The nine issues that Adam Lee’s response to my criticism fails to address

by Michael Nugent on September 22, 2014

Adam Lee has now responded to my criticism of his article in the Guardian about Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and the atheist movement.

Adam had asked critics to provide detail of inaccuracies and misrepresentations in the article, and I did so. In his response, Adam failed to address nine of the issues that I raised about inaccuracies and misrepresentations.

In his response, Adam also raised other issues and questions related to ‘the deep rifts’. I am happy to discuss those, and I will do so in another post later today. But for now, I want to keep the focus on the misrepresentations in the Guardian article, in case that issue gets lost by being entangled with discussion of the other issues Adam has since raised.

So Adam, here are nine questions about issues that you didn’t address, from my response to your request for more detail about inaccuracies and misrepresentations in your Guardian article.

I have ignored misrepresentations in quotes from other people, as in fairness you are not responsible for what they say (even though you did choose who to ask, and what to include from what they said).

1. ‘The’ atheist movement has not been wracked by this infighting

You wrote: “The atheist movement – a loosely-knit community of conference-goers, advocacy organizations, writers and activists – has been wracked by infighting the last few years over its persistent gender imbalance and the causes of it.”

I responded: This is simply not true. The atheist movement is global. Most of the atheist movement around the world is not involved in this mostly American infighting, and many activists are either unaware of it or think it is a distraction of focus. As a reality check to those who are absorbed by it, it is simply not the case that the atheist movement has been wracked by it.

My question now: Do you accept that what I wrote in my response is true?

2. All-male speakers and leaderships

You wrote: “Many female atheists have explained that they don’t get more involved because of the casual sexism endemic to the movement: parts of it see nothing problematic about hosting conferences with all-male speakers or having all-male leadership –”

I responded: “So which conferences have all-male speakers? Which groups have all-male leadership? I don’t know of any, but they may well exist. If they do exist, how do they compare with conferences with male and female speakers, or groups with male and female leadership? Unfortunately, the article does not say. It creates an impression and does not substantiate it.”

My question now: Can you please tell me which conferences and leaderships you were referring to?

3. The pattern of criticisms of Richard

I wrote: The analysis is something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, based on an observable pattern that I have previously written about. Some people place the most uncharitable meaning they can on a comment by Richard, or else exaggerate it out of proportion to reasonable debate, and continue to do so even after he clarifies what he meant. Then, instead of correcting these false allegations, some people either ignore the clarification or else blame Richard further for allowing himself and/or atheism to be misrepresented. These misrepresentations eventually leak into the mainstream media, forming a loop of self-confirmations of inaccuracies.

My question now: Do you accept that the pattern that I have described above exists? Do you accept that there are some examples of this pattern in your article?

4. Snarling about feminists being shrill harridans

You wrote: “On Twitter these last few days, Dawkins has reverted to his old, sexist ways and then some. He’s been very busy snarling about how feminists are shrill harridans who just want an excuse to take offence.”

I responded: That’s a good way to prejudice readers about whatever you are going to say next, despite providing no evidence of Richard snarling about feminists being shrill harridans.

My question now: Can you please show me where Richard Dawkins has been very busy snarling about how feminists are shrill harridans?

5. What you wrote about drinking and testimony

You wrote: “For good measure, Dawkins argued that rape victims shouldn’t be considered trustworthy if they were drinking.”

I responded: This assertion linked to a tweet in which Richard had written: “If you want to drive, don’t get drunk. If you want to be in a position to testify & jail a man, don’t get drunk.” Firstly note that Adam has rephrased ‘don’t get drunk’ into ‘if they were drinking’… Richard has also written in related tweets: “Don’t EVER rape anyone, drunk or sober…Obviously some drunk people remember well what happened. I was talking about a limited case where a witness admits she can’t remember… (to a woman who was raped while drunk) Yes, I believe you. Why would I not? Unlike the hypothetical case of my tweets, you have clear & convincing memories.”

So, in context, what Richard is saying (as well as ‘Don’t EVER rape anyone, drunk or sober’) is that the testimony of someone who cannot remember what has happened, and where there is no other evidence, is not trustworthy. That is clearly a self-evident fact. It is inaccurate to describe this as Richard saying that rape victims who have been drinking shouldn’t be considered trustworthy, particularly when combined with the related tweets and the unsubstantiated smear about Richard being busy snarling about shrill harridans.

My question now: Do you accept that what I wrote in my response is true?

6. Hostility to people with certain views

You wrote: “Dawkins’s very public hostility toward the people who emphasise the importance of diversity, who want to make the community broader and more welcoming, and who oppose sexual harassment and sexist language, is harming the cause he himself claims to care about.”

I responded: That’s also misleading. I and my colleagues in Atheist Ireland are among the people who emphasise the importance of diversity, who want to make the community broader and more welcoming, and who oppose sexual harassment and sexist language. And Richard is not hostile to us. So if Richard is hostile to some other people who share the above beliefs, it must be because of an additional reason.

My question now: Do you accept that what I wrote in my response is true?

7. White roots of the atheist movement

You wrote: “If the atheist movement is going to thrive and make a difference in our society, it needs to grow beyond its largely older, largely male, largely white roots.”

I responded: This is a parochial attitude. The atheist movement is global. In most parts of the world, its roots are not white. I believe it needs to be more diverse within individual societies, but the article refers to ‘our’ society as if the atheist movement is a mostly American movement.

My question now: Do you accept that what I wrote in my response is true?

8. Sam Harris and sexism

You wrote: “Then another prominent male atheist, Sam Harris, crammed his foot in his mouth and said that atheist activism lacks an “estrogen vibe” and was “to some degree intrinsically male”. And, just like that, the brief Dawkins Spring was over.”

I responded: Again, this is misleading. [It uses] selective extracts from an off-the-cuff remark by Sam, without reference to the subsequent considered clarification of those remarks… Now, you can legitimately disagree with Sam’s analysis of these issues, but it is simply untrue to imply that he is sexist on the basis of the original off-the-cuff answer to a question in an interview about a book on a different topic.

My question now: Do you accept that what I wrote in my response is true?

9. Atheist women who disagree with your analysis

I wrote: Grania Spingies, co-founder of Atheist Ireland, is one of the many atheist women around the world whose views are not reflected in Adam’s article. Grania wrote about this argument: “I am disgusted by the behavior of those who claim to be promoting feminism by feverishly poring over sentence fragments to see if they can be parsed into meaning something that fits their narrative of suspicion. How any of them think they are actually improving anything for women by trying to convert the arena of ideas and debate into a safe room for infants is beyond me.”

My questions now: Do you accept that there are atheist women who disagree with your analysis? Why did you not refer to that fact in your article, given that you made a point of writing that “It’s not just women who are outraged by Dawkins these days”?

Summary

So anyway, Adam, I would also be grateful if you could please respond to these nine questions, which you did not address in your response.

As I said, I will address later today the points that you did make in your response.

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{ 110 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sawrs September 22, 2014 at 4:13 am

Michael Nugent,

In quoting Springies, are you endorsing her interpretation and analysis of the events, re intra-atheist discussions about sexism and harassment and sexual assault by and within the atheist and skeptical communities, of the past few days?

If so, are you willing to forgo close readings and “feverish” parsings in future? What would be the benefit of doing so? How you reconcile her condemnation of reading and analyzing the printed word with this post? The post before? The post before the post before? What are the dangers in close readings? Why are they disgusting? What why discussion prove unhelpful for women, but helpful for “infants”?

Finally, how does this statement

It’s not just women who are outraged by Dawkins these days?

suggest either that all women are outraged by Dawkins, that no men are? Are you a native English speaker? Do you understand words?

2 aneris September 22, 2014 at 6:11 am

I like to see some evidence for the following (some commentary in the last article). Adam Lee’s claims are in quotes and taken from previous threads’ comments.

10. Ugly Silencing Tactics

Adam Lee wrote: It’s an ugly silencing tactic, and it’s still going on: Rebecca Watson tweeted that she blocked or reported twelve abusive accounts yesterday. Not last month or last week, but yesterday. I believe that clueless, dismissive, or hostile remarks by prominent male atheists reward this behavior and encourage it to continue. […]

What is this “tactic” and how do you know it’s done by atheists/skeptics? And if so, how do you know they are people relevant to the “movement” (instead of random trolls who may or may not be atheists)? It’s fairly important. I do not condone trolling and harassment, but the whole story falls apart when these things are done by internet background noise that is always there as soon someone is notable enough (and known to feed trolls, or as in Ms Watson case, troll herself, e.g. see how she re-opens her youtube channel, youtube: “Help Blood Cancer Research with Light the Night!”).

11. Encouragement and rewards from Richard Dawkins

Adam Lee wrote: I believe that clueless, dismissive, or hostile remarks by prominent male atheists reward this behavior and encourage it to continue.

I took the liberty to understand your “prominent male atheists” as Richard Dawkins, since this is clearly the context. How does he reward this behaviour? And how does he encourage this behaviour? I mean, you can claim that, but what does it mean? Please spell out what you think happens there.

12. The mythical social-justice-based conclusions

Adam Lee wrote: This is the same kind of demeaning, minimizing rhetoric that’s always used against people who argue for social-justice-based conclusions

Where are the discussions for those “social-justice-based conclusions” you mention. In particular the buzzwords. Don’t bore us with the wikipedia article on the patriarchy, or Stephanie Zvans dull article on the subject. Everyone and their dad knows what a patriarchy is. Are Evangelical households patriarchal — you bet! Are Purity Balls and the like super creepy — you bet! I suggested that atheists make a Purity Ball Week to raise awareness of the issue, but that’s not Teh Patriarchy™ everyone on FTB and co means. So, what is then? I would like to see a proper description, and discussion within the atheist-skeptics movement which lays out what this mythical Teh Patriarchy™ is (arguably a core concept), what it does and how it works and what “social-justice-based conclusions” you arrived at. I also like to know how these things link up to atheism-skepticism. How come super important concepts like “microaggression” have no other language version on Wikipedia, and the english article “has multiple issues” like promoting “the subject in a subjective manner without imparting real information”. I mean, it’s only Wikipedia. There could be more credible sources, right. Well, where? The Secular Women, also in the Social Justice League fold (“FTB/Skepchick & allies”) wrote:

Secular Women, “Your POV is not default” The seemingly perpetual need within the secular community to have more and new dialogue, instruction, and education on these topics is a microaggression. The assumption that it is a feminist’s role and responsibility to educate, educate, educate the oppressor is completely unbalanced. Do some work, get educated. Or alternatively, listen.

