Notes and Comment Blog

Rape her once, rape her twice

Feb 22nd, 2013 12:30 pm | By

Indiana Republican legislators decide that raping a pregnant woman with a transvaginal probe once isn’t a good enough way to punish her for seeking an abortion. Nope; gotta rape her twice.

What makes Indiana really stand out, though, is that this bill, SB 371, would require two ultrasounds—before and after the abortion. The bill would require physicians to “schedule a follow-up appointment” two weeks after RU-486 is administered. But that’s not all. Under penalty of criminal and/or civil charges and fines, physicians must “make a reasonable effort to ensure that the pregnant woman returns for the follow-up appointment.”

Because…what? They’re hoping the second probe will persuade the fetus to have a conversation with them in which the fetus begs them in rhyming couplets not to allow its promising young life to be cut off?

Well, no. Just to punish the whorey slut. They can’t think of any other way to punish her that they can get away with, so they have to settle for shoving a stick up her twice.

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

Ishtiaq Ahmed

Feb 22nd, 2013 11:55 am | By

One piece of good news – Ishtiaq Ahmed has won the Karachi Literature Festival Best Non–fiction Book Prize of 2013. The book is The Punjab Bloodied, Partitioned and Cleansed.

I’ve been following his work for years, as you can see by searching at ur-B&W. It seems a healthy sign that the Karachi Literature Festival is aware of his merit.

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

Explanation provided by Dunning and Kruger

Feb 21st, 2013 5:00 pm | By

Harriet Hall has yet another post explaining why she’s right and everyone who thinks otherwise is wrong. She says this is the last post on the subject, and thank god for that. This final post is about the T shirt.

Like the other two, it’s not impressive. She’s astonishingly unwilling or unable to admit even that her intentions were not necessarily self-evident, let alone that she simply went out of her way to make a hostile public statement about some people who had already been on the receiving end of a lot of hostile public statements.

I didn’t want to talk about the T-shirt, but I’ve been repeatedly challenged to explain myself, and I’m afraid I can no longer avoid it. Steven Novella has recommended that we try to give other people’s arguments the most charitable interpretation. I hope my critics will do that, but I’m not optimistic. If past experience is any guide, they will misinterpret my explanation and put it in the worst possible light, which is why I haven’t offered it before.

See what I mean? It couldn’t be that the T shirt wasn’t as limpidly clear as she seems to think, no, it has to be that Other People are simply determined to be big poopy heads. It couldn’t be that her critics are increasingly irritated by passive-aggressive bullshit like that very passage, no, it has to be that they are determined to misinterpret everything she says.

That’s not a good start. That doesn’t make me think her explanation will be honest or that she will manage to be at all self-critical.

To set the scene for the T-shirt incident, there was a complex backstory involving Elevatorgate, Richards Dawkins, insults and threats directed at women, a perception that TAM’s anti-harassment policy was not being enforced, objections to a statement JREF President DJ Grothe made, accusations that Grothe had lied about reports of harassment, and numerous other incidents, many of which were blown way out of proportion. All this had left big chips firmly glued to shoulders.

Or not. That’s another bad start. Maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t our fault for being annoyed that DJ blamed ”some women” for talking about women and harassment, maybe it was DJ’s fault for blaming ”some women” for talking about harassment. If Hall can’t entertain even the possibility of that even for a second, her “explanation” is not going to be worth much. Maybe ours were not the only shoulders that had chips on them.

It was in that context that Rebecca Watson announced in June, 2012, that she was cancelling her plans to attend TAM in July. The reason she gave was that  “I do not feel safe and welcome at TAM.” I was willing to take that at face value, as an “I” statement, not as a warning that women in general were not safe and welcome there.

Oh no no no no no. That’s wrong. That’s not the reason Rebecca gave – it’s much more complicated than that. The reason she gave was that DJ pretty much publicly spat in her face by saying she was one of the women scaring other women away from TAM, despite the fact that she had promoted TAM and helped fund women’s attendance there for years*. Hall must know that perfectly well. But I suppose it doesn’t do to mention it, because it doesn’t do to admit that DJ did anything wrong?

And that omission makes a mess of everything that follows. Hall’s story is that Rebecca just randomly said she didn’t feel safe at TAM, as if it were full of tigers and rattlesnakes, and Hall was just sending a counter-message on a friendly T shirt because she knew there were no tigers or rattlesnakes. But the first part is total bullshit, so the second part is too.

As an afterthought, I used the back of the shirt to express a long held opinion: “I’m a skeptic. Not a ‘skepchick.’ Not a ‘woman skeptic.’ Just a skeptic.” The word skepchick predates the Skepchick organization. It was used at least as early as 1999, it was in common use on the JREF Forum for years before Rebecca’s first appearance there in 2004, and the Skepchick website wasn’t registered until 2005.  I was thinking of the word in its earlier, more general sense, which is why I didn’t capitalize it. I have explained that my stance is a matter of personal preference and does not imply any disrespect for those whose preferences are different.  I even asked, “Please try to understand that ‘I like to do it my way’ does not equate to  ‘I’m accusing you of being wrong for doing it your way.’” If I say I prefer to cook my chicken by stir-frying, that doesn’t mean I think you are wrong to roast yours, and I’m certainly not trying to tell you that you should switch to stir-frying. I can appreciate that both cooking methods can produce delicious meals.

Bullshit. I’m sorry to keep repeating myself, but bullshit. That would be credible if the slogan were actually about stir-frying, but it’s not credible at all since it’s not. And if she really seriously truly honestly meant it as just announcing a personal preference (but why? why there, and then? why on that subject?) then she could have just said she was terribly sorry, she didn’t realize it would be misconstrued. She could have stopped wearing it, instead of wearing it more. She could say that now, at least. But no. She’s still pretending it was just a random remark with no relevance to anyone at TAM. That is not even a little bit credible.

*Update February 22: I was vague on the details, and short on time, when I wrote that, but several people provided unvague details in comments. Rebecca owns Skepchick, which promotes Amy’s grants; for several years before Amy started raising money, Rebecca single-handedly produced Skepchick calendars, the sales of which all went exclusively to sending women to TAM; and then there’s edithkeeler’s contribution @ 28:

I went to TAM in 2009 (came all the way from Australia specifically to go to TAM – MEGA REAL SKEPTIC COOKIES PLEASE?) and won an auction at jref forums to have lunch with the Skepchicks the proceeds (several hundred bucks from me & there were 2 winners so double that total) of which went to scholarships to attend. General JREF scholarships, not the Surly Amy ones (IIRC) so yes actually Rebecca was involved in fundraising to send people to TAM, apart from Amy’s sterling work.

