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.

Charlotte Allen redux

Dec 29th, 2012 9:23 am | By

I missed the part where Charlotte Allen replied to her critics. It’s a treat.

It’s no small thing, of course, to stop a gunman, whatever his size, but there might have been more of a chance with a few men on hand. I asserted that the “feminized setting” that prevails at elementary schools and the education schools that train their personnel creates a culture of “helpless passivity” that puts women and small children at risk when a psychopath like Lanza decides to blow out the doors.

And an admiring audience failed to materialize, so she is explaining it all again.

No, I was not blaming any of the 26 victims or the parents who enrolled their kids at Sandy Hook. I am, however, blaming our culture that denies, dismisses, and denigrates the masculine traits—including size, strength, male aggression and a male facility for strategic thinking–that until recently have been viewed as essential for building a society and protecting its weaker members. We now have Hanna Rosin at Slate urging parents to buy their little boys Easy Bake ovens so they’ll be more like little girls. Women are less aggressive by instinct, and they are typically trained to be nice. I praised and continue to praise the courage of the Sandy Hook principal, Dawn Hochsburg, and the teachers who gave up their lives along with her, but with some men on the scene who knew what to do, some of those lives might have been saved.

Might have been – well sure, but you could say that about anything. If Adam Lanza had tripped and fallen then lots of people could have jumped on top of him, too, and all the lives might have been saved. If things had been different they would have been different. Very true, but we already knew that. There have been other mass shootings where there were men present and many people were still killed, including men. It’s not even clear why Charlotte Allen assumes none of the women present “knew what to do” – and of course it’s completely unclear what she thinks there is “to do” in the face of automatic weapons.

I am also responding to David Weigel, who told me I gotten my facts wrong: that there are actually two men, a custodian and a fourth-grade teacher, on Sandy Hook’s 52-person staff. He’s right, and I stand corrected. This does help prove my point, though: just two adult men in a building containing 500 people — and it’s not clear that both of them were at work that day. Indeed, a visit to Sandy Hook’s staff website is a depressing experience, the sea of women’s names. Why aren’t there more men? Perhaps not enough want the job? But why? Because they are tacitly discouraged from careers in elementary education? It’s certainly not the money, because union rules typically require kindergarten teachers and high-school chemistry teachers to be paid on exactly the same salary scale. Another depressing page on the Sandy Hook website is the “Safe Schools Climate” page. It’s a page of links to “anti-bullying” resources. Yes, the Sandy Hook staff’s idea of a “safe school” was a school where kids didn’t say mean things about each other on Facebook! The Sandy Hook massacre was a tragedy, but it was at least in part a tragedy of the collision between feminist delusions and reality.

Jesus H Christ almighty – what is she talking about?? Is she claiming that feminism keeps men out of elementary schools? Wtf? Since when does feminism claim that elementary school teachers should all be women? The point of feminism is more that university professors should not all be men. And then, she finds a sea of women’s names depressing. I find that depressing. Same old shit – imagine her saying that if you replaced “the sea of women’s names” with “the sea of black faces.”

And then the sneer about anti-bullying – and I feel like throwing up.

Maybe it’s some kind of Sarah Palin “shake up those pesky liberals” shtick. Hooray for bullying.

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


Dec 29th, 2012 7:00 am | By

Laura Bates of Everyday Sexism gives us some more everyday sexism.

Meanwhile, this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival made headlines for featuring a high number of jokes about rape and domestic violence. Such “jokes” are also endemic online.“We must wake up to the way that social media enables and magnifies abuse and harassment of women,” Ms Dustin says. The popular social news website Reddit has entire categories dedicated to “raping women”, “hot rape stories”, and “choke a bitch”. And an article on the student website UniLad in January said: “Eighty-five per cent of rape cases go unreported. That seems to be fairly good odds.”

Yes but those are just tropes and tropes don’t matter and besides “tropes” is a big stuck-up fancy intellectual showoffy conceited arrogant word that only a bitch would use because bitches are so arrogant and bitchy, plus they all stole it from Anita Sarkeesian because nobody ever used it before she did.

Jacqui Hunt, of Equality Now, says: “We absorb messages from all around us every day, so what some might dismiss as harmless banter takes on a completely different quality when it forms part of a general culture of demeaning, pejorative and prejudicial reporting on women.”

