PZ Myers’ unfair and hurtful misrepresentations of Richard Dawkins’ comments about being abused as a child

by Michael Nugent on September 25, 2014

This is my second response to Ophelia Benson’s list of concerns about my original post about recent media misrepresentations of the atheist movement.

I had written about PZ that:

“In the last year or so, he has publicly accused Richard Dawkins of seeming to have developed a callous indifference to the sexual abuse of children…”

And Ophelia responded:

“On the basis of things RD wrote, no?”

Actually, it was on the basis of unfair and hurtful misrepresentations of what Richard wrote.

This is a pattern that I have also noticed in some criticisms of me in recent days. Some people do not respond to what I have written, but instead paraphrase what I have written into something else, and then respond to that paraphrasing, sometimes with a personal smear.

That is what PZ did last year when he accused Richard of seeming to have developed a callous indifference to the sexual abuse of children. I’ve written about this before and I will summarise the relevant misrepresentations again here.

The relevant section of Richard’s memoir

In Richard’s memoir he compares his schooldays in England with some aspects of the movie ‘If’. He writes of a headmaster who caned boys with such severity that the bruises took several weeks to fade, turning from purple to blue to yellow on the way. Yet he does not believe that this man was guilty of cruelty or sadism, but sees this as an example of the speed with which customs and values change. He recalls that the same man was also capable of great kindness. He read stories to the boys, comforted frightened boys during severe thunderstorms and, on Sundays when parents took their children out for a day, he and his wife would take boys whose parents were absent for a picnic with their own children.

Richard writes of the cruel bullying that took place between boys at school, and declines to name one boy who was badly bullied in case he happens to read it and the memory is still painful. He recalls being empathetic towards boys who were in trouble with the school authorities, and thanks to reading Doctor Dolittle he was empathetic with nonhuman animals, but he expresses retrospective guilt that he did not have the empathy to try to stop the bullying between boys at the school. He compares the dynamic of this school bullying with the verbal cruelty and bullying in some internet forums today.

Because academic ability was not admired among his peers, Richard would sometimes pretend to know less than he did. Also, he disliked saying out loud when he got ten out of ten, because he had a stammer that made the word ten hard to say. He tells of a teacher who once put his hand down his pants, and when he told his friends, he discovered that many of them had the same experience. He writes that he doesn’t think that this teacher did any of them any lasting damage, but that some years later he killed himself. He also tells of his extracurricular immersion in beekeeping, poetry and music.

Smears about Richard on publication of his memoir

In September 2013, the publication of Richard’s memoir led to a new wave of personal smears. This time it was a disproportionate controversy about attitudes to pedophilia, built on uncharitable interpretations of one recollection in his memoir and of unscripted comments made to an interviewer in The Times.

This is the quote, from the interview in The Times, that triggered much of the subsequent criticism:

“I am very conscious that you can’t condemn people of an earlier era by the standards of ours. Just as we don’t look back at the 18th and 19th centuries and condemn people for racism in the same way as we would condemn a modern person for racism, I look back a few decades to my childhood and see things like caning, like mild paedophilia, and can’t find it in me to condemn it by the same standards as I or anyone would today.”

Several online publications, including Huffington Post and Salon, misrepresented what Richard said in this interview. Typically, they reported that Richard “could not condemn” what happened to him at school, without adding his qualification “by the same standards as I or anyone would today.”

The misrepresentations continued on Twitter. Several atheist commentators joined in with these unjustified smears.

What PZ wrote about Richard’s comments

PZ published a blog post that was melodramatically titled “I beseech you in the bowels of Christ, please stop”.

