Notes and Comment Blog

Our short and pithy observations on the passing scene as it relates to the mission of Butterflies and Wheels. Woolly-headed or razor-sharp comments in the media, anti-rationalist rhetoric in books or magazines or overheard on the bus, it’s all grist to our mill. And sometimes we will hold forth on the basis of no inspiration at all beyond what happens to occur to us.

A horror in Kashmir

Nov 1st, 2012 10:01 am | By

A complete and utter horror.

Muzaffarabad: A mother and father in Pakistan-administered Kashmir killed their 15-year-old daughter by dousing her with acid after seeing her talking to a young man, police said on Thursday.

By dousing her with acid. Can there be a worse way to die? Being set on fire, perhaps.

And for talking to a man. Parents. Their child. Acid. Talking to a man.

Local police officer Tahir Ayub told AFP the father, Mohammad Zafar, had had suspicions about his daughter Anvu Sha and became enraged when he saw her with a boy outside their home on Monday.

“Zafar beat her up and then poured acid over her with the help of his wife. She was badly burnt but they did not take her to hospital until the next morning, and she died on Wednesday,” Ayub said.

Doctor Mohammad Jahangir of the state run Kotli hospital confirmed the death, saying the girl was brought to hospital in a “very critical condition” with almost 70 per cent burns.

She must have been screaming with agony all night. Apparently they just sat around listening.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Just a thought

Oct 31st, 2012 3:28 pm | By

Also -

Mormon Church questioned by American Atheists

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Reap Paden is another Mencken, or even Hitchens

Oct 31st, 2012 2:58 pm | By

I kid, I kid.

But he tries!

He drops in here with his totally cool angry atheist avatar and his rapier wit, and he puts me in my place.

I apologize if someone has already made this point–

Ophelia I think I can speak on behalf of at least a whole hell of a lot of people when I ask “When are you going to deflate your head and come down for a landing?” Some of the incredible things I have seen you post lately make me wonder if you have been eating too much cat food or something.

I plan to make “I think I can speak on behalf of at least a whole hell of a lot of people” my new catchphrase.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

“You’re all a of bunch of feminists!”

Oct 31st, 2012 2:53 pm | By

Martin Pribble reminds us of the Montreal Massacre. On December 6 1989, a guy called Marc Lépine went into a classroom at the École Polytechnique in Montreal. Katherine Ramsland describes what he did there. [trigger warning]

In French, the young man asked the 10 female students to get up and move across the room. He then told the men to leave. No one moved. A few people laughed, as if this were some kind of joke. That was the worst thing they could have done. He had been humiliated enough in his 25 years. On this day, of all days, he was not going to be treated in that way.

Lifting his rifle, he shot twice into the ceiling. It was no joke.

“You’re all a of bunch of feminists!” the man shouted, his eyes now alight with anger. “And I hate feminists!”

This time, he ordered the women to get up from their seats and the men to leave. A few moved to obey, but others remained confused. They wondered whether they should try to overpower the gunman, protect the women, or leave. The choice as to what was best was unclear. But after a few moments, the male students and teachers walked outside. In weeks to come, many of them would have nightmares about this moment, reliving it over and over, wishing they had acted differently.

When the 10 women had moved into the specified corner, the gunman explained his reason for being there. According to survivors who spoke later to police or reporters, he told them that he was there on behalf of males. “I’m fighting feminism.” Women had been taking employment and opportunities away from men, he said, and feminists needed to be taught their place.

Nathalie Provost tried to tell him that they were not necessarily feminists, but this only enraged him. He lifted the rifle again and, as they screamed for mercy or tried to leap out of range, he methodically shot them from left to right. All were hit. Provost was shot three times.

Gendercide, Ramsland calls it.

Martin Pribble explains the aftermath.

The people of Canada were profoundly affected by this massacre, and as a direct result, a group of men initiated a campaign to urge men to speak out against violence to women, and to commemorate those hurt and killed by this awful event. On the second anniversary of the “Montreal Massacre” (as it came to be known), the first “White Ribbon Campaign” was held. The campaign sought to motivate men to stand up against, and speak up about, any forms of violence against women.

This year, the White Ribbon Campaign is now supported and represented by countries in every continent including Australia. The White Ribbon Campaign Australia is this year supported by an advertising campaign called “Hey Mate“, focusing on the attitude that many have about intervening when sexism and violence against women rears its ugly head. It is backed by a pledge that man can make, and publish, publicly proclaiming:

I swear never to commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women. This is my oath.