It’s all nice to be aggressive, rationalising it as justified anger when people ask for information, but this is your “sides” modus operandi. Never explain anything, never back up anything with sources, never argue. It’s a dogma and it is revealed by following the proper clergy I guess (e.g. whatever Amanda Marcotte is saying is the One True Feminism™) . As soon people demand a little bit more, we see super aggresiveness, demonization, sabotage of any discussion or dialoge, and outrage when people genuinely want to know.

I know what “microaggression” is in the context of racism and in the real world. There are some google scholar hits. But online and in any random situation? Evidence please. Same as with Intersectionality™ and any number of other phrases, where it is not enough to refer to specialist jargon. I find it fairly dubious that it is expected of me to know things where not even a basic Wikipedia article exist. But what do I know. Maybe I miss out on the Real Information™ (a trusted Tumblr maybe?).

Adam Lee you are the expert here. I call it a bluff and I want to see your hand now. So where are those discussions, and where are the alleged sources. Otherwise, I have the modest propsal that you Sir, are a bullshitter, in Harry Frankfurt’s sense.

3 tina September 22, 2014 at 6:37 am

PZ Myers says
September 21, 2014 at 6:48 pm
I have defended Dawkins many times. I have bent over backwards to the point where many commenters at Pharyngula have accused me of pandering to the guy. He’s incredibly influential, and I don’t doubt that he’s going to have me blacklisted at events after this.
So what do I gain? Where is the evidence that I’ve had some simmering dislike of the guy?
The simple fact is that I’ve had enough of the atheist leadership lacking any kind of principled leadership, and Dawkins strained my tolerance one too many times with his casual sexism.

Well, it sort of sais it all really. Atheism clearly needs a ‘principled leader’….him…

You want evidence dear leader? It’s all over twitter FTB etc

4 tina September 22, 2014 at 7:08 am

Setting aside that atheism doesn’t ‘do’ leaders, many took a vicarious thrill from Myers blunt treatment of creationists and the like. This was a bad mistake as all the warning signs of a power hungry totalitarian were already evident. It took far too long for many to recognise that the personality of a power hungry bully is in no way suited to any position of leadership. Rather like Gordon Brown, who found out the hard way, as will Myers.

5 Dave Allen September 22, 2014 at 7:54 am

“Setting aside that atheism doesn’t ‘do’ leaders, many took a vicarious thrill from Myers blunt treatment of creationists and the like. This was a bad mistake as all the warning signs of a power hungry totalitarian were already evident.”

I don’t really think that’s true. A lot of atheists and science advocates have given creationists blunt treatment, only a few of them went on to support the notion that atheism requires a radical progressive value system and that those who doubted this required shunning.

If blunt critique of creationists is a sign of a nascent totalitarian then every other atheist with a YouTube channel is a totalitarian in waiting.

6 tina September 22, 2014 at 9:07 am

Yes, I take your point Dave…only a minority of those who have been blunt about creationism have gone into full SJW mode.

7 Sharon Madison September 22, 2014 at 9:46 am

So when do we start collecting real data about women atheists’ perceptions of organized secular activism?

As a woman, I’ve grown rather tired of hearing that ‘women think this, that, or the other thing’. No one has asked for my opinion on why I am, or am not, involve in secular activism. No one has asked for my opinion on what issues matter to me. No one has asked for my opinion on what I feel organizations are doing right or wrong, or what they could be doing better. No one has asked for my opinion on the problem of sexism and sexual harassment in the secular community. No one has asked for my opinion about people I’m supposed to consider “sexist pigs”, or the people who are waging the war on “sexist pigs”.

Adam Lee says, “Many female atheists have explained that they don’t get more involved because of the casual sexism endemic to the movement”. Many? How many constitutes “many”? None of the atheist women I know personally have been asked if they agree that there is “a casual sexism endemic to the movement”. So, how many atheist women do I know? As I have a 35 year history of involvement in skeptic/secular activism, I would bet that my “none” is greater than Adam Lee’s “many”. Still, these nebulous terms tell us nothing.

Jerry Falwell claimed that he was speaking for the moral “majority” when, in fact, he was only speaking for a very vocal but small minority of people who identify as religious.

No one who claims to be speaking on behalf of women atheists can state with certainty that they are speaking on behalf of the majority of women atheists or, instead, just a very vocal but small minority of women atheists. Until I see some effort being made to canvas a large sample of women who identify as atheist/agnostic about their concerns, I’m going to dismiss all claims about why women are or are not involved in organized secular endeavors for the bullshit that they are.

8 Jan Steen September 22, 2014 at 10:04 am

Adam Lee writing in 2014:

Richard Dawkins has involved himself in some of these controversies, and rarely for the better – as with his infamous “Dear Muslima” letter in 2011, in which he essentially argued that, because women in Muslim countries suffer more from sexist mistreatment, women in the west shouldn’t speak up about sexual harassment or physical intimidation.

Adam Lee writing in 2012:

It started with Dawkins’ infamous “Dear Muslima” comment in 2011, which basically said that because women in Islamic countries suffer worse mistreatment, women in America and Europe have no right to object to boorish behavior or unwanted sexual attention.

Spot the differences! You have to give it to Adam Lee: he has that demonizing-Richard-Dawkins routine down pat.

9 Phil Giordana FCD September 22, 2014 at 10:11 am

Sharon: very well said! I particularly like the Jerry Falwell comparison, it fits the SJWs to a T.

10 Sharon Madison September 22, 2014 at 12:02 pm

After reading thousands of comments over the last three years about sexism in the atheist/skeptic world, I’ve decided that the one thing we all have in common is that everyone thinks someone else is a poopyhead, and no one thinks they, themselves, are a poopyhead.

I’m sure I can expect disagreement from people on both sides of the “deep rift” about my perception of what we all share in common. Finding fault with my generalization about the ongoing internet battle may likely be the only thing that people on both sides will agree. :-)

11 tina September 22, 2014 at 12:14 pm

No Sharon. I agree with you. I would like to see some research data on this, and like you, I will not be told what to think by either side on these issues and will treat BS for what it is from either side: particularly the encouragement to regard myself as some sort of victim with agency diminished by my womanhood. Ridiculous. Pft!

12 Ariel September 22, 2014 at 12:37 pm

Sharon Madison #10:

“Finding fault with my generalization about the ongoing internet battle may likely be the only thing that people on both sides will agree. ”

I don’t want to disappoint you, so … you are *wrong*, you poopyhead! Some of us most definitely consider themselves poopyheads! Yes, we are poopyheads and *proud of it*!

(Any other volunteers for the new faction?)

13 Phil Giordana FCD September 22, 2014 at 12:43 pm

I was a poopyhead before it was popular…

14 tina September 22, 2014 at 12:48 pm

Phil was a poopyhead before he was born. Then he had a relapse.

15 Submariner September 22, 2014 at 1:08 pm

To Phil @13 – Hipster.

To Sharon @7 – I absolutely could not agree with you more that we need actual DATA about the concerns of atheist/secular women.

To aneris @2 – Love it.

16 Karmakin September 22, 2014 at 1:44 pm

As someone who has done a lot of reading/writing on the dynamics of modern gender politics, I think it’s important to understand where the actual difference of opinion really is. This is a bit of an over generalization (but not that much), however the concept of there being two general camps, has something for it.

The first camp, strongly believes in a men dominate women worldview, and that’s something to be corrected. Men are in the position of oppressor, and women are in the position of victim or oppressed. Some people call this the oppressor/oppressed gender dichotomy.

The second group, roughly speaking believes that both men and women can be the victim or suffer from oppressive gender roles, and that everybody, both men and women, have a role to play in spreading and enforcing said gender roles. (There’s also a third group, who believes that those oppressive gender roles are a good thing, but they’re so vanishingly small in the skeptic community that it’s not worth mentioning) Dawkins, is more than likely in the second camp, as is myself and most of the critics of the first camp.

What’s important, I think is for people to realize that people in the second group are not “hedging” our support for equality for women. Many of us strongly believe that only by acknowledging the bidirectional nature of gender power dynamics can these issues be properly addressed. There’s also the aspect of it that all women or all men do NOT want the same thing, and this must be respected. In fact, it was the violation of this principle that started this whole mess. The quip I would use is “More feminist than feminism”. (Although that’s not right, as many people in the second camp do identify as feminist)

Anyway. That’s the big divide that’s running under all of this. I think it’s important to understand it, because these differences to a degree are being glazed over, but eventually they’re going to have to be dealt with. There’s going to be a schism, and massive rifts in the greater feminist community that make the whole skeptic thing look like a picnic one this stuff starts to be hashed out.

17 Shatterface September 22, 2014 at 1:53 pm

Adam Lee writing in 2012:

It started with Dawkins’ infamous “Dear Muslima” comment in 2011, which basically said that because women in Islamic countries suffer worse mistreatment, women in America and Europe have no right to object to boorish behavior or unwanted sexual attention.

If Lee has been finding Dawkins objectionable since 2012 why does his website still cite Dawkins’ praise for one of Lee’s earlier essays? Why does he continue to sponge of the reputation of someone he regards as a rapist/paedo apologist?

Why does he continue to cite praise from Steven Pinker, who has made equally ‘objectionable’ comments?

You can’t have it both ways, Lee. Either disassociate yourself from Dawkins completely or stop making money shitting on his reputation.

18 Shatterface September 22, 2014 at 2:07 pm

The first camp, strongly believes in a men dominate women worldview, and that’s something to be corrected. Men are in the position of oppressor, and women are in the position of victim or oppressed. Some people call this the oppressor/oppressed gender dichotomy.

The second group, roughly speaking believes that both men and women can be the victim or suffer from oppressive gender roles, and that everybody, both men and women, have a role to play in spreading and enforcing said gender roles. (There’s also a third group, who believes that those oppressive gender roles are a good thing, but they’re so vanishingly small in the skeptic community that it’s not worth mentioning) Dawkins, is more than likely in the second camp, as is myself and most of the critics of the first camp.

There’s the thins camp that believes gender is one axis of privilege/oppression and that being male in no way mitigates disadvantages in race, class, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, etc.

Most of the rage bloggers are one several of these ‘axes of privilege’ and some are on all.

19 Shatterface September 22, 2014 at 2:08 pm

Sorry, third camp.

Feckin’ iPhone and its corrective text privilege.