Rebecca herself had forgotten that one.

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

Something that stays with people

Feb 21st, 2013 11:39 am | By

Oddly enough, I find myself completely unsurprised to learn that childhood bullying is linked to a higher risk of psychological disorders in adulthood. It’s more the other way. I find myself wondering why anyone would think it wouldn’t be.

A significant study from Duke, out today, provides the best evidence we’ve had thus far that bullying in childhood is linked to a higher risk of psychological disorders in adulthood. The results came as a surprise to the research team. “I was a skeptic going into this,” lead author and Duke psychiatry professor William E. Copeland told me over the phone, about the claim that bullying does measurable long-term psychological harm. “To be honest, I was completely surprised by the strength of the findings. It has certainly given me pause. This is something that stays with people.”

So before the study he thought it was something that didn’t stay with people?

Hmm. Maybe it’s not so strange to think that. There is that funny way that suddenly childhood miseries get much smaller once you are more or less adult and independent. I know that’s a common experience, at least in this part of the world where people go away to school or get jobs around age 18. It does seem to put it all in proportion.

Anyway. There is this new evidence.

I’m less surprised, because as I explain in my new book about bullying, Sticks and Stones, earlier research has shown that bullying increases the risk for many problems, including low academic performance in school and depression (for both bullies and victims) and criminal activity later in life (bullies). But the Duke study is important because it lasted for 20 years and followed 1,270 North Carolina children into adulthood. Beginning at the ages of 9, 11, and 13, the kids were interviewed annually until the age of 16, along with their parents, and then multiple times over the years following.

Based on the findings, Copeland and his team divided their subjects into three groups: People who were victims as children, people who were bullies, and people who were both. The third group is known as bully-victims. These are the people who tend to have the most serious psychological problems as kids, and in the Duke study, they also showed up with higher levels of anxiety, depressive disorders, and suicidal thinking as adults. The people who had only experienced being victims were also at heightened risk for depression and anxiety. And the bullies were more likely to have an antisocial personality disorder.

It’s not just being bullied. Bullying is bad for you. Yeh I figured that.

It’s important to point out that Copeland and other researchers don’t define bullying broadly, in a way that encompasses a lot of mutual conflict among kids, or one-time fighting. Bullying is physical or verbal harassment that takes place repeatedly and involves a power imbalance—one kid, or group of kids, making another kid miserable by lording power over him. As Dan Olweus, the Scandinavian psychologist who launched the field of bullying studies in the 1960s, has been arguing for many years, this is a particular form of harmful aggression. And so the effort to prevent bullying isn’t about pretending that kids will always be nice to each other, or that they don’t have to learn to weather some adversity.

This is what makes the internet so peculiar in the context of bullying - it shoves us adults back into that stifling hermetic world of childhood, where physical or verbal harassment that takes place repeatedly and involves a power imbalance is just normal.


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

Dolan is deposed

Feb 21st, 2013 10:27 am | By

Timothy Dolan, the New York cardinal who gets angry when newspapers report on the Catholic church’s way with child-raping priests, has given a deposition about priestly child rape in the Milwaukee Catholic Archdiocese’s bankruptcy case.

Dolan headed the Milwaukee archdiocese from 2002 to 2009, before being named to the New York position. During his term here, archdiocesan officials sought to reach financial settlements with people who had been sexually abused by priests over the years, but those talks weren’t successful. In January 2011, Dolan’s Milwaukee successor, Archbishop Jerome Listecki, announced the archdiocese was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy because the financial claims against it “exceed our means.”

The church put a happier spin on it though.

Joseph Zwilling, communications director for the New York Archdiocese, released this statement Wednesday:

“Today Cardinal Dolan had the long-awaited opportunity to talk about his decision nine years ago in Milwaukee to publicize the names of priests who had abused children and how he responded to the tragedy of past clergy sexual abuse of minors during the time he was privileged to serve as Archbishop of Milwaukee.

“He has indicated over the past two years that he was eager to cooperate in whatever way he could, and he was looking forward to talking about the good work and progress that took place to ensure the protection of children and pastoral outreach to victims.”

Once it all became public and he had no other choice.

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

It’s not sexism that’s wrong, it’s calling something sexist that’s wrong

Feb 20th, 2013 6:00 pm | By

Uh oh. It’s not just Michael Shermer who is suffering the terrible, scorching aftermath of being witch-hunted and inquisitored for saying something sexist. The poison is spreading. PZ Chris Clarke quotes Jacquelyn Gill’s blog The Contemplative Mammoth. There was a sexist remark on a list-serv. Gill asks a question.

After the sexist comments were made, some did in fact call them out. This was immediately followed up with various responses that fell into two camps: 1) “Saying female graduate students are inferior isn’t sexist” (this has later morphed into “she was really just pointing out poor mentoring!”), and 2) “Calling someone out for a sexist statement on a list-serv is inappropriate.” Some have called for “tolerance” on Ecolog-l; arguably, more real estate in this discussion has gone into chastising the people who called out Jones’ comments. These people are almost universally male. To those people, I ask:

Why is it more wrong to call someone out for saying something sexist than it was to have said the sexist thing in the first place?

Why indeed?

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

When Sommers met Kimmel

Feb 20th, 2013 5:41 pm | By

Michael Kimmel and Christina Hoff Sommers did a dialogue at the Huffington Post. It didn’t create a new bridge between feminists and Christina Hoff Sommers.

Sommers: Now I have a question for you, Michael. In the past, you seem to have sided with a group of gender scholars who think we should address the boy problem by raising boys to be more like girls.  Maybe I am being overly optimistic, but does your praise for my New York Times op-ed indicate a shift in your own thinking?

Ouch; that’s a Radfordesque question. “When did you stop dressing your son in frilly skirts?”