Noooooooo. That can’t be right. That implies that tropes matter and everybody knows that tropes don’t matter. Messages don’t matter, culture doesn’t matter, stereotypes don’t matter, nothing like that matters. That stuff is all non-physical, and nothing non-physical matters. What are you, some kind of crazy dualist or something? You think ideas matter? Ha! I laugh in your face. Ideas don’t matter. Only a punch in the face matters. Anything short of a punch in the face is totally inert* and harmless.

In fact, these jokes and media slurs could even be having an impact on rape conviction rates. Alison Saunders, head of the Crown Prosecution Service, told The Guardian this year that widespread “myths and stereotypes” about rape victims may give jurors “preconceived ideas” that could affect their decisions in court. When victims were “demonised in the media”, she said, “you can see how juries would bring their preconceptions to bear”.

Nope nope nope nope. Can’t be true. Can’t possibly happen. Juries never pay any attention, their whole lives, to intangible things like jokes and media slurs. That’s why there’s never any need to sequester them and make sure they don’t see any tv or newspapers. Myths and stereotypes make no difference to anything ever.

It will not be easy to tackle such deeply ingrained ideas. “We need nothing short of a revolution in our approach to sexual violence,” Ms Dustin says. But although the attitudes revealed have been worrying, the fact that such stories have been so prevalent in the media this year is a sign of progress, she believes. “The scale of revelations about abuse of women and girls in the Jimmy Savile case may have begun to turn the tide.”

As awareness grows, says Ms Diamandopoulos: “We have to get together as women … to grow the seeds of the fightback, which has already started, with organisations such as Rape Crisis, Object, Everyday Sexism, Mumsnet and others. Together, women have moved mountains before – we can do it again.”

Pfffffffff. Ideas – attitudes – stories – revelations – awareness. Come on – none of that makes any difference to anything! When has an idea ever made anything happen?

People are so silly.

*Oh I’m sorry, I used the word “inert.” That’s one of those words like “trope,” probably – too big and fancy for a good honest person to use, and just a way of trying to emasculate decent men.

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

Women end up exacerbating tensions

Dec 29th, 2012 6:25 am | By

Via Katha Pollitt on Twitter – an Italian priest explains things to women.

Italian media reported that parish priest Piero Corsi fixed a text to the bulletin board of his church in the northern village of San Terenzo di Lerici, which said women should engage in “healthy self criticism” over the issue of femicide, or men murdering women.

Healthy self-criticism! Good thinking. It is a just world, so if a women is murdered, it has to be because she did something so bad that it deserves murder. (There is that whole pesky “sanctity of life” thing, so you would think a Catholic priest wouldn’t write a text saying that anything deserves murder, but maybe that’s just before birth. I’m not a theologian, so I’m not sure.) So what are these bad things that women should be healthily criticizing themselves for?

“Let’s ask ourselves. Is it possible that men have all gone mad at one stroke? We don’t think so,” said the text, which was reproduced in several newspapers.

“The core of the problem is in the fact that women are more and more provocative, they yield to arrogance, they believe they can do everything themselves and they end up exacerbating tensions,” it said.

“How often do we see girls and even mature women walking on the streets in provocative and tight clothing?”

“Babies left to themselves, dirty houses, cold meals and fast food at home, soiled clothes. So if a family ends up in a mess and turns into crime (a form of violence which should be condemned and punished firmly) often the responsibility is shared,” it said.

Oh. Women are arrogant. They walk on the street. Something something dirty something cold something fast something soiled. So men murder them. What can you expect?

It’s probably just a small thing though, right? Not many women are that cold and soiled and arrogant and murdered.

A third of women in Italy had reported being victim of serious domestic violence, a UN report citing data from Italian statistics agency ISTAT said.

It said that as many as 127 women had been murdered by men in 2010, often as a result of “honor, men’s unemployment and jealousy by the perpetrator”.

And fast food, and women walking on the street.

People are annoyed with the priest, but he doesn’t mind.

“After everything that’s happened, which has certainly been well beyond what I intended or expected, I think there’s need for calm, rest and silence to respond with the serenity and harmony required to carry on,” he said.

