Notes and Comment Blog

Good without god OR religion?

Aug 11th, 2013 3:10 pm | By

Robin Ince took part in an Intelligence Square debate yesterday, on the motion ““The world needs religion, just leave God out of it.” He and Peter Atkins were against, Selina O’Grady and Douglas Murray were for. He posted his opening statement and summing up.

Enough statistics, I want to speak of my personal experience, of the people who do good, care about their community, and want to build something better, but do it without religion.

(here I had a long list including…)

I think of the work of the human rights lawyer who spends his life campaigning for people across the world who he feels have been wrongly punished, including incredible work in Guantanamo Bay. He is a godless human trying to help many who have religious beliefs, sometimes it has been little more than their religious beliefs that have led to their incarceration. I think of the atheists I know who support these campaigns through word and deed, disagreeing with the victims’ religion, but not their rights to be treated as human beings.

I think about those I have met who work for Medecins Sans Frontiers, or charities for the abused, people I know who work for hideously low pay and hideously long hours caring for people with extreme disability, mental health nurse etc etc… Many have no religion, many do, and you would be hard-pressed to work out which ones do and which ones don’t if I introduced them to you. We are also told that the church holds a unique place in its ability for people of different classes and societies to gather, perhaps, just perhaps, that was true some centuries ago. In the 21st century this is no longer true. What of the people brought together by music, by theatre,  by art, by campaigning, by allotments…

I think of the odd sheds, halls and barns I have played across the UK where farm labourers, school receptionists, postmen, doctors and greengrocers have taken unused buildings and made them centres of their communities – sometimes screening Finding Nemo, sometimes housing myself reading from ludicrous giant killer crab novels accompanied by an accordionist, hey, that’s variety.

That’s what I want – more odd sheds, halls and barns. More Third Places. More places to congregate (and thus create purely secular congregations).

Robin’s side won the debate.



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

“Social media savvy”

Aug 11th, 2013 12:52 pm | By

Jerry Coyne posted about Dawkins and the Tweets this morning. I had a column to write for the Freethinker yesterday and I decided to write about Dawkins and the Tweets. I sent it yesterday, proofed it this morning.

The subject isn’t as trivial as it might sound to a visitor from Mars. (Ok not Mars. We can’t use Mars that way any more, not now that we’re rummaging around up out there ourselves, making ourselves at home, taking snapshots. Ok Neptune. A visitor from Neptune.) There’s something interesting about the way Twitter can act as a kind of Id for some people, and about Dawkins’s failure or refusal to see that it’s not a good idea to use it that way.

From the WEIT post:

Yet If I could have a second wish, I’d ask that Richard Dawkins refrain from using Twitter.  Not only does he try to make complicated points in the too-small space of 140 characters, but many people are gunning for him anyway, hoping to make hay out of his missteps. That’s a recipe for internet meltdown.

The first wish was the abolition of Twitter. That thing about trying to make complicated points in the too-small space – that’s what I’ve said several times over the past whatever weeks. I think I’ve said it once or twice directly to Dawkins on Twitter. I wouldn’t expect him to listen to me, but I doubt I’m the only one who’s said it before today, so it is a little surprising that he forges ahead regardless.

The RDF put out a press statement today, announcing a partnership with the SCA.

Washington, DC-The Secular Coalition for America today announced a strategic partnership between the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science U.S. and top leadership of the Secular Coalition for America, through the remainder of 2013.

The partnership aims to maximize the strengths of both organizations-drawing on the Secular Coalition’s strong nonprofit and strategic planning experience and the Dawkins Foundation’s strong web and social media savvy, scientific expertise, and broad outreach.

Strong social media savvy?? No. That, the Dawkins Foundation ain’t got.

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


Aug 11th, 2013 11:34 am | By

At least people can change. Sometimes they change for the worse, but not always. Hang on to that thought when despair about humanity threatens.

Ahmad Akkari has changed for the better.

A Danish Muslim leader who seven years ago travelled the Muslim world fuelling the uproar over newspaper caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad is back in the headlines in Denmark after doing an about-face on the issue.

Once a leading critic of the Danish cartoons, which sparked fiery protests in Muslim countries, Lebanese-born Ahmad Akkari now says the Jyllands-Posten newspaper had the right to print them.

(Stupid Guardian. Even in an article about the guy who led the campaign that triggered “fiery protests in Muslim countries,” the Graun is still using that stupid inaccurate stock-phrase “the Danish cartoons, which sparked fiery protests.” Imbecile Guardian. The cartoons did not spark the fiery protests, you buffoons. Pay attention to what you write.)

