Rationality Rules is an Irrational Transphobe

The first rule of rational debate is to argue against the strongest argument your opponent has. Anyone can make their opponents’ position look weak by cherry-picking the worst of their points. In fact, if possible you should strengthen your opponent’s arguments before refuting them. “Steelmanning” has practically become a sacrament within the atheist/skeptic community, because we realize the value it brings to rational debate.

With that in mind, look at the title of Rationality Rules’ latest video: “Do Transgender Athletes Have an Unfair Advantage?” I already refuted the key premise of that six months ago!

This argument should be the focus when discussing trans athletes. It doesn’t matter if every single one of them are fifty feet tall, what only matters is if you accept the existence of gender dysphoria as at least partly grounded in biology. If so, then the above argument demands you let them compete in the gender category they identify with. If that leads to situations you think are unfair, then you shouldn’t be using gender as a proxy for athletic ability, instead relying on metrics like muscle mass or height.

Rationality Rules claims to have spent months researching his new position, yet somehow he never stumbled on this? I can sort of understand him missing my post on it; sure, two blog posts of mine currently occupy the top five spots on Google for “Rationality Rules transphobe,” but maybe he didn’t bother doing that search. He can’t have been unaware of Peter/Ethel of EssenceOfThought, though, and they made a related argument:

[9:27] As a guiding tool I’d like to propose a simple principle. If your argument against trans women’s participation in sport can be used to bar cis women, said argument is inherently flawed and should be discarded. So if your argument would exclude cis women athletes such as Margo Dydek who was a 2.18m basketball player, you likely need a new argument.

And yet here is RR himself in the pinned comment to the video:

The “women’s category” is, in my opinion, poorly named given our current climate, and so I’d elect a name more along the lines of the “Under 5 nmol/l category” (as in, under 5 nanomoles of testosterone per litre), but make no mistake about it, the “woman’s category” is not based on gender or identity, or even genitalia or chromosomes… it’s based on hormone levels and the absence of male puberty.

While I didn’t point it out at the time, a graph in this post shows that a non-trivial number of cisgender women have testosterone levels above 5nmol/L. Rationality Rules is not engaging in the best arguments of his critics; instead, he’s continuing his pattern of deceptive editing and cherry-picking to make the arguments of his opponents look weaker than they are. And we can determine all of that without even looking at the video!

I am planning to watch his latest video and critique it, by the way. I’m going to be ridiculously busy for the next few days, and I want to finish off a draft of another post first, so don’t expect it soon. But I wanted to plant this flag because Rationality Rules’ videos have and will continue to do a substantial amount of harm to women. It shouldn’t fall solely on the shoulders of transgender people to oppose that harm.

TERFs are Incoherent

Remember this old claim of mine?

But rather than [use] a specific list [to identify TERFs], it’s more important to look for incoherence. Take the above; if anatomy is so strongly associated with a tendency to violence, how can you hope to improve things by destroying the concept of “gender?” That list of beliefs isn’t universal or definitive, but I have yet to see a single TERF with a self-coherent view of sex/gender. That’s because their “criticism” isn’t actually a critique, based on solid evidence and analysis, but a fig leaf to disguise their bigotry. It’s very similar to the way creationists and snake-oil salesmen will invoke science without actually understanding it.

I was handed an excellent challenge to it. The primary author, Dr. Kathleen Stock, is a professor of philosophy with a fair number of publications to her name. I also recognize Rebecca Reilly-Cooper; she’s a political philosopher and also has numerous published works. This is a “dream team” of TERF philosophers, and they’re here to “challenge their opponents to avoid some obviously bad argumentative moves” in challenge-response format. You couldn’t have designed a better challenge to my claim, so how does it hold up?

