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.


Oct 25th, 2011 4:50 pm | By

Here’s some Maryam, so that you can see why it’s good news that she’s joining FTB.

Iran Solidarity Stall at Frankfurt Book Fair 12-16 October

It is quite unbelievable that a regime that brutally kills off free expression
and those who use it, that forbids women to sing in public, a regime that bans
and censures books, films and the media in the tradition of the vilest
dictatorships will be able to freely spread their views and propaganda at the
fair. No doubt this will be done displaying a show of civility that the Islamic
regime hardly shows to its own people. In the name of representing ‘Iranian
culture’ we will see some well dressed, smiling henchmen of the very regime that has just honoured Iranian actress Marzieh Vafamehr with 90 lashes and one year in prison for playing in the film ‘My Tehran for sale’ which was first given permission (yes, films need to be approved by the regime) but subsequently banned. Inside Iran, the regime imprisons writers, journalists and directors – abroad it takes part in the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Multiculturalism Conference must oppose all forms of fascism – including Islamism

On Saturday 15 October 2011 a National Conference to Celebrate Diversity and Multiculturalism is being jointly held in London by One Society Many Cultures and Unite Against Fascism. The conference describes its aims as opposing Islamophobia and racism.

One Law for All condemns racism and hatred unequivocally, and rejects the racist and violent politics of groups such as the English Defence League (EDL). We also reject the far-right hatred of Islamist groups such as Hizb ut Tahrir and Muslims Against Crusades and reject attempts to silence criticism of Islamism under the guise of multiculturalism or Islamophobia.

We are concerned that the practice of multiculturalism, as it is being manifested in Britain today, allows a blind eye to be turned to the human rights abuses often perpetrated against people within minority communities; in particular the oppression and mistreatment of women and girls. Sharia law, forced marriages, female genital mutilation and the increased forced veiling of women and girls must be condemned as human rights abuses and not legitimised in the name of culture or pluralism.

FTB roolz.

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

Good news!

Oct 25th, 2011 4:24 pm | By

Maryam Namazie is joining FTB.

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

The not just making it up community

Oct 25th, 2011 2:59 pm | By

That thing about drawing the boundaries in a different place, again.

Julian drew them as:

  1. science
  2. everything else, especially the humanities and looking at a painting

I want to draw them as:

  1. science and all other kinds of inquiry that are constrained by reality
  2. storytelling
  3. the arts, aesthetic experience, appreciation

I think we both put religion in a separate category, and both think it overlaps with the arts, storytelling and the like. I think we both think it’s in conflict with our respective 1s, but I think Julian muddled the issue by not including all other kinds of inquiry that are constrained by reality in his 1.

I think it’s good to emphasize the fact that many kinds of inquiry that are not strictly science are nevertheless constrained by reality. If they’re not they become pseudo-whatever it is. David Irving, who falsifies his evidence, does pseudo-history.

This is the bit that Rational Inquiry doesn’t name, and the reason I wanted (and still kind of want) a new name. It’s what Ron Susskind pointed up with the famous line from the Bush admin official about not having to bother with “reality-based” thinking. It’s the really important difference between theist thinking and whatever the word is for my 1 – reality-constrained inquiry is what I mean, but it’s a clunker of a phrase. The important difference is (to spell out the obvious) the difference between just making it up and knowing that just making it up won’t do.

Just making it up is fine for some purposes. It’s what my 2 is all about. It’s compatible with my 3. But for my 1, it’s the kiss of death; it’s the one thing you must not do. If you’re trying to find out the truth about anything, including something as trivial as where you put the dog’s leash, just making it up will do you no good. Educated guesses may do you good, intuitions may get you started, but just making it up will thwart your purposes.

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

Iphigenia in America

Oct 24th, 2011 5:20 pm | By

Vyckie Garrison reviews a Quiverfull classic, Me? Obey him?

