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.

Tho thorry their thentimenth got hurt

Dec 28th, 2012 10:50 am | By

NPR reports on the Delhi rape victim and rape culture in India (without calling it that).

The victim of a gang-rape in New Delhi fought for her life at a Singapore hospital Friday as officials in the Indian state of Punjab fired and suspended police officers accused of ignoring the rape of another woman, who then committed suicide.

Indian authorities have been accused of belittling rape victims and refusing to file cases against their attackers, further deterring victims — already under societal pressure to keep the assaults quiet — from reporting the crimes.

Because only sluts get raped and only lying sluts report rape. The sluts.

After 10 days at a New Delhi hospital, the victim was flown to Singapore on Thursday for treatment at the Mount Elizabeth hospital, which specializes in multi-organ transplant. Media reports have said that her assailants beat her and inserted an iron rod into her body during the assault, resulting in severe organ damage.

“Into her body” of course means up her, like a longer harder sharper penis, so that it tore everything up on the way. The reports I saw on Sunday said most of her intestines were destroyed.

But by late Friday, the young woman’s condition had “taken a turn for the worse” and her vital signs had deteriorated with indications of severe organ failure, said Dr. Kelvin Loh, the chief executive officer of Singapore’s Mount Elizabeth hospital.

“This is despite doctors fighting for her life including putting her on maximum artificial ventilation support, optimal antibiotic doses as well as stimulants which maximize her body’s capability to fight infections,” he said, adding that family members are by her side.

She had earlier suffered a heart attack, a lung and abdominal infection and “significant” brain injury, according to the hospital.

All for getting on a bus while female.

Other politicians have come under fire for comments insulting the protesters and diminishing the crime.

On Friday, Abhijit Mukherjee, a national lawmaker and the son of India’s president, apologized for calling the protesters “highly dented and painted” women, who go from discos to demonstrations.

“I tender my unconditional apology to all the people whose sentiments got hurt,” he told NDTV news.

What a way to infantilize them – saying “their sentiments got hurt.” That’s not it. It’s rape culture. That’s it.


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

Bitter herbs

Dec 28th, 2012 9:55 am | By

The Delhi rape victim is much worse.

The 23-year-old arrived in Singapore on Thursday after undergoing three operations in a Delhi hospital.

“Her vital signs are deteriorating with signs of severe organ failure,” hospital official Kelvin Loh said.

On arrival at the hospital in Singapore, doctors said that as well as a “prior cardiac arrest, she also had infection of her lungs and abdomen, as well as significant brain injury”.

And all for why? For because she and a male friend tried to take a bus home after going to the movies. Slut! Obviously she deserved to be raped to death.


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


Dec 28th, 2012 7:18 am | By

Now there’s another fake Twitter account using my name. I changed my profile picture two days ago to try to avoid the deception caused by the fake account (which had the pineapple as my picture). I used the amusing one that Hank Fox took of me squirming at a talk at Eschaton, which he gave me permission to publish. Nobody else has any right to use that photo. The harasser-bully who set up fake account using my name number 2 is using that photo. They’re bullies and thieves and thugs.


 Update: Ed says what he thinks of the thugs (he calls them assholes, which also fits), and what people should do about them.

Update 2: Latest “parody”

Bitter Benson@FakeOphiBenson

How can I exploit the Delhi rape death? It’s all about ME ME ME

Right, because tweeting about it and RTing other people’s angry sad tweets is exploiting it and making it all about me.

The thugs, meanwhile, of course are not exploiting anything, they’re just pursuing an honest…vendetta.

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

Ed launches an atheist cult

Dec 27th, 2012 11:17 am | By

Ed has a post on Al’s ragey video. He doesn’t find it completely persuasive. Usually he likes to be Switzerland when others are fighting, but this time, no.

It seems that, according to Al, I have unwittingly launched an “atheist cult” of “radical extremists” who are “giving a bad name” to “real feminists.” PZ, Jen, Ophelia, Stephanie, Rebecca and others, Al says, “appear to have an incredibly unhealthy vendetta against men in general, and as it appears, the entire Caucasian race as well.” This is not a straw man, it’s an entire straw universe, a bizarro world remarkably similar to the one inhabited by the religious right, where any challenge to their privilege is terrible persecution from “feminazis” and other unsavory types.