Akkari, now 35, was the spokesman for a group of imams who led the protests against the drawings in Denmark. They travelled to Lebanon, Egypt and Syria to elicit support, saying the Danish government wouldn’t listen to their concerns.

Their journeys helped turn the dispute into an international crisis. Dozens were killed in weeks of protests that included violent attacks against Danish missions in Syria, Iran, Afghanistan and Lebanon.

That group of imams and their spokesman got people killed. The cartoons didn’t do it. People deliberately stoking outrage about the cartoons did it. Sometimes outrage has to be stoked, but this was not one of those times, and the stoking got people killed.

“I want to be clear today about the trip: It was totally wrong,” Akkari said this week. “At that time, I was so fascinated with this logical force in the Islamic mindset that I could not see the greater picture. I was convinced it was a fight for my faith, Islam.”

He said he’s still a practising Muslim but started doubting his fundamentalist beliefs after a 2007 trip to Lebanon, where he met Islamist leaders. “I was shocked. I realized what an oppressive mentality they have,” Akkari said.

That is a change for the better. A practicing Muslim is one thing and an Islamist is another.

Akkari now says printing the drawings was OK and that his reaction at the time was wrong. Last week he apologised in person to one of the cartoonists, Kurt Westergaard, who has faced multiple death threats and murder attempts from extremists. Many Muslims consider Westergaard’s drawing, which depicts Muhammad with a bomb-shaped turban, as the most offensive.

“I met a man who has converted from being an Islamist to become a humanist who understands the values of our society,” Westergaard said of Akkari. “To me, he is really sincere, convincing and strong in his views.”

People can change. For the better.


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

A form of

Aug 10th, 2013 5:50 pm | By

Random person on Twitter:

BTW, not believing in any god is a form of religion.

Hm. So everything is a form of religion – believing in any god, and not believing in any god.

So the phrase “a form of religion” doesn’t name anything. It’s just another word for “all the possible options.”

Seems superfluous.

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

HAPSTA 2013 International Conference in Nigeria

Aug 10th, 2013 2:30 pm | By

A message from humanists in Nigeria:

Dear friends, The 2013 Humanist Association for Peace and Social Tolerance Advancement International Conference comes up on 16-17 August, 2013 at Roseboom Hotel Akwa-Ibom.

Even though you could not attend, it is our belief that it wont be out of place for you to extend your goodwill message to participants.

Send such to and/or


Yemi HAPSTA 2013 International Conference


Issues to be discussed include: *Culture, Cultural Practices and Superstitions *Religion and Promotion of Superstitious Beliefs

*WitchKilling and Witchkilling in Africa *Culture and Religion in the age of Science * Science, Scientific mindset and Science Education * Science, Humanism and Development * Superstition, Modernity and Human Rights *Pseudoscience and African ‘Pseudo’Development

Speakers include: Ann Medekong, AdeyemiJohnson Ademowo, Umoh Umoh, Barr. Pius Madaki, Akpan Promise Asuquo, Yomi Ogunsanya, Ediomo-Ubong E. Nelson, Adegoke Peter Damilola, Diana-Abasi Ibanga, Abdul Hassan Bello, Ayobami Ojedokun, Elegbede Babatunde, Essien Essien Daniel, Osagbemi Olumide, Temidayo Oladipo, Ajigboye Oyeniyi, Uchechukwu Ilo, George Ogbonna Mbarah, Anthonia Essien, Moruff Mudashiru

Date: 16-17th August, 2013 Venue: Roseboom Hotel and Resorts, Eket/Oron Road, Eket, Akwa-Ibom State Time: 9:00am – 6:00pm

Participation is free!

In conjunction with CRARN, Eket Sponsored in full by HAMU, Norway (including the book that will be published afterwards!)

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

Guest post: Methods for dealing with “teasing”

Aug 10th, 2013 9:37 am | By

Guest post by Kevin Kirkpatrick, originally a comment on Hiss point hiss hiss.

When I read Emily Dietle’s defense of Shermer’s “NAUGHTY-NAUGHTY” comment, I see a direct parallel in how parents might choose to deal with sibling in-fighting, teasing, and bullying.  I have direct experience with three methodologies: that which my mother applied to my siblings and me; that which my father applied, and that which my wife and I apply for our own children.

