Notes and Comment Blog

I’m so sorry but I would like you to go sit over there

Mar 8th, 2013 2:00 pm | By

A thought occurs to me about this gender segregated seating caper. The Equalities Adviser told Chris Moos that

All attendees are free to sit wherever they feel comfortable. If some female and male attendees choose to sit in separate areas, that is of course fine, however it is expected that there will be a large mixed area where anyone can sit.

Hm. Suppose some female and male attendees choose to sit in separate areas, and then someone from the “wrong” gender sits there. Then what?

What are the UCL people visualizing? That the voluntary self-segregators will very politely ask the interloper to go away?

That seems like the least coercive likely reaction, but really, think about it. Is it possible to ask someone that in a public place politely? No, not really. That’s why we don’t have segregation in public places. The whole idea is rude.

As usual that becomes obvious if you switch the category from gender to race. “Excuse me, but we want to sit together by ourselves – could I possibly ask you to sit somewhere else so that we can sit together by ourselves?” Not cool.

You can do that kind of exclusion and selection at home, but you can’t do it (decently) in public. It’s a bad idea. It shouldn’t be attempted.

Modernity means mixing. It means being a mongrel and living with other mongrels, and being content with that. It means letting go of archaic notions of purity, and getting used to sloppy mixing of all kinds.

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

Respect the wish

Mar 8th, 2013 11:49 am | By

Leo Igwe has a piece on humanist funerals in Nigeria in The Guardian (Nigeria).

ON February 9, 2013, the former Chairman of the Nigerian Humanist Movement, Eze Ebisike died after a brief illness. On March 2, he was buried in his hometown, Okpokume, Mpam, Ekwerazu Ahiazu Mbiase in Imo State. Ebisike was an ex-Catholic priest and an atheist. He was buried after a short humanist funeral ceremony in the compound. The ceremony was a historic event because it was the first time, in that part of the country that someone who was an atheist was given a non-religious funeral.

Another cleric turned atheist and executive Humanist.

For humanists, a funeral ceremony is not a rite of passage for the deceased. A funeral is a celebration of a life lived, a life which has ended. A funeral is an opportunity for family and friends to pay tribute to the memory of someone who has died.

For humanists, when people die, they live on in the minds and memories of their loved ones, not in a heaven or a hell. They live on in the legacies they leave behind, in the good (and also the bad) which they did. They live on in their children, their descendants. Funerals are special times to remember and to relive those sweet memories, and pay our last respects to a person whom we are lucky to have shared this short life with.

That’s a beautiful way of putting it.

Some non-religious people are indifferent to what kind of funeral they have, but Leo is not.

Religious as well as humanist funeral ceremonies are for the living. And there are non-religious persons who would not want their memories to be insulted or corrupted by a religious funeral service. It is important that people respect the wish of their humanist friends and family members and accord them a funeral that is in line with their beliefs and outlook. For me, like Eze Ebisike, when I die, if there is a funeral, I would like to be given a secular/humanist funeral service. I would like my family members and friends to respect this wish. That I be accorded a funeral ceremony that is in line with the humanist ideas, values and beliefs that I professed and lived by during my lifetime.

That seems only fair.

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

Women over there please. No exceptions.

Mar 8th, 2013 11:03 am | By

Update 2: Good news for once. Chris heard back from the equalities adviser, and UCL will not allow gender segregated seating, although people will be allowed to sort themselves if they want to – “however it is expected that there will be a large mixed area where anyone can sit.”

Chris Moos of the LSE* Atheist Secularist and Humanist group alerted me to an event at UCL** tomorrow: The BIG Debates: Islam or Atheism: Which Makes More Sense? The two proponents are Lawrence Krauss and Hamza Tzortzis. Chris reports:

Although the event was supposedly organised through “The Big Debates”, which describes itself as an independent organisation, the account used to set up the event with is actually that of iERA, Hamza’s outfit.

And guess what else – seating is gender segregated.

Gender segregated. At a grown up, secular, urban, 21st century university in London – seating is gender segregated.

Imagine if it were racially segregated. Imagine the uproar. Yet UCL is apparently turning a blind eye to gender segregation.

Student Rights has some background on Hamza Tzortzis.

On 10th January Student Rights published an info-graphic which provided figures detailing the number of events featuring extremist or intolerant speakers that were promoted to students throughout 2012.

Leading the way with 48 events was the former Hizb ut-Tahrir member Hamza Tzortzis, most famous for declaring that “we as Muslims reject the idea of freedom of speech, and even the idea of freedom”.

Since then, Tzortzis has announced a new speaking tour of universities that began last night and continues until the 18th March, with 24 dates on 21 different campuses.