I am no less rational than my (ex)husband.  He also is gifted with a strong intuition and emotional intelligence.  Convinced as we were that I was more susceptible to Satanic deception, our family was deprived of my reasonable input in decision making.  My intelligence was squelched, my intuition was distrusted and my feelings were denied.  My husband developed an artificially inflated sense of his own powers of logic.  I can’t count how many times he said to me, “What you are saying sounds reasonable, but how do I know that Satan is not using you to deceive me?”  I had no good defense.  According to the Scriptures, we had every reason to believe that I was indeed being used to lead my husband astray.

What a horrible, sad, tragic way to live. How heart-breaking that Vyckie was convinced that she was susceptible to Satanic deception.

But it gets even more so.

When a concerned friend reported our family to Child Protective Services, my ex-husband lost custody of the children due to his abuse.  The social worker told me that I was guilty of “failure to protect.”  The only thing that prevented me from having my parental rights terminated and my children placed in foster care was my willingness to submit to a full psychological evaluation, undergo individual and family counseling, and cooperate with random unannounced home visits by Social Services.

My older children rightfully blame me for not protecting them against their father’s abuse.  Even though they know that I was influenced by books such as “Me? Obey Him?” to believe that it was God’s will to submit to the abuse, my children cannot be fooled into thinking that I was not really responsible for their suffering.  I have apologized for my neglect.  Most of my children have forgiven me — still, the damage is done and some things can’t (and shouldn’t) be forgotten.

Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum. (That was about a parent abusing a child too. Iphigenia.)

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

Cooking people is wrong

Oct 24th, 2011 4:30 pm | By

I saw a thing on tv a few days ago about a “spiritual retreat” in which some people looked for spiritual whatevers via a sweat lodge, and three of them died.

The “self-help guru” who ran the show was convicted of negligent homicide last June. He could have been convicted of manslaughter but that required ruling that he knew the sweat lodge was potentially fatal, beyond a reasonable doubt.

I was glad I didn’t have to be on that jury, because I would have been sorely tempted to convict, for legally bad reasons. I would have thought that if he didn’t know a sweat lodge could be dangerous, he should have. I thought the same thing about that “therapist” who suffocated a child to death in a crack-brained “rebirthing” exercise in 2000. Candace Newmaker, was the child’s name.

Mr Sweat Lodge.

Before the disastrous ceremony outside the New Age playground of Sedona, Ray had been on a rapid ascent in the rarefied, $11-billion industry of self-help gurus. Thousands attended the free lectures he gave around the country, and many of them later ponied up thousands of dollars to enroll in one of his many workshops.

Propelled by an appearance in a 2006 documentary called “The Secret,” about rules for success, he had appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and “Larry King Live.” His business, based in Carlsbad, Calif., brought in $10 million annually and was growing fast, according to Inc. magazine.

During the trial, witnesses testified about the chaotic, two-hour event in the steam-filled sweat lodge. It ended with dozens of clients being dragged from the building. In addition to the deaths, more than 20 people were hospitalized.

Self-help gurus shouldn’t go around putting people in physical danger. That’s not asking too much, is it?

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

Scraping the barrel

Oct 24th, 2011 4:14 pm | By

Some fella says Richard Dawkins is bad and stupid and cynical and anti-intellectual because he refuses to debate William Lane Craig.


Well not the bad and stupid part, no, that’s my paraphrase, but it’s not far off; and the rest of it, yes, really.

Richard Dawkins is not alone in his refusal to debate with William Lane Craig. The vice-president of the British Humanist Association (BHA), AC Grayling has also flatly refused to debate Craig, stating that he would rather debate “the existence of fairies and water-nymphs”.

Yes, and? Are they required (morally though not legally) to debate anyone who asks? Are they not allowed to choose?

Given that there isn’t much in the way of serious argumentation in the New Atheists’ dialectical arsenal, it should perhaps come as no surprise that Dawkins and Grayling aren’t exactly queuing up to enter a public forum with an intellectually rigorous theist like Craig to have their views dissected and the inadequacy of their arguments exposed.