[CONTENT WARNING: transphobia, TERFs]

[Read more…]

Rationality Rules is a Transphobe

Ugh, his apology video pissed me off. For instance:

[2:36] Anyhow, yesterday, the ACA, and its productions, published a statement from their board of directors, in which they accused me of making transphobic videos (despite the fact that I’ve only made one video), and they claimed that I’ve published numerous transphobic statements on my social media platforms, though, they neglected to provide any examples, because, to put it bluntly, there isn’t any. Not one. Zero. [3:02]

Fair enough, in the original statement they didn’t give specifics (in their replacement statement, they did). But compare that section with this one:

[1:09] But once I left the ACA’s warm hospitality to fly back to England, their Board of Directors released a public statement denouncing me as “transphobic” and heavily implied that
I’m opposed to the LGBT+ community… which, as anyone who’s watched more than a handful of my videos will tell you, is slanderous hogwash. I’ve defended the LGBT+ community
countless times throughout my short career, and whenever a religion or anyone denigrates them I point it out and crush it where it stands. I mean, I even have a video in which I explain precisely why homosexuality is natural, … [1:42]

So wait, nobody should take the ACA on faith that Rationality Rules made transphobic videos/posts, but Rationality Rules is allowed to assert he’s a strong defender of the LGBT+ community without providing evidence? Go ahead, check the video description, he can’t even be bothered to link to his video on gay people. Gays and lesbians are merely two letters of the four; there’s no conflict between defending them while throwing bisexuals and transgender people under the bus, otherwise there’d be fewer TERFs.

[1:42] … and I frequently emphasise, while many won’t, the fact that a significant amount Muslims harbour harmful anti-LGBT+ views that desperately need to be addressed… [1:50]

Yep, he couldn’t help but go out of his way to toss Muslims under the bus. In reality, US Muslims are as tolerant of gays and lesbians as US Protestants, and more tolerant than White Evangelicals and Black Protestants. They also have the greatest increase of tolerance than any other US group (+25 points between 2011 and 2017), including the “unaffiliated” and atheists (+5 points). I can’t speak for worldwide stats, but there’s more tolerance than you’d think.

[1:50] Now, to be as clear as I possibly can, I know that I made a few big mistakes within my recent video on transgender athletes, and as I’ve stated publically, I am working on a video in which I express my altered views and apologise for what I got wrong, but that’s the thing… I was WRONG on some things… not transphobic. [2:13]

Bigotry is, quite literally, promoting false information. If it were true that black people smoked more weed than white people, it would not be bigoted to say black people are inherently attracted to the ganja, but it’s not true, so it is bigotry. Rationality Rules, by his own admission, spread misinformation about transgender athletes. That makes those statements bigoted. We’d be justified in calling him a bigot if he kept repeating those assertions despite having his bigotry pointed out to him.

[6:57] I’ll shortly be publishing a video in which I acknowledge my mistakes… [7:01]

It’s been over a month, and all he’s done is change the original video title to say it contains “it contains errors,” and changed the blurb to read:

Hey all. I want to make very clear that I made a few major mistakes within this video, and that due to this I’ll be publishing a new video relatively soon in which I correct these mistakes and express my altered views. To be clear, I haven’t done a complete u-turn, but my views have indeed changed in very important ways.

What errors did he make? Wouldn’t it be easy to just pop in a bullet-point summary to prevent the misinformation from spreading? Apparently, Rationality Rules would rather tease us about a future video than stop the spread of misinformation, in which he apparently explains why he hasn’t “done a complete u-turn” about transgender athletes. He’s described his mistakes as both “major” and something “any reasonable person may make.” That does not exactly inspire confidence.

Nor does his divide-and-conquer approach.

[5:04] I feel like I’ve been used, and that I’ve been thrown under a bus immediately after appearing on record-breaking shows for the sake of appeasing a few hypersensitive individuals. Now, with this said, I want to make something crystal clear: I know for a matter of fact that there are many people within the ACA that do not agree with board’s statement, and so please be sure NOT to vent your frustration at the ACA’s public figures, as they’re not responsible for the board’s statement, and they do not necessarily endorse it. [5:31]

All the GOOD people in the ACA agree with him, the BAD people are just “hypersensitive individuals.” How does he know this? He is literally pitting the ACA against itself, fanning the flames of anger even further. And as hinted at earlier, it worked. He continues to use this tactic in a more recent video.

