Notes and Comment Blog

Our short and pithy observations on the passing scene as it relates to the mission of Butterflies and Wheels. Woolly-headed or razor-sharp comments in the media, anti-rationalist rhetoric in books or magazines or overheard on the bus, it’s all grist to our mill. And sometimes we will hold forth on the basis of no inspiration at all beyond what happens to occur to us.

Trending up

Nov 1st, 2011 4:06 pm | By

FTB got almost 5 million pageviews for October. That’s a lot. I knew you would be pleased.

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

Forced everything!

Nov 1st, 2011 3:30 pm | By

PZ had a good time with a blogger fretting about the US moving from democracy to despotism on account of not sucking up to Catholic bishops quite enough. I took a look at the blog post and spotted an item or two for mopping up.

The Church is raising the alarm: Our religious liberty is under attack.

Cardinal Francis George was prophetic in 2009 when he said the White House had taken “the first step in moving our country from democracy to despotism.” That was when President Obama broke the promise he made to Catholics at Notre Dame and made the decision to strip conscience rights from Catholic health care professionals, a ruling that could force them to either perform abortions or lose their jobs.

Really! That is shocking. So the gummint is going to force Catholic neurosurgeons and pediatricians to perform abortions or lose their jobs?

No. It’s not a matter of all Catholic health care professionals having to perform abortions if they want to keep their jobs; it’s a matter of  requiring Catholic health care professionals whose jobs include providing abortions to do the jobs they have. It’s a matter of the quite familiar principle that if you refuse to do your job, you don’t get to keep it just the same. That principle isn’t special for Catholics, it’s not made up to persecute them; it’s just that they’re the ones refusing to do the jobs they have.

In other words, beware of the self-pitying rhetoric of the offended godbotherer.

Forced Contraception. Health and Human Service has issued a regulation mandating contraceptive coverage from almost all private health insurance plans. “There is an exception for certain religious employers,” said Lori, “but to borrow from Sr. Carol Keehan of the Catholic Health Association, it is so incredibly narrow that it would cover only the ‘parish housekeeper.’”

Same again, you see? It’s not forced contraception. It’s not the gummint forcing everybody to be contracepted. It’s not forcing Catholics to be contracepted; it’s not forcing bishops to be contracepted. It’s mandating insurance coverage for contraception. That is not “forced contraception.” It’s funny what a hard time this devout fella has reporting accurately.

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

What she said

Nov 1st, 2011 11:11 am | By

So there’s this atheist comedian Kate Smurthwaite who did a BBC1 chat thing which went viral, and she got the kind of comments that women get. She posted a selection, and they’re…the kind of comments that women get. There was one about the trash-talking cunt getting her tongue ripped out, and more than one about how she needs to be gang-raped.

And she comments a little.

Interesting to see how a lot of people actually feel. I know almost no-one
would say these horrid things to my face. So in a sense it’s good that the
Internet lets women and other groups see how much some people really hate us.

In a sense, but only in a sense. It’s good to know but it’s also not good to know. If you were planning to be friends with anyone who says shit like that, it’s good to know, but otherwise…it’s probably better just to live out your life in sappy ignorance, happily thinking that most people don’t think or say shit like that. I don’t feel enriched by the squalid ugliness I’ve been seeing for the past few months.

Interesting and horrifying how quickly it all comes back to rape time after
time. There are also a fair few people complaining that the clip doesn’t show
the “bitch” actually getting slapped and posted by people who were clearly
looking for pornography. If anyone ever tells you we don’t live in a “rape
culture” world – show them this. It’s frightening but it does highlight the need
for action to bring about dramatic change.

Yes. And yet ignorance of this kind of thing does look so like bliss, at times.

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

It’s an outrage

Nov 1st, 2011 8:53 am | By

There are more, and even worse, details at WEIT. It’s all really quite astonishing.