My mother’s approach to dealing with teasing was “rule based”.  She simply had a set of rules which determined what behavior was teasing and what behavior was not.  Rules included but weren’t limited to: no unwanted touching, no name-calling, no finger-pointing, no ‘copying’, and so on.  And the result?  The older siblings were savvy enough to identify behaviors which sidestepped these rules and allowed them to torment and bully the younger siblings “at will”.  Acronyms were invented to give normal words derogatory meanings;  a younger sibling might  be called a “G.I.R.L.” after having been told what that “really” meant.  Pointing/staring at something near the younger sibling was very popular. Almost but not quite touching (“I’m not touching her!”).  And so on.  The rule-based approach required my mom to interview both sides and figure out who broke a rule.  And boy, did the elder siblings get good at “gaslighting” (amazing to find such a perfect term for something 30 years after the fact): “We didn’t call her a name, we just called her a girl, she’s crazy and just trying to get us in trouble.”

My father’s approach was authoritative and emphasized peace and quiet: punish/scold whoever is disrupting the peace so the peace is not disturbed.  This was a gold mine of opportunity for the older siblings: tease quietly/surreptitiously, and when the younger siblings loudly retaliated or complained, there’d be the added delight of seeing that sibling both get upset and reprimanded.

As a middle child growing up in the above household, I walked away with a pretty good feel of how ineffectual those strategies were.  Frankly, up until adulthood (at which our own maturity allowed us to work through and mend things), we children basically resented one another.  We rarely got along, never sought opportunities to do things together, and ultimately lived completely independent lives through to college age.

And as a parent, I resolved to handle things differently with our children.  Our approach to teasing is 100% empathy based and victim-supporting.  If one of our kids is upset based on what the other is doing, that behavior is directed to STOP immediately (with direct consequences if merited).  The “worst” backlash the victim can expect is, if the behavior is innocuous enough and/or plausibly non-malicious, we ensure that the victim first directly asked the transgressor to stop the behavior.   If the teasing continues (in any capacity), the “teasor” is removed from the social situation completely; timed out until they’re ready to behave kindly and respectfully.  Much emphasis is put on empathy training: the consequence is usually some form of the teasor working out and explaining to us how the teasing makes the other sibling feel, and understanding how they wouldn’t like to feel that way themselves.

Suffice it to say, the different approach to teasing has yielded astonishingly different results.  Our kids, now 7 and 5, are and have always been best buds.  As I write this, they’ve literally been at imaginative play for going on 3 hours (and that’s the norm).  Sibling fighting still occurs from time to time (mostly when the kids are over-tired/hungry/etc.), but it simply does not exist in any significant way in our household.

Emily Dietle’s defense of Shermer 100% rings of the rule-based approach my mother used, and I’m mostly stunned that my 7 and 5 year old children seem to have already developed a better grasp of how to respectfully engage others than she seems to advocate.  The CFI culture seems more in line with my father’s authoritative attitude: punish and shame the noise-maker, with the end-goal of “peace and quiet” being the measure of success.


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

Hiss point hiss hiss

Aug 9th, 2013 3:36 pm | By

Emily Dietle just dropped in to leave a comment promoting a blog post of hers. She left it on Items, a post from two days ago that ended with a link to a Twitter conversation I had with her.

On Twitter we’re being told that “we are sexual beings” and that flirtation out of nowhere is fine.

Her comment included some extra material.

Hey folks, it’s your friendly neighborhood misogynist here! Ophelia has highlighted my chill-girl attitudes in a way so few can. Maybe you’d like to see the rest for yourself:

Compare the two. Note that I did not call her a misogynist or a chill girl, and that I didn’t even name her*. Her comment contains falsehoods about me.

I took a look at her post and found that the comment is simply quoting from the post – so the falsehoods are there, too.


Hey folks, it’s your friendly neighborhood misogynist here! In one of several opinion pieces put out recently on the serious matter of harassment and assault, Ophelia Benson has highlighted my chill-girl attitudes in a way few others can.  As a woman who has experienced rape and other forms of abuse, I am not amused, but let’s have a few laughs anyway.

No, I’m not amused either. As a woman who has experienced years of online abuse, I’m not amused by Emily Dietle pretending I said things I didn’t say.

I’ve asked her to remove the falsehoods.

She spread them on Twitter too, naturally, with the predictable results.


 Nice work, Emily.

*Update Aug. 11 – as a commenter points out, I did name her by linking to the tweet. I meant I didn’t include her name in the post itself, but the commenter is right that that doesn’t equal not naming her at all.