  • PZ wrote that Richard “seems to have developed a callous indifference to the sexual abuse of children.” This was an unjustified extrapolation to make from Richard’s comments, particularly when PZ was aware that Richard has actively campaigned against the sexual abuse of children and its cover-up by religious institutions.
  • PZ asked: “Should I have raised my children with such a lack of self-respect that they should allow dirty old men to play with their genitals?” This suggested that Richard as a child lacked self-respect because he allowed himself to be abused, and also implied that Richard’s parents were responsible for his lack of self-respect. It also suggested the same about other victims of child sexual abuse and their parents.
  • PZ asked: “Just when did it stop being okay for acquaintances to put their hands inside Richard Dawkin’s shorts?” But Richard had never said that it was okay for anybody to put their hands inside his shorts. What he had said was: “It was extremely disagreeable (the cremasteric reflex is not painful, but in a skin-crawling, creepy way it is almost worse than painful) as well as embarrassing.”
  • PZ wrote: “Should we be giving pedophiles the idea that a ‘mild touching up’ is reasonable behaviour? It’s just a little diddling…. It does no ‘lasting harm’. Christ, that sounds like something out of NAMBLA.” Well, that may well sound like something out of NAMBLA, but it was not what Richard said. It was what PZ made up as his interpretation of what he chose to convey Richard as saying.
  • PZ wrote: “We do not excuse harm to others because some prior barbaric age was indifferent to that harm.” But Richard did not excuse harm to others. He said that he would not condemn what happened 50 years ago “by the same standards as I or anyone would today.” A reasonable inference is that he would condemn it by a different standard, not that he would not condemn it.

Richard’s clarifications

Richard responded on Twitter to some of the misrepresentations. He wrote:

  • “Non-consensual sex is always bad. But raping an 8-year-old to death is quantitatively worse than “touching inappropriately”. Shades of grey.”
  • “There seem to be people here who seriously deny that some degrees of crime are worse than others.”
  • “Is anyone seriously denying that raping an 8-year-old to death is worse than putting a hand inside a child’s clothes? Are you that absolute?”

Richard then published a more detailed clarification on his website.

He said that the criticism of his comments, that he would not judge that teacher by the standards of today, represent a misunderstanding which he would like to clear up. He said that the standards of today are conditioned by our increasing familiarity with the traumatising effect that pedophile abuse can have on children, sometimes scarring them psychologically for life. He said that only slightly less culpable than the abusers themselves are the institutions that protected them.

He said that his own thirty seconds of nastiness back in the 1950s did not deserve the sympathy due to a victim who had been truly damaged for the rest of their life. He said that to frame it in such a way would have been to belittle and insult those many people whose lives really were blighted and cursed, perhaps by year-upon-year of abuse by a father or other person who was deeply important in their life. He said that to excuse pedophiliac assaults in general, or to make light of the horrific experiences of others, was a thousand miles from his intention.

He said that he was perhaps presumptuous when he said that he did not think that the teacher’s fondling had caused lasting damage to his school companions. He said that he could not know that for certain, which is why he said only “I don’t think he did any of us lasting damage”. They had discussed it on many occasions, especially after his suicide, and there was general agreement that his suicide was more traumatic than his sexual depredations. He said that if he was wrong about the effect that it had had on any of his companions, he apologized.

He also tweeted a link to this clarification, saying:

  • “If anybody seriously believed that I ‘defended pedophiles’ please read this.”

In my opinion, Richard was correct to acknowledge that he may have been mistaken about the impact on his companions. If so, that is a matter between him and them, not between him and other people on the Internet who do not know any of them. While I am not asking anybody to apologize for anything, I believe that if there are any further apologies to be made arising from this controversy, they should be made to Richard and not by him.

Ophelia’s other concerns about my original post

I will respond over time to the other concerns that Ophelia has raised about my original post.

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{ 146 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jack Rawlinson September 25, 2014 at 6:24 pm

You’re wrestling with pigs, Michael, and I’m sure you know the old saying about how that tends to go. Straw-manning is just par for the course with the Myers/Benson type. They don’t fight fairly, because they would lose if they did, and as massive egotists they simply cannot allow that to happen. A couple of years back I and many others were relentlessly straw-manned and misrepresented (not to mention viciously abused) whenever we tried to reason with these people or had the temerity to dissent from their party line. We realised then that it was simply hopeless. As hopeless as trying to reason with young earth creationists.