[1:05] Now, a great many of the trans community have reached out to me both privately and publicly to make clear that they were not hurt by my previous video, and that they certainly didn’t find it, or me, to be transphobic. [1:17]

[2:18] I’ve always tried to be an ally to the LGBT+ community, and have always meant for my videos to reflect this, and so to know that my mistakes and hyperbole has likely emboldened some actual bad actors weighs heavily on me… but the weight that I feel is NOTHING compared to those who suffer at the hands of said bad actors. [2:40]

Not only is he pulling out the “my black friend agrees with me” defense, he’s actually saying the transgender people criticizing him do more harm to the transgender community than his misinformation! Like, wow. WOW. He seems to believe that transgender people cannot be wrong about gender identity, when in reality some are no less transphobic than TERFs.

There’s a lot more smoke than fire here, but I think it’s enough to argue Rationality Rules is a transphobe who doesn’t want to admit it. Not convinced? EssenseOfThought made the same argument, from a very different angle and with much better evidence.

Woodford presented cis women as having their dreams, their scholarships, and their careers taken from them by trans women. [quote] The implication here being that the very thing Woodford argues is a terrible crime against cis women, should in effect be forced upon trans women. Because if trans women are excluded from said sports as he argues they should, that’s the result. And he appears to see that as a preferable outcome. For trans women to be excluded from women’s sports, just to ensure cis women don’t lose to them.

Woodford also resorted to fear mongering, using claims such as these to paint trans people as a threat to society. [quote] This sort of statement is designed to create or feed a moral panic. It differs in no way to the claim that gay teachers are a threat to children. It’s designed to emotionally manipulate the listener into believing that there’s some ticking clock of catastrophe, when there’s really none. […]

The prejudice he started with. The dehumanisation he carried out. The threat he cast trans people as. And the way he used this to argue for the removal of their human rights. All of this adds up to show why his video was undoubtedly transphobic.

I found it convincing, and I bet you will too.

Oh, Alberta

There used to be a rule in my province: if you worked overtime, you could be compensated in two ways. Either your boss would pay you 150% of your normal hourly rate for those hours, or they could give you an equal number of hours off in a future shift. The loophole is obvious: pressure your workers into taking time off, and you don’t have to pay them that extra 50%. The New Democratic Party plugged that loophole over a year ago, bringing us in line with other provinces.

In their election platform, the United Conservative Party pledged to reintroduce the loophole, allowing employers to fleece their employees again and hurting the bottom line of hundreds of thousands of Albertans.

The UCP also pledged to remove the provincial “carbon tax.” This also takes money from Albertans, as the tax is proportional to the amount of carbon everyone consumes. Since industry is by far the greatest polluter, it’s easy to use the taxes on them to offer rebates for ordinary citizens. Indeed, roughly 60% of us paid little or no carbon tax thanks to that trick. To make matters worse, removing the provincial carbon levy doesn’t mean Albertans are free of said “tax.” On the contrary, our federal government imposes a carbon tax if your province doesn’t have one. The UCP solution? Sue the federal government, on the grounds that… they can’t collect taxes, I guess? The UCP is almost certain to lose in court and charge the legal fees to the taxpayers of Alberta.

Oh also, the UCP want to cut the minimum wage. Not for everyone, mind you, just the workers that people don’t care too much about. Meanwhile they want to cut the business tax rate, despite Alberta already having the lowest business taxes in all of Canada, and are aiming to slash the province’s debt, at a time when we also have the smallest debt in all of Canada. Social service cuts are sure to follow.

Their platform, in sum, kneecaps most Albertans. So how on Earth can you hope to win their votes? All you USians in the crowd can probably guess this one. From the UCP platform:

  • Establish an ‘Energy War Room’ to respond in real time to the lies and myths told about Alberta’s energy industry through paid, earned, and social media.
  • Seek out and support Alberta energy companies that are willing to challenge the campaign of defamation by anti-Alberta special interests, similar to Resolute Forest Products’ defamation suit against Greenpeace for $300 million in damages.
  • Launch a public inquiry under the Inquiries Act into the foreign sources of funds behind the anti-Alberta energy campaign. The inquiry will have the power to compel witness testimony, and have a $2.5 million budget.