Well, you’re not going to see that tape—ever.  After agreeing to be taped, Haught decided that he didn’t want the video released.  Here’s what happened:

  • Dr. Robert Rabel, head of the Gaines Center for the Humanities, which sponsored the debate, informed me on Sunday that Haught had requested that he did not want the video posted. Note that Haught had already agreed to be taped, so his appeal that it not be made public was a post facto decision.
  • Rabel decides to honor Haught’s request on the grounds that he didn’t get permission from Haught in advance to post the video.  I find this bizarre because the whole idea of taping the event is to make the debate more public, and because previous debates in this series have been posted.  The idea of posting is implicit when one agrees to be taped, and, believe me, I would not have gone back on that agreement even if I had lost badly. That is not only bad form, but intellectually dishonest.
  • Eager to at least get my part out, I asked Rabel to just edit the tape omitting John’s talk and his answers in the question session.  Rabel refuses, saying that it would be too much trouble.
  • I ask Rabel for Haught’s email address so I can try to persuade the theologian to change his mind, or at least find out why he won’t sanction posting of the video (Rabel, Haught, and I had all exchanged three-way emails before the debate, but I lost Haught’s address).  Rabel refuses to give me the email address because he wants to “stay out of it,” telling me that I can search for it online.  I find the address and email Haught, asking politely if he won’t change his mind about releasing the video, and, if not, requesting his reason.
  • Unwilling to give up, I ask Rabel for a copy of the tape—offering to pay any expenses for it—so that I can edit out Haught’s part and just post mine.  Rabel refuses, saying that he “didn’t think that would work.”
  • Haught responds to my email asking him to change his mind. His short response says that the event “failed to meet what I consider to be reasonable standards of fruitful academic exchange,” and that he would have no further comment.

Extraordinary! Rude, obstructionist, disobliging, uncollegial, unfair, not to mention obviously uncourageous.

And in an update, we learn that Rabel is even threatening Coyne with legal action.

UPDATE:  I have received an email from Dr. Rabel, asserting that I have instigated people to write him emails, and claiming that some of those emails have been abusive, calling him a coward and so on.  I did not of course ask readers to write any emails, nor did I provide any email addresses.  But if you write to Rabel or Haught on your own initiative, please be polite!  There is no point in name-calling in such emails; the issue is one of free inquiry, and if you expect to achieve a result (and you won’t anyway, I suspect), you have to be polite.  Anyway, Rabel has threatened legal action against me, so don’t make it worse!

I wonder if Rabel will threaten Coyne with further legal action because I said all this was rude,  obstructionist, disobliging, uncollegial, unfair, and obviously uncourageous. I don’t know – what do you think? Is it libelous to call a set of actions rude, obstructionist, disobliging, uncollegial, unfair, and obviously uncourageous? Or is it within the limits of free speech to call a set of actions rude, obstructionist, disobliging, uncollegial, unfair, not to mention obviously uncourageous. I think it’s only accurate to say these actions were rude, obstructionist, disobliging, uncollegial, unfair, and obviously uncourageous.

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

John Haught tries to hide

Nov 1st, 2011 7:45 am | By

How tacky. I’ve disliked everything I’ve read by John Haught, and it turns out he’s a sore loser, too.

John Haught is suppressing the video of the debate he had with Jerry Coyne. He signed off on permission before the debate, but has now reneged, claiming he did poorly because of the presence of “Jerry’s groupies”, and that the event “failed to meet what I consider to be reasonable standards of fruitful academic exchange”. He got his ass kicked, in other words.

Bad, bad, very bad.

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

A carnival

Oct 31st, 2011 5:51 pm | By

Dan Fincke hosts Philosophers’ Blog Carnival # 133. All you know-nothing peeps who think philosophy is just wankery, read and learn.