Kimmel: Not at all.  I’m not interested in raising boys to be more like girls any more than I want girls to be raised more like boys.  The question itself assumes that there is a way to raise boys that is different from the way we raise girls.  To me this is stereotypic thinking.  I want to raise our children to be themselves, and I think that one of the more wonderful components of feminism was to critique that stereotype that all girls are supposed to act and dress in one way and one way only.

Eww! Gender feminism! He said “stereotypic”! He thinks girls and boys are exactly the same! Ewww!

Kimmel: Our disagreement, I think, comes from what we see as the source of that falling behind.  My interviews with over 400 young men, aged 6-26, in Guyland, showed me that young men and boys are constantly and relentlessly policed by other guys, and pressured to conform to a very narrow definition of masculinity by the constant spectre of being called a fag or gay.  So if we’re going to really intervene in schools to ensure that boys succeed, I believe that we have to empower boys’ resilience in the face of this gender policing.  What my interviews taught me is that many guys believe that academic disengagement is a sign of their masculinity.  Therefore, re-engaging boys in school requires that we enable them to reconect educational engagement with manhood.

Sommers, you won’t be surprised to learn, isn’t buying it.

Sommers: I agree that we should raise children to be themselves. But that will often mean respecting their gender. Increasingly, little boys are shamed and punished for the crime of being who they are. The typical, joyful play of young males is “rough and tumble” play. There is no known society where little boys fail to evince this behavior (girls do it too, but far less). In many schools, this characteristic play of little boys is no longer tolerated. Intrusive and intolerant adults are insisting “tug of war” be changed to “tug of peace”; games such as tag are being replaced with “circle of friends” — in which no one is ever out.

Those are the feminists who say “all men are rapists,” aren’t they. They live in the same mist-shrouded part of the North Pole where no one can ever find them, don’t they.

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

No, that’s not it

Feb 20th, 2013 11:50 am | By

There’s one very odd new theme in the comments on Hall’s belligerent post yesterday. The theme is that her critics are being ageist and picking on her because she’s not young. (Last week she called herself a “tough old hen” as opposed to a chick, which as another tough old hen I quite like.)

yankee skeptic for instance.

The odd part is the emphasis on “You screwed up OLD LADY!” and how we are marginalized and not considered “with it” enough to play a part.  Yet this is truly part of what feminism is supposed to be fighting, women being marginalized after they are over 30.  When did, respecting people, explaining nicely (rather than DEMANDING an apology because hey, you just have not kept up with the lingo), and seeing we are stronger together rather than apart because a problem?

Ageism is quite the issue, but it is full steam ahead and we don’t care who we run over, at times.

Geek Goddess for another instance.

You are obviously just not young, hip, thin, cute, clever, or hard-drinking enough to be popular, and your experiences aren’t worthy. You aren’t even very smart (regardless of that medical degree you seem so proud of). I’m in the same boat. My advanced age means that my STEM degree, my years of working in a industry that is less than 5% female, and managing to rise to the top and earn a 6-figure salary, a company car, availability of a private jet, and bonuses more than most people’s salaries, means I also do not know a damn thing about what women have to struggle with to succeed in any business, must less a good-old-boy one. Having professors tell me that I was taking a slot away from a man, who MIGHT HAVE TO SUPPORT A FAMILY, wasn’t harassment or life-changing. (I spend all my salary on trivial things, apparently.) And since I’m no longer young, hip, thin, cute, clever, or hard-driking enough to be hit on in bars, I don’t understand the harassment that women face. Sometimes, when some of us state that we do not feel unsafe, or haven’t been harassed at a conference, not only are we accusing women of making it it, or exaggerating, etc., I hear the unspoken words “Of course YOU haven’t been harassed or attacked. Because you are not young, hip, thing, cute, etc.”  Yep, I was told this. The ugly unspoken little secret among some women.

Are you kidding? Seriously?

Does anybody call Harriet Hall Prune or Hatty McPrune? My “critics” call me Prune and Ophie McPrune. Does anybody call her cobweb cunt? My “critics” call me cobweb cunt. Do Hall’s critics make endless jokes about how sexually repellent she is? Do they constantly say how old and ugly she is? Do they do YouTube videos to say how old and ugly she is? Do they photoshop her head onto women in bikinis? Does she ever get anything remotely resembling any of this? Not that I know of. Not that I’ve ever seen. I get it every day.

Commenters picked up the theme and repeated it several times as the thread grew. A couple more -


What seems to have emerged here (other than the sadly predictable internet fustercluck) is a manifestation of an intergenerational schism in the skeptic movement. As a 49 year old feminist/atheist, I am old enough to recall the institutional barriers to women that are now illegal because of the heavy lifting done by people like Harriet. Will’s comment that Harriet “has had 40 years” to educate herself on the new terminology and other more pointed anonymous comments on Twitter and elsewhere reflect a systemic ageism on the internet, the arrogance of youth and relative inexperience, and a failure to recognize (they are too young to have seen it first-hand) that semantics are provisional at best and change over time.

Looking at posts by Will and Rebecca, I cringe to recall my own snark and the disrespect I had for my elders back in the day. I am grateful there is no permanant record of same, and I use threads like this to educate my teenage daughters, encouraging them to do some of their growing up away from a keyboard.

That’s not it. Sorry to burst the bubble, but it’s not. I’m a million years old [vide supra] but I don’t agree with Hall’s take – and I know plenty of contemporaries who also wouldn’t agree with it. That take was conservative 40 years ago and it still is. It’s not generational. It’s a view. Hall has plenty of young women on her team, and there are plenty of us cobweb cunts on other teams.

One more: Chris:

 It seems that the theme here is also dismissing the accomplishments of women breaking down gender barriers forty years ago, and at the same time reminding me why I hated high school cliques.

No. It isn’t. The theme is saying breaking down gender barriers is great, but also, women shouldn’t have to break down barriers in the first place, so just telling women to push harder while not “complaining” i.e. trying to say what the barriers are and why it shouldn’t be up to individuals to break them down, is not good enough.


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

Jeez, all he said was

Feb 20th, 2013 10:58 am | By

Yikes, Ben Radford has yet another meta-post saying how everyone was wrong about his first post, yet again drastically misrepresenting his own post in the process. This is getting beyond embarrassing – meta-embarrassing.

Last week I wrote what I thought was a fairly straightforward piece titled “Over It.” It was an introduction to a poem, and then a poem. It was short, in three parts, and about an anti-rape poem by Eve Ensler, and her One Billion Rising campaign to encourage women to dance as a way to end rape.