Oh, I see; it’s  intellectually rigorous theists that they’re not allowed to refuse to debate. Well there might be something to that, but what makes Daniel Came (he is the fella in question, the one who wrote the Comment is Free Belief piece) think Craig is intellectually rigorous? From what I hear he’s not a bit; what he is is a practiced debater, not a rigorous intellectual.

In his latest undignified rant, Dawkins claims that it is because Craig is “an apologist for genocide” that he won’t share a platform with him. Dawkins is referring to Craig’s defence of God’s commandment in Deuteronomy 20: 15-17 to wipe out the Canannites.

I am disinclined to defend the God of the Old Testament’s infanticide policy. But as a matter of logic, Craig is probably right: if an infinite good is made possible by a finite evil, then it might reasonably be said that that evil has been offset. However, I doubt whether Craig would be guided by logic himself in this regard and conduct infanticide. I doubt, that is, that he would wish it to be adopted as a general moral principle that we should massacre children because they will receive immediate salvation.

No, but he would defend it in the case of “God,” thus defending what ought not to be defended. As for infinite good, since no one can possibly know anything about such a thing,  it’s not very useful as a reason to say “oh well ok then” to wiping out a tribe or a nation. Dawkins is right to be indignant and Daniel Came is wrong to palter in this way.

As a sceptic, I tend to agree with Dawkins’s conclusion regarding the falsehood of theism, but the tactics deployed by him and the other New Atheists, it seems to me, are fundamentally ignoble and potentially harmful to public intellectual life. For there is something cynical, ominously patronising, and anti-intellectualist in their modus operandi, with its implicit assumption that hurling insults is an effective way to influence people’s beliefs about religion. The presumption is that their largely non-academic readership doesn’t care about, or is incapable of, thinking things through; that passion prevails over reason.

That claim might make some sense if Dawkins refused to debate anyone, but of course he does no such thing. He refuses to debate Craig, largely, I believe, because Craig is a dogmatic apologist, not a rational inquirer. You don’t go to William Lane Craig if you’re after thinking things through.

H/t Eric.

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

Arms linked

Oct 23rd, 2011 3:17 pm | By

PZ notes that atheists and gays “often find themselves fighting on the same side in battles against the Religious Righteous.” Indeed, and also some wrangles with the let’s-all-get-alongists, who want to unite with absolutely everyone…except those pesky atheists or those pesky gays.

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

What to call it

Oct 23rd, 2011 3:06 pm | By

We need a better word for…

Well for this. Start with what Julian said in that article.

Atheism does not own the scientific method, and nor does good, secular thinking reduce to scientific reasoning. What is too often forgotten is that modern atheism was born in a humanistic way of thinking that drew as much on arts and humanities as it did natural science, if not more so.

We need a better word for “good, secular thinking” that includes science but is not limited to it. We need a word that encompasses law, history, forensics and detective work, critical thinking, using what one knows and understands to navigate relationships and work and the world. Reality-based inquiry? Evidence-based? Reason?

Whatever it is, it’s compatible with the arts – it’s not in tension with them – but it’s not compatible with most religion, except of the “I enjoy the music and the ritual and the community” variety. It has no problem at all with just enjoying beauty in slack-jawed wonder or bliss, but it does have a problem with trying to translate that into something both definite and vague that deserves the label “spiritual,” much less “god.”

Any suggestions?

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

Hearing from Tiresias

Oct 23rd, 2011 2:33 pm | By

Reposted from November last year, on The Woman Question again.

November 14, 2010

The old Tiresias trick comes in handy sometimes. The neurobiologist Ben Barres started out as Barbara, and he reports on what it’s like to be an intelligent woman.