Just a few selected teasers -

  • Thinking about the “vagueness” charge leveled against Occupy Wall Street, Benjamin S. Nelson, at Talking Philosophy explores virtues that listeners need to have before they can go blame communicators for failing to express themselves adequately.
  • Andrew Taggart has an extensively detailed discussion of his Philosophical Counseling business (replete with FAQ), in which he explains both how it works and how he charges for it, makes for a fascinating read. It seems pitched towards potential clients so it also offers a glimpse not only at how one might do and charge for philosophical counseling but how one might advertise it.
  • Being A Woman In Philosophy continues to chronicles the seemingly pervasive stomach-churning sexism in philosophy departments. This month there was the story of a male philosophy graduate student who walked into a room full of male graduate students and one female student, and loudly asked “Who’s read for the gang bang?” Read how the department handled it.
  • Rust Belt Philosophy examines the extent of parents’ rights to decide what their children can learn in school in response to claims that because parents have great responsibilities for their children they have great rights to determine how they are educated in all matters. The occasion of the discussion is the question of sex ed.

Bon appetit.

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

Secular morality in a nutshell

Oct 31st, 2011 5:37 pm | By

Someone who commented on a very flimsy piece by Keith Ward at Comment is Free said a good thing.

There is a constant error made in many of these articles regarding the definition and scope of religion. Religion is not the study of ethics, natural science, philosophy or astronomy and cannot generate informed hypotheses on these topics.

The domain of religion is the interpretation of the desires of supernatural beings. It exists to answer the question “what do supernatural creatures want from us?”.

I guess a key point to ask would be “is that a question that really warrants such attention?”

Quite so. Maybe they do want something – tribute, worship, deference, adoration, sacrifice, an ox roasted whole, new clothes. But what if they do? We’re busy. We have natural creatures nearby who want more immediate things from us. The supernatural creatures will just have to take care of themselves.

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

The demonic power

Oct 31st, 2011 4:27 pm | By

Halloween wasn’t unalloyed fun for Libby Anne when she was growing up.

[Digression. Actually I don't find it unalloyed fun myself these days. I don't find all the corpses and graves all that funny, and they certainly are presented as jokey. It gets on my nerves, frankly. Just for one thing, isn't it kind of mean to people who've had people die on them recently? And I don't like all the cobweb stuff draped all over trees and shrubs and everything else within reach; they make whole blocks look junky. And I don't like the ridiculous amount of outdoor decoration there is - it seems to be more every year. Used to was, a carved pumpkin or two were all that was thought necessary; now suddenly houses are as wildly festooned as they are for Christmas. It's annoying because October is beautiful all by itself, it doesn't need a lot of stupid dreck to brighten it up.]

It wasn’t fun for Libby Anne because it was too frightening.

I grew up believing that there were real witches who worshiped Satan and communed with demons. These witches were dangerous and powerful because they got actual power from Satan himself. We believed that God would win eventually, but that for the time being Satan had a great deal of power and dominion over the world. Witches could cause real pain, because they had real power.
Demons were very real to me. I believed that they were battling with angels in the air around us, every day, everywhere. They were generally invisible, but I believed that they could make themselves visible if they wanted.
I believed that Halloween was the main holiday for witches, and that they held secret meetings with demons, conducted animal sacrifices, and carried out Satan’s work. Halloween terrified me, because I could almost feel the demonic power climax with the holiday. While I loved our church’s harvest fest, Halloween itself was a holiday of fear.

That makes me a little angry. It sounds terrifying, and children shouldn’t be terrified that way. Religious freedom and all that, but it ain’t right.

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

All of empirical inference

Oct 30th, 2011 5:09 pm | By

There’s another entry for the What to call it problem. It comes from a comment by Richard Wein on Dan’s post replying to Dr Coyne.

Much of the confusion over “science” and “scientism” arises from the tendency of some New Atheists (including Coyne) to stretch the word “science” to mean all of empirical inference. I think this stretching is based on a correct realisation that all of empirical inference lies on a continuum, with no clear lines of demarcation between formal science, philosophy, history, everyday inference, etc.

That’s exactly what I was talking about.

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

It’s all of empirical inference, that’s what.

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

How can we get pigs to fly?