Dude. That’s not true. That’s not all it was about. That’s far from all it was about.

Second para.

In the first part I explicitly stated that I agreed with Ensler’s goals (“I support her goals of reducing rape and other forms of violence against women”), but that I had reservations about Ensler’s use of statistics, and whether or not
encouraging people to dance would actually do any good. In the second part I wrote a poem, using the same title, the same structure, and some of the same lines-echoing, expanding on, and supporting many of Ensler’s sentiments. The poem was clearly supporting and agreeing with Ensler on many topics, and I added other topics which I felt had been largely left out in the discussion (such as the issue of male rape, and the epidemic of sexual assault in Native American communities).

That’s a little closer, but very little. The “added other topics” made a big chunk of the post, and they weren’t just added as having been left out; several of them were flailing attacks on a mythical feminism that doesn’t exist, such as the one that says “all men are rapists.” That was the part of the post that I criticized, for example, and it’s dishonest of Radford to pretend he simply added a few neglected topics.

So why the anger and venom? Why would anyone get enraged and morally indignant because I think women dancing is a waste of time and not actually helping decrease the incidence of physical and sexual assault?

Dude. That is not what happened.

Is it possible to somehow interpret this as supporting rape in some way? I didn’t think so, yet over the past week I have been criticized and vilified, painted as a misogynist, “rape apologist” and even “anti-feminist” by a few people who either didn’t read my piece, or didn’t understand it.

I read it. Did Radford read it?

I am over the myth of “the passivity of good men,” suggesting that many or most men are complicit in rape culture when in fact most men are not rapists, and condemn those who are.

I am over the male bashing often inherent in feminist writings and slogans; “All men are rapists” is neither true nor fair nor helpful.

I am over the wanton slinging of labels like “misogynist” and “sexist” and “sister hater” and “gender traitor” and “rape apologist” to people who dare criticize feminists. Plenty of feminists disagree with each other.

I am over social activists, including those whose causes I support, who value emotion and anecdote over truth, facts, and critical thinking.

I am over thin-skinned “feminists” who blithely and intentionally confuse legitimate questions and criticism of their facts or claims with misogyny and sexism; it is insulting to real victims of misogyny and sexism.

I am over blaming TV, movies, magazines, and video games for real-life violence-including violence against women. Just as sexy clothes do not cause rape, violent and sexual images do not cause rape; rapists cause rape.

I am over the simplistic idea that women are raped by heteronormative, hegemonic patriarchies instead of by criminals.

Rush Limbaugh could cheerfully sign off on that passage. If Radford didn’t intend that passage to be anti-feminist, he’s one hell of a clumsy writer.


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

What’s happening to the fucking Pope?

Feb 20th, 2013 10:34 am | By

We hear a lot about people going out looking for things to be offended by. Sometimes that’s not what’s going on; other times it is.

One of the latter is when an editor shouts across a noisy newsroom, responding to a delay in production, “can anyone tell what’s happening to the fucking Pope?” and a Catholic employee brings a claim in the Employment Tribunal for harassment and victimisation on the grounds of his religious belief.

The Appellant, a casual sub-editor on the Times Newspaper, was a Roman Catholic. He was working at the Times during the visit to the United Kingdom of the Pope in 2010. During March the Times was preparing a story about the Pope relating to allegations that he had protected a paedophile priest.  There was some delay in producing the story, and one of the editors in the newsroom, a Mr Wilson, shouted across to the senior production executives “can anyone tell what’s happening to the fucking Pope?”.  When there was no response he repeated the question more loudly.  The Appellant was upset and offended what he heard.  He raised a complaint, which in his view was not properly progressed, and he then brought a claim in the Employment Tribunal for harassment and victimisation on the grounds of his religious belief.

Hmmyeah. Dude – people say “fucking” sometimes when they’re just impatient or frustrated or annoyed or – hang on tight – just adding an intensifier for no particular reason. It happens. It’s not worth going to an employment tribunal about.

The Tribunal held that the use of bad language was evidently merely an expression of bad temper which may have constituted “unwanted conduct” but it was not intended to express hostility to the Pope or Catholicism. Neither elements constituting harassment had  been proved. First, the Tribunal found that Mr Wilson did not know that the Appellant was a Roman Catholic; but, more generally and perhaps more pertinently, it found that there was, to put it shortly, no anti-Catholic purpose in what he said.

What Mr Wilson said was not only not ill-intentioned or anti-Catholic or directed at the Pope or at Catholics: it was evidently not any of those things.  No doubt in a perfect world he should not have used an expletive in the context of a sentence about the Pope, because it might be taken as disrespectful by a pious Catholic of tender sensibilities, but people are not perfect and sometimes use bad language thoughtlessly: a reasonable person would have understood that and made allowance for it.

In this appeal, the Appellant contended that the Tribunal erred by considering Mr Wilson’s “motive” in saying what he did and that was immaterial to the question of whether his remark was “on the grounds” of the Appellant’s religion.


The Apellant lost. And that is going out looking for things to be offended by.

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

Those are global aspirations?

Feb 20th, 2013 9:48 am | By

Exciting goings on at a Students’ Union affili­ated society workshop at the University of Manchester: a speaker said that homosexuals would be executed in an ideal Islamic state. Whee! What a lot I missed out on by going to university so many decades ago.

1st year Middle Eastern studies stu­dent Colin Cortbus attended a public meeting at the Students’ Union last Wednesday 13th February organised by Global Aspi­rations and asked the chairperson of the meeting whether “in the Islamic society in which you strive for,” they would “feel comfortable, personally and morally, to kill a gay man.”

She responded, “Absolutely,” and added later that homosexuality was an “atrocity, because it goes against what God says.”

Mr Cortbus sent an undercover re­cording of the talk to The Mancunion the following day.

Wonderful, isn’t it. It’s an atrocity, because God says so. We know this how? It says so, in the book. How do we know that’s true? It says so. In the book. And on that firm basis, gay men should be killed. Absolutely.

The society lists its purpose on the Manchester Students’ Union website as “to highlight the universal aspirations of women and create discussions on cam­pus as to what these are and what can be done about it. “

They further claim to “create an environment in which students can come together and discuss concerns.”