What will all those lucky universities be getting?

He has argued in the past that “Some people object to Islam making the public expression of homosexuality a criminal act. This is subjective and only strikes a chord amongst those who cannot escape the social constructs in their own societies” and that “those who claim that making homosexuality a criminal act is wrong are totally inconsistent”.

In a university debate on Sharia Law in 2009 he also expressed his support for barbaric punishments including amputation, refusing to condemn the cutting off of people’s hands.

This support for religious jurisprudence was also evident when he wrote that that society must turn to “cohesive values that will bring us out of this social decay. It can be argued these cohesive values must be the Islamic values and the workable solution is the Islamic Social Model”.

Chris provided some contact addresses at UCL:

Head of Equalities and Diversity Sarah Guise
For staff and student queries related to age, disability, gender, race, religion & belief and sexual orientation.
Ext. 53989

Equalities and Diversity Adviser
Fiona McClement
For staff and student queries related to age, disability, gender, race, religion & belief and sexual orientation.


Ext 53988

Policy Advisor – Athena SWAN and women in SET
Harriet Jones

For queries related to the Athena SWAN Charter.


Equalities and Policy Administrator Sonal Bharadva
For general enquiries.

Ext. 53991

50:50 Gender Equality Group
Annette Dolphin, Co-Chair,

Rob de Bruin, Co-Chair,

The event takes place 25 hours from now.

*London School of Economics

**University College London

Update: I heard from Chris after I posted: Lawrence Krauss told him he’d told the organizers no gender segregation, and he’s not going to accept it when the time comes.

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

Rules for shitheads

Mar 7th, 2013 3:31 pm | By

Oh looky here – via Stephanie, another Callous Bastards’ Handbook, this time by “vjack” at Atheist Revolution. It’s better written and a little better thought than Vacula’s efforts in the same vein, but it’s still callous bastard bullshit.

You and you alone are responsible for how you feel. Nobody else can make you feel sad, angry, upset, or anything else without your agreement. I know we sometimes talk as if other people cause our feelings, but this is misleading.

If you insult me, I may experience feelings of sadness. My feelings are based on my understanding of our interaction and are guided by the whole of my personality and life experience. If I care what you think of me, I may feel sad; if I do not, I may not feel much of anything. It is not your insult that leads to my feelings; it is my interpretation of your insult, the meaning I assign to it, and the manner in which I put it in context. That is, how I feel following your insult is far more about me than it is about you.

You bet. Perfect for callous bastards. If I insult you, it’s just a thing that happens, like a rock falling down a slope. If you’re at the bottom of the slope, you may get a bruise, but that’s your decision.

vjack is part of the way there. He’s right (of course) that feelings about what other people say and do depend on context, and our feelings about them, and other variables that he conveniently leaves out. But we already knew that. He’s not right that because feelings about what others do and say are dependent in that way that therefore only the person who has the feelings has responsibility for them. Social life and interaction are webs, and responsibility goes in both directions. The fact that if person X is made of stone then she is able to feel nothing when vjack insults her does not mean that person Y has a responsibility to feel nothing if vjack insults her.

Some will object that taking responsibility for our feelings lets others off the hook, giving them a license to behave badly. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Just as we and we alone are responsible for our feelings, we and we alone are responsible for our behavior. Someone who behaves poorly is responsible for his or her poor behavior. The fact that we are responsible for our feelings in no way reduces the responsibility such an individual has for his or her own behavior.

If I call you a series of juvenile names on the Internet and you experience hurt feelings, you are responsible for how you feel and whether you take offense. But I am responsible for my behavior. Your responsibility for your feelings in no way gives me a pass to behave badly. It is nothing behind which I can hide. How you feel is on you, but how I have behaved is on me and nobody else.

That’s incoherent. If other people are responsible for their feelings, then in what sense is anyone behaving “poorly” aka badly by calling people names? In what does the badness reside? What is bad about calling people names?

He doesn’t explain that. He doesn’t seem to realize that it needs explaining. That’s Callous Bastards’ Handbooks for you – they achieve their callousness by ignoring obvious holes in their reasoning.

Stephanie included a screenshot of a different (yet similar) brand of callousness.

Two comments from Facebook. Text in the post.

[Russell Blackford, responding on Facebook to a post by Lou Doench] Sorry, but I no have time for someone who whines about the so-called harassment of vicious bullies who vilify good people and destroy their reputations on a daily basis. The individuals this Doench person mentions as victims are exactly the ones who need to take the pledge. They and of course PZ Myers, who is the worst of all, as he’s called me a bold-faced liar and encouraged a forum where I can be called scum, a misogynist, etc., etc. Doench is part of the problem if he’s going to defend such people.