Over 50,000 men have made this oath, and knowing that they “have got your back” helps enforce the attitude that men too, are sick of violence against women. The “Hey Mate” campaign is made up of four advertisements, and highlights four scenarios; “At the pub”, “At home”, “At work” and “At the party”. It highlights the fact that it is not only okay to point out when someone else is acting inappropriately or violently towards women, but that it is okay to intervene because men are not alone. These kinds of campaigns can only work if they have support of the people. In this case, over 50,000 men have made the oath, but with 22m people in the country, this is but a small percentage of the potential supporters of this campaign.

Good on you, Martin.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)


Oct 31st, 2012 7:41 am | By

Thank goodness for Honda, you know, because without it, there wouldn’t be special cars for women only.

It’s nice of them to illustrate what kind of women the car is especially designed for – pretty, young, delicate, graceful, dainty, skirt-wearing, flower-carrying.

Embracing the design-for-women-only trend, Japanese automaker Honda has released a new car model designed especially for women.

The ‘Honda Fit She’s’ has a “Plasmacluster” air-conditioning system that the company claims can improve the driver’s skin quality, and a special windshield glass that blocks out 99% of UV rays—all aimed at lessening the chances of wrinkles.

It sports a pink exterior, pink stitching for its seats, steering wheel and floor mats, and metallic pink bezels around the shift and dashboard.

That’s great. It’s always worried me seeing women driving cars that are black, blue, grey, green – all kinds of stupid colors that aren’t specially meant for women only. It’s such a relief to see pink cars just for women at last.

That link to the “design for women only trend” (the what?) goes to another pink thing.

Japanese electronics brandFujitsu has launched a new computer that’s aimed at female users.

The ‘Floral Kiss’ Ultrabook is said to be developed “by a team of female engineers aiming to bring elegance to PCs”, according to the brand.

It comes in three colors of “Elegant White”, “Feminine Pink” and “Luxury Brown”.

The top casing has a gold trim an a flip latch that easily open the display, “even by users with long fingernails”, the company said in a statement.

The power status LED and Caps Lock key are decorated with diamond-cut stone, a gold ring frames each key on the transparent keyboard, and the outtake and intake vents feature a floral motif design.

Floral Kiss also features custom-designed apps for women, such as a Scrapbook, a Diary and Daily Horoscopes.

Aw, jeezis. End of sarcasm. That’s so fucking insulting.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Guest post: Why atheists don’t respect faitheists – and you shouldn’t either

Oct 30th, 2012 5:57 pm | By

A guest post by Bruce Gorton.

A faitheist is essentially an atheist who argues for “politeness”in atheist/ religious discourse, in which the polite path is essentially the atheists shut up.

In the civil rights movement these were the “Uncle Toms” and the exact same crew are present in the gay rights movement right now. Ever hear a woman proclaim how much of a feminist she isn’t? It is the same basic deal. If you watch politics, this is the reason why “bipartisan support” has such an ominous ring to it.

It is people who strive to appear reasonable by appealing to what you want to believe, rather than actual reason. We want to believe sexism is a thing of the past, so we are inclined to favour women authors who make that claim.

We want to believe racism is a thing of the past, so we are inclined to favour black intellectuals who talk about the need for the youth to pull themselves up by their boot straps. We want to believe that homophobia isn’t the serious problem it was in the past, so gay people who point out that isn’t the case get silenced.

So long as religious injustice exists, there will be a market for atheists prepared to claim the problem is those who speak up against it.

Now the thing of this is that the “New Atheist”community does have some problems, and being the same species from roughly the same culture atheists are not that much better than the religious and there are serious concerns within the atheist movement.

Concerns such as sexism, or racism, or incredibly inept economic views such as libertarianism exist right now. There is such a thing as an atheist right wing.

But that is never the focus of a faitheist, because if it was it would require acknowledging that sexism is wrong in and of itself, and that includes sexism in the holy teachings of various religions.

Racism, being wrong in and of itself, means we cannot in good conscience not oppose the teachings of the book of Mormon in which the following is said (2 Nephi 5:21-23);

“And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.

Instead the faitheist position is one of constantly complaining about how atheists are being quite upfront in criticising religious ideas.

Take a child who has been abused, would you tell that child that feeling anger at his abuser makes him a murderer? The character Jesus would. To Jesus the rapist who begs forgiveness could get into heaven, but the victim?

Luke 6:37; “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven”

Christianity includes the instruction to forgive not as a step in the process of healing from past wrongs, but a commandment. You do not get forgiven unless you forgive, Jesus does nothing more than add insult to injury.