Oct 30th, 2011 4:18 pm | By

The philosophical primate has some thoughts on being asked to do six impossible things before breakfast. The Faculty Senate asked for his input on a new initiative from the state legislature and board of regents. He responded to the following question:

2. Given increased enrollment and smaller budgets, how can we maintain and improve student success and retention?

That’s a good one, isn’t it. Uh…we can’t. Der. More students and less money: not the way to maintain and improve student success and retention. That’s like asking: given fewer workers and supplies, how can we get this building project finished faster and better?

The pp put it more eloquently.

The board of regents and state legislature can demand whatever they want — they can demand that faculty alter time and space, suspend gravity, and invent perpetual motion machines — but we cannot meet demands for what is simply impossible. When someone insists that you do something impossible, the only correct and sane answer is, “No.” Any response to their demands other than honestly telling them how and why their demands are impossible would simply reinforce their deluded conviction that they can create the results they want by simply insisting that the people and institutions they have power over produce them. Real-world results cannot be produced by fact-ignoring fiat, and hard problems cannot be solved by insisting that someone lower down the totem pole solve them — especially when that insistence is accompanied by a reduction in the resources available to carry out the work needed to fix those problems.

So don’t ask insulting questions. If you have to impose increased enrollment and smaller budgets, don’t ask the proles how they can do even better.

It is a fundamental principle of ethics (my field of study) that “ought implies can,” which simply means that one cannot be obligated to do something that is not in one’s power to do. Surely at some level the powers that be must be aware of the self-contradictory nature of their demands, and that those demands cannot be met — but if they are not aware, that does not obligate us to nevertheless try to meet those demands. If we are obligated to do anything, it is to make them aware that their demands are impossible, and to explain why. In other words, we are obligated to educate them — which, after all, is our calling.

School those powers that be. School them good.




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

Be firm but not too firm, dogmatic but not too dogmatic

Oct 29th, 2011 4:42 pm | By

To continue

What I call dogmatophobia is the liberal fear of being judgmental of the beliefs of others. Because everyone has a right to her opinion and no one has a monopoly on the truth, there is a tendency to think that any kind of assertion of a truth, other than of the blandest factual kind (“Paris is the capital of France”), is intolerant and morally imperialistic. Hence, people who assiduously avoid factory-farmed meat will go out of their way not to condemn ritual animal slaughter that causes needless suffering. People who would not tolerate even the sniff of sexism in their workplace bend over backwards to allow religious traditions their “right” to systemically discriminate against women.


It is, of course, true that an excessive desire for certainty is deeply problematic. But pretty much every reasonable person agrees with this, and most are not agnostic. Accepting that the world is full of uncertainty and ambiguity does not and should not stop people from being pretty sure about a lot of things. To criticise people who express a firm belief as suffering from a lust for certainty is therefore to see the speck in another’s eye while missing the plank in one’s own: an excessive lust for uncertainty that makes any conviction appear misplaced.

Ok – but then what is it that is so terrible about “the new atheists”? In what way are “the new atheists” like religious fundamentalists?

Well I guess I see why, but that’s not to say I understand it:

Unfortunately, the middle ground in the God debate is occupied by too many people who screw up their eyes to create the illusion of a mist when the view is really clear. And this is not just wrong: it’s dangerous, because if we make too much of our inability to be certain, we make ourselves incapable of clear and unequivocal condemnation of just those extreme dogmatists whom agnostics and moderate but committed believers fear. The main problem with young-Earth creationists who assert that the Earth is only 6,000 years old, for instance, is not that they are certain, but that they are wrong. It’s the matter of the belief that is pernicious, not just the manner of its holding.

Nope; I don’t understand it at all. Apparently the middle ground in the God debate is the good and right ground, so it seems fair to conclude that “the new atheists” are bad because we don’t occupy the middle ground. But what is the middle ground, exactly? It’s against extreme dogmatism, but how exactly does the extreme dogmatism of “the new atheists” differ from expressing a firm belief?

Let’s go over it again. Religious fundamentalists and “the new atheists” are extreme; the right thing to be is a moderate who occupies the middle ground in the God debate and condemns those extreme dogmatists whom agnostics and moderate but committed believers fear. However, that moderate should also have and express firm beliefs.