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


Aug 9th, 2013 1:16 pm | By

Al Stefanelli has posted (or “rage blogged,” as the saying goes) a characteristically vulgar and belligerent response to PZ’s post.

On 08 August 2013, Paul Zachary Myers posted about being handed a ‘grenade‘ with the pin pulled out. Basically, he wrote that a woman told him she was raped by Michael Shermer at a conference a while ago.

That Myers chose to ‘reprint‘ this shows not only a complete lack of common sense, but is also indicative of the incredibly spurious depths to which he will sink to garner a few blog hits.

That’s the first two paragraphs, and there’s not much need to read more, is there. What a fucking stupid thing to say. For one thing, Stefanelli was part of this network for a year or so, which means he had access to the stats, which means he must know perfectly well that PZ doesn’t need to “sink” to anything to get a few blog hits. For a second thing, it’s very obvious that PZ didn’t enjoy holding that grenade with the pin pulled out. For a third thing, that “they do it for the blog hits!!1″ is just a trashy lie that trashy people tell each other ninety million times a day no matter what we post.

This is not ‘bringing to light‘ a problem in the skeptic community. It is not an attempt to reveal some sort of dark underbelly of rampant sexual abuse that permeates the skeptic conference circuit. It is yellow journalism, if I even dare to use the word ‘journalism‘ in connection to anything that has come out of Pharyngula for quite some time.

He knows that how? He doesn’t say. Of course not, because he doesn’t know that, and it’s not true.

If Mr. Shermer is guilty of sexual assault, then Mr. Shermer should be made to answer for it. This is a given for anyone. However, these are issues for the courts to decide, and there are protocols in place that address these issues. Are there problems with the system? Yeah, no doubt. Does that have anything to do with the drek that Myers posted? No.

“Yeah, no doubt” – his concern is touching. Does he know what he says in the last two sentences? No. He doesn’t know that and it’s not true.

We have all come to expect little more from these sources than libelous, slimy pieces consisting of sensationalist bullshit, devoid of any modicum of integrity, value or credibility that serve no other purpose than to advance the agenda of the collective purveyors we know as attention whores.

No further comment necessary.

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

Skip that challenge

Aug 9th, 2013 12:56 pm | By

Oh dear. Richard Dawkins has been getting pushback about some tweets, so he’s written a piece for RDF to explain things. Maybe that should be a sign to him that tweets aren’t the right medium for complicated thoughts.

Twitter’s 140 character limit always presents a tough challenge, but I tried to rise to it.

Ah, no, it wasn’t a sign to him then.

No; don’t try to rise to the challenge. That’s not what it’s good for. It’s not a game of “try to say something useful about what’s wrong with Islam in 140 characters without being simplistic or banal and without setting off a noisy brawl.” People use it that way, yes, but it’s silly.

He summarizes several main strands of criticism and replies to them one at a time; the bold is his summary of a strand:

Race is not a biological concept at all but a socially constructed one. In the sociological sense you can convert to a race because race is a social construction.

There may be sociologists who choose to redefine words to their own purpose, in which case we have a simple semantic disagreement. I have a right to choose to interpret “race” (and hence “racism”) according to the dictionary definition: “A limited group of people descended from a common ancestor”.  Sociologists are entitled to redefine words in technical senses that they find useful, but they are not entitled to impose their new definitions on those of us who prefer common or dictionary usage.

Aw come on – that’s no good. That’s just vulgar and anti-intellectual. “Race” is the kind of concept that benefits from careful thought and definition, and it’s the kind of thing that sociologists study. It’s not a matter of “imposing” definitions, but of saying the dictionary definition is not useful for the purposes of a thoughtful discussion that turns on the meaning of race.

I don’t even have a firm opinion about whether he was wrong or right in the Twitter discussion, because I haven’t followed it closely (though I’ve read some of the commentary on it). But I think the article is unfortunately crude.


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

The Lolita defense

Aug 9th, 2013 12:04 pm | By

Fortunately, though, it’s always easy and safe for women to report rape.


Anti-sexual abuse campaigners, among them the author who successfully put Jane Austen on the £10 note before having to fend off the resulting torrent of online rape threats have reacted angrily after it emerged that a man who admitted having sex with a 13-year-old girl walked free from court; while his victim was described by the judge and prosecution as sexually “predatory”.

Neil Wilson, 41, faces having his eight-month suspended jail sentence reviewed after the Attorney General Dominic Grieve agreed to look into the case yesterday. And the Crown Prosecution Service was forced to admit that its own prosecutor acted “inappropriately” when he placed a portion of the responsibility upon the victim in court.