In the battle between the wrongdoer and the wronged, the figure of Jesus is against those amongst the wronged who would actually do anything about it. The slave must obey his masters (Collassians 3:22), the slapped must turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39) and there is no authority except that established by God (Romans 13).

And by expressing this I am sure the likes of Chris Stedman see me as being “divisive” – yet I am not criticising the religious but the teachings of religion so long held to be good, that their apparent evil can go undetected.

Now I bring up Stedman for a simple reason – the man holds a degree of the basic unconscious racism that I find common in a lot of these arguments over religion.

“But how can we discount the role religious beliefs played in motivating the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or Mahatma Gandhi?”

Why do I say this is unconsciously racist? Gandhi and MLK Jnr were both fighting against social injustices they personally suffered – and they were fighting shoulder to shoulder with atheists to achieve it.

Religion, it appears, only motivates against oppression suffered by the specific religious group that is being oppressed.

History is full of religious figures that have used their religion to maintain oppression (such that Frederick Douglass remarked; “We have men sold to build churches, women sold to support the gospel, and babes sold to purchase Bibles for the poor heathen, all for the glory of God and the good of souls. The slave auctioneer’s bell and the church-going bell chime in with each other, and the bitter cries of the heart-broken slave are drowned in the relgious shouts of his pious master. Revivals of religion and revivals in the slave trade go hand in hand.”)

And what of figures like A Phillip Randolf or Jawaharlal Nehru? What of those who were not religious, yet still stood up?

I do not think religion was the motivating factor behind Martin Luther King Jnr, I think not wanting an America where the colour of his skin relegated him to third class status had a lot more to do with it. I do not think religion motivated Mahatma Gandhi, I think desiring an India free from colonial rule had a lot more to do with it.

Mr Stedman as an atheist, by definition believes religion to be factually incorrect. His question thus reveals that he also believes that in order for non-whites to stand up to injustice, they need to be fed factual inaccuracies.

But Stedman caters to that seeks order instead of justice, in which it is better to maintain the status quo than risk the “divisiveness”involved in thwarting it. He would talk of online snark, while ignoring the death threats received by the likes of Damon Fowler or Jessica Ahlquist, he would speak of being treated dismissively while ignoring the plight of Fasil Say.

Stedman supports the common myth, and there are many who are willing to do that along with him. Heck there are many atheists who believe they are doing the right thing by doing so – yet there is a reason they are treated as being irrelevant.

There are many who deal with ideas, and many more who deal with people. Those who deal with ideas will tackle the rightness or wrongness of the holy books, and you can argue with them. Those who deal with people will tackle the abuses of the holy groups, and you can rally with or against them.

Both those groups have their merits, because both seek to bring humanity forward in their own ways. There is however a third group  – those who seek to maintain a status quo with which they are comfortable, for whom tone matters more than argument, and for whom people matter not at all.

And those in this third group will be forgotten as irrelevant, because they contribute nothing but hand wringing over tone and how uncomfortable they find the argument.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Making law retroactively

Oct 30th, 2012 2:59 pm | By

News from Poland. There’s this guy Robert Darski, of the rock group Behemoth. He tore up a bible onstage once. You know what happened next. But he was acquitted! Good.

Not so fast, chum.

Poland’s Supreme Court concluded on Monday that a person may be found guilty of offending religious sensibilities even if the defendant had not “directly” intended to do so.

The court was examining the matter in relation to an appeal against the 2011 aquittal of Robert Darski – frontman of internationally renowned rock group Behemoth – who tore up a copy of the bible on stage.

Darski’s case will now be re-examined by a district court.

No such thing as double jeopardy in Poland, apparently.

At the trial Darski’s lawyers argued that the concert was for fans, who weren’t in a snit about the bible-rippage. Plus it was…you know…a concert.

However, the Supreme Court has indicated in its Monday ruling that Darski’s actions have legal ramifications beyond the concert arena.

“The crime of offending religious sensibilities is committed not only by he who intends to carry  it out, but also by he who is aware that his actions may lead to offence being taken,” the court concluded.

That’s quite an interpretation. We’re all aware that all our actions may lead to offence being taken. If taking the actions anyway is the crime of offending sensibilities, then nobody can do anything.*

While on stage, Darski called the Catholic Church the world’s “most murderous cult” and tore up a copy of the bible, declaring it to be a “book full of lies.”

Darski had been brought to court by former MP  Ryszard Nowak, chairman of the privately run Nationwide Defence Committee against Sects.

Following yesterday’s hearing, Nowak declared his satisfaction with the ruling.