While listening to this, it seemed rather familiar. I’d heard such rhetoric many times and I’m sure you have to. But it probably came from Rush Limbaugh, Pat Robertson or some other religious righter that Al no doubt considers to be a neanderthal. When they say those things, we point and laugh with derision. When they claim that those evil liberal social justice activists really just hate white people, we know that they are completely, incontrovertibly, undeniably full of shit. What exactly is the difference between their positions and Al’s position here? None that I can see. It’s the same tired and, frankly, idiotic claim that those who fight against white male privilege must hate white males and seek to do them harm.

Then there’s the part where Al tried to patronize Ed:

I feel really bad for Ed Brayton. He’s actually a really decent guy and someone I’ve known for a while. He’s put an incredible amount of effort, time and personal expense into creating and developing Freethought Blogs. It’s gotta be incredibly frustrating to him to see his baby at the center of all this controversy.

Well yes, but not in the sense that he thinks it’s all the fault of the pesky women who keep drawing ragey harassers to the scene. Or as Ed put it -

I feel like I’m being used as a prop in his morality play and I have no desire whatsoever to be called one of the good guys if others that I care about and mostly agree with are being portrayed as the bad guys. So let me make a few things as clear as I can possibly make them here.

He does that. Go and read.

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

The re-reading files

Dec 27th, 2012 10:55 am | By

Has anybody here read The Brothers Karamazov lately? Or, many times and with great interest? Or anything along those lines? Read it in Russian perhaps? (Do I have any Russian readers? I’m not sure…but then I wouldn’t necessarily know, would I.)

Just wondering. I read it once, centuries ago, when I was in high school. It was my read all the long things phase, combined with a read all the Russian things phase. Clearly I didn’t like it much, or I would have read it more than once, as I have Anna Karenina. But I don’t remember it well.

I picked it up yesterday and took a stab – and found it immediately unreadable. It’s not just the translation: it’s clearly very wordy in a bad way; turgid, undisciplined, prolix, on and on ish.

And then there’s Father Stinking Zossima – oh take it away. Dostoevsky was a preachy Christian and a reactionary, so I probably shouldn’t expect to be able to like The Brothers K. I thought I would give it a shot in case there was good stuff I’d forgotten, but now I’m thinking no I won’t.

Anybody want to argue the other side?

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

Why it matters

Dec 27th, 2012 8:50 am | By

It ought to be obvious why it matters that an imposter is sending out messages under my name, but the fans of the imposter are pretending it’s just a harmless joke and I’m a whiney idiot for objecting.


That’s just a sample of the pretending it’s just a harmless joke and I’m a whiney idiot for objecting, to give you an idea of it.

So I’ll demonstrate.


That’s why. One of the haters is telling the other haters that I started following him yesterday. I didn’t. That’s why the imposter account matters.

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

The latest funny joke from the harassers

Dec 26th, 2012 1:22 pm | By

Making fake Twitter accounts that look like the real ones. Like mine for example.


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

Jesus tells Mo about cultural stereotypes

Dec 26th, 2012 8:04 am | By

Ahahahahahahahaha -


Jesus and Mo on norms.

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

Some romantic victory over a single virus

Dec 25th, 2012 5:30 pm | By

Helen Epstein in the New York Review of Books says polio eradication campaigns aren’t such a good idea. Even if they weren’t mixed up with CIA spying, they wouldn’t be such a good idea, she says. They might might seem like a good idea, but…

The killings in Pakistan—which played out in a series of attacks in several different cities on December 18 and December 19—were heinous. But they also point to some serious problems with the heroic approach. For one thing, in conflict areas where the US is trying to route out insurgents with drone strikes, the UN is often not seen as neutral. But more fundamentally, the lavishly funded, multiple immunizations the polio program requires don’t always make sense—to local political leaders and warlords, or to ordinary poor people who are struggling just to keep their children alive. In order to avoid further tragedies, donors should work more closely with local people to improve the health of children in general, rather than strive for some romantic victory over a single virus alone.