Imagine what the judge would have said about her if she’d been 15. And if she’d been 25 – there would probably not have been a prosecution at all.

Their anger followed the comments made by prosecution lawyer Robert Colover. In sentencing, Judge Nigel Peters apparently accepted the suggestions that Wilson’s teenage victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was complicit in the abuse; despite her being well below the age of consent.

The girl was accused in court of “egging her abuser on” and was described as “looking older” than her thirteen years, something the judge said he would consider in Wilson’s favour. But anti-rape campaigners railed at the accusation that the young victim was promiscuous. They argued that it helped facilitate the sexual abuse of children.

The support group Rape Crisis (England and Wales) said it was “appalled and bitterly disappointed” at what it called “shocking and entirely unacceptable treatment of a 13-year-old sexual violence victim in court”.

So reporting rape isn’t all that easy or safe after all? Huh. How about that.


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

How many shoes are there?

Aug 9th, 2013 9:39 am | By

And now there’s another grenade: PZ’s post about being told something by a woman who doesn’t want to go public with it.

She’s torn up about it. It’s been a few years, so no law agency is going to do anything about it now; she reported it to an organization at the time, and it was dismissed. Swept under the rug. Ignored. I can imagine her sense of futility. She’s also afraid that the person who assaulted her before could try to hurt her again.

But at the same time, she doesn’t want this to happen to anyone else, so she’d like to get the word out there. So she hands the information to me. Oh, thanks.

It seems unfair, doesn’t it. But then her situation is also unfair. It’s all unfair.

What is the something?

With that, I cast this grenade away from me…

At a conference, Mr. Shermer coerced me into a position where I could not consent, and then had sex with me. I can’t give more details than that, as it would reveal my identity, and I am very scared that he will come after me in some way. But I wanted to share this story in case it helps anyone else ward off a similar situation from happening. I reached out to one organization that was involved in the event at which I was raped, and they refused to take my concerns seriously. Ever since, I’ve heard stories about him doing things (5 different people have directly told me they did the same to them) and wanted to just say something and warn people, and I didn’t know how. I hope this protects someone.


Holy shit.

I knew he was on the list that women warned women about. But I didn’t know it was that bad.

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

The Blair Megalodon project

Aug 8th, 2013 6:31 pm | By

Wil Wheaton has a nicely outraged post on the Discovery Channel and its dereliction of duty.

So last night, I tuned in to watch the first entry in this year’s sharkstravaganza: a documentary about one of the coolest megasharks ever, the prehistoric Megalodon. This thing was freaking huge, with teeth the size of an adult human’s hand, and it is very, very extinct. Discovery’s special started out with what appeared to be “found footage” of some people on a fishing boat that gets hit and sunk by something huge … and I immediately knew something was amiss. The “found footage” was shot the way a professional photographer shoots things, not the way a vacationer holds their video camera. There was no logical way the camera could survive the salt water for the footage to be found. The footage was alleged to have been found in April … but then it got so much worse: Discovery Channel started Shark Week with a completely fake, completely made-up, completely bullshit “documentary” and they lied to their audience about it. They presented it as real.

Well he’s right to be outraged – that’s disgusting.

I realized why I was (and am) so angry: I care about education. I care about science. I care about inspiring people to learn about the world and universe around us. Sharks are fascinating, and megalodon was an absolutely incredible creature! Discovery had a chance to get its audience thinking about what the oceans were like when megalodon roamed and hunted in them. It had a chance to even show what could possibly happen if there were something that large and predatory in the ocean today … but Discovery Channel did not do that. In a cynical ploy for ratings, the network deliberately lied to its audience and presented fiction as fact. Discovery Channel betrayed its audience.

An entire generation has grown up watching Discovery Channel, learning about science and biology and physics, and that generation trusts Discovery Channel. We tune into Discovery Channel programming with the reasonable expectation that whatever we’re going to watch will be informative and truthful. We can trust Discovery Channel to educate us and our children about the world around us! That’s why we watch it in the first place!

Sing it.

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

High-end cutting-edge research

Aug 8th, 2013 2:07 pm | By

Gosh – a whole big sciencey conference with sciencey people in sciencey clothes and sciencey glasses, using sciencey words and sciencey concepts, to talk about…


What a lot of effort for such a futile activity.

The Homeopathy Research Institute’s International Research Conference, ‘Cutting Edge Research in Homeopathy’, took place in Barcelona in May-June 2013. With a programme dedicated solely to high-end, robust scientific research, this was the first gathering of its kind in a decade. After 18 months of preparation and anticipation, it was a pleasure to witness the event being hailed as a resounding success by respected peers from around the world.