20 Shatterface September 22, 2014 at 2:15 pm

Setting aside that atheism doesn’t ‘do’ leaders, many took a vicarious thrill from Myers blunt treatment of creationists and the like

The difference is then he was marshalling evidence against belief; now he’s on the side of belief over evidence.

He’s always been an arsehole but so long as there was some truth in what he said people were willing to overlook his obvious personality problems.

And I’m not sure back then he was using sexually violent imagery (telling them to fuck themselves to death with rusty tools and dead animals, etc) against his opponents.

21 Karmakin September 22, 2014 at 2:21 pm

@Shatterface 18: Eh, I would say that a natural part of supporting bidirectional power dynamics in gender is to understand that it’s combined with other types of power dynamics (which are all bidirectional to some degree, but very few are as “balanced” as gender). Generally I find that those things go together.

But yes, generally speaking a lot of stuff that comes from that element is a whole lot of projection IMO.

22 Shatterface September 22, 2014 at 2:55 pm

But yes, generally speaking a lot of stuff that comes from that element is a whole lot of projection IMO.

I’ve said this before but it’s still true: Myers doesn’t punch up because from where he’s sitting there’s no ‘up’ to punch at. It’s all about appropriating other people’s oppression.

I don’t know about Lee’s sexuality but from all else I can see a middle class educated White cis male New Yorker doesn’t have an awful lot of ‘up’ to punch at: even Dawkins, as a citizen of a non-superpower, is ‘down’.

23 A Hermit September 22, 2014 at 3:30 pm

Sharon Madison September 22, 2014 at 9:46 am

So when do we start collecting real data about women atheists’ perceptions of organized secular activism?

There’s some here:

http://secularcensus.us/analysis/2013-01-23

Regardless of gender, all respondents who are or have been involved in the secular movement are asked: Have you ever felt unwelcome, discriminated against, or harmed in the secular movement? Women outnumber men 62%/34% in responding “Yes…”

…Regardless of gender, all those who responded “yes” to the question above are then asked: Which of these factors contributed to this experience? Check as many as apply. Women outnumber men in these responses:

56%/44% – Programs or positions taken by the organization itself
72%/25% – Words, attitudes, or actions of other participants

And women are the only respondents to select these answers:

100%/0% – Unwanted advances by other participants

Can we take that as evidence that there might actually be a problem?

24 Edward Gemmer September 22, 2014 at 4:15 pm

Women’s rights, making women feel comfortable at conferences, etc. are all fine goals. It is good to work towards these goals.

Pepsi has a goal. It is to sell Pepsi. When you watch a Pepsi commercial, does it make you feel humiliated about yourself? Does it chastise you for that one time you thought about drinking something that wasn’t a Pepsi? Does it impugn your character for not being an expert on Pepsi? Does it threaten to banish you from the Pepsi community if you sneak a Coke?

It’s one thing to have a fine goal. It’s another to work effectively at accomplishing your goal.

25 A Hermit September 22, 2014 at 4:39 pm

What are you saying Edward? That harassing women is just like drinking a Coke?

Seriously, that’s a terrible attempt at an analogy…

26 Phil Giordana FCD September 22, 2014 at 4:44 pm

Yes Hermit, sure, that’s EXACTLY what he meant.

I’m out, can’t stand those idiotic comments by SJWs anymore.

27 Deepak Shetty September 22, 2014 at 4:47 pm

@tina
Well, it sort of sais it all really. Atheism clearly needs a ‘principled leader’….him…
Well I have had enough of President Obama – Can you please let me know where I can send you requests for donations to my presidential campaign?

28 Edward Gemmer September 22, 2014 at 4:49 pm

@ A Hermit

Seriously, that’s a terrible attempt at an analogy…

…and why is that?

29 john welch September 22, 2014 at 4:50 pm

A hermit @ 23:

http://secularcensus.us/analysis/2013-01-23

Regardless of gender, all respondents who are or have been involved in the secular movement are asked: Have you ever felt unwelcome, discriminated against, or harmed in the secular movement? Women outnumber men 62%/34% in responding “Yes…”

…Regardless of gender, all those who responded “yes” to the question above are then asked: Which of these factors contributed to this experience? Check as many as apply. Women outnumber men in these responses:

56%/44% – Programs or positions taken by the organization itself
72%/25% – Words, attitudes, or actions of other participants

And women are the only respondents to select these answers:

100%/0% – Unwanted advances by other participants

Can we take that as evidence that there might actually be a problem?

There might be, but we don’t really know from that. First, the only results available are not the actual survey data, but the context-less results they’ve chosen to share. For example, in the 100/0 answers, how many women are we talking about? We don’t know, and we’re unlikely to know about the actual data for some time. When asked if the exact figures will be published, the ASC responded with:

Yes, as soon as the registry reaches 10K or so. This is a dynamic self-selecting survey and not all forms/topics are addressed by all registrants, so it’s tricky providing methodology. But we do plan to be more transparent about each analysis’s numbers once we reach a certain threshold. Thank you for your interest!

How many people have taken the census? We don’t know. (I couldn’t really find that info on their site.) If it’s 8-9K, that’s one thing. if it’s 200?

None of this invalidates the results, but there’s a lot of “Trust us, it’s valid” as it currently sits, and most skeptics would have some problems with a survey that presents its conclusions as trustworthy without allowing any form of verification of methodology and data.

30 divalent September 22, 2014 at 5:25 pm

@A Hermit (#23)

The survey summary you linked to is pretty poor.

First, the question about feeling “unwelcome, discriminated against, or harmed in the secular movement?” lumps together many disparate reasons. So the fact that more women who were surveyed said yes to this question is not evidence of sexism and/or sexual harassment.

Second, many of the “specific” reasons are also ambiguous. For example, “Words, attitudes, or actions of other participants” would encompass *sexist* words, attitudes, and actions, but also sex-neutral differences in tactics or style in advancing the goals of the group.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the major flaw in the survey summary is that it reveals only the gender split for reasons given for anwering yes to the preceding question (e.g., “of the people who selected reason X, 65% were women and 35% were men”). This obscures the prevalence. I’m less interested in the gender split of those that selected a particular reason, and more interested in the *proportion* of women (and men) that chose each one. For example, 100 of those that selected “Unwanted sexual advances” as a reason were women, but was that 80% of the women surveyed, or 1%? That would be the data indicative of a prevalent problem or not.

Maybe the actual survey data would be indicative of a real problem, but what they have presented is clearly not.

31 piero September 22, 2014 at 6:15 pm

@A Hermit:

In addition to the problems pointed out by john welch #29 and divalent #30, do you think that a website that puts “Messaging is important. Women are furious. Stop being blockheads.” is likely to attract a representative sample of secularists?

32 A Hermit September 22, 2014 at 6:53 pm

The secular survey is incomplete and imperfect, yes. That doesn’t make it meaningless. We have plenty of women speaking out publicly about bad experiences and the more subtle sexism they regularly encounter in secular circles, and that bit of data, incomplete and imperfect as it is, tends to confirm those accounts.

i really don;t understand why the first response to complaints of sexism is so often dismissal and minimizing of the problem instead of openness to discussion of the problem. It’s no wonder so many women (and minorities) are frustrated and angry with this movement. Before anyone will even listen to a woman’s complaint about harassment she apparently needs the sworn testimony of four reliable Muslim skeptics before she can be believed…

33 A Hermit September 22, 2014 at 6:57 pm

Edward, the Coke / Pepsi analogy just makes no sense. Whether on likes Coke or Pepsi is purely subjective. The difference between taking sexism seriously and dismissing it as just women being all estrogen-vibey is a completely different thing.

John Welch, exactly how many women have to be alienated by this stuff before you think it becomes a problem? The fact that it’s happening enough to be the subject of this much conversation should be enough to tell us we have to deal with it.

34 Pogsurf September 22, 2014 at 7:03 pm

Can we take that as evidence that there might actually be a problem?

Given the context, this question can be read in two entirely distinct ways.

Yes, it’s a survey, it has produced evidence that some people have bad experiences etc. at meetings, and this affects women more than men.

If you want to establish that there is a widespread problem, the answer has to be no. You could only do that if you knew how many people had responded, how many had reported a problem, and some kind of judgement to say how many is too many. (Ok, one problem is too many, but you could compare with similar statistics from other groups, or set a target to bring down the percentage year on year, etc.)

35 Phil Giordana FCD September 22, 2014 at 7:05 pm

Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman, Anne Coulter… exactly how many women have to be alienated by this stuff before you think it becomes a problem in the left/liberal/democratic political movements?

Stupid argument again.

36 Edward Gemmer September 22, 2014 at 7:14 pm

@ A Hermit,

Edward, the Coke / Pepsi analogy just makes no sense. Whether on likes Coke or Pepsi is purely subjective. The difference between taking sexism seriously and dismissing it as just women being all estrogen-vibey is a completely different thing.

My point is to say that when trying to spread a message, whatever the message, there are good ways to do it and bad ways to do it. Marketing people rarely say anything negative at all, because this kind of negative stuff simply doesn’t work that well. Having your brand associated with a bunch of negative messages can turn people away from your brand.

Feminism is a brand, like it or not. As opposed to Pepsi or Coke, promoting feminism is actually good and makes the world better. However, if we do it in an extremely negative way, people will be turned off to the brand. In the atheist community, feminism is promoted in a heavily regressive way, meaning most of the promotion is mainly saying mean things about people who say or do something “wrong.” Has this helped the community? Is the community accepting this message? From what I can tell, not so much. It’s filled with a lot of anger, resentment, and personal attacks. At some point, to make real gains in the community that actually help people, the marketing of feminism should probably change.

37 Edward Gemmer September 22, 2014 at 7:18 pm

i really don;t understand why the first response to complaints of sexism is so often dismissal and minimizing of the problem instead of openness to discussion of the problem. It’s no wonder so many women (and minorities) are frustrated and angry with this movement. Before anyone will even listen to a woman’s complaint about harassment she apparently needs the sworn testimony of four reliable Muslim skeptics before she can be believed…

I agree. I don’t think this is a particularly “atheist” problem, but it is one that is pervasive.

38 A Hermit September 22, 2014 at 7:25 pm

Edward, do you not thik people have every right to be angry when they have to put up with crap like this every day?

http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/08/30/stunned-silence/comment-page-1/#comment-681253

ajay singh says

September 22, 2014 at 11:13 am

fuck you,you ugly dyke.sam will be of more relevant to humanity than you. you irrelevant whore.just die already.

Is objecting to that just like preferring Pepsi to Coke? Really?