She may have a point, but “romantic” is insulting. As she says, polio is horrible. Improve the health of children in general by all means, but also get rid of polio. Most countries in the world have done it; Pakistan and Afghanistan and Nigeria should do it too.



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

Some tropes

Dec 25th, 2012 11:44 am | By

I drew up a list of some of the anti-feminist tropes I’ve been seeing lately. (They’re not overtly anti-feminist – they’re more “this is how feminism is supposed to be done” – but they’re so crude and wrong and clueless that in fact they are anti-feminist. They’re anti everything that has been recognizable as feminism for a couple of generations now. The “feminism” they think they’re for isn’t really feminism.)

  • Heroism is better than feminism. Don’t talk about systemic problems, don’t be a “victim,” don’t “whine,” don’t say there are obstacles, don’t resist harassment. Just suck it up and be tough and succeed anyway. Anything else is an insult to women, especially to women who did suck it up and succeed anyway.
  • The struggle is over. We won. Feminism has fixed all the things already. There are no barriers, no obstacles, no issues, nothing to overcome, nothing to get rid of.
  • Women and men are different, so feminism is stupid, because it acts as if they’re not. Women are weaker and stupider than men. They like different things. They think in different ways. They shop. They fuss with their hair. They gossip. They don’t like sports or computers or gaming or cartoons or computer science or engineering or philosophy or science or logic or atheism or speaking in public or activism.
  • The way things are now is exactly how they are supposed to be. The jobs and interests and lives people have are all exactly the ones they want to have under any conditions whatsoever. People’s choices are not the least bit shaped by the surrounding culture or expectations or stereotypes or bullying or harassment or sexism or misogyny. There is no reason to ask why there are so few women in philosophy or physics or computer science. The numbers and proportions are what they are because everyone made a free choice, and that’s all there is to it.
  • There is no reason to make an extra effort to recruit women to fields and activities where they are a minority, because any time women are a minority, it is because they want to be.
  • Harassment and sexism and overt, vocal misogyny make no difference to anything. They’re all just jokes, just part of life, just haters being haters, just a tiny corner of something, just a little irritation which adults ignore.
  • The real feminism, “equality” feminism, is about formal explicit written laws, and nothing else. The laws are now all perfectly fair and egalitarian, so feminism has no work left to do, so any residual feminism is obviously crazy. Critical reflection on culture and stereotypes is “radical” feminism and it’s totally crazy and wrong. Dislike of overt, vocal misogyny is radical and crazy and wrong. Real feminists get the joke and laugh along with it.

That’s the list.

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

Santa and God have much in common

Dec 24th, 2012 5:34 pm | By

Kevin Smith (of CFI-Canada) contributes to an Ask the Experts piece on Should parents allow children to believe in Santa Claus?

It’s a short stretch of a child’s imagination to blur the legends of Santa and the Christian god. They have much in common.

That’s why allowing for a belief in the magic of Santa Claus is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give their little ones at Christmas. While it may seem irrational to perpetuate a myth about a jolly old man who slides down chimneys delivering gifts, it encourages a child’s development in critical thinking.

Unless the adults block it!

Well I suppose I didn’t go on believing in Santa Claus until I was 17 or anything. But the blocking still annoyed me. It seemed like breaking an implied agreement – you don’t lie to the child when the child asks a serious question.

It’s funny in a way though, because I can’t for the life of me remember ever really believing in god. I remember tv shows from early childhood, but not early childhood mental pictures of god. Maybe tv got in the way of god – which is why idolatry is supposed to be a bad thing, isn’t it: the image or statue gets between you and the…fantasy.

Santa Claus awakened my skeptical mind. After the age of eight, I began to question how it was possible for a sleigh to carry so many presents, and why did he use the same wrapping paper as my parents?

The gift of Santa comes with a due-date. It promotes a critical assessment of the world; teaching us to seek evidence rather than accepting something on faith. Why this doesn’t extend to other supernatural super-heroes is beyond my belief.