For him. He’s a guy, so he’s allowed to be arrogant. Women who are arrogant – well they need to be murdered, obviously.

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

Since the rapists started harassing her

Dec 28th, 2012 3:47 pm | By

And then there’s the rape victim in India who killed herself yesterday. She was being harassed by the rapists. That’s right. First they rape her, then they make her life hell afterwards because.

The police also got in on the act, making her report to the police station late at night and tell them all about the rape.

…as no arrests were made, the accused not only harassed the victim and her family, but also started issuing open threats. Hounded, the girl shifted to her aunt’s house in nearby Samana town on November 29. “Since the rapists started harassing her at Samana too, she consumed some poisonous substance around 5pm on Wednesday, and died at Government Rajindra Hospital in Patiala late at night,” the victim’s mother Surjit Kaur told HT.

Avicenna wrote an angry letter to India on this subject a couple of days ago.

I am ashamed to be an Indian man.

Do you fucking know why women are so fucking angry about the rape of a 23 year old? Why now every new rape case that comes to light in India (like the rape of Momoko, a Manipuri actress) will set off riots like the ones in Delhi?

Can you grasp why women are pissed? Why shouldn’t they be? They have fuck all to be happy about. Sexual harassment is so much the norm that they tell foreigners in guidebooks like the Lonely Planet or Rough Guide to watch out for sexual harassment. They tell them to try and travel in groups and to stick together and to try and bring a male companion with them to at least deter sexual harassment and rape attempts. Fuck all kinds of duck! Do you have any idea about how insulting it is to be regarded as “Molesters and Rapists” internationally? Fuck! My girlfriend is in Spain on holiday where a bunch of Indian men suddenly appeared to randomly hit on her while she took photographs. Do you have any fucking idea how creepy, misogynistic and just outright stupid that sounds?

Short answer? Probably not. Some people seem to be really bad at forming any idea how creepy, misogynistic and just outright stupid certain things sound.

We cannot keep being called a culture that is just endemically unsafe to women. It has to stop. Do you know how heart breaking it is to be told by your girlfriend that you are not like other Indians because I think the harassment isn’t attractive? That our dating strategy is akin to Stockholm syndrome…

The rage of these women is entirely justified. If you wish to show your support then please does so. Make some noise; let people in India who are in power know that they cannot keep hiding this horrific side to India. It’s our silence that has caused this to come to a point. All we can do is make noise and show the people who are fighting for justice and to stop rape in India that we support what they are doing. It doesn’t matter what gender you are, make your voices be heard. People in India need to know that we actually give a flying fuck and that we show solidarity against the people who make excuses and try and stop this change.

The rapes have to stop.

Merry Fucking Christmas and a Happy Fucking New Year.

Yours in disgust

Avicenna Last

Thank you Avicenna.


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

The news from India

Dec 28th, 2012 2:54 pm | By

Avicenna is on his way out to the protest, to provide medical coverage. He was already getting ready to go when the victim’s death was reported; now he expects riots. Be careful, Avi.

Meanwhile, experts were giving their views in the hours before the victim lost the fight.

“Had the girl simply surrendered (and not resisted) when surrounded by six men, she would not have lost her intestine. Why was she out with her boyfriend at 10 pm?” These comments made by an agricultural scientist at a seminar organised by the police provoked an outrage in Madhya Pradesh on Thursday, and demands for punitive action against her.

Dr Anita Shukla, a scientist at the Rajmata Vijayaraje Scindia Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya, had been invited to the seminar on “Women’s Empowerment” in her capacity as the president of Lion’s Club on Wednesday. Women, Shukla said in her speech, had misused the facilities and rights given to them.

Hmmyeah. She should have surrendered, and she shouldn’t have been out at 10 pm. She was doing everything wrong, wasn’t she. She shouldn’t have had a hole between her legs. She shouldn’t have left the house. She shouldn’t have grown up. She shouldn’t have been born. One mistake after another, she made.

Thanks, Dr Shukla. You’re a big help.

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

She’s died

Dec 28th, 2012 2:09 pm | By

The Delhi rape victim. Dead.

First she suffered horribly, then she died. Because she went to a movie with a friend, and then got on a bus.

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

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.)