Ok, I get it. Moderates have firm beliefs and we new atheists are extreme dogmatists. It’s one of those irregular verbs. You’re stubborn; I have a firm will. You’re bad-tempered; I’m passionate. You’re dogmatic, I have firm beliefs. You get the idea.


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

Being truthful must sometimes trump being nice

Oct 29th, 2011 4:14 pm | By

Reading Julian’s latest. I can’t wait until I’ve read the whole thing to comment on this:

[Mark] Vernon’s advocacy of passionate agnosticism offers soothing camomile tea to those jittery after the triple espressos of the new atheists and religious fundamentalists. Since he is as genial in person as he is on the page, attacking him does feel rather like kicking a labrador puppy. But if we are serious about religion, being truthful must sometimes trump being nice, and intellectually, if not personally, Vernon needs a good kicking.

No it’s not the part about the puppy, although it’s true that a good friend of mine was a labrador puppy just a few months ago and it would have been a terrible thing to have kicked him.

No, it’s first of all the swipe at “the new atheists.” Julian can’t seem to write one of these without a swipe at “the new atheists.” I think that’s illiberal and wrong and that he should stop doing it. “The new atheists” are the favorite punching bag for way too many people (including non-”new” atheists!) these days, and they should knock it off. Are bishops and pundits not harsh enough about atheists already, is it really necessary for atheists to join in the mud-throwing? The equivalency is irritating, too – it’s incredibly banal, it’s false, and it’s malicious. “Aw youse guys are all just as irritating as each others.” The hell we are. Even if “the new atheists” are irritating beyond what words can say, they/we are still not like religious fundamentalists. The triple espressos thing is just a cheap shot, and I’m tired of cheap shots from people like Julian. Such people should know better.

And second, it’s the fact that by the third sentence, he says pretty much exactly what “the new atheists” say and get so much shit for saying. We are serious about religion, so we think being truthful must sometimes trump being nice…just as Julian suggests. So where, exactly, does the similarity to religious fundamentalism and the triple espresso quality come in? You tell me.

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

QED next March

Oct 29th, 2011 11:44 am | By

There’s a fun thing going on in Manchester next March: QED 2012.


Question.Explore.Discover. Back for an encore. Only £89

I’ll be there – as will Steve Jones and David Aaaronovitch and Edzard Ernst among others - and Maryam Namazie! Maryam and I finally get to meet; we’re excited.

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

You do the math

Oct 29th, 2011 10:50 am | By

Jerry Coyne has posted (with permission) an email exchange with Dan Barker. JC asked DB – evangelical turned atheist and co-president of the FFRF – “what he thought about the accommodationist claim that promoting compatibility between religion and science could turn the faithful towards science.” Barker’s answer is interesting.

I think you are right. I don’t know of anyone whose views on creationism changed as a result of hearing other religionists champion evolution. (Though I don’t doubt that could have happened. Well, I think it must have happened, given that some people do go through transitional processes, within religion and out of religion.)

I think the reason you are (mainly) right is that few believers hold much respect for the authority or opinion of other believers who disagree with them theologically.

There’s more, and then he ends with an equation:

Religion + Good Works = Good Works

Solve for Religion.


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

In which the rights of God are assured

Oct 29th, 2011 9:37 am | By

The “soft-spoken Islamic scholar” Rachid Ghannouchi has nice plans for Tunisia, he tells us.

“We will continue this revolution to realize its aims of a Tunisia that is free, independent, developing and prosperous in which the rights of God, the Prophet, women, men, the religious and the non-religious are assured because Tunisia is for everyone,” Ghannouchi told a crowd of cheering supporters.

He might as well say “We will continue this revolution to realize its aims of a Tunisia that will square the circle.” If the rights of God and the Prophet as understood by clerics and “Islamic scholars” are assured then the rights of women and the non-religious can’t be assured; it’s an impossibility.