Exactly. I argued in the other direction – I was in the back seat of the car on summer vacation, age about 5 or 6. Santa Claus is real, I told myself sagely, so maybe god could be real. You see where that would have led in a few years.

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

You have to rub your hands together like a nefarious villain

Dec 24th, 2012 2:12 pm | By

Kate Donovan reminded us of a certain transcript she did way back last June. It was that first Google+ hangout, run by PZ, with Ian and Stephanie and Dan and Rebecca and Jason and Greg and me and…Al Stefanelli. It’s why I’m always so surprised by the height and depth of his rage now – given how well concealed it was then.

Ian Cromwell: If you look at DJ’s record before this latest thing, there’s nothing to suggest he was looking for, or trying to encourage sexual harassment. In fact, my understanding is that it was quite the opposite. That he was trying his damndest to make TAM a more inclusive, diverse environment. His reaction is bad. But it is not uniquely bad. It is not atypically bad. This is what happens when you think there isn’t a problem, and people point out to you, hey look, you’ve got a bunch of problems. The first thing that anyone does is say you’re making it up, you’re exaggerating, it’s not a problem, you’re crazy. That’s a completely normal human stupidity thing to do.

Al Stefanelli: Ian, that might be normal, and I completely and totally agree with you. But we’re supposed to be men and women—people—of reason. And it doesn’t do well when one of us makes a statement, and we’ve all, at one time or another in our careers, made statements, printed things, said things, that turned out to be inaccurate, and when we were called on it, we retracted it. We came, on our blogs and our videos and our [couldn’t make it out], and said, you know, I said this, I wrote this, I was wrong, let’s move on.

Jason Thibeault: I’ve had to walk back things I’ve said that I didn’t intend the way they were said. And I’ve had to walk them back and correct them.

Al Stefanelli: Now, when you’ve got an individual who has as much influence as DJ does, when you get an individual like that, who was presented with evidence, it reminds me a lot of another demographic of our species who does the same thing, pretty much burying your head in the sand and saying ‘if I don’t say anything about it or if I ignore it, it will go away”. Problem is, we’re all skeptics. And it does not go away.

Gosh. He doesn’t sound like that now. I wonder what happened.

Al Stefanelli: Correct me if I’m wrong, Rebecca, but after DJ had said that there was no issue, or no problem, or however he stated it, didn’t he receive ample evidence or proof or accounts afterwards? That’s the point I’m was making, is that to deny that there was ever anything going on, after receiving reports… I don’t believe that there was any malice. I just think it’s poorly executed attempt to put a positive spin on something.

Rebecca Watson: Yeah, DJ reported that there were—

Al Stefanelli: –acknowledge and apologize—

Stephanie Zvan: Well, he received the second report at TAM last year.

Al Stefanelli: So he knew about it prior to the fact, then, right, Stephanie?

Stephanie Zvan: Before he made these statements. He received the report last year at TAM.

Rebecca Watson: Yeah.

PZ Myers: It’s always the cover-up that gets you, isn’t it? That’s what’s happening here. You know, I don’t think any of us think that TAM is particularly awful, as far as sexual harassment. And as Rebecca mentioned, it’s always been the model convention for a lot of us as for how to handle diversity. And the problem is that here we’ve got a few incidents. They’re reported, and they’re swept under the rug and ignored, and that’s what’s bother people. Why can’t you just face up to the fact that yes, there has been a small amount of sexual harassment going on at TAM, you haven’t been very effective at treating it; we’d like to see you be better about it. That’s what we’re saying. That’s what we want. And DJ seems to be running away from this. That’s the annoying thing about it.

Rebecca Watson: Every, every conference has problems. Not just in the skeptic or atheist communities—every conference everywhere has problems. So when you tell us that there’s never any problem at this conference, first of all, that’s highly dubious. And then all these reports come in and show that it’s flat out wrong. However, there are other conferences that say yeah, things happen. Here is what we do to take care of them. Here is what’s happened in the past. Here’s how we do our best to keep you safe. That is what’s going to make people feel safe, and come out to your conferences.