“High end” research? Who says that? That’s a word from advertising, not science. They might as well call it prestigious, or bijou, or exclusive, or glamorous.

Headline speaker, Dr Stephan Baumgartner (University of Bern, Switzerland), summarised the state of play and way forward for basic research (i.e. establishing fundamental principles about the properties and action of homeopathic dilutions).

Yes…it really is more than time to establish fundamental principles about the properties and action of homeopathic dilutions, because so far nobody has the faintest idea how “homeopathic dilutions” could possibly have any curative properties.

Discussions of new findings defined the ‘cutting edge’ theme of the conference and were typified by a plenary session looking at possible mechanisms of action of homeopathic medicines. Prof Iris Bell (University of Arizona College of Medicine) joining the conference live online from the US, shared her theory that nanoparticles play a key role in the mechanism of action – an appealing hypothesis as it potentially brings homeopathy into the realms of conventional nanomedicine.

How exciting! Someone has a theory – and that’s appealing because if it works out it could being homeopathy into the real world. It’s only a pity that it’s taken them so many centuries to get around to it.

It’s also fun that they have no idea what the “possible mechanisms of action of homeopathic medicines” might be, and that that doesn’t stop them taking homeopathic medicines seriously and prescribing them to people as medicine.

Dr Gustavo Bracho (Finlay Institute, Cuba), proposed a scheme to integrate homeopathy in hospitals as a first line of defense against epidemics, suggesting that homeopathy could be used prophylactically to treat infected patients as they come in to hospitals, thereby shortening their stay and the risks of further contamination.


I’ll assume that “integrate” means “add to existing, evidence-based treatments.” In which case: why? Why waste money and time on this footling conference and talk about adding water to genuine medical treatments? Why make a career out of this stupid bullshit?

Homeopathy remains controversial because of debate around its mechanism of action. However, the strong scientific presentations at this event demonstrate that high caliber academics, medics and practitioners are engaged in robust research in homeopathy worldwide, pushing this field forward.

It’s not research, it’s “research”; it’s just people wearing the costumes and talking the jargon while doing nothing real. They’re all playing dress-up and let’s pretend. It’s kind of embarrassing.



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

Displacement behavior

Aug 8th, 2013 12:24 pm | By

I’ve been wondering how the Antis would respond, if at all. I couldn’t think of any way to do it – I have a terrible deficiency of imagination that way. I never can figure out how people are going to defend assholitude ahead of time, then when they do it it all seems so obvious. Stupid, banal, completely wrongheaded…but obvious.

A quick survey of Twitter shows some of how it’s going to go now. The vocabulary to be deployed includes

  • Drama
  • Blog hits
  • Due process
  • Slander
  • Lawsuits

There is complete silence about Carrie Poppy. Carrie Who? Never heard of her.

I also haven’t seen any response to Sasha Pixlee’s account of his encounter with DJ Grothe.

I actually first met DJ Grothe about a year before at Dragon*Con in 2010. I had admired his work on Point of Inquiry and when he became president of the JREF I thought it would be a great thing. When I got a chance to meet him that year I was excited. We encountered one another at a Skepchick party (one that had to be moved to the lobby because of noise complaints as soon as it started). He was drunk, but it was a social occasion and I’d had a couple cocktails as well. No big deal. I was fairly surprised though, when DJ turned to me and said that the reason everyone loved the Skepchicks was because they “want pussy”.

Sums it all up, doesn’t it. Ignore the substance of what a group of women does, and reduce all the women in the group to their genitalia, while reducing any possible reason for paying attention to them to the desire to put your penis (note that DJ’s “everybody” omits some people) into said genitalia. Remember what Carrie said?

The list of problems that I sent to the board was so long that my pasting it here would be comical at best, but it is relevant to note that although I didn’t list it, Mr. Grothe’s prejudice toward women was one undeniable factor. My predecessor, Sadie Crabtree, had warned me about D.J.’s misogyny and disrespect for women coworkers (she even advised me not to take the position, due to this issue), but I thought myself strong enough to endure it. I underestimated the degree to which such constant mistreatment can beat a person down. As I mentioned, I only lasted six months.

The two accounts are consistent with each other. That’s an issue. Misogyny is an issue. There are a lot of people who want to pretend it isn’t, but it is. If atheists and skeptics want a big, powerful movement, then misogyny is an issue. Blathering about “drama” and “blog hits” does absolutely nothing to change that fact.