39 Deepak Shetty September 22, 2014 at 7:28 pm

Hi
1) is a fair and valid criticism
2) You seem to be interpreting the statement literally rather than a disproportionate number of speakers/leaders are male. its the republican party with a few token black guys.
3) Disagree. In some cases he has clarified and it has been accepted (in these cases it has been don’t discuss nuanced and controversial topics on twitter) – in other cases it has been he digs deeper holes
4) Richard has called some feminists names and he seems to think one version of feminism is the right one. Unless you believe this of feminists like Ophelia, Greta et al (And you said you don’t) why does Richard choose to call it them Frenzied – Thought Police – Bullies? Are you just objecting to Adam Lee using shrill harridan instead of “bullies” or “thought police” ?
5) Drunken testimony is not trustworthy => Drunken testimony , even from rape victims is not trustworthy. True enough in the abstract. In context of Shermer’s incident its a poor defense since some parts are not in dispute Dawkins believes the victim was drunk – This contradicts Shermers she was sober. So the only thing Dawkins could be saying is Alison could have given consent while drunk , doesn’t remember it , and poor Shermer didn’t realize she was drunk , and thought she was sober. He keeps trying to make it jail or court testimony when most people on this side only want this to be – Be wary around Shermer.

6) who oppose sexual harassment and sexist language. And Richard is not hostile to us. So if Richard is hostile to some other people who share the above beliefs, it must be because of an additional reason.
Not necessarily. for e.g. You think Sam Harris did NOT use sexist language. It is mind numbingly obvious he did (it doesn’t mean he is a sexist scumbag – it means he has atleast one sexist view)- replace women with black and repeat his explanation of Fortune 500 CEOs. So you agree with Richard on what constitutes sexism and so he is fine with you. if you change your mind about Harris(or other examples) , it might be that he will be hostile to you too.

7) I read “our society” as Adam referring to where he stays , not that he believes the Atheist movement to be American. He wants his area to be more diverse. Your interpretation is also reasonable.

8) As explained , Harris has atleast one sexist view. Libby Anne wrote the best response that I have read. I’d encourage you to read it.

9) Sure it is well known that some women are on the other side – but where is Adam’s article incorrect? I find it ironic coming from you given your one sided portrayal of events. but yes I’d agree that perhaps some more quotes from Richards side could have been given. Though I’d probably not use Grania’s comment as an example that should have been included- It is an attack rather than anything substantial.

40 A Hermit September 22, 2014 at 7:32 pm

I strongly recommend reading Libby Ann’s excellent posts on this recent dust-up:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2014/09/is-sam-harris-sexist.html

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2014/09/do-they-care-about-women-or-simply-bashing-religion.html

Form that last link:

There are currently allegations that Michael Shermer, editor of Skeptic magazine, raped a woman at an atheist conference in 2008. The victim has come forward under her real name, and her story has been corroborated by numerous witnesses. And yet I’ve watched atheist bloggers and organizers defend Shermer and hurl accusations at the victim—that she is simply out to bring Shermer down, and even (yes) that she is a slut. But I seem to recall that any time a fundamentalists Christian pastor is accused of rape and defended by followers willing to write the victim off as a temptress seeking to entrap their godly pastor, these same atheists jump to condemn the pastor and implicate Christianity in what happened, pointing again to the evils of religion.

That’s what this is really about. This two faced hypocritical response from self styled atheist leaders to serious allegations of misconduct against one of their own. We wouldn’t buy the excuses or dismissive attitudes they are throwing at us from religious leaders…

41 Dave Allen September 22, 2014 at 7:33 pm

“Edward, do you not thik people have every right to be angry when they have to put up with crap like this every day?”

He said absolutely nothing – not one thing – about whether or not people had a right to be angry.

What he was getting at, I presume, was whether or not you’ve considered the degree to which your chosen tactics of articulating umbrage and negativity works as well as articulating a more dispassionate or positive message.

Do you ever wonder whether or not interpreting people who disagree with you in cynical and ungenerous terms turns on more floating voters than it turns off?

42 john welch September 22, 2014 at 7:38 pm

A Hermit @33

John Welch, exactly how many women have to be alienated by this stuff before you think it becomes a problem? The fact that it’s happening enough to be the subject of this much conversation should be enough to tell us we have to deal with it.

Before we start an endless back and forth, let’s try something.

I made a few points in my comment. What were they?

43 Edward Gemmer September 22, 2014 at 7:40 pm

@ A Hermit,

Is objecting to that just like preferring Pepsi to Coke? Really?

Imagine someone sent that message to the CEO of Coke, and but replace “sam” with “pepsi.” The message would read as such:

“fuck you,you ugly dyke.pepsi will be of more relevant to humanity than you. you irrelevant whore.just die already.”

This is undoubtedly a mean thing to say. It seems clear the writer of the message really hates Coke or really loves Pepsi. Do you think Coke’s CEO would then take this message, put it in a commercial, and try to imply that everyone who drinks Pepsi thinks like this?

44 A Hermit September 22, 2014 at 7:46 pm

Edward, you’re still comparing sexist discrimination to a soft drink preference; the dismissal of someone’s basic human equality on the basis of their gender is nothing like the subjective liking of one kind of sugar water over another. Can you really not see that?

Is getting angry and reacting angrily to that kind of abuse just “ad messaging” or is it a reasonable response?

45 A Hermit September 22, 2014 at 7:56 pm

John the only point you seem to be making is that we don’t know precisely what the number of women affected by this problem is. Which leaves me asking the same question; just how bad does it have to be before we take it seriously? Do we really need a long term detailed cross-indexed survey before we believe the women who are telling us they have a problem with the way the get treated online and at conferences? It’s not like they are telling us they saw a Sasquatch…this is not an extraordinary or even a particularly surprising claim. There is plenty of good evidence of the same kind of problem in other contexts so why should we think our little community is exempt from the problem?

46 Dave Allen September 22, 2014 at 7:57 pm

“Is getting angry and reacting angrily to that kind of abuse just “ad messaging” or is it a reasonable response?”

Sometimes anger can be put to a constructive end. Generally – given the relative stagnation of the A+ project, given the reputation of Pharyngula now as opposed to a few years ago – do you think the style of angry reaction common to such places has been to a generally constructive end?

47 A Hermit September 22, 2014 at 8:18 pm

Well in the last few years we’ve seen all the major secular/atheist groups and gatherings adopting clear anti-harassment policies and a whole conference dedicated to women in secularism. It seems to me that if people hadn’t gotten very angry and made a big fuss none of that would have happened.

Sometimes you have to make some noise to be heard.

48 turniplover September 22, 2014 at 8:28 pm

I wrote this over on his blog, and of course it didn’t pass moderation, a common experience for those who would dare call him out on misrepresentations, which I think is putting it kindly. Another person might say outright dishonesty. They can dish it but they sure can’t take it. Comment:

“Mr. Lee,
I, like many, found your original article bereft of fairness and perplexing. Perplexing because I can’t understand why you and your group keep on beating this dead horse. You are never going to bring down Dawkins, or Harris for that matter. They have made real contributions to the world, are intellectuals of the highest order, and you really should get over yourself in this piece. Dawkins isn’t afraid of you anymore than if you were a housefly. You are inconsequential. Dawkins is merely saying you are a dishonest person.
Further, you cite PZ Myers, whose credibility at this point is nil. Benson, who never had any credibility. I don’t even know who Amy Roth is. Greta Christina, who is more known for her smut writing than anything else. Essentially, your hit piece is sophomoric. If I had written such a piece, I’d be embarrassed.
Honest question: Since the rhetoric you and this group employ is consistently consistent, that Dawkins is a sexist, rich, white man, I’ve long wondered did you guys get together at some point and decide on a uniform rhetorical strategy that you hope will bring him down?”

That last question IS an honest question. Their rhetoric is so similar, I believe this is all orchestrated.

And Michael, question for you: Do you think you are doing to right thing by engaging a person who is clearly being dishonest? I’m torn about that.

49 Outwest September 22, 2014 at 8:29 pm

@ A Hermit #44:

Did you actually pull up the poll from Langer Research? Note question #3 in the poll.
Then look at questions 6 and 7 respectively.
You have to dig deeper than the news story to discover the actual number and what questions were asked and how they were presented to those surveyed.

50 john welch September 22, 2014 at 8:34 pm

A hermit @ 44. No, that’s not what my point was at all. I said nothing about the scale nor scope of the problem. I did say that the way that specific survey was set up, *it* doesn’t tell us anything useful, the implication being that for all the noise this issue has generated, the number of people trying to generate real signal so the problem can be better handled is pretty damned small.

But here we have a deeper, and honestly, more important core issue. From where I’m sitting, you didn’t even attempt to understand my point before you told me I was wrong. I didn’t say the things you want/require/expect someone who is “right” to say, and so I was wrong, and instantly guilty of not caring about the problem when I didn’t say anything about the problem in and of itself *at all*.

I commented *only* on the survey, and you chose to ignore what I had actually said so you could reply to what you seem to think I believe. And the only reason I commented on the survey at all was because you seem to be using it as an authoritative source. I disagree that it should be used that way, not that there isn’t a problem.

But this shows me at least that you’re not replying/responding to *me* at all, just using what I wrote as a jump-off point to castigate me for what you think I believe, even though, at the moment, you don’t even know what that is.

But you sure seem to be sure I’m wrong.

If you actually want to talk about what I think on the harassment problem, I’d be happy to do so. But can we actually try to respond to what the other person is saying as opposed to just flinging opinions at each other like some absurd competitive spaghetti testing contest?

51 piero September 22, 2014 at 8:36 pm

@turniplover.
“And Michael, question for you: Do you think you are doing to right thing by engaging a person who is clearly being dishonest? I’m torn about that”

Yep. I’m torn too. I’m all for the free exchange of ideas, but some of the SJWs are posting truly deranged stuff. Not all of them, though. I hope the sane ones prevail so that we can restore some sense of honest discussion.

52 A Hermit September 22, 2014 at 8:41 pm

Not sure what your point is Outwest; question 3 has between 10 and 22 percent of women surveyed reporting they had been harassed at work and 7 tells us that almost 40% of women don’t believe they will be taken seriously if they report the harassment.

To me that says sexual harassment is still a problem.

53 Dave Allen September 22, 2014 at 8:41 pm

“Well in the last few years we’ve seen all the major secular/atheist groups and gatherings adopting clear anti-harassment policies and a whole conference dedicated to women in secularism. It seems to me that if people hadn’t gotten very angry and made a big fuss none of that would have happened.”