Al Stefanelli: And it won’t throw up any red flags. Whenever someone says “never”, it always throws up a red flags, particularly in the skeptical community. Don’t tell us something never happens. Because somebody is going to find a report of something that happens, and they’re going to call you on it. It’s like when they find that misused comma in your blog.

But but but but I thought we were the bad guys here.

Jason Thibeault: And I think there’s a lot of misinformation going on in this entire fight, from the very get-go. Look at—first of all, DJ has been conflating TAM with the entirety, the totality, of the skeptic/atheist communities. It’s kind of ridiculous. And then come the trolls, who say that Rebecca and Stephanie are trying to ruin TAM. And there comes the troll who says Ophelia thinks TAM is like Nazi Germany. And there are so many instances where—

Ian Cromwell: Wait. Those aren’t true? [deadpan]

[everyone chuckles]

Ian Cromwell: I don’t know… I heard from a preeeeetty reliable source.

[more chuckling]

Rebecca Watson: Surely those trolls can’t think I’m trying to ruin TAM. I backed out of TAM, so I’m sure they think TAM is way better now, sooo

Jason Thibeault: Oh, but you’re trying to send women to TAM so that you can have them harassed, and then you can talk about it, and then take over the movement. That’s what I heard.

Rebecca Watson: Really? Like it’s entrapment? Oh, God.

Al Stefanelli: If you’re going to do that, you have to rub your hands together like a nefarious villain.

[more laughs. Ian and Jason recommend buying a fake mustache at the same time. Jason illustrates with his mustache. More laughing happens]

PZ Myers: So that’s it. When DJ said only 18% of the attendees were women, he wasn’t saying we need more women, he was saying we need to get rid of these women somehow.

[more laughs]

Rebecca Watson: Now it’s going to look really bad when it comes out that the uniform all of our grant attendees have to wear is just like a string bikini, and you know…

[more laughing]

Ian Cromwell: Can I get one of those?

Jason Thibeault: …uniform of the Galiban?

Al Stefanelli: I find it quite ironic that the people who are accusing The Powers That Be of trying to ruin TAM, are actually trying to make it better. Theyre trying to make it a better event. That’s disheartening to me. When people are trying to make a venue, you know, more attractive to everybody, to be accused of trying to make it worse. It’s mind-boggling.

That was then. This is now.


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

Santa is real!!

Dec 24th, 2012 1:57 pm | By

So what about Santa Claus, huh? Alex Gabriel has been saying on Twitter that adults shouldn’t tell children lies and Santa Claus is a lie so what about it eh? And people are unagreeing with him.

I agree with him though. I agree with him because I resented being lied to about it when I was a kid. I thought it was a dirty trick, since adults have that advantage that children tend to believe them, because they’re supposed to know better and tell the truth and all like that. You know what? I still think that.

I don’t see the point of it, in the case of people who value the truth. It seems strange not to want to begin as you mean to go on. Why not just treat Santa Claus as a fun story and ritual?

What do you think, Linda?

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

No message in the event

Dec 24th, 2012 10:43 am | By

The Washington Post takes a look at how atheist parents try to comfort their children after (our all-too-frequent) mass shootings.

As so many millions of Americans turn to clergy and prayers to help their
children sort out the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, parents like Drizin
do not. They don’t agonize over interpreting God’s will or message in the event.
They don’t seek to explain what kind of God allows suffering, and they don’t
fudge it when children ask what happens to people who die, be they Grandma or
the young victims of Newtown.

And that’s not all bad. God and heaven seem like quick and ready comfort to many people, and no doubt that’s how it works for many, but…

…they bring uncomforting problems with them, especially the what kind of god question. It’s the difference between one malevolent person, and a malevolent god who runs everything. Which is more frightening?

The Post talks to Jamila Bey.

Atheist parents describe talking about death with their children in a straightforward way, without anxiety.

“We are a science-based family. When we don’t know the answer, we say, ‘We don’t know.’ We don’t say ‘Jesus did it,’” said Jamila Bey, a 36-year-old D.C. radio host who attended Catholic churches and schools through college. Her son is 4.

Bey’s son was too young to hear about the Newtown shootings, but she said she was confronted unexpectedly with the topic of death a few months ago when he saw an episode of “Babar” in which a hunter shoots and kills the fictional elephant’s mother.