People like Doench need to understand that people like me are very angry for good reason. Every time I read something like this claptrap, I get that much angrier. Until I get an apology from Myers in particular, I will not let this drop.

Stephanie continues -

What was he responding to?

And in cases like the horrible people who harass Ophelia Benson, Stephanie Zvan, Rebecca Watson and others in the skeptical and atheist movement on a weekly basis… well I’m likely to lose my temper.

Yes, Blackford ranted about having no time for someone who would get angry at the people who harassed us because if people understood Blackford’s position, they would not lose their temper at harassers. Sorry, “so-called harassers”–because it’s all been so carefully hidden away where Blackford couldn’t possibly see it.

Feelings aren’t random, and we don’t have a responsibility to decide to have no feelings and then go on to have no feelings when people spend an astonishing amount of their time every single day harassing and taunting us.

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

Another blogger attacked in Bangladesh

Mar 7th, 2013 11:39 am | By

Tasneem found a report in English on that blogger attacked in Dhaka.

Saniur Rahman, 28, was stabbed in the  head and legs at around 8:30pm near Purabi Cinema Hall.

The Shahbagh  uprising activist was returning to his home in Rupnagar Eastern  Housing.

Residents of the neighborhood rescued Shamiur and rushed him to  a local hospital, he added.

Saniur said that he used to write articles in blogs against  communalism and the riotous activities run by rowdy activists of the  Jamaat-e-Islam and its student wing Islami Chattra Shibir.

Asif  Mohiuddin, another blogger and online activist who was also stabbed seriously in  the city’s Uttara on the night of Jan 15, commented about the criminal attack on  the latest assault in his Facebook status. “He (Saniur) often used to write on  Facebook. I also met him once or twice, he is a very well-behaved young  man.”

“He was a supporter and activist of the Shahbagh movement, and  often used to harshly criticise the religion-based parties like Jamaat, Shibir  and Hizb Ut-Tahrir.”

He’s out of danger, the article says, so that’s good, but not being attacked at all would be better.

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

Floral shunning

Mar 7th, 2013 11:25 am | By

And right here in Washington state – a florist joins this fun new trend of florists refusing to supply customers they dislike or disagree with in some way. Remember that florist who refused to deliver roses to Jessica Ahlquist? And got sued by the FFRF as a result? Like that. This time it’s not freedom from religion, it’s gay marriage.

For nearly a decade, Robert Ingersoll and his partner, Curt Freed, had bought bouquets from local business Arlene’s Flower Shop, owned by Barronelle Stutzman, reports the Tri-City Herald. So it was Stutzman the men sought out when they recently decided to get married. (Same-sex weddings became legal in Washington State in December 2012.)

But when Ingersoll asked Stutzman last Friday to arrange the flowers for his September nuptials, he got a shock.

“He said he decided to get married, and before he got through I grabbed his hand and said, ‘I am sorry. I can’t do your wedding because of my relationship with Jesus Christ,’” Stutzman told KEPR. This is the only wedding Stutzman has turned down in 37 years.

She has a relationship with a guy who died two thousand years ago, assuming he lived at all – and for the sake of that relationship, she spits in the eye of someone right in front of her, who has been her loyal customer for nearly a decade.

First, do no harm. If you find yourself spitting in someone’s eye, think hard about your reasons. Hint: an arbitrary belief about what some long-dead guy would think about a contemporary practice is not likely to be a good reason.

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

Some governments outlaw the very existence of atheists

Mar 7th, 2013 10:48 am | By

The International Humanist and Ethical Union put out a report last week on the criminalization of atheism in many parts of the world, as a presentation to the UN Human Rights Council.

States sometimes play on concerns about Islamophobia and religious intolerance to support laws which go far beyond their legitimate concerns, instead rendering any form of religious skepticism, or the expression of a positive humanist philosophy, effectively illegal. The IHEU submission relates to its report published in December, Freedom of Thought 2012, on the same subject of discrimination against the non-religious around the world.

“This discrimination comes in two forms. Firstly, discrimination against non-religious communities through a nation’s constitution and/or legal system. For example, some governments outlaw the very existence of atheists, and others prosecute people who express their religious doubts or dissent regardless of whether those dissenters identify as atheist. Secondly, and more commonly, discrimination occurs against secular people when they manifest their conscience by acting against the dictates of the religion of their family, community or country.

That happens quite a lot right here in the US. If there is a table, the US is bound to have a much worse score than the other industrialized democracies, as it does in things like maternal and infant mortality, inequality, percentage of the population in prison, to name just a few.

A new entry here is persecution of atheism on social media.