The top science and math student in her New Jersey high school, she was advised by her guidance counselor to go to a local college rather than apply to MIT. She applied anyway and was admitted.As an MIT undergraduate, Barbara was one of the only women in a large math class, and the only student to solve a particularly tough problem. The professor “told me my boyfriend must have solved it for me,” recalls Prof. Barres…

Although Barbara Barres was a top student at MIT, “nearly every lab head I asked refused to let me do my thesis research” with him, Prof. Barres says. “Most of my male friends had their first choice of labs. And I am still disappointed about the prestigious fellowship I lost to a male student when I was a Ph.D. student,” even though the rival had published one prominent paper and she had six.

Well…women should just all do the transgender thing; problem solved. Right? Or would that be slightly inconvenient.

Some supporters of the Summers Hypothesis suggest that temperament, not ability, holds women back in science: They are innately less competitive. Prof. Barres’s experience suggests that if women are less competitive, it is not because of anything innate but because that trait has been beaten out of them.

“Female scientists who are competitive or assertive are generally ostracized by their male colleagues,” he says.

And called shrill strident bitches for good measure.


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

Yes but what should we do about it?

Oct 22nd, 2011 5:11 pm | By

Part 4 of the Heathen’s Progress is out. It’s about how atheists shouldn’t think science is their BFF, because it will stab them in the back sooner or later.

Julian is harsh about Sam Harris’s The Moral Landscape.

What’s worse, however, is when atheists talk of science as though it is the source of all the knowledge and wisdom we need to live. The most egregious recent example of this is Sam Harris’s The Moral Landscape, with its subtitle “How science can determine human values”. It’s hard to imagine a more hyperbolic claim about the power of science…

It is rather.

When Harris sounds convincing is when he is attacking the batty view that science has nothing to say about human values. Scientific evidence might indeed reveal morally important facts, such as that inequality as well as absolute levels of wealth affects wellbeing; that different “races” are not that different and not really races; that some animals do feel pain, and of what kind it is; and so on. Science can also reveal the physiological and neurological mechanisms that underlie the things we value in life, like achieving states of flow or avoiding pain. But science could never tell us what we should value, because when it tells us how things are, we are always left with the question, what ought we to do about it?

That link is in the original, and it was probably inserted by Andrew himself (which is a little shaming, since it goes to something he wrote). I can tell you that when I publish articles by other people on B&W the website, I don’t insert links to stuff I wrote. I would think that rude and intrusive.

However, since I’m writing this post, I will insert a link to something I wrote, because it’s pretty much exactly what Julian said. I expect he got it from me. (Joke!)

It’s from the review I wrote of Harris’s book for The Philosophers’ Magazine.

It’s easy to get people to agree that well-being is good; the hard part is getting them to agree on what that implies they should do, and getting them to do it.

Harris spends most of the book hammering home the point that morality is about the well-being of conscious creatures, which means he spends far too little time considering the difficult questions that arise even if everyone agrees on that.

See? Very like what Julian said.

The rapturous reception Harris’s book received from many atheists – though thankfully far from all of them – is a symptom of an unhealthy desire to raise science to the level of our saviour.

Actually I think it’s much more a symptom of excessive admiration for Harris himself combined with a total unfamiliarity with meta-ethics. Anyway, the effect was the same.

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

I thought things would certainly change

Oct 22nd, 2011 2:16 pm | By

Oh yay. One of many items I made a note to follow up from Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender was an essay by Sally Haslanger, a philosopher at MIT, “Changing the Ideology and Culture of Philosophy: Not by Reason (Alone),” from Hypatia, 2008. Then yesterday I happened on and re-read an article by Julian Baggini on the scarcity of women in philosophy, and how does it start?

