Oh look, there’s one now

Wow. Just…wow.

Took in Richard Dawkins doing a reading, question-answering, and book-signing for his most-recent publication tonight, in a sold-out theater at the U of Toronto…The theater contains around 600 seats, and of the 80 people I counted, about two dozen were women. That’s approximately 30%. By comparison, Ophelia Benson was carping yesterday about women only comprising 20% (i.e., 4 out of 21) of the speakers at the Atheist Alliance conference. I say that the latter figure is within engineering/experimental accuracy (or whatever confidence interval), especially since the speakers at any conference should be from at least the top 20% of the professionals in it; and unless the conference is a Celebration of Womynstruation, you’ll already be “scraping the bottom of the top of the barrel” to get to within 10%, in caliber and quantity of work.

Wow. Because he (Geoffrey Falk) doesn’t know that – at least I’m pretty sure he doesn’t, because he doesn’t show that he does, and because I don’t, and because I think it is not obvious from the whole list. That was my point – not ‘hey why just Dawkins and Coyne and Dennett and no women’ but ‘hey why those 17 men and only 4 women’ – given that the men farther down the list aren’t such obvious candidates as Dawkins and Coyne and Dennett. It’s not remotely obvious that all 17 men on the list are ‘from at least the top 20% of the professionals in’ atheism – whatever that would even mean (atheism not being much of a profession, as far as I know).

And, of course, it’s also not even faintly obvious that ‘you’ll already be “scraping the bottom of the top of the barrel” to get to within 10%, in caliber and quantity of work.’ It’s merely assumed that that’s the case. We talked about some of the Name female atheists who could have been invited; some Name female atheists are in fact bigger Names than some of the male atheists on the list. We now know that the AAI did invite some Name female atheists who didn’t accept, such as Taslima Nasreen and Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Katha Pollitt. We also now know that it’s possible to lobby to be invited to these things and that it’s possible that some of the men on the list lobbied to get on it. What we don’t know is that under 10% of all high-caliber high-productivity atheists are women.

As an indication of how blinded people can be by their twisted little half-wit ideologies, I doubt that the question of racial representation on that panel has even occurred to Benson. But really, if she’s not happy about women being a mere 20% (translation: less than half) of the speakers at Ye Olde Convention, she should be just as unhappy about the races not being proportionately represented, even independent of their actual contributions to the field. (“Meritocracy? We don’t need no steenking meritocracy!” No, what they want is “fairness,” where every group gets the same rewards, regardless of whether or not they’ve worked for them. You can see how such people would be strongly attracted to socialism/Marxism, no?) Otherwise, you see, she’s a racist bitch.

Except that that’s just what I didn’t say. I think we decidedly do need stinking meritocracy, despite the psychic and other drawbacks to meritocracy. One reason I loathed the Bush presidency was because it was so wildly defiantly insanely anti-meritocratic; ditto the Palin candidacy. One thing I love about Obama is that he never plays dumb – he never spits in the eye of the meritocracy that got him where he is. No, I don’t want automatic numeric “fairness,” and I never said I did. But I think wild disproportion needs some explaining.

As for all the other nonsense – one, women are half the population – so if they are under-represented, that is not a small issue. Two, I have no idea what the racial makeup of the list is, so any disproportion there might be didn’t jump out at me the way the male-female ratio did. Three, of course, it’s my ox that was being gored – but then I did say that. Yes, I fight my corner sometimes. So?

That lively contribution to the debate led me to an earlier intervention that was also quite…sparkling.

Falk challenges some post about representation in desert island discs (I didn’t read it) and then goes on…

I wound up on that utterly insane posting indirectly via Ophelia Benson’s slightly less nutty feministing about how only four of the twenty-one speakers at the upcoming Atheist Alliance International conference are women. They certainly could have invited her. Female, atheist, two cogent (if not particularly page-turning) albeit co-written books to her credit, no taint of the sin of “white male privilege” (though still not purged of the sin of being white—and thus inherently privileged—in general; not that I can recall her ever owning up to that obvious issue, as basic consistency would demand).

Three books! Not two; three.Co-written, but three.

The 4/21 number is obviously not “Because there are no atheist women.” But when you’re talking about the upper echelon in the field, i.e., the people who’ve published the most high-quality material … are you certain that more than ~20% of the best in the field have tits? (Benson barely does; but I digress.) Are you sure that the one-in-five number isn’t just the product of, you know, meritocracy?

Fascinating, isn’t it?

I was talking just the other day about how quickly and how easily a lot of men fall into sexist taunts the instant a woman disagrees with them or they disagree with her. Well…I wasn’t making it up. (No, I haven’t the slightest idea how he thinks he knows.)

He goes on to discuss my intellectual limitations, which is fair; he points out that I’ll never have a Big Idea, which I certainly agree with. I’m at most a commentator of some kind, I’m certainly not an originator. Then he raises an interesting question.

And I still really doubt that she would have ever figured out what a menace Islam is—or maybe even that multiculturalism doesn’t work—if it didn’t disproportionately affect her (female) group negatively. Sure, Islam, theocracy and Sharia law are against every principle of classical liberalism; but if those (or socialism, or communism) benefited women, and helped them get even with the (esp. white) men who’ve had it so easy and been so privileged for so long…

And that’s where it ends. Well…yes, and? If…then what? If Islam, theocracy and Sharia law benefited women, then they would do vastly less harm than they do as things are, so my opinion of them would be very different. And? I mean, if Nazism hadn’t had such a thing about Jews, then Nazism would have been very different, and so would people’s opinions of it be. There would still be other things wrong with Islam, theocracy and Sharia, but there would be fewer such things, and they would be less savage. I would still be opposed to them, but things would be different. Falk says that if things were different then they would be different. Well yes, I quite agree, but I don’t see that as suspect the way he apparently does.

He may well be right about his first point. But there again – my ‘(female) group’ is after all half of all humans. That’s a lot of people being ‘negatively affected’ (I would just say harmed, it’s so much blunter and simpler).


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