“Legal measures against blasphemy and religious criticism, particularly in the realm of social media, are an increasingly common manifestation of discrimination against nonbelievers. 2012 saw a sharp rise in prosecution for alleged atheist criticism of religion on Facebook and Twitter. Between 2007 and 2011, IHEU recorded only three social media blasphemy prosecutions – two of them in Egypt, but in 2012 there were more than a dozen people, in ten different countries, charged for “blasphemous” social media statements. The trend of prosecuting “blasphemies” shared through social media is most marked in Muslim-majority countries. For example, in addition to the tragic, but all too familiar, wave of blasphemy prosecutions in Pakistan, 2012 saw prosecutions for allegedly atheist comments on Facebook and Twitter in Bangladesh, Bahrain, Egypt, Indonesia, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Turkey.

“Egypt in particular saw a pronounced increase in online blasphemy charges directed at atheists in 2012. Alber Saber is a prominent activist for secular democracy who reportedly operated the “Egyptian Atheists” page on Facebook and has been a vocal critic of fundamentalist Islam. In December 2012 he was sentenced to three years in prison. His countryman, Ayman Yusef Mansur is also in prison serving three years hard labour on charges that he offended Islam on Facebook. Likewise, 17-year-old Gamal Abdou Massoud has been imprisoned for three years for posting “blasphemous” cartoons on Facebook, whilst Bishoy Kamel was imprisoned for six years, on the same charge.”

And our friend Waleed Al-Husseini spent ten months in jail in Palestine for Facebook atheism, and is now in Paris hoping for asylum.

And Tasneem Khalil reports another atheist in Bangladesh hacked – physically hacked, not computer hacked. There are no reports in English yet.



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

Anything but a saint

Mar 7th, 2013 10:08 am | By

The Times of India reports that a study by Canadian researchers catches up to what Hitchens told us years ago: “Mother” Teresa did very bad things. The study calls her

“anything but a saint”, a creation of an orchestrated and effective media campaign who was generous with her prayers but miserly with her foundation’s millions when it came to humanity’s suffering.

The controversial study, to be published this month in the journal of studies in religion/sciences called Religieuses, says that Teresa - known across the world as the apostle of the dying and the downtrodden - actually felt it was beautiful to see the poor suffer.

According to the study, the Vatican overlooked the crucial human side of Teresa - her dubious way of caring for the sick by glorifying their suffering instead of relieving it.

Instead, the Vatican went ahead with her beatification followed by canonization “to revitalize the Church and inspire the faithful especially at a time when churches are empty and the Roman authority is in decline”.

Because the Vatican doesn’t actually give a shit about suffering. It has other concerns. Particular nuns and priests care about suffering, but the Vatican doesn’t. The Vatican cares about the Vatican, and the church and its authority, and goddyness.

The article continues to summarize the report, and it’s all familiar via Hitchens. It’s too bad hardly anyone paid any attention to Hitchens’s book and that the myth flourished anyway.

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

Napoleon Chagnon talks to eSkeptic

Mar 6th, 2013 11:40 am | By

What happened to and about Chagnon is a fascinating (and appalling) example of ideological policing in anthropology. He tells a little about it in the interview.

SK: Most importantly, let’s turn to the science. What were the two heresies you proclaimed in your publications on the Yanomamö that went against the prevailing orthodoxy in anthropological community?

NC: Well, I didn’t realize until I began committing these heresies, how entrenched that orthodoxy was. The first reaction was to my having described the Yanomamö as having wars and being quite violent in the absence of provocations from outside societies or the presence of military units from organized political societies, like a nation-state, first punishing them. At that time, they didn’t have any states surrounding them that had any influence on their behavior.

So, without realizing it, I was threatening the general attitude within anthropology that all native peoples are pacific and live an angelic kind of life, gliding through the jungle with lithe, scented bodies, being altruistic, sharing their food, and willing to cooperate with the stranger that comes in and wants to learn about them and their culture, and anxious to share their knowledge and life histories with that stranger.

Well, they aren’t that way. And my descriptions apparently [so] annoyed my colleagues that some of them began to publish statements “correcting” me.

Huh. No peoples are pacific and angelic. Peoples aren’t like that, not even native ones.

NC: Now if a scientist studying yaks, bullfrogs, bats, deer, salamanders, or any non-human animal stated that they competed for opportunities to mate, no one in biology would have taken that to be anything other than an accurate observation. But if you say that about human beings, it becomes “lurid speculation.”

SK: It’s hardly “lurid speculation” to someone like me who grew up in a mob town in Jersey and spent (or misspent) a lot of time back in my military service days shooting pool in bars. I didn’t make careful anthropological observations, but I saw that behavior regularly.