Sally Haslanger is angry. “I entered philosophy about 30 years ago,” she told me at the American Philosophical Association’s Eastern Division meeting in Boston. “I had a budding feminist consciousness, and I thought then that there weren’t enough women on the reading lists in my classes or among my teachers. But I thought things would certainly change, given the importance of the feminist movement. I’ve been though the profession now and worked hard on the Committee on the Status of Women. I’ve worked hard in other forums like SWIP – the Society for Women in Philosophy  – that were trying to advance women’s interests. After 30 years I was seeing that there wasn’t really that much change, and that made me mad.”

So today I looked, figuring it would be unavailable online, but hey what do you know – it’s available. Probably everybody with any sense has already read it, but I missed it. I love that little thrill when you find something you expected not to find.

Why there aren’t more women of my cohort in philosophy? Because there were very few of us and there was a lot of outright discrimination…In graduate school I was told by one of my teachers that he had “never seen a first rate woman philosoph[er] and never expected to because women were incapable of having seminal ideas.” I was the butt of jokes when I received a distinction on my prelims, since it seemed funny to everyone to suggest I should get a blood test to determine if I was really a woman.

My point here is that I don’t think we need to scratch our heads and wonder what on earth is going on that keeps women out of philosophy. In my experience it is very hard to find a place in philosophy that isn’t actively hostile towards women and minorities, or at least assumes that a successful philosopher should look and act like a (traditional, white) man.

Does that sound familiar? It does to me. An outspoken atheist simply has to be a (traditional, white) man, because women just don’t do outspoken and atheism. Women do shoes and feelings…at best; at worst they do bitchy cunt things.


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

One for you and three for me

Oct 22nd, 2011 1:11 pm | By

And here’s another one on the same theme. How women who play badminton really ought to do it in a skirt because…well you know.

May 7, 2011

What was that I was just saying about beauty pageants for little girls and hyper-sexualization of girls and women and the way that plays out in gymnastics and ballet and ice skating where men usually wear clothes while women always wear bathing suit equivalents?


The Badminton World Federation has made a new rule that women players have to wear skirts or dresses. Yes really – to play a sport, women have to wear skirts. Queen Victoria would so approve.

Scottish badminton player Imogen Bankier

The BWF has received feedback from various parties with regards to the introduction of Rule 19.2 of the General Competition Regulations which require female players to wear skirts or dresses for Level 1 to 3 tournaments. This specific regulation has its genesis in the extensive review into the marketing and events structure conducted by an external international marketing agency in 2009.

Well why stop there then – if it’s a matter of marketing, why not make a new rule saying women have to wear makeup and long flowing hair and V-neck halter tops and stiletto heels along with their skirts? Why not tell them to stop playing and do a pole dance instead?

The BWF has developed guidelines to go alongside the new Regulation, to ensure that it will not in any way discriminate against any religious or other beliefs and respects women. Players will continue to wear shorts if they wish but simply wear a skirt over the top of the shorts, as is often practiced already by some players.

Oh isn’t that kind and sensitive and liberal – all women have to do is add an extra, bulky garment that won’t disadvantage them in any way at all apart from interfering with their freedom to move. It won’t degrade them in any way at all except for pointlessly and stupidly sticking a Gender Label on them at the behest of a marketing agency. It won’t treat them as second-class in any way at all except by ordering them to put their Gender Identity ahead of their athletic goals.

Deputy president of the WBF Paisan Rangsikitpho says it’s “never been the intention of the BWF to portray women as sexual objects,” it’s just that they’re trying to get more people to pay attention to badminton and they figure this is the way to do it.

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

It’s all about a beautiful dress

Oct 22nd, 2011 1:09 pm | By

Re-posting a pre-FTB item as it’s relevant to the gender delusion theme.

May 1, 2011

Oh yes child (that is, girl) beauty pageants, one of my favorite things. It’s so obviously a good idea to train girls from infancy to act, move, walk, and look as much like prostitutes as possible. Australia had, in its innocence, forgotten to have such things, but they are now on their way their thanks to the helpful interventions of US pageanters.