Though their page on the Students’ Union website makes no reference to Islamic beliefs, their Facebook page – which has 91 likes – describes them as: “A UoM society set up to discuss the aspirations of women, whether these can be achieved under the current system and showing Islam as an alternative.”

So it’s stealth Islamism? Lure them in with waffled about universal aspirations and then hypnotize them into Islamism? Cool plan.

A statement from Students’ Union Wellbeing Officer Cat Gray, read: “We are deeply concerned with the covert filming of a student event within the Union. We are also deeply concerned by the suggestion that comments of a homophobic nature have been made. The Union operates a safe space policy where students should not be subject to any form of intimidation or discrimination. We encourage students who wish to report incidents which have made them feel unsafe to contact any member of the Exec Team.”

Oh shut up. Shut up with your deeply concerned and your safe space policy and your any form of intimidation. You have to pick one. You can’t just deeply concern everything and then go back to sleep; you have to pick one.

H/t Geoff

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

The Taoiseach choked up

Feb 19th, 2013 4:41 pm | By

The Taoiseach delivered a state apology to the survivor of the Magdalene laundries this evening.

Enda Kenny broke into tears as he made an historic and emotionally-charged state apology to survivors of the Magdalene laundries.

The Taoiseach received a standing ovation in parliament after he described the Catholic-run workhouses as the “nation’s shame” and accepted the state’s direct involvement.

“I, as Taoiseach, on behalf of the state, the Government and our citizens deeply regret and apologise unreservedly to all those women for the hurt that was done to them, and for any stigma they suffered, as a result of the time they spent in a Magdalene Laundry,” Mr Kenny said.

Twenty women who were locked up in one of the laundries watched with bated breath from the public gallery.

They held hands tightly and wept as the Taoiseach made his tearful apology.

Well good. It’s about time.

He had come under fire for failing to apologise two weeks ago when former Senator Martin McAleese’s 1,000-page report into State involvement in the Magdalene Laundries was published.

But in the Dail, Mr Kenny delivered a clear state apology to the 10,000 women who had been in the country’s ten Magdalene Laundries.

He said there never would have been any need for institutions such as the Magdalen Laundries in a society guided by the principles of compassion and social justice.

And he said that women kept in there were wholly blameless and were only described as “fallen women” due to prejudice.

And the church. Don’t forget the church.

Mr Kenny became emotional as he concluded his speech to apologise once more for the national shame.

“At the conclusion of my discussions with one group of the Magdelen Women one of those present sang ‘Whispering Hope’. A line from that song stays in my mind – “when the dark midnight is over, watch for the breaking of day”,” he said.

He had to pause in the middle of his final sentence, saying “Excuse me”, before regaining his composure.

“Let me hope that this day and this debate heralds a new dawn for all those who feared that the dark midnight might never end,” he said.

Well done.

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

In which I “show up” again

Feb 19th, 2013 11:55 am | By

Well I was going to ignore it but no one else is, so I’ll say a thing or two. About Harriet Hall’s latest Address to the Feminists, which announces that she’s not our enemy by way of prelude to telling us what shits we are.

I have been falsely identified as an enemy of feminism (not in so many words, but the intent is clear). My words have been misrepresented as sexist and misinterpreted beyond recognition. I find this particularly disturbing and hard to understand, because I’m convinced that my harshest critics and I are basically arguing for exactly the same things. I wish my critics could set aside their resentments and realize that I am not the enemy.

Two weeks ago I published an article on gender differences and the recent divisions in the skeptical community.  Ophelia Benson showed up in the comments. Not unsurprisingly, she disagreed with me about the Shermer incident, but then she said “I like the rest of this article a lot. I particularly like the point about averages and individuals, which is one I make all the time.”

I took that as a hopeful sign that friendly communication might be achieved, but my bubble was quickly burst by a hostile takedown of my article on Skepchick by “Will.”

Really? Her bubble was burst by Will’s article? That’s odd. Mine was burst a lot more promptly and directly than that. It was burst on that same thread, within minutes, by hostile replies to me from David Gorski and others.

I was making an effort to achieve friendly communication. That’s why I said the thing that Hall quotes. It was an attempt to get a more friendly conversation going. It failed dismally because no one took me up on it. I thought Gorski had at first, but I misread him, as he later made clear. I gave it up and left.

This isn’t a one-way street you know. Hall has never made any such attempts in my direction. She’s done the opposite. She’s done it again in this post. She wants us to “ set aside their resentments and realize that I am not the enemy” – yet she proceeds to pick another fight. Well which is it?! And what about you setting aside your resentments, Dr Hall?!

Much later in the piece, she renews her quarrel with me, in a bizarrely off-topic, even Dadaist way.

And if you want a really surreal excursion into the thought processes of my critics, take a gander at this exchange  [the names of two participants were redacted].

Ah yes, the names of two participants were indeed redacted – while mine was not. Why? No reason. Absolutely no reason on earth except that those two participants are Friends and I’m Enemy. Yet Hall is either dense enough or malicious enough to treat that as self-evidently fair and reasonable. At this rate she’ll soon be posting on the mildew pit – which is where that exchange was first posted as a screenshot of Hall’s Facebook page, and where the names of the two Good participants were “redacted” to protect their “privacy” while mine was not.

That Facebook conversation was another one where I tried to achieve friendly communication with Hall. That attempt too was disrupted by trollers (Travis Roy and Richard Murray).

Hall discusses that unedifying Facebook tangle for awhile, then moves on to another authoritative critic of my thinking.

Another blogger has deconstructed a list Ophelia made of antifeminist tropes. He claims she sets up a series of straw men and tries to create problems where none exist. You can judge for yourself.

That’s Al Stefanelli’s post, in which he fundamentally misunderstands what I was saying, in a way that makes me embarrassed for him. Hall seems to think it’s cogent stuff. You can judge for yourself.

What can I say? She’s angry and unpleasant and she’s pretending she’s not an enemy while acting exactly like one. I don’t want to talk about her, but she won’t shut up about me.

Now, finally, one substantive point. At the end she gives a list of items we all probably agree on.

