all while my college administration knew it all has been happening and stayed quiet (and then sent a late night email saying “let’s not get distracted…” after the campus faculty and staff generated a 8k gofundme account so I could afford a lawyer, but I’ve digressed…). This Saturday Shermer sent his second all-campus horrible email defaming me for the second time and said even though he has a “really good case against me” (he doesn’t) he’s decided to not sue me (when really his lawyers probably told him there is no case after my lawyer responded twice). There’s a million more details that I’m leaving out for now.

Now doesn’t that sound familiar? It’s what he did to me, except, at least, he didn’t spam my campus email server with his diatribes. This is how he always reacts, rushing to silence others’ free speech.

Somehow, though, those alt-right/right wing crusaders for “FREE SPEECH” never get around to criticizing their libertarian hero. I don’t know why, other than that it’s entirely clear that they’re actually interested in suppressing some free speech…just not their own. Another email from my correspondent:

I guess he’s shut down now, as he sent a second letter to my campus (that was sent all campus for the second time by a problematic adjunct faculty member who is acting like Shermer’s lap dog), but what bugs me is he gets to do this over and over again to people. He sent me two cease desists from his attorneys. Luckily my attorney shut it down both times. I knew he had no case from her go, as all I did was share articles written years ago with my campus.

His first letter that went all-campus (literally everyone I work with!) was 10 paragraphs of vitriol where he threatened to have a restraining order against me and his wife was going to be on “the look out for me”. He defamed me in it (actually defamed me, as confirmed by my lawyer).

Why does Scientific American employ such an asshole? As you know best, he’s been accused of this stuff multiple times by multiple people and even had a title ix investigation on him at Chapman….and he’s uses heavy handed letters to silence people. I was hoping someone would write an article about his tactics. Is that not interesting in the wake of the me too movement to see how people like him operate to silence people? Perhaps you have grown tired of him, but maybe you know someone in your circle that wants to pursue this further? After living through his reign of bullshit of a month, there’s a level of Justice I haven’t felt by him getting the last word on my campus AGAIN with his nonsense with “I’ve decided not to sue.” (When he had no case).

I’ve also read some of the responses of his defenders on campus. Some are shocked and regretful — they’ve been using his articles in classes for years and never heard about any of this (Why haven’t they? Because Shermer launches lawyers at anyone who mentions it). Others flat out lied, saying that all of the accusations against him had been formally debunked. That is flatly untrue.

My correspondent was willing to publicly identify themselves, and it was my decision to keep them anonymous for now — although, at least, there’s enough information in this post that Shermer could figure out who his accuser is. Maybe. It could be there are so many of them he can’t be sure. But they did ask that I include one additional comment — they aren’t going to back down from his bullying behavior.

These horrible attacks by Shermer are intentionally hurtful and you can add mine to the voices objecting to this treatment.

I also have to repeat their question. Why does Scientific American employ such an asshole? It’s not as if he’s even producing competent articles, as has been noted yet again recently.

Annie Laurie Gaylor on David Silverman, harassment policies, and all the usual issues

A good article by one of the founders of the FFRF: it seems there have been many concerns simmering for some time. I was a little surprised by this bit of news.

That Silverman is accused of saying to a woman fighting him off, “You don’t get to say no to me,” however, unfortunately rings true to me. I felt “bullied” while attempting to work with Silverman on the speakers committee for the second Reason Rally. I say “attempting” because I was summarily booted from the committee he was chairing and denied a voice in the planning (but at least not before I was able to secure Julia Sweeney as a speaker, I’m pleased to say).

Also, the FFRF has been leading by example for a long time.

At FFRF, all staff and volunteers must sign an anti-harassment policy, which also instructs on how to report any such harassment. This has been in place for decades.

In 40 years, there have been only two reported or known occasions of sexual harassment. One involved a friend, then in her early 20s, who was accosted by one of our Board members, a middle-aged man, in an elevator as she left an FFRF convention in the late 1970s. He restrained her in a bear hug and forcibly kissed her as the elevator went down several flights. She was a rape survivor, and this repugnant encounter unfortunately summoned back that trauma for her. She told me what happened, I immediately informed my mother, the president of FFRF, who immediately confronted the Board member and demanded (and got) his resignation.

About 12 years ago, I learned that a young staffer, another woman in her 20s, was accosted at our office by a new volunteer, an elderly man. As she walked past him, he slapped her behind with a post-it note containing a weird message. As soon as I learned of this, I immediately contacted and confronted him, and he too was “fired.”

A commitment to women and equality means nothing unless the freethought movement makes clear it will not tolerate sexual misconduct or sleazy behavior by leading nonbelievers.