The anti-pageant groups claim pageants sexualise children

But the pro-pageant people, absurdly, say they don’t. No no, it’s

a positive and fun-filled family occasion that will boost participants’ self-confidence.
Self-confidence at what? Attracting sexual attention? Why would anyone want to boost a six-year-old girl’s confidence at attracting sexual attention? If it’s so positive and fun-filled, why don’t they dress up little boys the same way?
Eden Wood.
I’ll tell you why. Because it’s degrading and slavish, that’s why, and it would be an outrage to train little boys to do something degrading and slavish, but it’s perfectly all right to train little girls to do that. Why is it? Well because that’s supposed to be their job, and it’s ok to start teaching to be good at it before they can read.

Annette Hill, owner of the Texas parent company Universal Royalty Beauty Pageant, who arrives in Australia a week before the pageant, said…”I don’t like golf but I am not going to go to a golf tournament and protest.”

Not relevant. It’s not about liking to do something oneself, it’s about doing things to very young children – very young girls.

”If you are looking at children in a sexual way, you should be ashamed of yourself and something is wrong with you. It’s all about a beautiful dress, a beautiful child with lots of personality performing on stage.”

Right, because the whole thing has nothing whatever to do with sex; the little girls are not dressed in a sexualized way, they are not loaded with makeup, they are performing on stage like any other child singing or reciting a poem.

However, Glenn Cupit, senior lecturer in child development at the University of South Australia, believes the young pageant participants are instructed to dress and behave in an adult way.

”The title is ‘child beauty pageant’ but if you look at the way the children are dressed and required to act, it’s actually a child sexualisation pageant,” he said. ”The children are put into skimpy clothes, they are taught to do bumps and grinds. It’s not looking at children’s beauty. It’s a particular idea of what beauty is, which is based on a highly sexualised understanding of female beauty.”

Exactly like the highly sexualized understanding of female beauty that mandates that female ballet dancers, gymnasts and ice skaters all have to wear the equivalent of bathing suits while male ballet dancers, gymnasts and ice skaters wear long tights and often long sleeves. Women have to look as naked and vulnerable as possible while men have to look as different from that as possible.

I’m off to play some golf.

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

The empty chair

Oct 21st, 2011 4:02 pm | By

Richard Dawkins reports that William Lane Craig is leveraging Dawkins’s fame into publicity for himself. Since Dawkins is being unhelpful with this project and refusing to debate WLC, WLC is attempting to use this refusal itself as a fame-pump. That reminds me of something I once saw in a restaurant (and by “once” I mean “sometime in the 1980s”): a framed letter from the White House saying Reagan wouldn’t be accepting the restaurant owner’s invitation to eat at the restaurant.

In an epitome of bullying presumption, Craig now proposes to place an empty chair on a stage in Oxford next week to symbolise my absence. The idea of cashing in on another’s name by conniving to share a stage with him is hardly new. But what are we to make of this attempt to turn my non-appearance into a self-promotion stunt?

Hilarity? That’s what I make of it.

But Craig is not just a figure of fun. He has a dark side, and that is putting it kindly. Most churchmen these days wisely disown the horrific genocides ordered by the God of the Old Testament. Anyone who criticises the divine bloodlust is loudly accused of unfairly ignoring the historical context, and of naive literalism towards what was never more than metaphor or myth. You would search far to find a modern preacher willing to defend God’s commandment, in Deuteronomy 20: 13-15, to kill all the men in a conquered city and to seize the women, children and livestock as plunder.

Hmmmmmmm…would you? Far and wide? I think Richard, in a departure from his usual practice, is falling into the mistake of thinking that the vast majority of modern preachers are liberal. I think he temporarily forgot what he usually knows quite well: there are still a lot of very illiberal preachers around. Liberals are a small minority of preachers.

But that’s a minor point. His main point is a good one. It’s that Craig defends a genocidal god, and is thus a moral horror.