  • That there are still obstacles to women in our society. (We can congratulate ourselves that many of the “hard” obstacles such as legal restrictions have been eliminated. Unfortunately, the ones that remain are “softer”, harder to identify precisely and harder to deal with effectively),
  • That we should endeavor to identify and remove the remaining obstacles
  • That it is unreasonable to enforce a requirement that equal numbers of men and women be present in any sphere of human endeavor
  • That society has much to gain from letting everyone, male and female, develop their individual talents in a field of endeavor that they have freely chosen.

The first two, yes. The third and fourth, wait wait, slow down. It’s not that simple.

No one is talking about enforcing a requirement that equal numbers of men and women be present in any sphere of human endeavor. But, that doesn’t mean we should just look at any particular sphere of human endeavor that has a huge gender imbalance and conclude that it reflects pure choice and that’s all there is to it. That’s especially true when the sphere in question is a highly rewarded one, whether with money or status or intellectual stimulation or other such goods. (And that cuts both ways. There are vocations whose rewards are emotional and relational, where men may be scarce.) That’s especially true at this point in the timeline, because it’s just way too early. Maybe after many decades of effort to level all the playing fields, a time will come when it actually is safe to say “ok, this is how things shake out when there are no obstacles hard or soft,” but that time is not yet.

So no, nobody wants the job police to collar women who want to be poets and force them to be computer scientists. But that’s not the issue.

I’m not the enemy either.


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

Mantel v Middleton

Feb 19th, 2013 10:51 am | By

As I mentioned at some point, I didn’t like Hilary Mantel’s two Thomas Cromwell novels, as much of them as I read – I began skipping and skimming quite soon with both. But as so often, I do like her essayistic writing, at least as manifested in this talk published by the London Review of Books. It’s sharp, funny, vivid, specific, insightful, witty – it’s just dang good.

It’s about royal bodies, especially those of royal women. Marie Antoinette, Diana, Our Own Dear Queen, Anne Boleyn, Our Own Dear Kate.

And then the queen passed close to me and I stared at her. I am ashamed now to say it but I passed my eyes over her as a cannibal views his dinner, my gaze sharp enough to pick the meat off her bones. I felt that such was the force of my devouring curiosity that the party had dematerialised and the walls melted and there were only two of us in the vast room, and such was the hard power of my stare that Her Majesty turned and looked back at me, as if she had been jabbed in the shoulder; and for a split second her face expressed not anger but hurt bewilderment. She looked young: for a moment she had turned back from a figurehead into the young woman she was, before monarchy froze her and made her a thing, a thing which only had meaning when it was exposed, a thing that existed only to be looked at.

And I felt sorry then. I wanted to apologise. I wanted to say: it’s nothing personal, it’s monarchy I’m staring at. I rejoined, mentally, the rest of the guests. Now flunkeys were moving among us with trays and on them were canapés, and these snacks were the queen’s revenge. They were pieces of gristly meat on skewers. Let’s not put too fine a point on it: they were kebabs. It took some time to chew through one of them, and then the guests were left with the little sticks in their hands. They tried to give them back to the flunkeys, but the flunkeys smiled and sadly shook their heads, and moved away, so the guests had to carry on the evening holding them out, like children with sparklers on Guy Fawkes night.

I love the flunkeys sadly shaking their heads. I love the guests having to stand around with splintery skewers in their hands. I love the cannibal staring.

Later she moves on to Anne and Henry.

It’s no surprise that so much fiction constellates around the subject of Henry and his wives. Often, if you want to write about women in history, you have to distort history to do it, or substitute fantasy for facts; you have to pretend that individual women were more important than they were or that we know more about them than we do.

But with the reign of King Bluebeard, you don’t have to pretend. Women, their bodies, their reproductive capacities, their animal nature, are central to the story. The history of the reign is so graphically gynaecological that in the past it enabled lady novelists to write about sex when they were only supposed to write about love; and readers could take an avid interest in what went on in royal bedrooms by dignifying it as history, therefore instructive, edifying. Popular fiction about the Tudors has also been a form of moral teaching about women’s lives, though what is taught varies with moral fashion. It used to be that Anne Boleyn was a man-stealer who got paid out. Often, now, the lesson is that if Katherine of Aragon had been a bit more foxy, she could have hung on to her husband. Anne as opportunist and sexual predator finds herself recruited to the cause of feminism. Always, the writers point to the fact that a man who marries his mistress creates a job vacancy. ‘Women beware women’ is a teaching that never falls out of fashion.

But never mind all that fine writing – the point is, she dissed Kate. Focus on that! Hadley Freeman gets us caught up.

Two weeks ago, Mantel gave a lecture at the British Museum, organised  by the London Review of Books. Not, one might have thought, an event ripe with potential for scandal. Nonetheless, scandal issued forth most biliously (if somewhat belatedly) when someone on Fleet Street noticed that Mantel’s speech had been published on the LRB website six days ago and that it contained – clutch your handkerchiefs to your mouths, readers! – comments about Kate, the Duchess of Somethingorother. These comments, incidentally, made (with Mantel’s characteristic subtlety and grace) the patently obvious points that Kate’s entire raison d’être now, in the eyes of the media and the royal family, is to be admired and to breed, just as Anne Boleyn’s had been. She has been embraced by the royal family because she seems like the anti-Diana; one who is not interested in her own publicity but is instead depicted by the royal press machine as safe and devoted to her husband and duties.

Yes but who gave Hilary Mantel permission to say so? That’s the important thing. It’s not how apt her comments are or how well she put them, it’s who said she was allowed to. You have to get permission to say things about the royals. Or you don’t, really, but it’s fun to pretend it’s naughty to do it, especially when it’s a woman doing it.

None of these observations is new, although rarely have they been better couched. They also took up a total of four paragraphs in a 30-paragraph speech – less than one-seventh, in other words – that otherwise focused on Mantel’s very perceptive observations of Henry VIII, the Queen and the nature of monarchy as a whole. But none of these can be illustrated with a photo of the eternally photogenic duchess and, more importantly, none can be souped up into some kind of non-existent squabble between two high-profile women (Boleyn being, famously if rather inconveniently, dead.) So it was Mantel’s “vicious, venomous” and “withering”“rants” and “attacks” on the Duchess that made the front pages of today’s Mail and Metro papers, as well as getting a prominent mention in the Independent and a somewhat smaller one in the Guardian. This kind of extrapolation is reminiscent of when a critic describes a film as “astonishingly bad” and the film poster then claims the critic described it as “astonishing!”