“A clear signal has been sent to all the courts in Poland that one must take care with regard to offending religious feelings.”

Or to put it another way, that one must take care to stfu.

*No that doesn’t mean it’s fine for trolls to call women fucking cunts all the time. The operative word is crime. Not bad or reprehensible, but crime. I’m not advocating a new crime of calling women fucking cunts.

H/t John Carter Wood







(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

No one wants to hear the whiny sound of a female voice

Oct 30th, 2012 12:00 pm | By

Australian broadcast journalist Tracey Spicer wrote an open letter to Mr Misogynist to thank him for all he’s taught her over the years.

There was the sage advice

from a radio boss during a job interview some years ago.

He put it simply yet eloquently: ”There’s a reason why you don’t hear women on  commercial talkback radio,” he said. ”No one wants to hear the whiny sound of  a female voice. Us blokes get enough nagging at home!”

Yeeah. And blokes are the only people who listen to radio, and all of them “get nagging at home,” and all female voices are whiny, and and and.

On another occasion,

”Anyway Trace. You’re getting a bit long in the tooth. Why don’t you give  some of the younger girls an opportunity?”

Suddenly, all the lights went on. And it was so bright – it made your light  look like a limp insipid flicker.

This is difficult for me to put into words but if I had to, it would sound a  bit like this: Fuck you.

Fuck you, you misogynist bully with your archaic beliefs…

There are, predictably, comments saying that’s not misogyny. Yes it is. It’s contemptuous and dismissive, and that’s misogyny.

The letter went viral.



(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The theodicy of eating one’s children

Oct 30th, 2012 10:48 am | By

And speaking of theodicy…Chris Hallquist tweeted about Biblical books with references to God making people eat their own family members. Oh? Yes. He provided a link.

“And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat.” — Leviticus 26:29

“And thou shalt eat the fruit of thine own body, the flesh of thy sons and of thy daughters.” — Deuteronomy 28:53

“And toward her young one that cometh out from between her feet, and toward her children which she shall bear: for she shall eat them.” — Deuteronomy 28:57

“And I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and they shall eat every one the flesh of his friend.” — Jeremiah 19:9

“Therefore the fathers shall eat the sons in the midst of thee, and the sons shall eat their fathers.” — Ezekiel 5:10

“I will not feed you: that that dieth, let it die; and that that is to be cut off, let it be cut off; and let the rest eat every one the flesh of another.” — Zechariah 11:9

Pretty. On the one hand God floods cities because HoMoSeckShuals, on the other hand God causes people to eat their own children.

Nothing at all crude or primitive or harsh about that.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The Holy God of Israel will judge

Oct 30th, 2012 10:11 am | By

It’s reassuring to see that the theodicists are on the job. They know why Sandy, and they’re letting us know. Sandy of course is because the homosexuals. John McTernan knows.

I want to clear something up. I am not saying this super destructive hurricane was because of the homosexual act. The Holy God of Israel will judge individuals for their sinful acts.

What I am saying is the judgment is for the government promoting homosexual “marriage” as an ordinance. Once a nation legalizes sin, like abortion and homosexual “marriage”: that nations falls under the direct judgment of the Holy God of Israel. God does not destroy a nation right away but first warns.

Also, The judgment comes from more than homosexuality. Abortion and pressuring Israel to divide God’s covenant land also brings severe judgment. He has been warning for many years, which I have documented in my book As America Has Done to Israel. This book only documents judgments regarding Israel. It does not touch homosexuality or abortion. I have posted these events on my blog as they were happening.

It now appears that the warnings for God are coming to an end, and the destructive judgments have arrived.

It’s not a storm, it’s a message in the form of a destructive judgment. Same sex marriage therefore lower Manhattan flooded. (How does John McTernan know that’s a message and judgment on same sex marriage rather than bankers and brokers? Lower Manhattan is Wall Street more than it’s Same sex marriage Central.)

America has not repented of promoting the homosexual agenda so the judgments will not stop. You can be angry with me, but it does not change that America has fallen under the judgment hand of the Holy God of Israel. God will not tolerate homosexual “marriage”. It is the end of the line with sin.

How does he know? How does he know it’s about the homosexual agenda and not about the rise in inequality or the power of lobbyists or reality tv or traffic?

America promotes homosexuality by custom with events such as Gay Pride Day, Gay Awareness Month (June), Gay day at Disney land, Gay Day at sporting events and events like Southern Decadence in New Orleans . There are gay clubs in high school and colleges. The political parties are pandering to the homosexuals for their votes. By custom, homosexuality has woven into the fabric of America .

