Thunderf00t’s post: Poorly thought out, poorly made, and he owes an apology

Tunderf00t, a very new addition to the Free Thought Blogs stable of ponies, unicorns, Atheists and Skeptics, is being a dick.

He has taken the position that all this talk and all this consternation about sexual harassment strategies at conferences is not important and sexual harassment at these venues is not an issue. Fine. He’s wrong, but he is certainly entitled to think that as long as his credibility isn’t that important to him. (I say this last bit because he’s basing his arguments on invective and flourish and not reason, which makes him look kinda like an idiot. I also don’t feel a need to counter his “calm and rational” arguments here because his post was obviously written with only a glancing reference to all the prior writing on this topic. Perhaps if he spends the time to catch up to the rest of us I’ll take the time to address what he has to say.) (more…)

Conferences are Workplaces for Many: that does not mean they are not fun

The Workplace (photo: deVos)

To me, a conference or convention has always been a workplace. And, to some extent the Internet is too. I’ve sat on enough committees, had enough diversity training, and been involved with enough academic (mostly) disputes (hey, I was part of the Most Dysfunctional Department in the Universe for a few years!) that I tend to see human interactions gone bad in the light of mediation, HR rules and potential intervention, policy, and so on. This is why I am not real sanguine on the idea of working out how young men can go to conferences and a) not act like idiots and at the same time b) get laid anyway. (more…)

The Damage Richard Dawkins Did

And now, the final installment in this series of posts (the previous installment is here).

Picture of Richard Dawkins Scowling

This is Richard Dawkins. There are about 27,000,000 atheists and other sorts of non-believes in the United States.

Richard Dawkins didn’t do any damage to himself. Most of the people who were going to buy his books will still buy his books, he’ll continue to pack lecture halls as he travels around giving talks, and he’ll continue to have the kind of influence that he has had for several years now, which is by and large a very positive one, on the way society approaches things like religion, atheism, and skepticism.

But he has probably lost some colleagues. His treatment of both the issues surrounding Elevator Gate and his treatment of his colleague Rebecca Watson was appalling. And yes, Rebecca and Richard were colleagues. The two of them have traveled similar circuits, sat on panels together, and so on. Despite what star struck fans may think, Richard Dawkins does not actually live in an utterly different world than the rest of us. He still puts his pants on one leg at a time, and he is still part of a community of people doing similar, and overlapping things. (more…)

We’ve Talked About This Enough, We Can Shut Up Now (Or, Don’t Feed the Trolls)

Continuing from the previous conversation

I’ve written about this before (Shut up about everything all the time unless what you have to say is HITLER!!!!) and it relates to the previously discussed topic, as Godwin-Scaping is a way to tell someone to stop talking. Richard Dawkins told Rebecca Watson that her comments were not about the repression of women by Islam, therefore she should shut up. Numerous Nuclear Power Apologists have told Ana Miller and me to Shut Up about Fukushima because more people die in automobile accidents world wide every day than were killed by radiation at that power plant. Recently, Rebecca Watson wrote about how being told to “not feed the trolls” might sound like friendly and helpful advice (and may even be meant that way sometimes) but it is actually just another way to tell people to shut up. (more…)

Calibrating and Recalibrating Sex Positiveness

Continuing our discussion (see Making sense of our fights on the Internet, Power and Presence on the Internet and Elsewhere, and A Spectrum as a Slippery Slope and OMG Hitler is a Nazi!!!!) …

I was at a local event recently where a group of sex-positive third-wave feminist women had traditionally used a certain amount of overt sexuality to raise some money. They had been doing it for a few years and had gained a certain reputation and a certain following. A friend of mine who knew of their work but did not know them personally joined in during this most recent event and volunteered to work the door, as it were, to help to relieve some of the visitors and participants of a little cash (this was a fundraiser). I was not present for that part of the event but some of the people involved, who had been involved for several years, later said to me that they felt my friend had gone a bit over the top in her performance. I asked for a description of what concerned them, and when I heard it I had to laugh a little. You see, over the years, these women have changed their own act from a more to a less sexy parody version of themselves, toning it down and calibrating, for a number of different reasons. The young woman who joined them this year had calibrated her own approach to their reputation and not to their current approach. She was a blast, as it were, from the past, and that was a little shocking. (more…)

A Spectrum as a Slippery Slope and OMG Hitler is a Nazi!!!!