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

The things people dream up!

Aug 8th, 2013 10:01 am | By

A comment by Jadehawk on PZ’s post containing Carrie Poppy’s account of why she quit the JREF cites a post I did on the subject last November. The subject matter was pretty funny then, and it looks even funnier now, so I’m reposting it.

November 26, 2012

Anyone else reckon?

Now that’s really funny. The things people dream up!

Anyone else reckon @CarriePoppyYES resigned from #JREF because of the abuse from #FTBullies?


What abuse? And if there were any abuse, why would it prompt Carrie to resign from JREF? It would be like resigning from your job at NASA because someone tailgated you on the Evergreen Point bridge. It would be like quitting a job at The Mayo Clinic because the counter person got your order mixed up at an Albuquerque McDonalds. It would be random, dude.

It’s like the #FTBullies hijacking all over again. Let’s just blame #FTBullies for everything – the weather, food we don’t like, bad movies, traffic, Rush Limbaugh, everything.

Also – seriously – Carrie hasn’t had any “abuse” from Freethought bloggers. Really.


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

To cleanse the palate

Aug 7th, 2013 4:20 pm | By

You can look at some anti-suffragette cartoons from the early 20th century, courtesy of Therese Oneill at The Week.

One of the most notable things about the arguments put forth by the anti-suffragette movement was how weak its position was. Anti-suffragette arguments relied heavily on emotional manipulation and downright hateful nastiness. Humor was a much-used weapon against suffragettes. They were easy to depict as embittered old maids, brutal scolds, and cigar-smoking transvestites.

(20th Century London)

Yep. You have your graceful pretty women who don’t want no stinkin voice and then you have your ugly gawky women running around messing everything up. Pretty obvious which one is the right choice, isn’t it!

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

The lid is well and truly off

Aug 7th, 2013 3:33 pm | By

Holy shit.

Now Carrie’s gone public. Carrie Poppy, former head of communications for JREF.

I knew about most of what she says. I knew about it while people were trashing me, photoshopping me, calling me names, threatening me, lying about me – partly for being a big meany to DJ Grothe.

Carrie was still at JREF when I got the two bizarre emails and decided not to speak at TAM after all. She was there when DJ replied to my email about this by blaming me for blogging about his nasty comments about women who object to harassment. She knew what a crock of shit that was but she couldn’t tell me so – not until later, not until she quit.

Some of what she said on PZ’s blog:

Most of these details have to do with my former employer, the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF). I left the JREF in November 2012, after only six months there. I quit in protest of a number of ethical issues; foremost was what I perceived as the president, D.J. Grothe’s constant duplicity, dishonesty, and manipulation. I did not believe he had the best interests of the organization or community he “served” at heart. This was difficult for me, as Mr. Grothe and I had been friends prior to my joining the staff. Yet, it was very clear by the time I left that my continuing to work there was being complicit in unethical behavior, including the kind of behavior of which Dr. Stollznow is now on the receiving end. I have not spoken very publicly about my experience at the JREF, for various personal reasons, but one of them was cowardice. I simply didn’t want to have to defend myself, relive the six months of misery I’d already endured, or be branded as on one “side” or another of an ongoing debate. I simply wanted to move on. But as Dr. Stollznow’s story, and others, came to light, I knew I couldn’t keep quiet any longer. Dr. Stollznow’s experience is too much like so many women’s in skepticism.

Then she details his dealings with Karen Stollznow. They are not good dealings.

In my time at the JREF, I witnessed continuous unethical behavior, much of which I reported to the Board of Directors. I was assured on more than one occasion by James Randi that D.J. Grothe would be fired (I hear Randi denies this now, though he repeatedly promised it to another staff member as well, and that staff member and I represented the entirety of JREF full-time staff other than D.J. and his husband, Thomas), but after several months of waiting and being asked to wait, it became clear that D.J. was not going to be fired. The list of problems that I sent to the board was so long that my pasting it here would be comical at best, but it is relevant to note that although I didn’t list it, Mr. Grothe’s prejudice toward women was one undeniable factor. My predecessor, Sadie Crabtree, had warned me about D.J.’s misogyny and disrespect for women coworkers (she even advised me not to take the position, due to this issue), but I thought myself strong enough to endure it. I underestimated the degree to which such constant mistreatment can beat a person down. As I mentioned, I only lasted six months.

