Notes and Comment Blog

The death count in Nigeria

Aug 13th, 2013 10:37 am | By

At least 44 people were murdered at a mosque in Konduga, a town in Borno state in northeastern Nigeria on Sunday, the BBC reports. Twelve more were murdered in Ngom village, closer to Maiduguri, the state capital.

Guess who.

“We believe the attack was not unconnected with the cooperation residents are giving to security operatives in identifying and arresting Boko Haram members in their midst,” a senior government official told the AFP news agency.

While the group has frequently attacked churches, it has also occasionally targeted mosques, sometimes those whose preachers disagree with their views.

The attackers wore military uniforms, officials say, which they may have taken during recent attacks on a barracks.

Nigeria’s Daily Post reported that a further 26 people were being treated for injuries in hospital in Maiduguri.

“Boko Haram” is a fancy name for an army of violent thugs.

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

Have some class: do your raping in secret

Aug 12th, 2013 4:24 pm | By

How fucking stupid is this? From the Charleston Gazette:

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The rape of a 16-year-old girl by two football players in eastern Ohio– a case brought to light by social media — is being used by a federal prosecutor to educate athletes in West Virginia about being responsible when texting and making posts on the Internet.

Excuse me? Being responsible when texting and making posts on the Internet? How about being responsible when not raping someone?!

The rape case “definitely played a role in causing us to think, ‘Who do we need to focus upon?” Ihlenfeld told The Associated Press. “We thought, ‘Let’s start calling athletic directors and coaches to see if they’re interested. That investment of time, hopefully, will pay dividends down the road, not only because you hope the kids are going to stay out of trouble. Social media creates so many distractions off the field for coaches. Maybe we can help them avoid that situation, as well.”

Oh right – it’s not the rape that’s the problem, it’s the documenting of it on social media that’s the problem. If only attorneys and coaches can get together and teach jocks to do their raping in secret, then they’ll be helping those nice kids stay out of trouble.

Welcome to rape culture.

There’s an Ultra Violet petition you can sign.

You won’t believe this: In response to the Steubenville, Ohio teen rape case, West Virginia U.S. Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld is launching a program to teach high school athletes not to post evidence of rape online.

It’s called “Project Future,” and his goal is to teach teens how to avoid getting in trouble with the law by using cell phones, cameras, and social media “responsibly.” Instead of teaching teens not to rape, the U.S. Attorney wants to teach them not to get caught.

This is rape culture at work: The very people who are in charge of enforcing our laws look at a cruel, brutal attack on a young girl and think, “If only the teens hadn’t posted photographic evidence online.”

If we speak out now, we can make sure the U.S. Attorney scraps this horrible program and launches one that will actually help stop sexual assault. Can you sign the petition?

You can sign it and share it on social media.

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

So many of us have told them so VERY many times

Aug 12th, 2013 3:03 pm | By

A new Dan Cardamon. Each new one is more brilliant than the last. This one is very brilliant.


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

Ersatz Jesuses

Aug 12th, 2013 2:17 pm | By

Well now that I’ve been told about the three Christs of Ypsilanti, I have to take a look at them.

The Three Christs of Ypsilanti (1964) is a book-length psychiatriccase study by Milton Rokeach, concerning his experiment on a group of three paranoid schizophrenic patients at Ypsilanti State Hospital[1] in Ypsilanti, Michigan. The book details the interactions of the three patients, Clyde Benson, Joseph Cassel, and Leon Gabor, who each believed himself to be Jesus Christ.

Ah the eyes widen, the spine straightens, the attention zooms in. The possibilities are obvious, and abundant.

To study the basis for delusional belief systems, Rokeach brought together three men who each claimed to be Jesus Christ and confronted them with one another’s conflicting claims, while encouraging them to interact personally as a support group.

Ok admit it – who wouldn’t want to be behind the one-way mirror to watch those sessions? Who wouldn’t want to write a play with three characters who all think they’re Jesus? (Or Mo, or Abraham Lincoln, or the man who shot Liberty Valance?)

While initially the three patients quarreled over who was holier and reached the point of physical altercation, they eventually each explained away the other two as being mental patients in a hospital, or dead and being operated by machines.[2]

Interesting! One correct explanation, and one incorrect one. Was that reflected in their relative schizophrenia scores?

It’s a nice little allegory of human life, though. All the others are mental patients in hospitals, but I alone am


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

There is only one Messiah

Aug 12th, 2013 12:47 pm | By

Since when do judges tell people what they can name their babies?

The issue, at least as Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew saw it, was that the child’s name was “Messiah,” a moniker Ballew believes should be reserved only for Jesus Christ. Here’s local NBC affiliate station WBIR-TV with more of the judge’s logic:

       “The word Messiah is a title and it’s a title that has only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ,” Judge Ballew said.

Nonsense. It’s the name of a very nice piece of music, and a lovely name for a baby. Besides, they can call the kid Messy for short. Think of all the fun they’ll have!


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

Not to recruit believers

Aug 11th, 2013 6:21 pm | By

Bad Obama administration. Don’t do that. Bad, bad, bad.