And while I was in college at the same time I was learning the prevailing orthodoxy in my introductory anthropology course, I was also taking a course on the classical culture of Ancient Greece in the very next building, where we read in The Iliad about Helen, Paris, Menelaus and the Trojan War. So why was “males fighting over females” considered so heretical?

NC: It may be that a number of cultural anthropologists come from a general class of the American public that goes to private high schools and elite colleges and universities and ends up teaching in major universities. Not enough of them have spent time in pool halls and bars, as maybe you and I have, so they haven’t anything called common sense.

Don’t they even go to movies? There are pool halls and bars in movies. Or what about summer jobs? Or, as Frank Miele says, the goddam Iliad.

SK: When the final words are written on Napoleon Chagnon and his critics in academia and in the media, what do you think they will be?

NC: I have no idea! Who’s going to write them? If they’re post-modernists they’re going to say something very different from what a scientist would say.

Are you assuming that whoever writes these words about Chagnon will be a rational human being with common sense who believes in the existence of the real world independent of its observer?

Heh. Good one.

Then Miele says something I think is quite telling.

SK: As Skeptics we have a faith which, much like a religious faith, is not itself provable. It’s a faith that in the end demonstrable truth will win out, however unpleasant or unpopular. And while there will be swings to the irrational or the incorrect here and there, in the long run reason and experiment will triumph, just as they have in medicine and so many other fields.

Yes! I’m glad he puts it that way – because it’s a faith I’ve often noticed, and one that I think is often absurd. It does get invoked as if there were some kind of magic at work that guarantees that – as Miele puts it without apparently noticing – “in the end” truth will win out. What end? What is “the end”? There is no “end.” Later he says “in the long run” and that’s a figment too. Those two phrases and the idea they carry make this figment possible – the idea that now is not “in the end” nor yet “the long run” but some other moment is, so even if truth is being buried right now, somehow in that mystical far off end/long run, it will claw its way to the surface and burst out triumphantly.

That’s just magical thinking. Truth loses all the time, and there is no end and no long run, there is only a series of nows.

So if that really is a faith that skeptics (or Skeptics – do they really refer to themselves with a capital letter?) share, then that’s just more reason for me to say I’m not one. Only it’s odd. It seems to me it’s more skeptical to be skeptical of magical ideas that truth will win “in the end” than it is to take it as faith.


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

Guest post: Young, Sick, and Invisible

Mar 6th, 2013 10:50 am | By

Guest post by Ania Bula. Ania blogs at Scribbles and Rants.

When I was 18, I was diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis. The following year, I lost the ability to walk, and was ignored by doctors who looked at my age before my symptoms. I struggled with finding a treatment and getting some mobility back.

When I was 20, I started experiencing some mysterious symptoms, including rapid weight loss, pain, bleeding, and more. I desperately searched for an answer, and eventually, a treatment. What would turn out to be Crohn’s disease came very close to killing me. I was flushing my life down the toilet.

The journey itself, to diagnosis and treatment, was incredible, difficult, and enlightening. Chronic illness is an invitation for everyone to comment: either with regards to a cause, a treatment, or otherwise. Suddenly, everyone’s aunt is an expert and everyone’s fad diet a cure. You wade through a constant stream of ignorance and lies, in a desperate attempt to find peace and a stop to pain. In my years living with both disorders I have been faith healed, poked, prodded, stuffed with powders and magic potions.

When your disability isn’t written across your body for the world to see, there is a constant need to validate your need for self-care. There is also something more isolating about not being able to readily identify other people who are going through the same thing you are. When you walk down the street, you can’t know just from looking if someone else out there knows what it is like to feel your pain.

Healthy people don’t know how to react to you. Some trivialize your experiences either because they don’t believe you are sick or out of a desperate attempt to convince you that they are not judging you based on your disability. They point out that you don’t look sick, or that other people they know with the same condition don’t have nearly as much trouble. Some will try to blame other causes that have nothing to do with your condition. Others are thrown to other extremes and feel like they must keep reminding you of your weakness in order to keep you from harm. They overcompensate for their own discomfort, by making it seem that they are looking out for you. These are the people who are hyper-alert for any sign that you are not at your best so that they can lecture you about taking it easy. Since you are never really at your best, this can get grating really fast.

It is difficult to strike that happy balance of treating you like an independent human being, who sometimes needs to be more careful about what they eat and do, or perhaps cannot go out as often as everyone else. You might feel as though you constantly have to justify yourself. That no, it is not just laziness that kept you in your pyjamas all day, or that you really do like their cooking but that yogurt keeps you up in pain all night. You worry that eventually everyone around you will be sick of trying and that you will be left friendless and alone.