“He said, ‘Little boys shouldn’t be without their mommies, is she ever coming back?’ ”

I had to explain, ‘Honey, life is very long, but sometimes bad things happen. Not often and they hurt.’

“I said, ‘When people die, it’s just like before they were ever born. They’re not scared, they’re not hungry, they’re not cold. But the people left behind miss them.’ I didn’t fill him with ideas of celestial kingdoms where you get wings and shit.”

Ohh, I remember finding the shooting of Babar’s mother upsetting as a child. Kind of permanently upsetting – I loved the book and read it often. It’s a poignant illustration.

When Matthieu Guibert’s mother-in-law passed away this summer, his 10-year-old son heard a pastor at the grave mention a possible afterlife.

“He said it sounded weird to him, she was gone; how would we meet her again? It’s hard to grasp for a 10-year-old. I tried to tell him, ‘When you die some people think it’s part of another life, but we don’t believe it because there is no proof. We’d rather focus on this life.’ ”

Guibert was raised Catholic in France and his wife as an evangelical in the United States, and they want the boys to be informed.

“We try to emphasize religions with an ‘s.’ We tell them we don’t believe in any of it. Nothing. None,” said the 35-year-old Germantown scientist. But he said they don’t talk too much yet to the children about atheism and “try to stay neutral.”

“As far as morality and how to behave, when it comes up I say ‘You don’t have to have religion to know right from wrong.’ The golden rule is what we go by,” said Guibert, who attends a monthly parent meet-up connected with the pro-secular Center for Inquiry.

Not only do you not have to have religion to be good, but religion can (and does) very often get it wrong.

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

We are blighting the entire concept of social justice and equality

Dec 23rd, 2012 4:22 pm | By

Holy shit. Al Stefanelli has really jumped the shark.

He’s done a video to say how horrible the Bad FTBers are, and he doesn’t hold back.

He starts with a bang:

So what the hell is wrong with these people? Who? Well, PZ Myers, Ophelia Benson, Stefanie [sic] Zvan, Rebecca Watson, to a degree Jennifer McCreight, Amy Roth, Melody Hensley, several people over at the Atheism Plus forum, a handful of others who have managed to not only drive people away from nonsectarian activism in droves, but have driven a wedge deep into what should be a unified cause. They aren’t helping, anywhere. They are radical extremists in several genres, including feminism, and are giving a bad name to several groups, several marginalized groups, including real feminists, the LGBT community, and they appear to have an incredibly unhealthy vendetta against men, as it appears, and in general against the entire Caucasian race as well.

We’re giving a bad name to real feminists? The LGBT community? We have an incredibly unhealthy vendetta against men and against the entire Caucasian race?

I don’t know any of that, and I don’t think it’s true.

But that’s comparatively mild. There’s more.

Well together they appear to be nothing other than another religious cult. They have not only become a caricature unto themselves, but they are blighting the entire concept of social justice and equality, and they are trampling on the rights of several other demographics.

 His demeanor is…unpleasant. It’s O’Reilly-like. It’s thuggish. It’s ten minutes of ragey rage, much of it quite frankly lies, and it ends with a hymn of praise for…the slyme pit.

Well Merry Christmas to you too, Al.

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

What can be done to reduce stereotype threat?

Dec 23rd, 2012 12:14 pm | By

What can be done to reduce stereotype threat?

Beliefs about the nature of ability influences a host of variables including motivation and achievement in the face of challenge or difficulty. Some individuals tend to believe that intelligence is fixed, not changing over time or across contexts (an “entity theory”). Because they believe that ability is fixed, entity theorists are highly concerned with messages and outcomes that supposedly reflect their “true” abilities (Dweck & Leggett, 1988; Dweck & Sorich, 1999). When facing challenges, entity theorists tend to demonstrate lowered focus and task avoidance. Others tend to view intelligence as a quality that can be developed and that it changes across contexts or over time (an “incremental theory”). Incremental theorists tend to be more focused on improving rather than proving ability to themselves or others (Dweck & Leggett, 1988). When facing challenge, incremental theorists are likely to increase effort to further learning and to overcome obstacles (Dweck & Sorich, 1999; Mueller & Dweck 1998). Although many studies have treated implicit theories of ability as individual difference variables, studies have shown that these beliefs themselves can be altered (at least on a short-term basis) by modifying how abilities are described and the specific nature of praise (e.g., by praising effort rather than ability).