That’s right, the UCP is proposing a “war” against foreign environmentalists. Local ones either don’t exist, or are “fake” Albertans under foreign influence. It’s a fanciful conspiracy theory, built right into their core platform. Add in some identity politics (Campus free speech! Trudeau sucks!) and grandiose claims of chickens in every pot, and you’ve got most of their election strategy.

The missing bit is something USians are also familiar with, but may not have guessed.

The leader of the new United Conservative Party (UCP) is already promising not to act on a resolution passed over the weekend at the UCP’s first policy convention. Members voted in favour of parents being notified when their child joins an after-school club, including a gay-straight alliance. But Kenney quickly poured cold water on the idea. […]

“Let me be absolutely stone-cold clear: a United Conservative government will not be changing law or policy to require notification of parents when kids join GSAs,” Kenney said.

=====

United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney on Tuesday defended his pledge to proclaim the Education Act (2014), which would remove the prohibition on parental notification if a child joins a gay-straight alliance.

Kenney has faced backlash from LGBTQ advocates, teachers and parents since he announced the UCP education platform on Monday. A UCP government would proclaim the former Progressive Conservative government’s Education Act (2014) to replace the NDP’s amended School Act.

Technically Kenney didn’t lie, in the same way that Alabama technically didn’t ban abortion or William Barr technically summarized the contents of the Special Council Report. On other topics, however, he steals directly from Trump’s playbook.

Kenney’s repeated insistence Monday that the change would simply align Alberta with overtime laws in “in every other province” is not true. In every province and territory where workers can bank overtime, employers are required to pay out those hours at 1.5 times the hourly wage. In B.C., it goes up to 2.0 for anything exceeding 12 hours of overtime.

“This does not affect overtime pay. I repeat — it does not affect or diminish overtime pay,” Kenney said Monday when asked about the line in the UCP platform which he unveiled over the weekend in Calgary.

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“The NDP, of course, is running a fear and smear campaign,” Kenney said. “All we are proposing is that we return to exactly the same [overtime] rules that existed for, as far as I know, decades in Alberta without any, as far as I know, reported abuses.” […]

[Christina] Gray rejects Kenney’s contention that no one complained about the old rules. “I heard people complained during the consultations,” she said. “I know that many workers felt that it didn’t make sense for Alberta to be out of step with the rest of Canada.”

Those South of the ’49 tend to view Canadians as more enlightened and sensible. But Ontario knew who Doug Ford was via his brother Rob Ford, knew they were getting someone who ran their own partisan fake news organization, knew of all the scandals and personality cult surrounding him, knew that in Canada majority governments can do whatever they want, and yet they still handed him a clear majority. Alberta’s United Conservative Party were plagued with scandals over homophobic and racist candidates, and Albertans didn’t like the party’s leader all that much, yet also handed the UCP a clear majority. In the USA, the people involved with their horrific family separation policy could forever be tarred by the association; in Alberta, we just rewarded the guy in charge of our horrific family separation policy with high office. The government of the province next door, Saskatchewan, is looking to follow the lead of Alberta’s UCP. Out of ten provincial governments, in fact, seven skew conservative. At the federal level, the Conservative party is likely to win the next election, thanks in part to systemic racism.

It’s slowly dawning on me that Canadians are no more progressive than our US friends. And now, with the NDP officially out of power and the United Conservatives firmly in, I’m about to get a four year dose of conservatism. “Hellberta,” indeed.

I Think I Get It

We seem to be in a cycle. Every time PZ Myers posts something about transgender people, the comment thread floods with transphobes. Given the names involved, I suspect this is due to Ophelia Benson’s effect on the atheio/skeptic sphere.