America is continually making ordinances to advance the homosexual agenda. Sodomites can legally marry in California and Massachusetts while many states recognize civil unions. Homosexuals are now able to adopt children and gain custody of children during a divorce. There are now numerous hate speech laws which are being used to silence opposition to the homosexual agenda. America is a long way down the road to enacting all the Ordinances of the Amorites.

The Bible warns of God judging a nation that walks in these ordinances. When the corporate attitude of a nation is friendly toward homosexuality then at this point the iniquity is full. It is apparent that “the cup” of America ’s sin is rapidly filling up. Americans hardly blush anymore at fornication and adultery.

Something tells me John McTernan is not the most sex-positive guy in the world.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

In the Freethinker

Oct 29th, 2012 4:51 pm | By

Oh look, my first column for the Freethinker is online.

It starts with…

National Public Radio’s religious affairs reporter Barbara Bradley Hagerty did a story about the reactionary (not that she used that word) trend in the Catholic Church the other day. She spoke to the Bishop of Lincoln (Nebraska), who told her that when it comes to doctrines, the church is not a democracy.

“These are not open to votes,” Bruskewitz said. “These are what God has revealed, and the custody of that revelation is of course in the possession of the Church.”

Bruskewitz said the Church can’t compromise its views just because the secular world doesn’t like them.

And then it goes on.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

A thoughtful, fair, reasoned profile of the worst woman in the universe

Oct 29th, 2012 3:51 pm | By

This is a parody. I am being sarcastic. No bison were harmed in the making of this parody.

I have a question. It is this. Why does this one woman that I hate and that a lot of people hate get so much sexist abuse via the Internet? Why why oh why?

While this post applies to several prominent and outspoken women in the atheist community that I hate, I’m going to focus on this one woman because she seems to be the easiest target for most of the sexist online vitriol. Her name is Annabelle Jones and everybody hates her, including me. That makes it much easier for me to focus on her, because there is so much hate of her sloshing around out there already that I don’t have to think, I can just type. All those other prominent and outspoken women in the atheist community that I hate are just as bad though, don’t make any mistake about that. You know who they are. We all know who they are. We all hate them. Right? Right? We all hate those prominent outspoken women. Who doesn’t hate prominent outspoken women? I ask you.

First of all, let me say this. If you’re engaging in anything other than legitimate criticism of her arguments or behavior, I beg you to stop. Don’t be mean. It demonstrates to people who already despise atheists that atheists are immoral, and confirms their worst fears.

There, now that’s out of the way, I’ll explain why Annabelle Jones (whom I hate) gets so much sexist abuse. I do not believe that Jones is getting trolled because she’s a woman. Many vocal women on the Internet do not get any negative sexual attention, provided they haven’t been vocal on the Internet for too long. And oddly enough, it works like this: the less you care or protest, the less online abuse you get. If you don’t care or protest at all, it totally doesn’t happen. Except when it does, of course, but that’s hardly ever, unless you’ve been around for more than a month or two. So there you go. When you get sexist abuse, just don’t say a word about it, and it will have never happened.

Having said all that, here are the reasons I see for Jones’s abuse that have little to do with her gender:

1. Prior misconduct, such as making a joke on a forum once;

2. Online attacks — which is a thing I would never do in a million years;

3. Attacks from the speaker’s platform — she disagreed with someone in the audience this one time;

4. Attacks from other feminists on her behalf;

5. Hypocrisy: for example, using female sexuality to get attention, then blaming others for noticing female sexuality once the goal is achieved;

6. A condescending attitude toward anyone who disagrees with her;

7. An inability to accept criticism and deal with it productively;

8. Use of abusive language and gendered slurs;

9. Mistakes in presentations and speeches, going off-topic;

10. Lack of expertise or experience in many of the areas she speaks about, poor fact-checking;

11. Celebrity that many deem to be undeserved;

12. Perceived dishonesty;

13. Inability to take on a true leadership role;

14. Failure to address topics of concern to the majority of the community;

15. Immaturity;

16. Sexism;

17. Consistent troll-feeding behavior;

18. Taking the last pizza roll;

19. Parking tickets;

20. Wearing glasses;

21. Jokes;

22. Breathing;

23. Being prominent and outspoken.

This is the short list. The long list numbers 47,581,329.

Hat tip: Maria Maltseva.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Go look for the big old mess

Oct 29th, 2012 2:37 pm | By

Jonah Lehrer. Recycling old material aka self-plagiarism. Not correcting mistakes. A culture that fosters and rewards such things. Science writing. Carl Zimmer draws them all together in order to talk about the difficulty of doing good science writing and why it’s important to keep it in mind.