Catfight! Catfight! Bitchez be fighting!

It is worth looking at what is going on here. Lazy journalism, clearly, and raging hypocrisy, obviously: what has any paper done with Kate for the past decade but use her as decorative page filler? Indeed, when the BBC covered Mantelgate (Mantelpiece?) it included lingering shots of the duchess’s fair form while quoting in horror from Mantel’s speech about the royal women existing to be admired. This is also a good example of how the Mail fights back when it feels it is being attacked. For if Mantel was attacking anyone in her talk, then her aim was clearly at the Mail with its obsessive, prurient fascination with Kate. To see the Mail gasping at Mantel’s suggestion that the duchess is “designed to breed” when it has been on “bump watch” since she walked down the aisle is the Fleet Street reenactment of Captain Renault in Casablanca proclaiming himself to be “shocked to find gambling is going on here” while collecting his winnings. It then added helpfully that Mantel is “infertile” and “dreams of being thin”. Yeah, no wonder she’s jealous of our Kate, the fat childless cow.

Old ugly woman disses young pretty woman! Catfight! Bitchez be fighting!

But the liberal press has been arguably just as bad, with the Independent providing a kindly list, allowing readers to compare “the author and the princess”, again emphasising Mantel’s weight. The subject of women talking about women has become as fraught an issue for the left as it is for the right. The conservative press loves a good woman v woman – or “author v princess” – fight because it suggests that women are all hysterical girlies who can’t be trusted with proper grownup issues because they’ll start throwing tampons at one another…

On the liberal side, one of the tenets of the fourth wave of feminism, which is just starting to crest, is that women should not criticise one another’s life choices…

Mantel was discussing how the royal family and the media manipulate women; it is of little surprise that the media would attack her back. But this nonsense highlights how it is still, apparently, impossible to be a woman and put forth a measured opinion about one of your own without it being twisted into some kind of screed-ish, unsisterly attack. As Mantel has learnt to her cost today, it’s not only royal women who are expected to stay quiet.

Because if women don’t stay quiet, we’ll all go deaf from the catfights.





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

Look who’s here!

Feb 19th, 2013 9:24 am | By

Eric MacDonald.

Welcome, Eric! We’re overjoyed to have you here.

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


Feb 18th, 2013 3:40 pm | By

Ben Radford is playing silly buggers again. Check out the title of his new post.

‘Over It’ Follow-Up: Why Would Anyone Criticize an Anti-Rape Poem?

He cites PZ’s post.

In response, PZ Myers wrote a blog titled, “You don’t get to be ‘over’ rape,” telling me (and, by extension, Eve Ensler) that “you don’t get to be ‘over’ rape.” I may disagree with Ensler’s statistics and methods (while agreeing with her goals), but I would never question her motivations, nor tell Ensler that she doesn’t “get to be ‘over rape’.” I am “over rape” in exactly the same way Ensler is “over rape.”

Why PZ Myers (or anyone else) would presume to criticize an anti-rape poem (of all things) by a prominent feminist is beyond me, but at least one of us is terribly, terribly confused.

Actually when he first wrote the post he said Melody wrote the post, then later corrected the mistake without saying he was correcting it. That’s not good practice (to put it tactfully).

But look at PZ’s post. It’s short, it won’t take long. He doesn’t say what Radford says he said.

He doesn’t say what Radford says he said.

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

The sacred right to shun

Feb 18th, 2013 3:22 pm | By

I find that there’s a right I can have that I didn’t even know I could have. There’s a right to not see gay people. I did not ever know that. A conservative talk show host called Janet Mefferd says there is such a right.

Conservative talk show host Janet Mefferd this week waded into the controversy about an Indiana high school where a group of students wanted to organize a separate prom that would specifically prevent gay and lesbian students from attending.

After lamenting that “public schools are morally bankrupt,” Mefferd asserted that proms which allow all students — gay or straight — to attend actually violate the rights of Christian students who disapprove of homosexuality.

What right in particular, you might ask?

According to Mefferd, apparently the right of students not to even see gay people!

All right, let’s take a look at this group of high school students trying to organize a shunning of gay students.

Several parents, students, and others who believe gays should be banned from the Sullivan High School prom met Sunday at the Sullivan First Christian Church.

“We don’t agree with it and it’s offensive to us,” said Diana Medley.

Their idea is to create their own separate traditional prom. Students say there are several others from their high school who agree, but are afraid to take a stand.

“If we can get a good prom then we can convince more people to come and follow what they believe,” said student Kynon Johnson.

And now they want everyone to know where they stand.

“We want to make the public see that we love the homosexuals, but we don’t think it’s right nor should it be accepted,” said a local student.

So they want to shun them, because Jesus. Very nice.

Janet Mefferd explained.

 I feel for these Christian kids who are in a prom or kids who are at this high school who say, ‘you know something, do we have to go down this road?’ Whether the homosexual activists like it or not, and I know this isn’t politically correct to say this, but not everybody wants to see that. I know that that’s offensive to the activist crowd, they want us all to see it, they want us all to approve of it, they want us all to call it blessed and okay and rejoice and have parties and throw confetti in the air over this whole thing. But the fact of the matter is it’s a moral issue. You will always have Christians who will disagree with this and why should the rights of the activists trump the rights of Christians?

Throw confetti in the air? (She sounds a little like Ben Radford. “Feminists say all men are rapists!” “Teh gaze want us to throw confetti in the air!”) No, not confetti in the air. Not shunning. That’s different. Not organizing to attempt to shut some students out of their own prom.

And the fact of the matter is not it’s a moral issue. It doesn’t become a moral issue just because someone says it is. Shunning people because of unreasonable feelings of ick is much more of a moral issue than being gay is.

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

Goldacre reveals a terrifying mess

Feb 18th, 2013 1:48 pm | By

Dagnabbit. Ben Goldacre is in town, and doing a talk at Town Hall tonight, but I didn’t know about it and now I can’t rearrange things so that I can go. Drat!

Ben Goldacre’s earlier bestseller Bad Science hilariously exposed the tricks that quacks and journalists use to distort science; now Goldacre puts the multibillion-dollar global pharmaceutical industry under the microscope—and reveals a terrifying mess. Doctors and patients need good scientific evidence to make informed decisions, says the author of Bad Pharma, but instead, companies run bad trials on their own drugs, which distort and exaggerate the benefits. When these trials produce unflattering results, the data are simply buried—and all of this is perfectly legal. It’s a world so fractured, Goldacre says, that medics and nurses are educated by the drug industry—and patients are harmed.