The whole page is useful and relevant, but I’ll focus on that passage. A cherished trope of the anti-feminism faction is to insist, with more or less affectation of honest looking facts in the face, that the sexes really are different, and talking endlessly about the putative differences is just being scientific. Therefore…we just hafta say that women are not as logical or rational or intelligent or assertive as men, because it’s true, dude.

They’re all entity theorists.

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

A new “religion” on the rise

Dec 23rd, 2012 11:48 am | By

Eh what? Is it 2009? Rita Panahi seems to be stuck in a time warp.

THOSE on the lunatic fringe who live in fear of a Muslim invasion have a new threat to keep them up at night — and this one is real. There’s a new “religion” on the rise whose band of non-believers is becomingly increasingly bold, some would say militant, in not only pushing its own belief system but actively trying to shut down dissenting views.

New? A new religion on the rise? Calling outspoken atheism “militant” is about as new as the hula hoop.

Atheism is no longer just a quiet and personal celebration of reason, it has grown into a movement that is employing some of the tactics used by traditional religion to increase its following and influence.
Is atheism supposed to be a quiet and personal celebration of reason? Is that some kind of rule? Is it forbidden for atheists to argue for atheism? I don’t think so. Religion isn’t purely quiet and personal, theism isn’t purely quiet and personal, so why should atheism be purely quiet and personal?
The increasing secularisation of England has resulted in bans on prayers at council meetings and even court cases over people’s right to wear a cross at work.
Not exactly. That’s a misleading way of putting it. There haven’t been any court cases over a general ban on wearing a cross at work; the court cases have been about people who want exemption from rules that ban all jewelry for safety reasons. Nobody, not the most rabid atheist Cristina Odone could imagine, wants to prevent everyone from wearing a cross at work.

Atheists are particularly keen at showing their disdain for Christianity, particularly the Catholic Church. It’s easy to be critical of the sexual abuse scandals and the sheer absurdity of a Pope who has embraced social media but condemns the use of condoms in African countries riddled with AIDS.

What is not so easy is to be consistent with that criticism when considering other religions.

With a few notable exceptions, such as Harris and the courageous Ayaan Hirsi Ali, most atheists shy away from any real criticism of Islam.

Well, you know, that’s really not true. There are more than “a few” exceptions.
A rather lazy bit of Xmas boilerplate, this looks like, but it’s a lazy bit of Xmas boilerplate that re-enforces an existing stigma against a marginalized set of people. Happy solstice.
H/t Barry Duke

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

Mausoleum smashing time

Dec 23rd, 2012 11:24 am | By

The Islamists in Mali are smashing the Timbuktu mausoleums* again.

“Not a single mausoleum will remain in Timbuktu,” Abou Dardar, a leader of the Islamist group Ansar Dine, told AFP news agency.

Islamists in control of northern Mali began earlier this year to pull down shrines that they consider idolatrous.

Tourist official Sane Chirfi said four mausoleums had been razed on Sunday.

“Idolatrous” is just a flattering word for “not ours so we hate it.”

The Salafists of Ansar Dine condemn the veneration of saints.

“Allah doesn’t like it,” said Abou Dardar. “We are in the process of smashing all the hidden mausoleums in the area.”

They don’t know what “Allah” likes or doesn’t like. They just think they do, because there’s a book, and maybe the book says something like that, kind of, somewhere. They don’t know, but they pretend they do, to justify their stupid ugly hatred and vandalism.

*I keep wanting to make that mausolea, but it seems to be non-standard.

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

If you want to give Ed Brayton a hand

Dec 23rd, 2012 10:33 am | By

Ed had open heart surgery a few days ago.