Throughout all the self-doubt and loneliness, you are also struggling with managing your symptoms. No matter what your condition, exhaustion is a constant. Being sick takes a toll on your body and your mind, so that some days it can be an effort just to get out of bed. For many of us, pain is another constant companion.

I am writing about my experiences in a book called Young, Sick, and Invisible: A Skeptic’s Journey with Chronic Illness and I am funding it through IndieGoGo. Your support will help me through the writing process, while also rewarding you with a copy of the finished work. In the long run, I am hoping to raise awareness about what it is like to have an invisible disability, as well as highlight the evil of the con men peddling alternative “medicine” and “miracle cures”.  I need your help to make this happen. Every little bit helps, as does every share and retweet.

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

Pattern detection

Mar 5th, 2013 5:34 pm | By

There’s a pattern in the harassment that I want to point out for the sake of the record. The pattern is to harass and mock and monitor and taunt, and then to blame the target for reacting.

It’s so childish. It’s the kind of thing children do in the 3d grade, and then they grow out of it. It’s bizarre watching adults do it, as if no parent or teacher had ever sat them down and told them to stop.

Adam Lee tweeted the same thing to me earlier today:

The pitters’ MO is to say something rude and then call you too sensitive when you object. Do they think it’s not obvious?

Precisely. It’s the perennial bullies’ move: bully and then blame the bullied for objecting.

Skepticism. What a laugh, eh?


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

They establish a pattern

Mar 5th, 2013 4:38 pm | By

People talked about this Qualia Soup video on workplace bullying yesterday.

It’s good.

A lot of it is unpleasantly familiar – especially the bully’s ploy of claiming to be the victim.

With bullying, all incidents remain relevant, because they establish a pattern.

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

No marathon for Gaza

Mar 5th, 2013 10:14 am | By

It’s been called off. Why? Because Hamas says women can’t particpate.

“We regret this decision to cancel the marathon but we don’t want men and women running together,” Abdessalam Siyyam, cabinet secretary of the Hamas government, told AFP news agency.

“We did not tell Unrwa to cancel the marathon and we haven’t prevented it, but we laid down some conditions: We don’t want women and men mixing in the same place,” he added.

Which means, of course, that the women are shut out. It doesn’t mean the men are shut out, or they can run different routes. Of course not. It never means that. It means the women are kicked out (kicked to the curb, as John Loftus would put it), shown the door, told to piss off, told to go home. We don’t want women and men mixing, therefore the women are forbidden to do anything.


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

A note on diminutives

Mar 5th, 2013 9:50 am | By

Vacula did a post claiming to reply to Michael Nugent’s post that asked him two questions. Vacula’s post didn’t reply at all; it ignored Nugent’s questions entirely and instead went on and on about how horrible I am. That’s not what Nugent asked, so it’s silly to say

This post will address Nugent’s most recent post and continue our ongoing dialogue.

One thing Vacula said was about my objection to his and Porter’s calling me “Ophie” – I pointed out that I don’t call them Justie and Karlie.

One should notice that the only reason Ophelia Benson was being called Ophie was because Karla Porter used the name in a satire piece, an episode of ‘As The Atheist World Turns,’ titled “ATAWT: Please Be My Agent Ophie.” While Karla was writing the piece, she didn’t use real full names, but rather only made references to actual people [Notice the characters EB, L Moore, Ophie, and Porter (who isn't even necessarily Karla)] . People ‘in on the joke,’ then, would easily get it.

But, no, that interpretation is the implausible one on Ophelia’s account and the name ‘Ophie’ is just to “belittle” Ophelia. Ophelia is complaining so much and taking great offense to a shortened version of her name. Give me a break.

Porter agreed in a comment, and added some geographico-linguistic expertise to amplify the point.

I have positions my first and last names as diminutive. It doesn’t irk me in the least. After more than 10 years of living in Latin America where use of diminutives is a sign of affection I have nothing whatsoever against them. Some people just don’t get it. to be quite frank…

It’s my turn to say give me a break. Or, more bluntly, bullshit.

Diminutives can be a sign of affection everywhere. Can be. That doesn’t mean they invariably are. They are a sign of affection when they come from people who like you. When they come from people who hate you, they are not a sign of affection. They are belittling. Who doesn’t know this?

Has Porter never even seen Tootsie for christ’s sake? Remember that? “My name is Dorothy. Not Tootsie, not Honey, not Sweetie. Dorothy.” And that wasn’t even about a diminutive nickname used as a weapon, it was just about a diminutive nickname used with casual patronizing dismissiveness.