… Continuing with our discussion …

When Rebecca discussed a range of topics from being bothered by clueless gents to sexual abuse to rape, some of her critics scolded her for linking these different things together, and insisted that when she mentioned something about a guy asking her over at 4 AM for coffee being clueless that she was accusing him of rape. Even Richard Dawkins got that wrong and he is known for being smart and stuff.

This is one of those things where WikiThinking can muddy the waters. There are two named fallacies of argument discussed in The Wikipedia that people will refer to when someone discusses a range, or spectrum, of behaviors. One is the Slippery Slope argument. The other is the Godwin Principle. The former is only sometimes a fallacy … there are slippery slopes and there are times when people worry about slippery slopes that are not real. Either way, it does not matter. The spectrum of behavior exists, and it is a matter of discussion as to whether being fast and lose at one end of the spectrum makes it harder for society or individuals or whomever to deal with the other end of the spectrum. It is worth discussing. Presuming that because one senses that there is a slope that therefore there must be a slippery slope fallacy is sloppy thinking.

And you know what sloppy thinking can lead to if you are not careful. It can lead to a very slippery slope indeed! Down which we will surely slip! (more…)

Power and Presence on the Internet and Elsewhere

… continuing ….

When Rebecca commented about Stef McGraw’s commentary in her talk at a the CFI Student Leadership Conference, at which Stef was in attendance as a student leader, there were those who complained that this was unfair; Rebecca has a big presence and a resounding voice on the Internet and in the Skeptics and Atheists communities, and for good reason. Therefore, when she speaks critically of a person or a person’s ideas, where that person has less of a voice, who is less well known or less well established, that could be seen as somehow unfair, or at least, uneven. (more…)

Making sense of our fights on the Internet

After the Big Bang, more or less evenly distributed stuff and energy somehow became slightly unevenly distributed, which caused a kind of Universal Angular Momentum to set in which gave early heterogeneity and structure to everything that existed. The lightest elements formed more or less spontaneously, but in order for heavier elements to form matter had to get sufficiently clumped in stars that massive gravitational forces changed light elements into heavy ones. Perhaps if the initial clumping and spinning of stuff in the very early universe was a little bit different, the whole universe would have come out differently, in detail if not in other more profound ways. Or at least, I’d be wearing a blue tee shirt instead of a black one right now and I’d be using vim instead of emacs to type this blog post.

When Elevatorgate happened, the ensuing Universe Known as Rebeccapocalypse was shaped and determined by a number of early events that have caused the final result … well, not the “final” result, but the result that we are stuck with as of this writing … but had those first few days of Internet activity been a little different things might have come out a different way.

Here I would like to do two things. (more…)

The Fetish in relation to Skepticism

I was just glancing through the blog of Katheryn Schulz, author of Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error, a book about people who were wrong about stuff, often big stuff (for example, she talks about individuals who spent decades in jail owing to false convictions). Meantime, I’m working on posts related to the falsehoods and “Everything you know is wrong” series. And, as I do this, I’m thinking about a way in which people get things wrong that is often overlooked or, perhaps, not recognized as a specific category of irrational thinking.

[This is a repost, originally published here. You may want to glance at the comments on the original. It is possible that I struck a nerve.]

This has to do with the idea of a fetish. It is likely that I’m using the word “fetish” in a different way than it is usually used in modern English parlance, so some definition is appropriate. Here’s some material from various dictionary sources:
(more…)

Being Skeptical of Skeptics’ Skepticism

…I have spent a great deal of time reading blogposts and comments on skeptical sites on the Internet, and one important fact has become readily apparent: that many in our community aren’t aware of one of the most important things a skeptic should know.

I’ve seen opinions stated without any factual substantiation. I’ve seen self-styled “experts” make derisive comments about others’ lack of knowledge about a topic, only to find out that it was they who were, in fact, ill-informed. Why? Because too many of us don’t know what we don’t know.

That’s Skepticism and Ethics

(more…)