Would you shake hands with a man who could write stuff like that? Would you share a platform with him? I wouldn’t, and I won’t. Even if I were not engaged to be in London on the day in question, I would be proud to leave that chair in Oxford eloquently empty.

WLC should ask Eric MacDonald to debate him. He would have another empty chair to boast of.

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

The audience only wanted white, straight, male leads

Oct 21st, 2011 3:45 pm | By

Via Peteryxx, on the stereotype thread - an article on why so few movies pass the Bechdel test.

The “Dykes to Watch Out For” test, formerly coined as the “Mo Movie Measure” test and Bechdel Test, was named for the comic strip it came from, penned by Alison Bechdel

To pass it your movie must have the following:

1) there are at least two named female characters, who

2) talk to each other about

3) something other than a man

I’m not sure I need to read any more to know why that’s not going to fly. It’s because movies are about men.

That was easy.

When I started taking film classes at UCLA, I was quickly informed I had what it took to go all the way in film…

I had to understand that the audience only wanted white, straight, male leads. I was assured that as long as I made the white, straight men in my scripts prominent, I could still offer groundbreaking characters of other descriptions (fascinating, significant women, men of color, etc.) – as long as they didn’t distract the audience from the white men they really paid their money to see.

Toldja. I knew that’s what they think, because it’s what movies and tv are like.

According to Hollywood, if two women came on screen and started talking, the target male audience’s brain would glaze over and assume the women were talking about nail polish or shoes or something that didn’t pertain to the story. Only if they heard the name of a man in the story would they tune back in. By having women talk to each other about something other than men, I was “losing the audience.”

Nothing much to say, is there.




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


Oct 20th, 2011 3:26 pm | By

An atheist soldier is told to bow head and fold hands, refuses.

Yesterday morning, at a rehearsal for their AIT graduation at Fort Jackson, which was being held in a chapel, the graduating soldiers were ordered to bow their heads and clasp their hands in front of them while an invocation was being given. One soldier refused to do this, and immediately shot off an email from his iPhone to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) while the rehearsal was still going on.

Brave. Good luck.

Later in the day, the soldier wrote out the whole story in an email to MRFF, excerpts of which appeared in a post on the CNN blog, “Military backs off threat to pull atheist from ceremony.” The CNN post now has hundreds of comments, mostly supportive of what this soldier did.

Well, no doubt Fox News will put an end to that situation…but good while it lasts.




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

Stereotype threat

Oct 19th, 2011 5:03 pm | By

Reading Delusions of Gender. Great stuff.

On p 4 Cordelia Fine (hey I just realized we have something in common) tells us about implicit associations. We can’t avoid stereotypes just by not believing in them – they stick anyway, down below where we’re not aware of them and can’t root them out.

The principle behind learning in associative memory is simple: as its name suggests, what is picked up are associations in the environment. Place a woman behind almost every vacuum cleaner being pushed around a carpet and, by Jove, associative memory will pick up the pattern…Unlike explicitly held knowledge, where you can be reflective and picky about what you believe, associative memory seems to be fairly indiscriminate in what it takes on board. [p 5]

This is horrendously depressing.

In chapter 3 she talks about stereotypes and stereotype threat. I knew about this – remember the doll study? Remember Thurgood Marshall and the “colored doll”? I did a post about it shortly after Obama’s inauguration. Researchers had found an Obama effect. You know about this: remind people that they’re members of a group stereotyped as stupid or bad at math or bad at empathy, and then test them, and they will live up to the stereotype. Do something with an opposite effect and they will live up to that. It’s horribly easy to get the bad effect.