The final straw, for me, was that Mr. Grothe attempted to remove me as a speaker from the Women in Secularism 2 conference, going above my head (and Melody Hensley’s head) to her male boss, Ron Lindsay, and telling him that it would be bad for the JREF’s image if I attended a “feminist conference.” In defending his actions to me, D.J. told me he didn’t trust me to handle the event, saying I would be asked if he was a sexist (an unanswerable question in his mind, apparently) and that I might break down in tears crying about my own sexual assault, if the issue of rape arose. I was given no credit for the fact that I am a professional spokesperson with almost a decade of experience, that I have a successful skeptical podcast, am a published author, and that my personal assault experience makes my opinions on assault more relevant, not less. To him, I was a hysterical woman, nothing more.

So now you know.

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


Aug 7th, 2013 12:01 pm | By

Too much incoming today.

Rebecca on Ben Radford Accused of Sexual Harassment.

I’ve heard of several other “big name” skeptics who loudly argue online against any and all anti-harassment measures who are known for actually sexually harassing women in the meatspace. I’m hesitant to name them for legal reasons, because none have ever sexually harassed me personally and the women who told me about them haven’t gone on record. I’m very glad that Radford’s name was leaked, because it’s extraordinarily important that women know who to watch out for and for conference organizers to know who they’re putting on stage.

If you’ve been seriously harassed by a member of the skeptic/atheist community, I hope that you consider publicizing the name.


There’s a post at Jezebel.Amanda Marcotte has a post at Slate.

Most mainstream media stories about women in the growing skeptic/secularist/science education movement (the boundaries between the three are pretty porous), it’s usually with articles and videos asking, “where are all the women?” But people within these circles know that there are actually a lot of female leaders, and the real woman problem is sexual harassment.

As Rebecca Watson, a major writer and speaker on the skeptic/atheist circuit wrote in Slate last year, the amount of sexual harassment aimed at women over even the tiniest suggestions of how to make the movement more female-friendly is absolutely stunning. Watson herself has been subject to two years of non-stop online harassment because she made a video where she casually suggested that cornering women in elevators in the middle of the night is not best practices for making them feel safe. When the Center for Inquiry, a major free thought organization, held a conference titled Women in Secularism (full disclosure: I was a speaker at this conference), angry anti-feminists in the movement deluged the Twitter hashtag for the conference with so much misogynist garbage that it became unreadable.

And that experience was repeated, though I think with less intensity, at the Empowering Women Through Secularism conference six week later.

This sort of thing isn’t just a problem because women deserve better than this, though that alone is reason enough for leaders in the skeptic community to do more to combat sexual harassment within their ranks. This is also a problem because this movement, despite what the haters may think, needs women. Feminism and secularism are tightly entwined movements, as they share a common foe: the religious right. To deny the importance of feminism means ignoring some of the biggest fights to defend science and religious freedom, such as the battle over reproductive rights. Additionally, this kind of tolerance for sexual harassment undermines larger efforts to get more women into the sciences. Interest in skepticism and science education is a gateway for a lot of women into careers in science, but if that gateway is littered with trolls shouting sexual abuse at you, a lot of women are understandably going to turn away. (Though maybe the humanities could benefit.)

Unfortunately that’s exactly what some people want – to drive most women away.

CFI issued a rather cryptic statement.

On Twitter we’re being told that “we are sexual beings” and that flirtation out of nowhere is fine.

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

Talking about it

Aug 7th, 2013 9:53 am | By

So I did this yesterday – a live discussion thing at the Huffington Post, with Rebecca and Sikivu. It was about the atheism-women issue.

It was an interesting day to have such a discussion.


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

Is that Bugs Bunny?

Aug 6th, 2013 5:33 pm | By

Good old politics – it’s not a sport for sissies! And it’s even less a sport for the politically correct, amirite?

A Republican PAC had this funny idea…

A Republican Super PAC has put out a new online “game” where they ask their supporters to virtually slap Hillary Clinton across the face.

The Super PAC is known as The Hillary Project and is an anti-Hillary Clinton group that lists Christopher Marston–a Republican campaign consultant and a former member of the Bush administration–as its treasurer.

Geddit? Funny, right? It’s like that so so funny game where people could beat the shit out of Anita Sarkeesian. Gaming isn’t for the politically correct either. Nor is philosophy, or scifi, or skepticism…

Violence against women is not a joke.

It’s disgusting, it’s outrageous and–regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum–it has no place in our politics. Can you sign the petition demanding The Hillary Project pull down this game and apologize for advocating violence against women? 

Sign the petition.

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