Wanna go. Can’t. Phooey.

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

What is a moral good?

Feb 18th, 2013 10:48 am | By

Massimo has responded to Shermer’s post responding to him, by annotating the post.

…I begin with a Principle of Moral Good: Always act with someone else’s moral good in mind, and never act in a way that leads to someone else’s moral loss…

Well, that sounds good (and mighty close to Kant’s famous categorical imperative), except for the significant degree of begging the question hidden in Michael’s principle (but not in Kant’s). What is a moral good? Reading the principle as it stands I would have pretty much no idea of how to actually act, or whether my acting would lead to someone else’s moral good or loss.

Shermer in italics, Pigliucci below. That’s basically the problem I had, except that I (being an amateur) called it jumping to the middle as opposed to begging the question. Shermer doesn’t begin at the beginning by spelling out what’s in play, but instead simply assumes the very thing he’s supposedly elucidating, and jumps ahead to talk about it before he’s spelled it out.

Most men, for example, are much more receptive toward unsolicited offers of sex than are women.

This is just a parenthetical observation, Michael, but that study has been debunked, together with a lot of the other questionable “science” about gender we get from a certain brand of evolutionary psychology…
Oh no! Is Massimo one of them there “radfem” types who hate all brands of evolutionary psychology because they say all men are rapists?!
I kid.

The survival and flourishing of the individual is the foundation for establishing values and morals, and so determining the conditions by which humans best survive and flourish ought to be the goal of a science of morality.


Natural selection has everything to do with survival (and reproduction), but pretty much nothing to do with flourishing. The latter, in turn, is an inherently cultural concept, that is difficult to articulate and whose specifics vary with time and geography. Which means that Michael’s “smooth transition” between is and ought is anything but smooth.

Massimo expands on that point toward the end of the post.

Michael keeps talking about survival and flourishing in a single breadth, invoking natural selection as working to increase both. This is absolutely wrong. Natural selection increases survival, and even that only insofar as it assures reproduction (after that, good luck to you, my friend!). Selection has nothing whatsoever to do with flourishing, the realization of which completely breaks any evolutionarily based “smooth transition” between is and ought. Not to mention, of course, that Michael should know that natural selection likely also produced a number of nasty behavioral patterns in humans (e.g., xenophobia), which we have been trying  — in good part through philosophizing about them! — to get rid of throughout the past couple of millennia.So, again, science — or more broadly, factual evidence — most certainly has a place at the high table of any meaningful discussion about how to achieve human goals and fulfill human desires. But philosophical reflection remains central to ethics because ethics is about reasoning on the implications of and conflicts generated by those goals and desires.

Natural selection isn’t moral. It’s the opposite of moral. Darwin said this in the “Devil’s chaplain” letter.

What a book a Devil’s chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering low & horridly cruel works of nature!

Dawkins wrote a wonderful essay on the subject. Natural selection is an absolute shit. Without it we wouldn’t be here, but that doesn’t make it not a shit.



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

Churchland on morality and science

Feb 18th, 2013 9:16 am | By

The first few pages of Patricia Churchland’s Braintrust make an excellent antidote to Shermer’s amateurish and arrogant attempt to set everyone straight about morality. (It’s rude to call it amateurish, but perhaps not as rude as it would be if I were not an amateur myself. I am an amateur, and that’s why I want to get moral philosophy from philosophers rather than non-philosophers, and why I wouldn’t myself try to set everyone straight about morality.)

Churchland starts with her own amateur thinking about morality when she was in school and confronted with the unfairness of medieval trial by ordeal. Her history teacher tried to put the practice in context, to discourage the too-easy sense of moral superiority, but the unfairness still stood out.

So what is it to be fair? How do we know what to count as fair? Why do we regard trial by ordeal as wrong? Thus opens the door into the vast tangled forest of questions about right and wrong, good and evil, virtues and vices. For most of my adult life as a philosopher, I shied away from plunging unreservedly into these sorts of questions about morality. This was largely because I could not see a systematic way through that tangled forest, and because a lot of contemporary moral philosophy, though venerated in academic halls, was completely untethered to the “hard and fast”: that is, it had no strong connection to evolution or to the brain, and hence was in peril of floating on a sea of mere, albeit confident, opinion. And no doubt the medieval clerics were every bit as confident. [p 2]

See? I find that one paragraph more clear, more explanatory, more orienting,  more useful, than Shermer’s whole post, long as it is. There are a lot of questions; they are difficult and complicated, not easy and simple; it is hard to find a systematic way to answer them; confidence does not equal success. The questions need to be tethered to evolution and the brain, but that too is not easy or quick.

It did seem likely that Aristotle, Hume, and Darwin were right: we are social by nature. But what does that actually mean in terms of our brains and our genes? To make progress beyond the broad hunches about our nature, we need something solid to attach the claim to. [pp 2-3]

So she got a second PhD, this time in neuroscience.

She discusses the way this combination is apt to draw accusations of “scientism,” and explains why they are often mistaken but also what the accusation can get right.

In the present case, the claim is not that science will wade in and tell us for every dilemma what is right or wrong. Rather, the point is that a deeper understanding of what it is that makes humans and other animals social, and what it is that disposes us to care about others, may lead to greater understanding of how to cope with social problems. [p 4]

Shermer, and Harris before him, simply skipped over that part. They rush to the middle and start there, while Churchland starts at the beginning: we are social animals, we are disposed to care about others. Better, you see?

Then the is-ought problem. What’s the point of it?

…precisely because he was a naturalist, Hume had to make it clear that the sophisticated naturalist has no truck with simple, sloppy inferences going from what is to what ought to be. He challenged those who took moral understanding to be the preserve of the elite, especially the clergy, who tended to make dimwitted inferences between descriptions and prescriptions. For example, it might be said (my examples, not Hume’s), “Husbands are stronger than their wives, so wives ought to obey their husbands,” or “We have a tradition that little boys work as chimney sweeps, therefore we ought to have little boys work as chimney sweeps.” [p 8]

Clear instead of muddled.

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