Perhaps – I don’t want to begrudge you a fair point here, though in regard to spotting a need for and organizing conferences aimed at women I’d point out that Michael Nugent has had more of a part to play than pretty much anyone else – and he tends to adopt argumentation that steers clear of emotional outburst.

And I do think there is a price paid for the vitriol, that some people have very much lost their cred in a process that might have just as, if not more, effective were it not for the characteristic irked distortions.

54 Dave Allen September 22, 2014 at 8:44 pm

“Michael Nugent has had more of a part to play than pretty much anyone else”

In terms of general population, I mean, not that he is in an exclusive group.

55 Rowena September 22, 2014 at 9:00 pm

@ turniplover

If nothing else, I think it will have been quite instructive to anyone who hasn’t previously been paying attention to the SJW invasion of atheism. Watching Ophelia Benson twist and turn, first accusing Michael Nugent of ‘creepiness’ and ‘xenophobia’, then of ‘telling women to shut up about sexual assault’, then of threats and ‘giving orders’, without ever addressing any of the substantial points he actually made, as well as her supporters slinging mud around here, on Twitter and on FTB has been quite an education.

56 A Hermit September 22, 2014 at 9:13 pm

Dave Allen, I certainly appreciate Michael Nugent’s efforts to make the secular movement more welcoming to all, but I wouldn’t say he’s had more to do with it that anyone else. He’s generally been good about responding to some of those same people who regularly get excoriated for being too “shrill” (…people like Amy Davis Roth, who raised thousands of dollars for the JREF’s TAM conference and got treated like shit for her efforts…) but I have to wonder if he’d have been doing it if there hadn’t been a loud angry push from the people actually being alienated by sexism.

You and I and Michael Nugent can afford to be calm and reasonable about all this… we aren’t the one’s being marginalized. Others aren’t so lucky http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2014/09/do-they-care-about-women-or-simply-bashing-religion.html

57 piero September 22, 2014 at 9:18 pm

@Rowena:
“If nothing else, I think it will have been quite instructive to anyone who hasn’t previously been paying attention to the SJW invasion of atheism.”

Indeed. It has been a painful but educational experience. And I don’t mean it sarcastically: I believe some valid points have been raised by the FTB regulars. It is a real pity that the valid points are so obscured by meaningless rhetoric and intemperate abuse.

58 Dave Allen September 22, 2014 at 9:19 pm

“Dave Allen, I certainly appreciate Michael Nugent’s efforts to make the secular movement more welcoming to all, but I wouldn’t say he’s had more to do with it that anyone else.”

Neither did I, but if you were to look at something like a distribution curve of who’d done the most to the end of female incivility he’d be among those to the extreme end.

“…but I have to wonder if he’d have been doing it if there hadn’t been a loud angry push from the people actually being alienated by sexism.”

An angry push that is in part characterized by people like Ophelia constantly misrepresenting what he says, which is an apparent attempt at alienation of its own.

59 Dave Allen September 22, 2014 at 9:22 pm

“incivility ”

An embarrassing typo given the topic – I meant inclusivity.

60 turniplover September 22, 2014 at 9:22 pm

@Rowena

Thanks. I get that. I think what strikes me about this is how insular it really is. Recently, I fell in with a group of freethinking parents. We get together some weekends, let the kids play, drink wine, and generally just shoot the breeze. About six or seven couples in this group, and none of them, not one of them, has ever even heard about any of this stuff. None of them know who Ophelia Benson is, PZ, any of them. All atheists living some good lives, quite divorced from this stupid drama.

I guess my point is, it is super-easy to just ignore them. They don’t matter one iota to most of us out here.

61 turniplover September 22, 2014 at 9:25 pm

@Rowena

And I should have added, all of them have read Dawkins and Harris, and think highly of them. We’ve had some good talks about their work. So, on one hand, people who matter not one iota, who haven’t made any contribution at all to the world, and then on the other hand, people whose contributions are so significant they are household names.

62 A Hermit September 22, 2014 at 9:32 pm

Actually Dave you did say it…

“I’d point out that Michael Nugent has had more of a part to play than pretty much anyone else –”

Your words, not mine.

But yes, he has done a lot, which is why Ophelia and others are irritated by his apparent willingness to give folks like Dawkins and Harris a pass.

By the way, it’s a bit hypocritical of Michael to complain about incivility on the part of his critics when he’s apparently OK with stuff like this…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTIorwtJbhE

If we’re OK with that sort of thing directed at religious people (and Michael includes it in his list of secular songs right here on this blog) then why the pearl clutching when feminists use similar language when going after sexism in secularist circles? Seems to be a bit of a double standard there, don’t you think?

63 A Hermit September 22, 2014 at 9:33 pm

And I’m borking the html tags…time to take a break

64 A Hermit September 22, 2014 at 9:40 pm

OK, one more…

turniplover:

I should have added, all of them have read Dawkins and Harris, and think highly of them. We’ve had some good talks about their work. So, on one hand, people who matter not one iota, who haven’t made any contribution at all to the world, and then on the other hand, people whose contributions are so significant they are household names

Are you saying those little nobodies should just shut up and not criticize our superiors?

Fuck that. I’ve never read Dawkins, I thought “End of Faith” was passable in parts but generally hysterical in tone and weak in reasoning. And I’ve been an atheist and a secularist and a humanist long before I heard of either of them. When they say stupid things they need to be criticized, not sucked up to just because they’ve sold a few books.

65 john welch September 22, 2014 at 9:43 pm

Interesting thing about the secular census. If you respond that you are aware of organizations and events, but respond that you have not participated, the “Have you ever felt unwelcome, discriminated against, or harmed in the secular movement?” question is removed.

which seems odd, since there could very easily be a link between the two, I know there is in my case. So we see that dubious survey design can skew answers.

66 Dave Allen September 22, 2014 at 9:44 pm

“Actually Dave you did say it…”

No, actually, A Hermit, I did not.

Firstly “more to do with it than anyone else” is not the same as “more of a part to play than pretty much anyone else”. The second phrase – the one I actually wrote – allows for exceptions.

Secondly I even anticipated a misrepresentation, and wrote a follow up post – #54 – to clarify that I was talking in terms of his position relative to that of the general population, as opposed to, say, the organizers of WISC or some such.

Now do you understand what “pretty much” and “part to play” mean in this context, and how they differ from absolutism, or do you need me to explain it to you further?

“By the way, it’s a bit hypocritical of Michael to complain about incivility on the part of his critics when he’s apparently OK with stuff like this…”

Do you think he might see Tim Minchin’s incivility as an effective means to an end in a way in which he may not necessarily see all sorts of incivility?

Do you think he sees the catholic church as an opponent worthy of disdain whilst he sees Richard and Sam as allies worthy of less disrespect?

I would say yes, and therefore I see no real double standard.

67 turniplover September 22, 2014 at 9:49 pm

@A Hermit

They are not offering criticism. That would be one thing. What is it with you people and reading comprehension? They are doing character assasination, or trying to, but luckily no one listens to them outside of this little bubble.

Besides? Did I say they shouldn’t offer criticism? No, I never said that. Here’s what I’m saying, to be clear: No one knows, or cares, who they are aside from this little Internet bubble. That is because they don’t do anything worth anything that anyone should care about.

And that is a good thing.

68 Outwest September 22, 2014 at 10:04 pm

A Hermit, #52:

Actually question #3 does not differentiate between men and women. In the poll on 11/13/2011 out of 1018 Adults that were surveyed, 17% said that had experienced sexual harassment.

Questions #6 and 7 are the first ones that make the differentiation and then look at #6: sample not large enough.

Question 7:(IF FEMALE AND NEVER HARASSED OR DID NOT REPORT IT). That question doesn’t differentiate between NEVER and NOT REPORT.

Big difference. That’s why I said earlier you have to not only dig into the actual numbers, but also look at the questions that were asked.

69 A Hermit September 22, 2014 at 10:10 pm

John Welch, you’re still dodging my question. Let me know when you have a serious answer.

Dave, you did say it, I quoted you exactly. I appreciate the subsequent qualification, but the fact that you had to make it tells me you realized your original comment was unclear at best.

Sorry, but double standards are double standards; Don’t whine about strongly worded criticism of Dawkins and Harris while touting “”fuck the moftherfucking pope” as a model for secular criticism of religion…if you can’t take it don’t dish it out.

And really, does the incivility we might see from Adam Lee really compare to that? You seem to be willing to accept a pretty high degree of incivility as long as it’s directed at people you also disagree with…

turniplover..there’s a quite a bit of criticism, some of quite thoughtful and backed up with links and actual quotes. Don’t use the alleged “incivility” as a an excuse to ignore the substance of that criticism.

And if no one cares I have two questions…

1. shouldn’t we care? Or should we only listen to the people who have sold lots of books?

and

2. If no one cares why all this furious pushback?

70 piero September 22, 2014 at 10:11 pm

@A Hermit:
“And I’ve been an atheist and a secularist and a humanist long before I heard of either of them.”

With all due respect, A Hermit, do you think secularists etc. would have made any progress without Hitchens, Dawkins and Harris? I regard their contribution as essential. I might disagree with some of their views, but that’s irrelevant to my appraisal of their influence.

71 Dave Allen September 22, 2014 at 10:16 pm

“Dave, you did say it, I quoted you exactly. I appreciate the subsequent qualification, but the fact that you had to make it tells me you realized your original comment was unclear at best.”

You only quoted me exactly after i raised exception to you paraphrasing me incorrectly. What you said was:

“Dave Allen, I certainly appreciate Michael Nugent’s efforts to make the secular movement more welcoming to all, but I wouldn’t say he’s had more to do with it that anyone else.”

And I was pointing out that I hadn’t said that – to which you said I had.

I did not.

72 piero September 22, 2014 at 10:18 pm

@A Hermit:

“touting “”fuck the moftherfucking pope” as a model for secular criticism of religion”

I apologise for intruding in your exchange with John Welch. I just wanted to say that I don’t really approve of Minchin’s song. I can see the intention behind it (desecrate the sacred cows), but I find it rather embarrassing.

I think a useful distinction can be made between sound arguments presented incisively, even rudely, and mere abuse.

73 john welch September 22, 2014 at 10:25 pm

A Hermit@ 69:

John Welch, you’re still dodging my question. Let me know when you have a serious answer.

I’m not dodging your question, I’m asking you to respond to what I actually said.