One disappointment, though: don’t read the comments. Like many of the atheist sites on Patheos, the FFRF page is infested with known slymepitters and miscellaneous sexists/misogynists. One of the only suggestions I’d offer to them is that you ought to curate your comments sections, because they’re pretty much unreadable.

Also, the first comment is from a guy threatening to withdraw from the FFRF because he’s annoyed about the grammar in the post, and talks about how he “could go on for hours”, nitpicking. Yeah, let him withdraw.

Ken — you’re backsliding

The moment an Evangelical Christian compromises, they’re on the road to hell. Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis had that moment when he could have said he’s going to stand by his principles and insist that every employee of his organization must abide by his rigid religious articles of faith, and he wavered and wobbled and decided that in the absence of a large enough population of fanatics in the region, he’d allow some positions to be filled by lukewarm Christians.

We are a Christian organization, and as a Christian organization, we employ people who are Christians. We actually, for the seasonals, we actually have a more abridged Statement of Faith, the fundamentals of Christianity, not our detailed one for all of our full-time managers and others. So for seasonals, I know there’s a lot of young people who still aren’t necessarily mature in all their thinking in lots of areas, but if they can sign the tenets of the fundamentals of the Christian faith, they can… work here.

An abridged Statement of Faith? The Devil loves it when you abridge your faith. Satan just danced along on your principles, kicking out a word here, chopping out a phrase there, cackling as he tricked Jesus into making concessions.

The bad news is that the rest of us are going to have to put up with Ken Ham joining us in Hell now.

Esoteric: intended for or likely to be understood by only a small number of people with a specialized knowledge or interest

Even a small cult can be incredibly profitable. There’s this freaky alternative medicine quack in Australia who runs a scam called Universal Medicine — his specialties are “esoteric breast massage”, “esoteric ovary massage”, and “connective tissue therapy”. My first objection has to be that he doesn’t understand what “esoteric” means.

The esoteric principle is that we are love – innately and, unchangeably. The principles of the esoteric way of life date back to the oldest forms of knowledge and wisdom. Whilst ancient in their heritage, the principles of the esoteric life in human form have not out-dated themselves in relation to what is required of mankind to live in harmony and thus arrest any wayward conduct that does not build brotherhood within and amongst our communities everywhere.

The esoteric means that which comes from our inner-most. It is the livingness of love that we all carry equally deep within and it is this livingness that restores each and every individual back into the rhythms of their inner-harmony and thus from there, the love is lived with all others.

You want to know more? Here’s a short documentary on Serge Benhayon, the guy who founded it. He’s a bankrupted ex-tennis coach with no medical degree, not even the slightest training, and he came up with the idea for his ‘therapy’ while sitting on the toilet. But he’s also the reincarnated spirit of Leonardo da Vinci, so you can trust him. Right.

He’s raking in $2 million a year, and he has 700 followers. I’ve got more followers than that! You slackers have not been sending me a sufficient fraction of your income. All you have to do is go to my donation page and type in the amount of $3000 and click send, and if 700 of you do that, I’ll have made somewhat more than Serge Benhayon. Even better, unlike Serge, I promise not to fondle your breasts and groin or stick you with acupuncture needles.

Ick. That sounds like a threat. Even if you don’t send me any money, I promise not to do that. I think I just realized why I’m not getting rich. I’m not extortionate enough.

Anyway, one of his many laughable comments in that video is this one:

I can’t be brainwashing intelligent people and educated people.

Ha. Intelligent and educated people are just as easy to fool as anyone else. You just need the right hook, and you can sucker ’em right in. (Damn, again — just realized another reason I’m not making a fortune is that I’m not tapping enough suckers with the right bait.)

Case in point: it turns out that Benhayon has followers in the University of Queensland medical school who have been pissing pro-UM stories into the scientific literature.

Mr Benhayon’s acolytes include Christoph Schnelle, a UQ faculty of medicine researcher who was the lead author of three articles on UM health practices.

He and eight co-authors are now under scrutiny for an alleged failure to declare their roles in what has been described as “a dangerous cult” by Professor Dwyer, who is now based at the University of New South Wales.

The ABC has obtained video of four of the researchers publicly advocating UM practices, including two doctors.

Two more researchers are presenters at the Benhayon-founded College of Universal Medicine.

The others are a naturopath and a psychologist who practice at UM’s Brisbane clinic, and a director of its UK-based charity.

See? You can fool educated people.

By the way, Benhayon calls the ‘esoteric’ practices of Universal Medicine the “Way of the Livingness”. More like the Way of the Banality.