I was willing to cut Lehrer some slack at first, but as the additional evidence came in, I wondered if I was making excuses for him. The breaking point came when I read about how he had warped a story about a memory prodigy, claiming that he had memorized all of Dante’s Inferno instead of just the first few lines. When someone noted the error, Lehrer blamed it on his editor, but kept on using the enhanced version of the story in his own blog and on Radiolab (which later had to correct their podcast). It’s easy to slip up with facts, but we have an obligation to admit when we’re wrong and not make the same mistake again. It would have been bad enough that Lehrer distorted the facts and continued to do so after having the facts pointed out to him. But he was also willing to damage other people’s reputations along the way. That’s when I signed off.

Really. Don’t mess with Radiolab.

The problem, Zimmer goes on, isn’t (as silly generalizations would have it) that all popular writing about neuroscience is crappy self-help, but “the trouble that arises when a science writer reduces complex science to a glib lesson.” Take Lehrer’s 2010 New Yorker article “The Decline Effect and the Scientific Method” for instance.

For years, a lot of scientists and science writers alike have grown concerned that flashy studies often turn out to be wrong. But Lehrer leaped to a flashy conclusion that science itself is hopelessly flawed.

That makes for great copy (29,000 people liked the story on Facebook), for which I’m sure his editors were grateful. But Lehrer himself didn’t believe what he was writing. If scientific studies were fundamentally unreliable, then why did he continue to publish articles and a book full of emphatic claims about how the brain works–all based on those same supposedly unreliable studies?

My guess is that it’s because both “work” so the fact that they contradict each other is beside the point.

The reality is more complicated. After Lehrer’s piece came out, the Columba statistician Andrew Gelman was asked what he thought of it. “My answer is Yes, there is something wrong with the scientific method,” he wrote–adding (and this is crucial)–”if this method is defined as running experiments and doing data analysis in a patternless way and then reporting, as true, results that pass a statistical significance threshold.”

In other words, this is not a matter about which we should simply issue Milan-Kundera-like utterances, like Lehrer does in his article: “Just because an idea is true doesn’t mean it can be proved. And just because an idea can be proved doesn’t mean it’s true. When the experiments are done, we still have to choose what to believe.” In fact, this is a matter of statistical power, experimental design, posterior Bayesian distributions, and other decidely unsexy issues (Gelman explains the gory details in this American Scientist article [pdf]).

I love the Milan Kundera line; all the more because I hate glib pronouncements like Lehrer’s. It’s so easy to say things like that.

Zimmer goes on to explain the impossibility of explaining that kind of complexity in a 1500 word piece, and what is to be done about it.

Writers can either tackle this dilemma with eyes wide open, or they can look for a way to cut corners and pretend that the dilemma doesn’t exist. And readers can improve things too. When you find yourself captivated by someone talking to you about science in a way that makes you feel like everything’s wonderfully clear and simple (and conforms to your own way of looking at the world), turn away and go look for the big old mess.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Disengage and write about another topic (or stop writing)

Oct 29th, 2012 11:47 am | By

Vacula also wanted attention from Stephanie, so like me, she obliged. Unlike me, she read the whole post, which I lacked the motivation or interest to do. It’s good that she did, because she looked at one passage that is quite sinister. Vacula wrote:

Whether we consider classrooms, internet forums/blogs, or the hostile climate against atheists, it should be understood that nasty people exist. The nastiness is, of course, unfortunate. We can work to change this nastiness and hope that people will be nice, but this just isn’t the case and likely won’t be in the near future. We should, then, make responsible decisions based on our environments. If you don’t get along with another student in class, avoid interactions with that student.

Ah but mere not getting along is not the issue. (How I do keep repeating that, don’t I. That’s because they keep misrepresenting what the issue is. It’s not disagreement, it’s not dissent, it’s not criticism, it’s not not getting along. It’s not. That’s not it.) Mere not getting along is not the issue. The issue is a determined campaign of persecution.

That’s different, you see. You can’t avoid it by simply avoiding interactions with that student. The student pursues you, to pursue the determined campaign of persecution. You can’t avoid it unless you leave the school altogether, and maybe not even then.

Also, we already know that what Vacula says is bad public policy. It’s a cowardly do-nothing failure. Teachers and principals who tell a persecuted student to just “avoid interactions” with the persecutor are not doing their jobs. Their job is to make the persecutor stop, not to make the persecuted hide.