Given this response, it is clear to me that you have no interest in responding to what anyone talking to you actually says unless they completely agree with you in all aspects. If they don’t, you simply ignore what they say, and “respond” to things they neither said nor implied, and then when they are wondering just what the heck happened, you draw conclusions based on them not responding about things they never said.

I see absolutely zero reason to treat your question any better than you treated my points. Since you insisted on responding to something I never said, allow me to post a similarly invalid answer:

Grape Jelly is warm on the phone.

There, now we have both responded to nothing.

74 turniplover September 22, 2014 at 10:26 pm

@A Hermit

There’s a reason why Harris, Dawkins, and the like, have risen to the top. I think Harris’ new book is at #3 on the NYT bestseller list. That is because they are the best at what they do, make contributions that are important, and the like. The cream rises to the top. If you follow Harris at all, you’ll see that he is always willing to take substantive criticism; the man has skin as thick as a rhino. That’s one huge difference between someone like Harris and the lessers.

I don’t know exactly what you mean by pushback here.

75 Shatterface September 22, 2014 at 10:33 pm

A Hermit:

Fuck that. I’ve never read Dawkins, I thought “End of Faith” was passable in parts but generally hysterical in tone and weak in reasoning

I love it when the thought police fuck up by using misogynist. terms themselves.

76 Phil Giordana FCD September 22, 2014 at 10:38 pm

Shatterface:

“I love it when the thought police fuck up by using misogynist. terms themselves.”

NONONONONONONO! You see, it’s ok when they do it. Queue Hermit explaining that “hysterical” has nothing to do with women in this context, and then you can point out any example of their click condemning someone for using the exact same word, in the same kind of context. This is fun (not).

77 Shatterface September 22, 2014 at 10:40 pm

Can you imagine the shit FTB/The Grauniad would be flinging if Dawkins used the term ‘hysterical’?

78 Phil Giordana FCD September 22, 2014 at 10:44 pm

That would be hysterical, yes.

79 BlueShift Rhino September 23, 2014 at 12:18 am

Why am I not surprised that Adam Lee hasn’t responded?

Typical modern journalism:
1) talk to a few people one side of an argument
2) write article
3) whine a little when the one-sidedness is pointed out
4) move on to the next topic to “cover” in a half-assed manner

Could be worse. He could be boinking one of the folks that he talked to and/or now saying that atheism is dead. #atheismgate

80 A Hermit September 23, 2014 at 12:25 am

I see irony is wasted on you Phil … >;-}

81 piero September 23, 2014 at 12:50 am

@A Hermit:

It’s all right, Hermit. You can fuck up too. You are human. No need to pretend it was irony. We understand. Have a hug.

82 A Hermit September 23, 2014 at 2:10 am

Thing is, if someone here seriously objected to my use of that word in that context I would do the polite thing, apologize and amend the comment. Unlike Phil and his friends I wouldn’t rant on about how my free speech rights were being trampled by the jackbooted feminazis who want to take away my sacred right to call women cunts… ’cause that’s what’s really important, right Phil?

83 A Hermit September 23, 2014 at 2:14 am

turniplover

That’s one huge difference between someone like Harris and the lessers.

So people who disagree with Harris or just find him uninteresting are “the lessers” are they?

This is exactly the kind of elitist bullshit that we need to be running from. If I want more of that crap I’ll go back to church.

84 Aneris ✻ September 23, 2014 at 2:42 am

Hey A Hermit,

A Hermit (comment 40) wrote: I strongly recommend reading Libby Ann’s excellent posts on this recent dust-up:

Links to: “Is Sam Harris Sexist?” and “Do They Care about Women, or Simply Bashing Religion?”

You want to dive to the bottom of the well. Then let’s do it. First article “Is Sam Harris Sexist?”

Libby Anne takes offense that Sam Harris stated “psychological differences between men and women” and believes that was “sexist about his comment”. Please make a mental note and in case of doubt, read her article again.

After having chastised him for asserting that reading his books is more of a guy thing, she claims that gun ownership is more of a girl-thing without apparent irony. Somewhere above, she demands “Please stop essentializing me”. However when she approaches the end of her article she believes that Sam Harris cannot get inside “woman’s heads” and that he would not be able to “know what we want and how we see the world” – in a non-essentialist–essentialist women’s way?

Please stop essentializing me

It doesn’t sound ridiculous to you? I know that internal consistency is often not deemed very important to social justice warriors. You like this article, because you like the direction of her criticism. It is unimportant how she arrives at her conclusions or whether they are true, or make sense. Just as I argued in comment 49 of the previous article “Adam Lees Misleading Guardian Article …”

… when they like the conclusion, how that conclusion was arrived at is irrelevant. When they like the behaver, the behavior is acceptable; when they dislike the behaver, the behavior is not – taken from “Linda Calhoun reviews “The Authoritarians”@WEIT

What’s important for you is that Libby Anne can name Sam Harris together with someone accused of racism (i.e. known bad people). She can draw some fancy negative comparisons and sprinkle in a bit of Victorian Age because all that is meant to emotionally colour and negatively charge Sam Harris as a person. Perhaps 불세출의 령도자 (peerless leader) PZ Myers can bring her into the fold?

However, if she wanted to advance to master class Social Justice League blogging, she should add some more emotional colouring, perhaps weave in a sad story or something that makes everybody very angry, ideally about rape¹ or domestic violence². Fortunately, it doesn’t have to have anything to do with Sam Harris (or whoever is subject). It is just about emotional texturing.

Alternatively, she can write how the faceless oppressors are bringing her down, how she is a victim herself, how the good people will prevail, even if the evil is seemingly winning. You know, “fighting the good fight” and all that. Because in the end, the good people will win! And Sam Harris, that evil person … something to do with it. Somehow…

That brings me to the second article by her, which you “strongly recommend”. This one is titled: “Do They Care about Women, or Simply Bashing Religion?”

The idea is here that she can throw random names into the blender. This, too, is a well-known Social Justice League trick. PZ Myers, Greta Christina, Jason Thibeault, Stephanie Zvan, — you name it – do it all the time. Recently Rebecca Watson was busy pretending that everyone else was somehow siding with Brian Dunning when he went to jail (except that too few people knew his name and the trick didn’t really work). Currently, PZ Myers and co try to hard to do the same with Michael Shermer.

Everything negative they find, tweets, behaviour, commentary, views are attributed to a side, emotionally coloured as explained above and thereby negatively charged up. The social justice warrior can then pose against the backdrop, or their towering Frankenstein, in high contrast as the good person (but always the underdog, the David against Goliath). Every criticism from “Team Evil” can be dismissed – basically all criticism, since social justice warriors are extremely tribal and solidarity in in their “safe spaces” is key. Okay, that’s the basic function of this article, too: other “side” there all bad, and me, Libby, the good person here.

Still have the mental note? Because here she writes “First, if you’re a man, you are more likely to miss sexism right in front of your face than if you’re a woman”. Since we can rule out “psychological differences” because that would be sexist, then what could be the reason to not see sexism? Attitudes? As in “Attitude_(psychology), wikipedia”? It remains a mystery I guess. Libby Anne just can’t decide whether there is something gender-typical or not. But since she wants to arrive at a specific conclusion, she decides to go with this version this time around.

It’s really not too far-fetched to see Orwellian’s concepts in here. This is “doublethink”. And if you don’t do doublethink, then the Thoughtpolice will be alerted.

Frankly, it looks to me as though these atheist activists are just as willing to defend their heroes and leaders against allegations of rape or abuse as are fundamentalist Christians. […] These atheist activists are the sort of people who want to use my story as proof that religion is horrible to women but aren’t willing to listen to what I have to say about sexism in our culture at large.

Some more Social Justice League propaganda about protecting leaders. Again, rubbish. That is not the reason. Dan Fincke’s criticism of Sam Harris’ claims was good. But how can it register, when only the things are noted that confirm the Social Justice League narrative. And “these atheist” are of course Team Evil and we aren’t listening to her because of misogyny, Teh Patriarchy™ and all sorts of other reasons and not, and here I rest my case, because she writes Utter Bollocks. Really, someone give her a blog on SkepChick or FreeThoughtBlogs.

___
Footnote 1 and 2, sad but true, both things also follow the authoritarian rule. “When they like the behaver, the behavior is acceptable” including rape and domestic violence. The former case was mentioned a few times (also see details in comment 69, previous article). The latter case was someone who managed to collect 60.255$ for her fund from FTB/SkepChicks and allies to “Give a Voice to Harassment Victims”.

85 john welch September 23, 2014 at 3:13 am

A Hermit@82:

Thing is, if someone here seriously objected to my use of that word in that context I would do the polite thing, apologize and amend the comment. Unlike Phil and his friends I wouldn’t rant on about how my free speech rights were being trampled by the jackbooted feminazis who want to take away my sacred right to call women cunts… ’cause that’s what’s really important, right Phil?

To use your “side”‘s own logic, were you a polite, decent sort, you’d not be using such misogynistic terms like “hysterical” at all, nor trying to sneak them in and only apologizing when caught. A truly decent person would never use such terms at all regardless of intention, for as we all know, (via a constant drumbeat from your “side”)…

intent is not magic

Sorry, but no, you don’t get to have two sets of rules here. If ‘hysterical’ is always a sexist, misogynistic term, then you don’t get to play the “ironic” or “if it *truly* BOTHERS you, i’ll apologize” (a classic form of the “i’m sorry you were offended” nonpology with the added icing of “truly”, requiring the person to be MORE offended than…something…for it to be REAL offense), games. If “hysterical” is always wrong to use, then it is wrong even when you use it, even when it is “ironic”.

If it is NOT always wrong to use, and intent/context DOES matter, then even people you don’t like get to use it the same way you do.

There is not the rules the people you don’t like have to play by and the privileged stance you and your allies get to have. If you want other people to play by your rules, then you follow them yourself, to the same level and extent you expect others to, or stop telling other people how to act when you can’t be arsed to do the same.

If your lot would stop being so blatant in your almost insulting usage of “it’s okay when *I* do it”, a lot, and I do mean a lot of the dislike people have for your “side” would go away. But until that happens, there’s no point in trying to deal with you in a serious, sober fashion, because you’ll never play by your own rules.

86 Shatterface September 23, 2014 at 4:28 am

Thing is, if someone here seriously objected to my use of that word in that context I would do the polite thing, apologize and amend the comment. Unlike Phil and his friends I wouldn’t rant on about how my free speech rights were being trampled by the jackbooted feminazis who want to take away my sacred right to call women cunts… ’cause that’s what’s really important, right Phil?