Stereotype threat effects have been seen in women who: record their sex at the beginning of a quantitative test (which is standard practice for many tests); are in the minority as they take the test; have just watched women acting in air-headed ways in commercials, or have instructors or peers who hold – consciously or otherwise – sexist attitudes. [pp 31-2]

Have just watched women acting in air-headed ways in commercials. Think about that. Think about tv and movies. One, women are mostly not there at all, and two, the women who are there are mostly acting in air-headed ways. Stereotype threat is everywhere. And it’s no good thinking well you can just resist it, because resisting it itself is bad for performance – it takes up cognitive space that can’t be used for better things. Frankly this makes me even more pissed off than I already was at all the smug gits who put so much energy into talking sexist shit on the intertubes. They’re doing real damage. It’s not just a matter of bruised fee-fees, it’s a matter of creating real obstacles.

Think about it.

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

The good old days on the Titanic

Oct 19th, 2011 4:25 pm | By

Libby Anne has another post on the absurdity of Vision Forum. Here’s the thing: they have a crush on the Titanic. The Titanic – you know, the big new ship that sank ten minutes after it left the dock. It’s like having a crush on a plane crash, or a traffic jam. Transportation Love.

Well but you see what you’re not realizing is that the Titanic was totes Christian. Why? Because it was women and children first. Yes it was, my darling. So much so was it that the captain took the precaution of posing for pictures beaming down on sparkling little bourgeois children in the few hours before the ship sank, so that people afterwards would be able to know how Christian it all was, and rejoice.

See? Wasn’t it nice of him to pose that way before getting busy running the ship into the iceberg? Or actually I guess that’s after the ship hit the iceberg (obviously that’s the friendly iceberg itself over there in the background, hanging around sympathetically in case it can help) – he took time from his busy schedule to smile Christianly at little Miss Purity because he was a Man and a Christian so she and her doll were going to live while he was in for a cold dunking.

Now you might think he would actually be too busy to take the time to gaze pityingly at some little girl from Ohio and put her lifejacket on, but that’s just because you’re not Christian. Oh it’s all so beautiful and Christian and touching…how I wish I could have been there too, don’t you?

Not if you were in steerage you don’t. As usual, Libby supplies a picture from Underneath, too.


The whole thing is hilarious, except that this guy has a real effect on a lot of people’s lives. They take him seriously.

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

Corporal punishment is legal in religious settings

Oct 18th, 2011 3:45 pm | By

And speaking of beating up on children -

Britain’s madrassas have faced more than 400 allegations of physical abuse in the past three years, a BBC investigation has discovered.

But only a tiny number have led to successful prosecutions.

Some local authorities said community pressure had led families to withdraw

In one physical abuse case in Lambeth, two members of staff at a mosque
allegedly attacked children with pencils and a phone cable – but the victims
later refused to take the case further.

Mustn’t annoy the imam, must we.

Corporal punishment is legal in religious settings, so long as it does not
exceed “reasonable chastisement”.

What does that mean?  Corporal punishment is legal in religious settings in particular? Exclusively? At any rate, it’s ridiculous – corporal punishment shouldn’t be legal anywhere. It’s a mistake to trust people to know what’s “reasonable chastisement” and what isn’t.


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

The war dead

Oct 18th, 2011 3:09 pm | By

Dismal, tragic, shameful, embarrassing…but not at all surprising. The US has the worst rate of child death through violence of any industrialized country, by far. What a disgusting statistic.

Model of a child from a tv ad aimed at reducing abuse

Over the past 10 years, more than 20,000 American children are believed to have been killed in their own homes by family members. That is nearly four times the number of US soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That last statistic gave me a jolt, I can tell you. The soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan are a big deal, as they should be. The four times as many children killed by family members are not.

The child maltreatment death rate in the US is triple Canada’s and 11 times that of Italy. Millions of children are reported as abused and neglected every year.
Why is that?

Well, frankly, it’s because we do so many things the wrong way.

Part of the answer is that teen pregnancy, high-school dropout, violent crime,
imprisonment, and poverty – factors associated with abuse and neglect – are
generally much higher in the US.

Further, other rich nations have social policies that provide child care,
universal health insurance, pre-school, parental leave and visiting nurses to
virtually all in need.

So nothing will change then.

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