It’s blood-chilling that a political leader thinks he knows what “the rights of God” and “the rights of the Prophet” are, and that they have to be assured, and that they get top billing. It’s not surprising, of course, because that’s what Islamists do think, but it’s blood-chilling.

The prophet is dead. He’s been dead for 14 centuries. What “rights” can he have?

“God” is hidden and secretive and mysterious and indistinguishable from not there at all. What “rights” can it have?

How can the cryptic spooky incomprehensible “rights” of a long-dead guy and a posited supernatural agent come ahead of the rights of living people?

Those are general questions. More particular questions would ask how the “rights” of the god and the prophet can co-exist with the rights of women, such as the right to choose whether or not to marry and whom to marry; the right to be equal before the law; the right to education; the right not to be stoned to death for being raped; and similar items. They would ask how the “rights” of the god and the prophet can co-exist with the rights of the religious to stop being religious. They would ask how the “rights” of the god and the prophet can co-exist with the rights of the non-religious to point out that to all appearances the god in question doesn’t exist.

H/t to Fin in comments for the quotation from Ghannouchi.


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

No attempt would be made to force women to wear the headscarf

Oct 28th, 2011 2:49 pm | By

Hmm. The BBC is looking on the bright side of life.

The leader of the Islamist party that won the most seats in Tunisia’s elections has said women’s social gains would not be reversed.

Ennahda leader Rachid Ghannouchi promised to strengthen the role of women in Tunisian politics.

“Leaders” promise lots of things; they don’t always stick to their promises. The BBC is a venerable news organization, venerable enough to be aware of this.

But despite the reassurances, Ennahda’s victory is causing concern in some parts of Tunisia, who fear the party could later change its policies, our
correspondent says.

“Ennahda reaffirms its commitment to the women of Tunisia, to strengthen
their role in political decision-making, in order to avoid any going back on
their social gains,” Mr Ghannouchi said at a news conference.

No attempt would be made to force women to wear the headscarf, including in
government, he added.

Uh huh. Ask us again in a year.

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

If conceptually coherent

Oct 28th, 2011 10:13 am | By

Dan Fincke takes issue with dismissiveness toward philosophy, and I agree with him about that, but I’m not sure about the particular example he’s chosen. That could well be just because I’m not a philosopher, so I’m not understanding.

The example is a postdoc fellowship in philosophy funded (lavishly) by the Templeton Foundation.

The fellowship enables young scholars to use contemporary analytic methods to pursue independent research in the fields of divine and human agency, such as moral responsibility and freedom of will; or philosophy of mind and its theological implications, such as the presence of the divine in a natural world and the emergence of consciousness.

[The] postdoctoral research project, “Divine Foreknowledge, the Philosophy of Time, and the Metaphysics of Dependence: Some New Approaches to an Old Problem,” assesses a core Ockhamist thesis about foreknowledge. William of Ockham was a 13th century philosopher.

“The central contention of the Ockhamist concerns a point about the order of explanation. According to the Ockhamist, it is because of what we do that God long ago believed that we would do these things. That is, God’s past beliefs depend in an important sense on what we do, and thus, says the Ockhamist, we can sometimes have a choice about God’s past beliefs,” he explained. “The overarching goal of this project is to develop and assess this core Ockhamist thesis along two underexplored dimensions: the philosophy of time, and the metaphysics of dependence – both of which have seen an explosion of recent interest.”

Dan wrote:

…it does not matter whether there actually is a God. There is still philosophical illumination from exploring the implications of a hypothetical omniscient knower for our understanding of things like the connections between belief, causation, and time.