The Obama administration has taken sides in a significant new test case on the separation between church and state, urging the Supreme Court to allow prayers at the beginning of government meetings. The administration lays out its arguments in a newly filed amicus brief in Town of Greece v. Galloway, a case that questions whether the prayer practices at town council meetings of a small town in upstate New York violate the First Amendment. The case could drastically expand the types of legislative prayer practices considered constitutional.

Bad. Bad, bad, bad.

The administration argued in its brief:

Where, as here, legislative prayers neither proselytize nor denigrate any faith, the inclusion of Christian references alone does not constitute an impermissible advancement or establishment of religion. So long as the goal of the government-backed prayer is not to recruit believers or criticize a given faith then the practice should be supported. Neither federal courts nor legislative bodies are well suited to police the content of such prayers, and this Court has consistently disapproved of government interference in dictating the substance of prayers.

The practice should be supported? Wtf? Why? And how is that by any stretch of the imagination their job?


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

Boats will sink

Aug 11th, 2013 5:43 pm | By

Taslima has a beautiful (indignant and compassionate) post about the poverty of Bangladesh’s transportation system and the consequent dangers of travel on major holidays…like Eid. She illustrates with many poignant pictures.

Allah sent Muhammad buraq, the winged horse,  so that Muhammad, the prophet  could travel to heaven. He went to heaven on buraq and met Moses, Jesus, a few more bearded guys  and finally Allah the almighty.

Now look at  the condition of Bangladesh today.  They don’t have enough vehicles to travel. Millions of people are travelling to  home to celebrate Eid, the biggest Muslim religious festival with their family and friends tomorrow. They are desperate to get some space on the public transports. Train roofs and doors are crowded with people.  Boats will sink. Many people would die. Allah should have sent Buraqs the winged horses to take  these poor people home safely and quickly so that they can  celebrate eid that Allah asked them to celebrate.

But that’s not what happened, so instead they sit on the roofs of trains. Nothing at all dangerous about that…

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

Tom and Tim

Aug 11th, 2013 4:42 pm | By

Tom Foss takes a look at Tim Farley’s long-delayed response to objections to his very long post about the Block Bot. Wait. That’s so meta it’s confusing.

Tim Farley did a long post about the block bot.

People had criticisms of it. I was one of those people. Tom was another. Tim Farley made many objections to the criticisms, none of which addressed the actual criticisms that were made. It was frustrating and irritating, especially since Farley’s objections included rebukes for addressing a small part of the post instead of the whole of it. Now he has addressed the criticisms, and Tom has addressed his response. It’s part of a video hangout, which is a very odd way to address written criticisms of a written piece. I haven’t watched it, because frankly I don’t like watching videos. But Tom has.

Farley talks repeatedly about people being rude to him. I’m sure I’m in that group, though I don’t think I displayed any “rudeness” until he came into my comment thread with tired myths (“They are simply people that (some, all?) Atheism+ people disagree with on some topics”) and deflections. But then, Farley’s idea of rudeness seems to be that peculiar one that prevails in parts of skepticism, where it only ever works one way, and mostly appears to mean “using swear words” or “not being sufficiently deferential to your betters.” Jumping to an absurd conclusion and writing 4,300 words about it without bothering to check with the people involved? Not rude. Buying into a malicious myth that certain groups just can’t brook disagreement when you can’t find immediate evidence that they acted reasonably? Not rude.

Buying into that malicious myth at all is very unskeptical.

I’m tired of that nonsense. I think it’s far worse to argue in bad faith than to use naughty words. I don’t think anyone in this movement has earned exemption from criticism or has shown that they are incapable of bad behavior. I think being dismissive can be far ruder than being aggressive. And I think yet another outsider thinking they can wander into a conflict that’s been raging for years, do a casual scan of the environment, and make authoritative pronouncements about what people’s motivations are, is pretty damn disrespectful.

And, frankly, tribal.

Getting to the meat of people’s disagreements with the post, Farley says:

And I knew that I did not want to get into, and we said this in the comments of this post, of this YouTube, I did not want to get into who’s on the Block Bot, who’s not on the Block Bot, why is this person blocked, because that is a rat hole. I just wanted to talk about how it works, how is it administrated, are there bugs in the code, does it do what it’s supposed to do. And I needed a way to bring up the issue of, “hey look, this guy’s on here, and this woman’s on here, why are they on here?”

Emphasis mine. So here, I think (being charitable), is a limitation of speech-vs.-writing. Someone who wrote those two bolded phrases so close together would, I hope, notice the obvious contradiction between them, but that’s harder to do with off-the-cuff speech. As someone who does a lot of off-the-cuff speech for a living, I understand how that can happen.

Yes but he did the same thing in the post itself and in responding to objections – although not quite as visibly as that.

He does explain his point in the end. It was that the people he listed were not obviously harassers so evidence should be added, so that users will see why they’re blocked.

I don’t see why he couldn’t have just said that. It’s one sentence. It would have been easy to say it. No need for all this “I’ll write a post next week” – just give the explanation, instead.


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

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.)