The good news is that I have health insurance, which I pay on a COBRA from my job with AINN (it runs out in six months and I’ll have to get my own insurance, which thankfully can’t be denied anymore because of the preexisting condition). But I’m still going to have some significant out-of-pocket expenses and loss of income during the recovery period (it’s going to be a couple months before I’m really back to normal). So you can certainly help out financially if you have the means to do so and it would be greatly appreciated. You can donate through Paypal (if neither of these work below, just go to and the email address is

The buttons are all over there, so if you want to help out, you can go push one of them.

The evil FTB tribal tribe is very glad to have Ed back.

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

You keep prodding and poking at them

Dec 22nd, 2012 4:07 pm | By

Oy, here we go again – the Daily Mail is reporting on Dawkins’s 2006 “fear of hell is worse than mild abuse” claim, all over again, as if it hadn’t just been beaten to death again only a month ago, and as if it hadn’t started on its career of being beaten to death way back in 2006.

Raising your children as Roman Catholics is  worse than child abuse, according to militant atheist Richard  Dawkins.

In typically incendiary style, Professor  Dawkins said the mental torment inflicted by the religion’s teachings is worse  in the long-term than any sexual abuse carried out by priests.

He said he had been told by a woman that  while being abused by a priest was a ‘yucky’ experience, being told as a child  that a Protestant friend who died would ‘roast in Hell’ was more  distressing.

Last night politicians and charities  condemned the former Oxford professor’s views as attention-seeking and  unhelpful.

For crying out loud – “typically incendiary style” yourself, Daily Mail! And no doubt one or two politicians and charities did condemn his views, once you phoned them up and asked them to.

What a cheap mindless fuckwitted excuse for journalism.

I said things about it all a month ago, saying the sexual abuse claim was a mistake and should be left out of it, especially now, but dammit he’s right about hell. That’s still what I think, lo these four weeks later – yes I still think it’s very bad to assure children that they or people they love will (or could) be tortured in hell forever.

There are a lot of tweets on the subject on his Twitter timeline at the moment. They’re powerful.


@RichardDawkins as a child I had sleepless nights in tears because I was told people I couldn’t ‘save’ were going to hell. Feel free to RT

Katy McLeod@Kattyness

@RichardDawkins Friend who is kind, gentle, compassionate but catholic is convinced she will go to hell. Seen her sob, terrified, about it.

Teri Green@TeriTurtleresq

@RichardDawkins My dad was an atheist, my mom scared me so by telling me he was going to hell. I had nightmares.


@CoffeePunks@richarddawkins Remember crying everyday,as a 5 yr old, bc I couldn’t believe in Muhammed & thought I’d end up burning in hell.

morgan davies@mgdavies3

@RichardDawkins I once had a Baptist crying her eyes out describing how her own mother was burning in hell for eternity , religion sucks

Aimee Grober@ScienceIsRad

@GreenClouds4@RichardDawkins Telling a child that they were born guilty, and are going to burn for eternity in a lake of fire is abusive.

There’s also a strangely random and untrue tweet from one of the #FTBullies crowd -

Jeremy Stangroom@PhilosophyExp

Daily Mail joins FtB lot in treating Dawkins’s “child abuse” claims in hysterical fashion. #religion

What “FtB lot”? Who among the “FtB lot” has treated Dawkins’s “child abuse” claims in hysterical fashion? Where, when?

There’s no way of knowing, so the mud sticks to anyone the #FTBullies crowd want it to stick to. And on and on it goes.

He did explain his thinking on this subject a few hours earlier.

Jeremy Stangroom@PhilosophyExp

The good thing about many messianic types is that if you keep prodding and poking at them, they will in the end self-destruct.

Ahhhhhhh so that’s what is is. You keep prodding and poking at us because you think we are “messianic types.” That’s interesting. It justifies any old harassment and stalking and bullying, doesn’t it, because all you have to do is decide that someone is a “messianic type” and you can do anything you want to. That’s especially odd because his claim all along has been that we’re “bullies,” but what does “you keep prodding and poking at them” describe other than bullying? I would really like to know. I think “you keep prodding and poking at them” is an excellent definition of bullying.

It’s helpful to know where we are.


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