Ah, right, you’ve inadvertently made a a remark which can be interpreted as misogynistic and instead of apologising – as Dawkins does – you are just going to double down in the way you learned from Myers.

Sweet.

Next time you lose your shit over something posted on Twitter that someone else has told you to lose your shit over just remember how fucking easy it is to make a mistake.

87 Phil Giordana FCD September 23, 2014 at 6:43 am

I couldn’t care less what words you use. Really, I don’t give a shit. I do give a shit about the way your crew jumps on every little slight or misuse of a word by their opponents, though, then play the “irony” or “just joking” card when they themselves do so.

It’s like Benson and her view that the use of c**t or b***h is NEVER ok, whatever the context, then spends most of a year using those words in many of her posts. The “because bitches ain’t shit, right?” rephrasing she so loves to use is a perfect example. So it’s never ok to use those words, except when SHE does it.

Have at it, use any word you want, but don’t then come out and complain when others use them too. Me? I find it hysterical.

88 Stephen Macken September 23, 2014 at 9:38 am

@Sawrs – reply 1.

“Finally, how does this statement

It’s not just women who are outraged by Dawkins these days?

suggest either that all women are outraged by Dawkins, that no men are? Are you a native English speaker? Do you understand words?”

It’s certainly clear to me exactly what Michael meant in his post from where you cut your quote.

“My questions now: Do you accept that there are atheist women who disagree with your analysis? Why did you not refer to that fact in your article, given that you made a point of writing that “It’s not just women who are outraged by Dawkins these days”?”

It’s perfectly clear that Lee is implying that all women are outraged by Dawkins and if all women are outraged then the “it’s not just women” must logically refer to men being outraged too but, as written, he seems to imply that not only are men outraged by Dawkins but that this is somehow a revelation. Stop the presses!

My understanding of Michael’s question is not whether it is revelatory that men are outraged too but that Lee’s assertion that all women are outraged is a sweeping generalisation of enormous magnitude and, of course, impossible to verify, and does he not see that there may be atheist women who are not outraged or does he stand over his suggestion that he knows the minds of all women, has surveyed all women or has some other authority that qualifies him to speak for all women?

By saying “It’s not just women” Lee is implying that all women are outraged by Dawkins, that is a very big claim and Michael merely calls him out on this.

I could ask you the same questions that you asked Michael, “Are you a native English speaker? Do you understand words?” but clearly that would be unproductive and provocative.

89 Phil Giordana FCD September 23, 2014 at 10:32 am

Have you stopped beating your spouse yet?

90 Edward Gemmer September 23, 2014 at 11:51 am

Edward, you’re still comparing sexist discrimination to a soft drink preference; the dismissal of someone’s basic human equality on the basis of their gender is nothing like the subjective liking of one kind of sugar water over another. Can you really not see that?

Is getting angry and reacting angrily to that kind of abuse just “ad messaging” or is it a reasonable response?

Don’t get caught up in the details. Coke/Pepsi is just a well known brand. I’m talking about the marketing, not the actual product.

Being angry at abuse is perfectly reasonable. The question is what is a reasonable reaction, but what is a productive way to spread the goals of feminism. “Being really mad” may be a good starting point, but its productive effects have a cap. Like you said, there are some goals that have been met, but the big, overarching goal, where everyone feels comfortable and together regardless of gender, has been a huge failure, and in fact a lot of people seem to feel the opposite way. People are unlikely to feel comfortable around people they think are going to criticize or ban them.

91 A Hermit September 23, 2014 at 2:54 pm

Outwest September 22, 2014 at 10:04 pm

Well yes, we have fairly high numbers of people being harassed, you’re not suggesting it isn’t a problem because it happens to men too, are you?

And 6 and 7 tell us that women are still less likely to report the harassment; hence the small sample of reporters in question 6.

The fact that any one study has limitations does not invalidate the findings, and given that other studies and surveys tend to yield similar results it’s reasonable to conclude that there actually is an effect here.

Why are you people so desperate to dismiss any evidence that supports the existence of sexism? It’s like arguing with creationists…

92 A Hermit September 23, 2014 at 3:00 pm

People are unlikely to feel comfortable around people they think are going to criticize or ban them.

So we should be worried about people feeling uncomfortable if they are saying sexist things, but not about people feeling uncomfortable because they are being constantly met with ignorant sexist comments and attitudes? These are not comparable in the way that different brands of soft drinks are…

Sorry, but I want people to feel uncomfortable about their sexism, their racism, their homophobia…we shouldn’t be comfortable about such discriminatory attitudes. Being comfortable with that crap just perpetuates it.

93 Phil Giordana FCD September 23, 2014 at 3:02 pm

“they are being constantly met with ignorant sexist comments and attitude”

Citation needed, or [FLOOSH] per Hitchens’ quote.

94 A Hermit September 23, 2014 at 3:02 pm

Phil…look up the word “context” and see if you can figure why your last comment is so completely missing the point…

95 sinister September 23, 2014 at 3:07 pm

I— I can’t even believe you come back and ignore every post except for one sentence you can sink your “fangs” into. How about a response to Aneris? How about Welch? Did you have anything to say for those links your were excited to share? Anything to say about your insistence people meet your standards, but your unwillingness to do so yourself?

Your response to a single sentence is quite telling though. Well done.

96 Shatterface September 23, 2014 at 4:16 pm

Hermit, you should have retired to a mountain top the minute you were called on using the word ‘hysterical’. You’ve made the internet an unsafe place for women.

97 sinister September 23, 2014 at 4:54 pm

I always wonder if putting your foot in it like this ever results in any self reflection on their part. Seriously, this was a complete failure on Hermit’s part, and instead of honestly admitting the egregious (from their POV) error, the excuse of “irony” came rolling out.

To me such a faux pas would result in a reevaluation of my judgement of others, here the result seemed to be a strengthening of resolve. I think this was quite representative of how they only expect everyone else to meet their standards, while holding themselves to a completely different standard.

98 Crackity Jones September 23, 2014 at 11:06 pm

Hermit Crab:

(…people like Amy Davis Roth, who raised thousands of dollars for the JREF’s TAM conference and got treated like shit for her efforts…)

Surly Amy threw an incredible fit of RAGE TEARS because somebody wore a t-shirt hinting that they don’t quite agree with the Skepchick opinion on matters (THE INSOLENCE!), and some called her tacky, overpriced jewellery in accurate fashion. She then attempted to create the illusion she was bullied and harassed, which was false. Her only intent was to stir up drama and victim points, and she failed. She went home with her tail between her legs, with most people at TAM relieved to see the back of her. Naturally, this “incident” led to PZ, Stephanie “Don’t You Know Who I Am!” Zvan, Watson, Benson, and the usual suspects to start throwing their shit around, as they always do.

Deepen those rifts so much that the FTBullies fall into the core of the Earth!

99 Adam Lee September 24, 2014 at 12:26 am

OK, I’ve written a reply to the points raised here. Apologies for the length. I’m going to reorganize Michael’s scheme a little and put #5 at the end, since I think it’s the most serious of the charges he makes.

#1. By “wracked”, I meant that this has been a major issue causing significant disagreement and division within the atheist community, not necessarily that every atheist organization in every country in the world is directly involved with it. I think a commonsense reading would tell you that.

In any case, Michael, the fact that you’ve put so much time and effort into addressing this matter – three lengthy posts addressed solely to me, just for starters – shows that this isn’t solely an American concern. And to state the obvious, Richard Dawkins, who’s been at the center of many of these controversies and has repeatedly chosen to involve himself in them, also isn’t American.

Just for the sake of completeness, let me point out that this is a sweeping assertion on your part and no more. I don’t claim to be familiar with the internal workings of every atheist organization in the world, but you don’t present evidence that atheist groups outside the U.S. are unaware of or uninterested in this issue; you merely assert that this is so. And I have counter-evidence to offer. Of the positive e-mails I got in response to my Guardian column, at least one was from a non-American, non-European atheist. It’s reasonable to assume that there are others.

#2. I decline to recount the history of this controversy up until now, as it would require a far greater effort than I’ve already put into this. If you doubt that these claims are true, I invite you to do your own research into them.

#3. No, I don’t agree that this pattern exists. I certainly agree that there are some people who’ll put the most uncharitable meaning on any statement that Dawkins makes; I’ve defended him from such unwarranted attacks in the past. But I can no longer do so in good conscience. Over the past several years, my esteem for him has been steadily slipping in response to one embarrassing, offensive or ill-phrased remark after another. I tried to defend him as long as I could, but after this latest round of remarks, I can no longer accept that these are all innocent misstatements.

Let me point something out: Richard Dawkins’ job at Oxford was specifically about communication; he was a professor for the public understanding of science. He’s supposed to be good at this kind of thing. I’m not saying he’s responsible for any and every misinterpretation of his words, but if he’s consistently failing to convey his meaning in a way that people can grasp, if the same “misunderstandings” pop up again and again, perhaps he should consider that part of the responsibility is on him.

#4. This statement was a synthesis of the overall effect conveyed by his words, not a specific quotation or paraphrase. It’s meant to convey that he’s falling back on the same wearisome, belittling style of attack that feminist women are all too familiar with.

#6. Permit me to suggest that the reason Richard Dawkins isn’t hostile to you is that, as far as I know, you’ve been scrupulously careful to never criticize him in any but the gentlest and most diplomatic terms possible.

My analysis of the situation is that whether he intends it or not, Dawkins is part of the problem we have with diversity. His poorly considered remarks are causing harm and lending an unappealing image to the English-speaking atheist movement as a whole. And he’s implacably hostile to anyone who voices this opinion plainly.

#7. The reference to “our” society, I believe, makes it clear that this statement was meant to apply to the atheist movement as it exists in the English-speaking West (the presumed audience of an article in the Guardian), not all atheists everywhere.

#8. I disagree that these are selective extracts or that Harris’ subsequent clarification improved matters. Indeed, Harris arguably made the situation worse by admitting that he’s never given more than a few minutes’ thought to why his audience might have a gender imbalance or what he can or should do about that. Yet he went on to offer some reductive, gender-essentialist speculations despite his self-confessed lack of relevant knowledge.

My Patheos colleagues Dan Fincke and Libby Anne have written about this capably and thoroughly; I encourage anyone who’s still interested to read them.