That’s the part that I don’t get, that maybe I would get if I were a philosopher. I have a hard time seeing how there can be illumination from exploring the implications of a hypothetical omniscient knower when an omniscient knower is, as far as we know, in the world we inhabit, in the conditions we understand, etc, so impossible. All it seems to generate is absurdity. Then if you have to reconcile it with the inviolability of free will, it generates absurdity squared. Dan quotes Verbose Stoic doing just that (reconciling it with free will):

Ockham likely argued that if we have an omniscient being — God — then that God would know what we’re doing right now. But that could mean that God knows that and can know that because He determined it, which would violate free will. So, then, if it is not pre-determined then God’s belief about what we will do must be formed as we do it right now. But God has always known it, which would mean that our decisions now have an impact on beliefs formed in the past. If conceptually coherent, this has major implications for the conceptions of time and of dependence — ie what it means for one fact or truth or action to depend on another — both of which are currently of interest in philosophical circles.

But does it? If it starts with impossibilities, does it have implications for anything? This is what I don’t get.

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

Only 377 to go

Oct 28th, 2011 9:58 am | By

A Foxhole atheist needs only 377 more signatures on the petition to “End the Military’s Discrimination against Non-Religious Service Members” to get the 5000 necessary, but he needs them in the next four days. If the petition gets to 5000 signatures in the next four days the White House will have to respond. If you haven’t already signed it, please do.

Please sign it: the petition.

Update: people have been having trouble signing in. A Noyd offers a fix:

What I did was sign out using the blue bar at the bottom of the page, refresh the petition page, and sign back in using the “sign in” button between “sign this petition” and “create an account.”  When I did that, the “sign this petition” button turned green and clickable.  Also, it took a few minutes and another page refresh before my signature showed up in the list below the petition, so don’t worry if there’s bit of a delay.

Currently at 215. It’s working.

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

Defining sexism downwards

Oct 28th, 2011 7:46 am | By

A re-post from January 2010 – of quite startling relevance: about a pro-rape Facebook page and sexist epithets and…Rod Liddle saying a woman should be kicked in the cunt. How about that.

January 19, 2010

I did not know – some male students at St Paul’s College at the University of Sydney set up a pro-rape Facebook page.

The group, which was named “Define Statutory”, described its members as “anti-consent” and was listed in the sports and recreation section of the site…It was shut down at the end of [October], but had been live on Facebook since August, according to an investigation by the Sydney Morning Herald…The Sydney Morning Herald said the page was part of a broader culture at the residential colleges that “demeans women in a sexist and often sexually violent way”.

And here I was fuming (or should I say bitching?) about sexist epithets and men who type thousands of words insisting that ‘stupid bitch’ is not sexist. Kind of puts it all in perspective. Except actually I think it’s (broadly speaking) all part of the same thing. I think both items are part of a broader culture in a lot of places that demeans women in a sexist way. I think the bizarro phenomenon of men who ought to know better verbally spewing on women whenever they feel like it is pretty much by definition part of a broader culture that demeans women in a sexist way. That’s why it shocks me that men give themselves permission to do that – it reveals that contempt for women is commonplace in areas where I would have thought it had gone out of fashion decades ago.

But no – apparently it’s still seen as hip and edgy and funny to treat women like dirt. Apparently sexism is being defined downwards so that it isn’t really sexism unless, I don’t know, it comes with a signed affidavit stating This Is Sexism. Rod Liddle apparently is of that school, unless he really didn’t post this on a Millwall fans’ website:

Stupid bitch. A year eight sociology lecture from someone who knows fck all. You could equally say that we were similar to any group which disliked a certain aspect of society, felt estranged from it but were sure we were right. The logical extension of her argument is that the status quo is always right, which is absurd, because if that were true nothing would change. Someone kick her in the cnt.

He was there commenting right after I had, so I asked him if that one was his, saying bitches with cunts would like to know. He said

I don’t remember saying it and it certainly doesn’t read like me, but it’s quite possible that at some point I might use that temrinology to make a certain point, perhaps the opposite to the one you imagine. Just as you have done, right now. “Bitches with cunts would like to know” is a canny, sardonic pay off to your post. Take it out of context and what have you got?