I was arguing with some guy in comments on Jerry Coyne’s blog, years ago (obviously) – I think it was JJ Ramsey – and the guy called me “dear” in a response. I told him to knock it off, and Jerry backed me up, agreeing that it was sexist.

It’s very similar to the way the second person singular works in many European languages (and used to work in English). Tu, te, dich, and so on – they can be intimate and affectionate between relatives and friends – and they can be insulting or a marker of inferior status. It depends.

If people who are harassing you daily call you by a diminutive of your name, it is not a sign of affection. Karla Porter did not call me “Ophie” as a sign of affection. What she said in that comment is complete bullshit.




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

Mooney takes issue with Shermer’s claim

Mar 5th, 2013 8:52 am | By

Uh oh – batten down the hatches. Board up the windows, hide all the knives, tie down everything loose. Michael Shermer tweets

Chris Mooney takes issue with my claim that there’s a liberal war on science: …

So in a few minutes there will be a 5000 word piece up at eSkeptic, right? Ripping Mooney a new orifice and calling him a Nazi McCarthyite witch-hunting inquisitor? Right? Because it’s not permitted to take issue with a claim of Michael Shermer’s?

A small sample:

Shermer’s article ends with a statement that, as far as I can tell, is just incorrect: “Surveys show that moderate liberals and conservatives embrace science roughly equally,” he writes. I’m not sure where he gets this, but for a direct rebuttal let me point you to a recent study in the American Sociological Review by Gordon Gauchat, which finds that unlike liberals or moderates, conservatives have lost trust in science rather precipitously over the past several decades.

None of this should be surprising. As I argued on The Agenda, it’s no accident that conservatives have more problems with science than do liberals. It’s part of their personality and who they are. We know, from decades of psychological research, that conservatives are less open to new ideas and experiences, and have a higher need for cognitive closure—the desire to have fixed beliefs and certainties that are unchanging. So of course they find a dynamic force like science, which excels at upsetting the applecart, to be threatening. That oft cited statistic about only 6 percent of American Association for the Advancement of Science members being Republicans—get over it already. It’s not remotely surprising.

That’s a small sample. The whole piece is about Shermer and his wrongness! Most of my column that criticized Shermer’s sexist claim was about something else, not Shermer and his wrongness (or his sexist claim) at all. So that means Shermer will write about 20,000 words calling Mooney a Nazi etcetera, right?

Or not. Any bets? I’m betting he won’t. Why? Because Mooney wrote a best-seller, and he writes for major media, and he’s a guy. Shermer sees him as an equal. I’m betting he won’t respond that way to someone he sees as an equal. I think he felt free to respond to me the way he did because I don’t have anywhere near the clout that Mooney has, so responding to me that way seemed safe. I don’t mean I think he thought about it in those words, but I think he felt comfortable writing about me the way he did, and I strongly suspect he would not feel comfortable writing about Mooney that way, and I think those are the reasons. Mooney is an insider and a colleague, and I’m not, so calling Mooney ludicrously hyperbolic names would be awkward while calling me them would not. Mooney is a guy, and I’m not, so calling Mooney ludicrously hyperbolic names would be awkward while calling me them would not. I don’t know that; it’s an interpretation; but we know I’m factually correct about at least one part of it: Shermer did call me those ludicrously hyperbolic names.

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

Locked up in a room with her hands, mouth and face bound for four days

Mar 5th, 2013 8:24 am | By

More horror in Nigeria. A man tortured, imprisoned and starved his six-year-old daughter because a woman at his church who purports to be a “prophet” told him his little girl is a “witch.”

Edidiong was beaten by her father and locked up in a room with her hands, mouth and face bound for four days before she was rescued by neighbours.

It was learnt that Etok-Akpan started beating her on February 19 after an unidentified prophetess in their church told him that Edidiong was the witch responsible for the stagnancy in his life.

Narrating her ordeal to PUNCH Metro on Monday, Edidiong said after the beatings which lasted for some days, her father on February 21 tied her hands with a cord and bound her mouth with a piece of cloth.

She said, “He locked me in the inner room of our house and he never gave me food and never allowed me to go to school.”

The girl, who said she is in basic three at Femos Nursery and Primary School located at 24 Etyin Abasi Street, said she was becoming weak after days without food or water.

My friend James Ibor, a lawyer with the Basic Rights Counsel, called the police after neighbors called him.

Ibor said one of the neighbours called him and he in turn informed the police.

He said, “When the policemen and I got there, we saw a crowd gathered outside. We were able to rescue the child by breaking the door.

“The girl was very weak because she had been without food for days and so we had to give her water first, then after about ten minutes we gave her milk before solid food an hour later.”