It’s not “responsible” to decide that because you are being persecuted, it is your duty to stop doing what you were doing when the persecutor decided to target you. It’s responsible to stay off the road during a hurricane; it’s responsible to evacuate low-lying areas as a hurricane approaches; it is not responsible to decide not to say things because there are vicious people who will respond by calling you a fucking cunt.

Vacula went on:

If you can’t handle negative feedback online and have received it many times, disengage and write about another topic (or stop writing).

Ah well now that really is blunt. Thank you. Now we know where we are. If you “can’t handle” being called a fucking cunt, then stop writing.

Those are our choices. Be called a fucking cunt, and ugly, old, fat; be photoshopped; be misrepresented and lied about; be relentlessly harassed via Twitter and trolling; or stop writing.

That’s just how it is. We were irresponsible enough to decide to be women, so there it is. We can write, or we can avoid constant harassment; we can’t do both. As Stewart said yesterday (and Stephanie quoted him): The real message is “being a woman does not entitle you to protection from the extra hostility you get for being a woman.”


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Of course we do!

Oct 29th, 2012 10:16 am | By

Ahahahaha – I just watched our new neighbor’s Noah’s Ark again. He’s such a genius.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

LSE and ex-Muslims

Oct 29th, 2012 9:32 am | By

The LSE Student Union Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society has replied to the Student Union’s rejection of ASH’s request to change their name to the LSESU Atheist, Secularist, Humanist and Ex-Muslim Society.

We are glad that you acknowledge that the situation of ex-Muslim students is precarious and deserving of special attention, and that they are in need of a “safe space.” On a less enthusiastic note, we are saddened by the fact that you did apparently not consult with ex-Muslims before taking your decision, as Imtiaz had proposed.

We also appreciate your concern about the safety of ex-Muslims, but disagree with your contention that adding “ex-Muslim” to our name would in fact create an unsafe space for ex-Muslim students, in the sense that they would be marked out. The risk of danger that ex-Muslims face in many places does not exist on our safe, quite secure and liberal campus. If we were to follow this line of thought, we should also do away with the LGBT Society and LGBT events, since they also face danger from extremists in this very country – their events have suffered attacks from bigots in the past.

On a related note, we would like to point out that the situation of LGBT people in many countries is quite similar to that of ex-Muslims, in that they also face persecution and lack support options, and we seek a safe space for ex-Muslims for similar reasons.

This safe space must be as accessible as possible. Like any minority group, ex-Muslims will benefit greatly from a kindred community where they can expect support, representation and a wealth of analogous experience. The credibility and stature of such a fellowship in an ex-Muslim student’s eyes would gain immensely from a permanent, emphatic statement of commitment to their interests, which is precisely what our change seeks to establish. As such, it is important that we specifically include “ex-Muslims” in our name. Our idea has already received the endorsement of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and the London Ex-Muslim Collaboration, whose calls for greater attention to the ex-Muslim plight are corroborated by reams of empirical and anecdotal evidence that document the unrivalled alienation, estrangement and despair that define the ex-Muslim experience.

I wonder if the Student Union consulted with the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and the London Ex-Muslim Collaboration before replying to ASH. If it did it must have ignored their advice. That seems high-handed.

With regard to your proposal to change our name to substitute this change for “ex-religious”, we feel that this would defy the purpose of the name change, as explained in our initial statement and above. Our name already implies ex-religious, and the case for ex-Muslims is a separate one entirely. We are in agreement that ex-Muslims are a specific group with different needs to other ex-religious people due to their unique situation, and consequently they are in have a more pressing need for representation and a safe space than other ex-religious groups. The reports of many of our ex-Muslim members and friends testify to this need for special attention.

I wonder if the SU will reconsider. That would be sensible of it.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)


Oct 28th, 2012 6:44 pm | By

I have friends stranded in Nashville. I have friends battening down hatches all over the East Coast and up into Canada.

Good luck, best wishes, chin up, hope you’re all where you want to be and comfortable soon.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Better than a brontosaurus theory

Oct 28th, 2012 4:35 pm | By

Aaron James has a theory of assholes. That sounds like a useful thing to have. I don’t really have one. I have a lot of fragments of theories, but I don’t think they add up to one theory; more like a box of scattered needles.

There’s an excerpt in Salon.

Assholes largely share a thick sense of moral entitlement…[T]he asshole in more recent modern life often requires little or no pretext of larger cause for the special privileges he feels entitled to enjoy. He will usually have some sort of rationalization ready at hand — he is not the psychopath who rejects moral concepts altogether — but the rationalizations are becoming ever thinner, ever more difficult to identify. This newer, purer style of asshole often just presumes he should enjoy special privileges in social life as a matter of course and so requires little by way of reason for taking them as the opportunity arises.