#9. I never stated or implied that all women agree with me, so this isn’t a misrepresentation. I don’t know Grania Spingies or what her views may be beyond what you quoted, but in general, there are anti-feminist women just as there are feminist men. I maintain that tailoring our message to their liking will not increase diversity, remedy our gender imbalance problem, or help the atheist movement to thrive in the long run.

Now, let’s get to the heart of the matter with #5.

First of all: I deny that there’s any meaningful difference between “drinking” and “getting drunk”. That’s semantic hair-splitting, nothing more.

Second: your argument is that Dawkins should be understood to be saying, “If you don’t remember being raped and if there’s also no other evidence you’ve been raped, don’t bring charges of rape.” Do you honestly think anyone is disputing this?

Following Paul Grice’s cooperative principle of language, I assume that when a person makes a seemingly obvious or trivial statement (or, as you put it, “a self-evident fact”), it’s because there’s some more specific meaning they want to convey indirectly. (“It would be great if you could pass the salt” is a polite request, not a general statement about the desirability of a world where condiments are passed.)

What more specific meaning could Dawkins have had in mind? To determine that, we look to the context: In the last few weeks, the atheist community has been embroiled by allegations made by Alison Smith that, at a conference several years ago, Michael Shermer pressured her into drinking more than she had intended and then raped her when she was incapacitated. Unless you intend us to believe that Dawkins, by pure coincidence, just happened to be idly speculating on the topic of drinking and rape at the same time this conversation was occurring (as one of my commenters put it, popping off random facts from “the lottery ball machine of his mind“), the obvious inference is that he means to convey his view of these allegations. It follows that the only reason he’d specifically mention drunkenness as making for an untrustworthy witness is that he believes the allegations against Shermer should be doubted on those grounds.

But the tweet I linked to in my essay goes beyond even this. He directly compares the level of intoxication that makes a person’s testimony unreliable to the level of intoxication that makes driving inadvisable. He speaks of those two things as if they’re equivalent. You’ll agree, I hope, that intoxicated people become unable to drive safely well below the level that would cause memory loss.

Regarding the New Statesman article you referenced and Dawkins’ subsequent comments on it: first, that was published after my Guardian article, first, so it seems a little unfair to accuse me of not taking it into account. Second, what this shows is that, if I interpreted Dawkins’ comments on drinking and rape incorrectly, then other people made the same misinterpretation, including a rape victim. But, as I said above, I’ve had my fill of excusing Dawkins’ every outrageous comment on the grounds that he innocently misspoke. I think it’s more likely that he conveyed precisely what he meant to. (Why would he believe the anonymous woman in the New Statesman article and not Smith, despite the very close similarity of the cases? Obvious inference: Smith’s allegations are against someone he personally knows, so he has a reason to want them to be false.)

Yes, yes, of course Dawkins also said “don’t ever rape anyone” – as if anyone who wanted to be taken seriously would ever do otherwise. The more important question is how he responds when someone says they’ve been raped: with sympathy and support, or with knee-jerk disbelief and a search for reasons to treat her testimony as non-credible? Judge for yourself which of those best describe the case before us.

100 Guestus Aurelius September 24, 2014 at 3:52 am

First of all: I deny that there’s any meaningful difference between “drinking” and “getting drunk”. That’s semantic hair-splitting, nothing more.

This. So much this.

I’m just so sick of people acting like words actually have meanings. Why can’t they realize that words mean whatever Adam Lee wants them to mean?

101 piero September 24, 2014 at 10:04 am

Michael Nugent said:

My question now: Can you please tell me which conferences and leaderships you were referring to?

Adam Lee replies:

I decline to recount the history of this controversy up until now, as it would require a far greater effort than I’ve already put into this. If you doubt that these claims are true, I invite you to do your own research into them.

In other words, Adam lee says:
“I made this up and can’t support it with any evidence whatsoever. Instead of admitting I am a dishonest bulshitter and apologising, I shift the burden of proof to Michael Nugent, in the hope that nobody will notice and I can save face.”

Am I being unfair?

102 piero September 24, 2014 at 10:24 am

Michael Nugent said:

Can you please show me where Richard Dawkins has been very busy snarling about how feminists are shrill harridans?

Adam Lee says:

This statement was a synthesis of the overall effect conveyed by his words, not a specific quotation or paraphrase. It’s meant to convey that he’s falling back on the same wearisome, belittling style of attack that feminist women are all too familiar with.

Adam Lee in other words:
“He did not say that, but I said he did because my article was hopelessly boring, so I thought I could add some punch to it through lies an misrepresentations. I also thought it would be useful to throw in a generic “feminist women” in the hope that nobody would notice I was disregarding the numerous feminist women who don’t agree with me.”

103 piero September 24, 2014 at 10:35 am

Michael Nugent asks:

My questions now: Do you accept that there are atheist women who disagree with your analysis? Why did you not refer to that fact in your article, given that you made a point of writing that “It’s not just women who are outraged by Dawkins these days”?

Adam Lee replies:

I don’t know Grania Spingies or what her views may be beyond what you quoted, but in general, there are anti-feminist women just as there are feminist men. I maintain that tailoring our message to their liking will not increase diversity, remedy our gender imbalance problem, or help the atheist movement to thrive in the long run

Adam Lee in other words:
“I know not all women agree, but those who don’t are irrelevant because they are anti-feminist. And if some of those who disagree happen to be also feminist, I haven’t heard of them. You know, it’s hard enough to write an article; surely you don’t expect me to do the necessary research too?”

104 piero September 24, 2014 at 10:40 am

Adam Lee says:

First of all: I deny that there’s any meaningful difference between “drinking” and “getting drunk”. That’s semantic hair-splitting, nothing more.

Next week: why swimming = drowning.

105 Jan Steen September 24, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Now that Adam Lee has commented here without addressing it, I’m going to recycle this example, because it is a such a nice synecdoche for Adam Lee’s Dawkins bashing. It demonstrates his modus operandi perfectly.

So in 2012, Lee gave this interpretation to Dawkins’s (in)famous “Dear Muslima” comment:

It started with Dawkins’ infamous “Dear Muslima” comment in 2011, which basically said that because women in Islamic countries suffer worse mistreatment, women in America and Europe have no right to object to boorish behavior or unwanted sexual attention.

According to this interpretation Dawkins doesn’t want women in the west to speak up about boorish behaviour and unwanted sexual attention. Now, inviting a person for coffee could under some circumstances be an example of boorish behaviour and unwanted sexual attention. In general I think it’s an exaggeration to consider it as such. I don’t want to reopen that discussion here, however.

But in his more recent Guardian piece, Lee’s interpretation has mutated into this:

Richard Dawkins has involved himself in some of these controversies, and rarely for the better – as with his infamous “Dear Muslima” letter in 2011, in which he essentially argued that, because women in Muslim countries suffer more from sexist mistreatment, women in the west shouldn’t speak up about sexual harassment or physical intimidation.

Apparently, the first interpretation didn’t make Dawkins come across poorly enough to Adam Lee’s taste. Now it looks as if Dawkins doesn’t want women in the west to speak up about the much graver offences of sexual harassment and physical intimidation! As if inviting a woman politely for a coffee and taking no for an answer is in any shape or form even remotely comparable to sexual harassment or physical intimidation. The dishonesty on display here is astonishing. It tells you all you need to know about the character of Adam Lee and it provides a perfect justification to ignore the hell out of him.

106 Guestus Aurelius September 24, 2014 at 1:32 pm

Next week: why swimming = drowning.

Damn. That’s so much better than anything I thought of.

107 jacquescuze September 24, 2014 at 7:41 pm

> You’ll agree, I hope, that intoxicated people become unable to drive safely well below the level that would cause memory loss.

Actually that’s a medical statement and unless Adam or Michael are doctors or scientists familiar with this work, pfft, it’s nonsense. An expert skeptic as Adam purports to be would never write such a statement without producing evidence for that. Any skeptic who does, should renounce the title and peddle his wares alongside Miss Cleo.

And it is most likely absolutely not true.

Here evil pitter Dick Strawkins reviews what is known. It’s certainly worth having someone read it to you Adam.

http://thestrawkinsreport.wordpress.com/2014/09/21/the-role-of-alcohol-induced-memory-blackouts-in-unremembered-sexual-encounters/

Let’s recall

> You’ll agree, I hope, that intoxicated people become unable to drive safely well below the level that would cause memory loss.

From Strawkin’s page:

According to a 2010 study in the Journal of Addiction Medicine:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21769024

“Cognitive and memory impairment occurs before motor impairment, possibly explaining how a drinker appearing fully functional can have little subsequent memory. “

Say hi to Miss Cleo for me!

108 jacquescuze September 24, 2014 at 7:42 pm

a pretty good comment is being held in comment gitmo

109 Phil Giordana FCD September 24, 2014 at 7:57 pm

“a pretty good comment is being held in comment gitmo”

Did you use “l-i-e” or any of its derivations? I’m asking because it seems Michael implemented this rule after demands from Benson a year or two ago, IIRC. Maybe it’s time to rescind that rule.

110 HH September 25, 2014 at 4:05 pm

Hi Tina,

Not sure how to quote but:

many took a vicarious thrill from Myers blunt treatment of creationists and the like. This was a bad mistake as all the warning signs of a power hungry totalitarian were already evident. It took far too long for many to recognise that the personality of a power hungry bully is in no way suited to any position of leadership.

I am ashamed to admit I was once one of those people. I agreed with Meyers’ outrage and enjoyed his condemnations without ever bothering to check on the views of the person he was attacking. When he started attacking some people whose work I was familiar with I began to understand what was happening. I became considerably more skeptical of his writings and by fact checking him I came to see that he routinely twisted the words of those he was attacking and generally misrepresented their positions.
He has since become more and more ridiculous in his hyperbole and rhetoric and I honstly think he has become a little addicted to denouncing people. There is not one scintilla of generousity left in the man. He will take the absolutely worst possible interpretation of a comment and condemn someone as viciously as he can. I do think he was not always quite as bad as he is now but as you correctly point out, the warning signs were there.

I still consider it a valuable lesson to have learned. I am far, far more cautious about accepting accounts of X or Y’s villiany without checking the facts and a general rule I live by these days is:

“If it sounds like a comment or opinion attributed to X sounds too outrageous to be true, it probably isn’t.”

While there are some rabid sexists/racists/etc. in the world, there aren’t nearly so many of them as the likes of FTB bloggers would have us beleive. There are very many people who make a point badly or in a very specific context that are easy pickings for the quote miners.

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