I don’t know, but what you haven’t got is ‘I wouldn’t say shit like that in a million years.’ Instead you have men earnestly explaining the terrifically subtle and fascinating difference between saying ‘stupid nigger’ and saying ‘stupid bitch,’ a subtle difference that boils down to: the first is absolutely out and the second is really quite all right and you’re being a dreary fanatic if you say it isn’t. Which boils down to saying casual contempt for other races is not okay and casual contempt for women is fine.

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

How dare you enforce the law

Oct 27th, 2011 4:40 pm | By

Stewart sent more links today. I’m still catching up. So…where were we? Oh yes -

Womens’ rights groups and organizations opposing religious coercion have demonstrated against the segregation. Jerusalem councilwomen Rachel Azaria of the Yerushalmim (Jerusalemites) faction and Laura Verton (Meretz) petitioned the High Court of Justice against the practice.

Well guess what. Guess what happened to Jerusalem councilwomen Rachel Azaria. She got an award from the Secular Lawyers’ Guild? No. She got fired. That’s right: fired.

Mayor Nir Barkat has dismissed Rachel Azaria from Jerusalem’s coalition government, but the city denies he did so because Azaria is against gender segregation in the ultra-Orthodox Mea She’arim quarter. It says loyalty to city council policy is the issue.

Members of the Haredi community were delighted by Azaria’s dismissal. A headline on a popular ultra-Orthodox website, B’hedri Haredim, declared: “A joyous holiday in Jerusalem: Barkat fires the provocateur.”

The Jewish Daily Forward blog The Sisterhood comments.

Jerusalem City Council Member Rachel  Azaria quickly paid a high price for standing up for what she believes in.  On October 17, Jerusalem Mayor  Nir Barkat stripped her of her portfolios on the city council that concern  community councils and early childhood issues. She was being punished for petitioning  Israel’s High Court of Justice to enforce a previous ruling that ordered  police to prevent gender segregation on the streets of the Haredi Jerusalem  neighborhood Mea Shearim.

In an exclusive telephone interview with The Sisterhood later the day she  lost her portfolios, she said that less than 24 hours after the Court  issued its ruling in her favor, she received an email from one of Barkat’s  assistants on behalf of the mayor stating that “because you went to the High  Court of Justice, I am relieving you of your duties.” Barkat did not personally  contact Azaria to inform her of this. But his office sent out another email  announcing the change minutes later to all 31 members of City Council.

She was fired for enforcing a legal ruling. So adhering to the law is a firing offence in the Jerusalem city government?

Azaria said she was buoyed by how seriously the judges of the Court,  especially its president, Dorit  Beinish, regarded her petition. “There was a very ideological discussion in  the Court. Beinish herself said how important it was to have this discussion.  She brought in Jerusalem’s chief of police, and really tried to find solutions  that would be implementable,” Azaria said.

“The Haredim know that it’s illegal. Really it’s just a small segment of that  community that thinks that they can just keep doing what they want and that the secular and more liberal religious people will just get tired and give up,” the  religiously observant Azaria said. “But I won’t give up on such an important  issue.”

Theocrats are busy everywhere you look, thinking they can just keep doing what they want and the rest of us will just get bored and give up. This is why the world needs gnu atheists. Gnu atheists don’t get bored and give up. We refuse. We just get more pissed off and stubborn.

The Sisterhood says women are disappearing from public life in Jerusalem.

Haaretz reported  recently that there is a glaring lack of women on billboards and in local  Jerusalem newspaper and magazine ads.

“Believe me, this is real,” said Ayalon. “I am out there every day counting  the dwindling number of women seen in advertisements.” He is not talking about “women in bikinis on cars,” which Ayalon stresses that he and Yerushalmim are,  like the Haredim, opposed to. Rather, he is talking about the complete absence  of respectably dressed women in ads in which they used to appear in Jerusalem — and still do in other parts of the country. Suddenly there are a whole lot of  images of men selling food, furniture, and other home-related products. Men’s being more focused on domesticity can, of course, be a good thing — but not at  the expense of women’s civil rights.

That sounds like Hollywood movies, which almost all star three or four men these days, as if only men existed. I guess we need gnu feminists, too.


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