Ibor said the culprit and his wife had locked up the girl in the inner room of their two-room apartment and went to church, adding that the girl was presently living with her grandmother in another part of the town.

What was that about religion and compassion again?

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

Crude examples of the genus Homo

Mar 4th, 2013 5:16 pm | By

Eric has a post about The mad anti-feminist stance of the male atheist fringe. Guess what: he doesn’t find the stance entirely impressive.

I have been following — at a distance — the dispiriting farrago of abuse and obscenity aimed at feminist atheists and their supporters. All the completely contemptuous remarks and stultifyingly offensive use of scatological and twatological language to try to get women freethinkers and sceptics to shut the fuck up. It’s simply bizarre, and, from what I can tell, quickly becoming an obsession of a small marginal group of rather crude examples of the genus Homo who seem to think they have a right to use whatever insulting language they choose.

And not just a legal right, but a moral right, a political right, a social right. They seem to think they have every possible kind of right, and indeed duty.

Why do people think, just because you can throw insults at people from a distance, that it is an appropriate thing to do? And why do people think that addressing their often obscene remarks both at women freethinkers and at the men who support them is something that is within the pale of any movement, let alone one that is intended to shine the light of reason onto the human scene?

I don’t know. I used to wonder, but I got tired of the futility, so I stopped.

One thing that does concern me about all this is that Michael Shermer seems to have lost the plot. He said something stupid. Ophelia Benson called him on it. But instead of simply saying, “Sorry,” and left it at that, he just had to go into a long rigmarole – he couldn’t help it, I guess — a male tic, apparently – that has a tendency to defend what he said, suggest that it was simply said as a matter of routine, because that’s the way it was when, and then pillory Ophelia for calling him on it in the first place. It makes no sense to me.

It does to me. He’s vain, for one thing, and a shallow thinker, for another. That’s all really. His vanity was outraged because I, some upstart, dared to criticize something he said, and he didn’t see my point because he didn’t bother to try. Put the two together and you get the mess he made.

Let’s get this quite straight, shall we? Women play as important a role in the freethought movement as men.

Damn right.

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

Can anyone explain?

Mar 4th, 2013 4:07 pm | By

Stewart gave me a graphic he made. Everybody’s giving me graphics today! It’s a good day – albeit busy, what with one thing and another. The to-do list is lengthening.

no overlap


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

Laudable aims?

Mar 4th, 2013 12:10 pm | By

Peter Tatchell is outraged that Reading University’s Muslim Society invited Abu Usamah at-Thahabi to speak, given that Thahabi has endorsed the murder of gays and “apostates.”

A joint statement by the Reading University Muslim Society, Reading University Students Union and the University of Reading praised the “laudable aims” of the Muslim Society.

Laudable aims? Are the university authorities and student’s union bonkers or bigots? Do they, too, justify murder?

I find it impossible to believe that the Muslim Society was not aware of Thahabi’s extremist opinions. He is a well publicised hate preacher. How can an organisation be laudable if it hosts a person with such intolerant, murder-endorsing views?

Well…because if you don’t say the aims are laudable, maybe someone will call you Islamophobic. That’s how.

The joint statement went on to say:

“Both the University and RUSU (Reading University Students Union) are committed to supporting the Muslim Society in its aims of raising awareness of Islam and building mutual understanding. We are delighted that other events in the week’s programme will be going ahead as planned.”

Building mutual understanding? Has Reading University taken leave of its senses? How is mutual understanding advanced by hosting a preacher who advocates murdering ex-Muslims and gay people? Who disrespects women as inferior, lesser human beings? And who calls for the beating of littler girls?

By ignoring that part, and pretending that raising awareness of Islam is all about good things with no possibility of bad things creeping in.

At the last minute, the university decided to cancel Thahabi’s talk but not because of his sexism, homophobia and de facto incitement to murder. The reason the authorities cited for cancelling was, they said, “the increasing threat of violent protest by extremist groups.” These groups were not named.

Some people interpreted this as a smear against the peaceful counter-protest planned by the anti-extremist group, Student Rights, and by the Reading Atheist, Humanist and Secularist Society (RAHS).

However, a post on the English Defence League-linked Casual’s United blog stated that “local activists will be turning up to disrupt” the event. It also posted a telephone number that its readers can call to “tell them [the university] what you think of them for hosting this rodent.”

More fodder for the EDL. Bad move. Next time just don’t invite murderous clerics.

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

She sees all

Mar 4th, 2013 11:50 am | By

Ania Bula made me a picture.

Beware the Masked Pineapple – it never Goes Home!

masked pineapple

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