Regardless, there may be another pattern in play. The go-to argument of these transphobes was transgender athletes, with the old bathroom line showing up late in the thread. I had a boo at GenderCritical on Reddit, to assess if this was just a local thing, and noticed there were more stories about athletics than bathrooms over there. Even one of the bigots thought this was new. Has there been a shift of rhetoric among transphobes?

If so, I think I understand why.

[Read more…]

When The Joke Is On You

I had no idea.

We have Charles’ five assertions. We now conduct an empirical investigation, examining all the individuals in the universe. We might suppose that Charles intends the word “Caesar” to signify or designate Prasutagus (who, as every schoolboy knows, is the husband of Boadicea). On this supposition (5) could be called true and all the rest would have to be called false. Or we might suppose that “Caesar” signifies the historical Julius Caesar, in which case (l)-(4) could be called true and (5) would have to be called false. There do not seem to be any other candidates since any number of persons must have conquered Gaul and/or crossed the Rubicon and /or used the ablative absolute to excess. And so we act on what might be called the Principle of Charity. We select as designatum that individual which will make the largest possible number of Charles’ statements true.

Wilson, N. L. “Substances without Substrata.” The Review of Metaphysics 12, no. 4 (1959): 521–39.

Apparently, the “Principle of Charity” was never named until the second half of the 20th century! My philosophy classes made it obvious that the concept existed well before then, yet apparently no philosopher had valued it enough attach a name. For those in the dark, the “Principle of Charity” is that when critiquing an argument, you should consider the most rational variation of it. You might know this better as “steel-personing.”

Most opposition to abortion relies on the premise that the fetus is a human being, a person, from the moment of conception. The premise is argued for, but, as I think, not well. Take, for example, the most common argument. We are asked to notice that the development of a human being from conception through birth into childhood is continuous; then it is said that to draw a line, to choose a point in this development and say “before this point the thing is not a person, after this point it is a person” is to make an arbitrary choice, a choice for which in the nature of things no good reason can be given. It is concluded that the fetus is. or anyway that we had better say it is, a person from the moment of conception. But this conclusion does not follow. Similar things might be said about the development of an acorn into an oak trees, and it does not follow that acorns are oak trees, or that we had better say they are.

Thomson, Judith Jarvis. “A defense of abortion.” Biomedical ethics and the law. Springer, Boston, MA, 1976. 39-54.

The Principle creates a distinct pattern: describe your opponent’s view as strongly as possible, then poke holes in it. Thomson does the entire arc in her opening paragraph, and quite a few afterward, but her entire defense of abortion is one long version of this. She makes it clear that she doesn’t think a fetus should immediately be granted full personhood, and all the human rights associated with that, but nonetheless grants it full rights. Thomson proceeds to defend abortion anyway, on the grounds that we value personal property more highly than the right to life. I definitely recommend reading her paper, as (if successful) it renders the primary argument of anti-choicers irrelevant.

This article will argue that humor, in particular irony and satire, when used in the service of criticizing oppressive power structures and especially by members of marginalized groups, is a potentially powerful tool for increasing receptivity and recognition of other ways of knowing and experiencing society. […] However, when these same ironic, satirical, double-voiced tools of humor are used by members of dominant groups to disparage, mock, or discredit marginalized groups or social justice scholarship that seeks to make oppression visible, they serve no such purpose but rather perpetuate dominant epistemologies and power structures.

Baldwin, Richard. “When the Joke Is on You: A Feminist Perspective on How Positionality Influences Satire (RETRACTED).” Hypatia. pg. 2

Which brings us to another “hoax” paper of PB&J. There’s two main points on offer here, and both of them are quite plausible. [Read more…]

Don’t Trust the Process

The methodology states

Summary: That men frequent “breasturants”[sic] like Hooters because they are nostalgic for patriarchal dominance and enjoy being able to order attractive women around. The environment that breastaurants provide for facilitating this encourages men to identify sexual objectification and sexual conquest, along with masculine toughness and male dominance, with “authentic masculinity.” The data are clearly nonsense and conclusions drawn from it are unwarranted. …

while the Areo Magazine article says

We published a paper best summarized as, “A gender scholar goes to Hooters to try to figure out why it exists.”

neither of which is a good description of the actual hoax paper.