A Fox News guy called Neil Cavuto is a classic asshole. He asks a guest questions and then won’t let him answer.

This is at the very least an asshole move. One often can permissibly shift attention in a conversation, but here it is at best unclearly justified. Interrupting Blackwell several times and then accusing him of not answering his question does not count as even half-cooperative discourse, not even by the low standards of American politics. Even that would not have been so bad if Cavuto had meant to initiate something like a meta- conversation between the two speakers…Cavuto betrays no hint of metacooperation. He simply feels entitled not to wait his conversational turn. He does not have to actually listen to an opposing perspective, even from the person he is talking to. Cavuto could perhaps argue that the host must exert heavy control over the terms of debate, because polite terms will not do. Or maybe he feels justified in his bullying as long as he is scoring points in a kind of televised game show, with influence, profit, and fun as his justly deserved reward. Either rationale could constitute a sense of entitlement — something like the right to rule, or at least to shut the opposition out, while taking the moral high ground.

Does that sound familiar? Yes.

It is not just Fox News commentators but Fox News itself that has the appropriate, in-your-face, I’m-entitled-to-do-this, especially-because-you-dislike-it vibe.

And that sounds familiar squared – that sounds as familiar as the inside of your eyelids. If you dislike it, I will do it; thus spake the toddler.

Roger Ailes: another classic asshole.

If we ask why Ailes fought so long and so hard for all this, however, the answer is not simply the ample rewards. His victory lap comment also suggests fundamental contempt. It suggests contempt not just for his competitors but for a society of people who have always counted on news with a lot of information shaped by a good-faith attempt at impartial presentation. Our fundamental need in a democratic society, for each of us to make up our own mind, now goes unmet by the whole media environment. It reflects not the minds of equals deliberating together about what together to do but the tenor and voice of a single asshole’s mind.

There’s a lot of that going around – the single asshole’s mind poisoning a whole sector.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Another demand for attention

Oct 28th, 2012 2:47 pm | By

Justin Vacula wants us to pay attention to his new blog post. I skimmed it and don’t think I want to pay any more attention to it than that, but if you want to, knock yourselves out. (It seems to boil down to “if you’re not willing to be called a fucking cunt then don’t say anything that might prompt someone to call you a fucking cunt.” I think that’s a very stupid and retrograde approach.)

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The Searchers

Oct 28th, 2012 1:03 pm | By

How about a spot of movie discussion? I’ve been meaning to see The Searchers again for years, having not seen it since childhood (several centuries ago, as we all know). I remember finding it quite haunting as a child. I’ve seen bits of it many times since then, of course, especially the famous closing scene, which I think fully deserves its famosity, or what people call its “iconic” status. Ok they can call it that, because it is sort of literally iconic. It’s visual.

But the opening scene is pretty god damn iconic too – and of course it’s a bookend to the closing scene. Ethan rides in out of the vast empty landscape, and the members of the family collect on the porch. It’s stunningly beautiful.

I can’t find the whole thing on YouTube; no doubt copyright prevents. That’s too bad because this skips the ballet shot from the side of the porch where each character enters and takes up a particular spot, as if on a stage or…for a painting. Still, the first 52 seconds are nothing to sneeze at. The door that closes on Ethan at the end opens at the beginning.

Having said all that – I dislike the sudden veers into comedy, and I dislike much of the comedy itself, especially (of course – so predictable) the hahaha Indians stuff. The worst bit is when the Indian woman who was sold to Martin (without his realizing it) is treated as a big joke, culminating in the scene where he lies down for sleep and then she lies down beside him and he turns over in outrage and violently kicks her away, and she rolls out of the frame. Then Ethan roars with laughter. Ew. Just not funny, dude.

It is about Ethan’s racism, but it’s also racist itself. That’s pretty obvious.

I dislike the time-wasting stuff with Charlie’s courtship of Laurie, and I hate the dopy fight scene between Charlie and Martin. Argh. Suddenly it’s a Three Stooges movie. It doesn’t go with the rest. Knock it off, boys, get back to the damn search.

I knew how it ended but I’d forgotten just about all of what led up to how it ended. I’d forgotten what happened to Lucy. That’s quite a powerful scene – Ethan suddenly roaring, “You want me to draw a picture? You want me to spell it out for you? Don’t ask me! Never ask me as long as you live!” Oh. She was gangraped, and maybe mutilated. Got it.

Oh wait, here is a version with the opening.



(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)