Specifically, my study began in earnest after I amassed nearly 3 months of in situ observations and interactions with the group I came to study and, as such, it began after I noticed certain themes common within the conversations the group had in the breastaurant. In particular, I noticed these themes differed in certain ways from those typical in the gym where we trained together. This gave me certain initial themes (sexual objectification and male control of women) that seemed prevalent and identified with masculinity in breastaurant environments, which inspired my study. […]

I aimed to approach the breastaurant environment in a way that documents and characterizes patterns of masculinity I recognized as largely typical within the breastaurant, although atypical to the participants outside that context. I sought to address the interrelated questions of what features of the environment lead men to enact certain masculine performances in pastiche, how men then interpret these performances as relevant to some presumably authentic masculinity, and what this tells us about a breastaurant masculinity that arises in dynamic interplay in some men within breastaurants.

I was tempted to skip this one, as it falls squarely in PB&J‘s themes of “mistake the absurd for the reasonable” and “mislead people about your own paper.” But if they’re alleging that much of sociology is rife with dodgy methodology …

Purpose: This paper ridicules men for being themselves by caricaturing them and assuming bad motivations for their attitudes. It seeks to demonstrate that journals will publish papers that seek to problematize heterosexual men’s attraction to women and will accept very shoddy qualitative methodology and ideologically-motivated interpretations which support this.

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Our papers also present very shoddy methodologies including incredibly implausible statistics (“Dog Park”), making claims not warranted by the data (“CisNorm,” “Hooters,” “Dildos”), and ideologically-motivated qualitative analyses (“CisNorm,” “Porn”).

… it makes sense to analyse one of their papers with a weak methodology. Let’s involve both of us in this: suppose you want to assess the attitudes present by patrons at a certain type of restaurant. What sort of process would you use? Take a few minutes to think about it yourself, before I outline how I’d do it. [Read more…]

The Flat-Earther Approach

Imagine a group of Flat-Earthers who are astonished and a bit annoyed that anyone would think the world is approximately an oblate spheroid. They hatch a plan to embarrass these “round-Earthers:” they’ll sneak scientific papers that provide evidence the Earth is an oblate spheroid into “round-Earther” journals. When some of them get published, they reveal the true authorship and keel over laughing that the “round-Earthers” could take those papers seriously.

To everyone but those Flat-Earthers, they look completely out to lunch. “The moon is made of green cheese” is not absurd per-se, it is absurd because of the premises it rests on and the consequences that follow. As long as humans have existed, we’ve realised the moon is a giant object some distance away; how would you get enough milk to make something that large? How would you get enough coagulant? I doubt you put much thought into those absurdities, because once society has reached a consensus there’s no need to rehash what everyone knows. The corollary is that if you view all those underlying premises as plausible and the logic connecting them as without obvious defect, then a statement like that cannot be absurd.

[CONTENT WARNING: Uncensored sex talk.]

[Read more…]

Y U Do Dis?

Often, you get the most useful results when you challenge your assumptions. Let’s look at the runt of Boghossian et. al‘s litter.

Our papers also present very shoddy methodologies including incredibly implausible statistics (“Dog Park”), making claims not warranted by the data (“CisNorm,” “Hooters,” “Dildos”), and ideologically-motivated qualitative analyses (“CisNorm,” “Porn”). (…) Questionable qualitative methodologies such as poetic inquiry and autoethnography (sometimes rightly and pejoratively called “mesearch”) were incorporated (especially in “Moon Meetings”).

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In addition to the problematic nature of men’s attraction to women, we also published a rambling poetic exploration of feminist spirituality generated largely from a teenage angst generator which we hypothesised would be acceptable as an alternative, female “way of knowing”. That paper was purely silliness, and the journal a minor one.

“Minor” is a bit of an exaggeration; that journal is ranked 179th out of 268 clinical psychology journals on SJR, and 75th out of 122 medical rehabilitation journals. [Read more…]