And that’s the irony: they are operating in a similar way to religious zealots. They have the truth. They know what is right. They know who is righteous and who is a sinner. And once they have decided you are a sinner you will remain so in their eyes, even if it means they have to exaggerate the truth, misrepresent your statements and take your words out of context, or portrayed in the most extreme and unfavourable light conceivable. These are people who get a kick out of both bullying and iconoclasm – or their perverted idea of that. They will never admit error. These are people who think nothing of declaring that someone as calm, balanced and reasonable as Russell Blackford is, to quote Myers verbatim, “…a lying fuckhead”.

They are not good people. They are a blight on our movement, such as it is. You are doing a very good and patient job with them but you are fighting a hydra.

2 Shatterface September 25, 2014 at 6:54 pm

I don’t think you can rationally converse with the FTB cult about Dawkins.

This was a typical exchange I had with Benson back in April:

Shatterface says
April 26, 2014 at 2:16 pm
Also, while they might not be creating discourse ex nihilo Dawkins at least is a writer writing in the context of a considerable body of work with themes that have developed over time: He didn’t just wake up one morning with a grudge against Islam, he was a scientist who became a writer and who found himself increasingly forced into dealing with Christian fundamentalism first of all and who inevitably got dragged into debates with Islam.

Ophelia Benson says
April 26, 2014 at 3:55 pm
Shatterface – it also seems that Dawkins can do no wrong and his critics are all evil scum who should be kicked in the cunt, so what’s your point?

http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2014/04/promoting-isnt-starting/

The slightest contradiction and she jumps right to sexual violence.

3 Shatterface September 25, 2014 at 7:07 pm

Oh, and in case you missed it Benson recently reposted a cartoon originating at a transphobic hate-site – then replaced it with a comment from one of Nugent’s earlier responses to Lee ‘because trolls exist’.

http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2014/09/sometimes-you-need-this/

Benson fucks up, gets called on it, then denounces her critics as ‘trolls’.

4 piero September 25, 2014 at 7:18 pm

Benson fucks up, gets called on it, then denounces her critics as ‘trolls’.

Classy!
I think the time has come to stop poisoning my brain with FTB. I’m off to the slymepit to vent some anger at these clowns. Until yesterday I believed in basic human decency and the possibility of reaching agreements on commoin ground. But Ophelia’s shameful display of egotism broke the camel’s back.

5 sinister September 25, 2014 at 7:25 pm

The slymepit is a complete let-down if you buy into the FTB hype. Turns out we just have unmoderated discussions there, and since there is no hug-box to hide in, the FTB crew never fairs well there. Oh, and terrible pictures, we do have those too.

6 john welch September 25, 2014 at 7:40 pm

Ah, more amusement.

When one brings up past sins of the FTB lot, we’re told “Let it go, that was YEARS ago, stop living in the past, stop obsessing about it.”

And yet…years later we see Ophelia is still as obsessed as ever with the “kicked in the cunt” hogglism.

Because “it’s okay when we do it. We are sacred, it is the others who are Fair Game.”

(for the Scientology-ignorant: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_Game_(Scientology) )

7 Lancelot Gobbo September 25, 2014 at 7:40 pm

Looks like the scales have fallen from your eyes, Michael. Not a pretty sight, is it?
Now imagine that you don’t have a sterling reputation of solid humanist and atheist achievement behind you, nor your own blog to publish as you see fit. Imagine you are a simple atheist foot soldier, and you have the same disagreement with the self-appointed opinion leaders of FTB. You really should try commenting at FTB under some pseudonym and discover what it is like to be shouted down by a mindless mob. Perhaps you shouldn’t – one doesn’t want too much disillusionment in one go. I don’t write this as a criticism of your recent discovery of the online misery in the US dominated atheist community, and I’m thankful to acknowledge that you are right in saying it matters very little to the rest of the world. But you can now understand why it dominates the online experience of the atheist community in north America and why it drives half of us mad. A small part of me would love to see you keep up these expressions of concern, but I know you would be better off concentrating on real world activism rather than the imaginary online version. In fact, we would all be better off. FTB will wither if we ignore them.

8 JetLagg September 25, 2014 at 7:45 pm

Once again, Nugent, a great piece. While I’m starting to agree with Rawlinson that there are huge swathes of the online atheist community that simply can not be reasoned with, your work here is still valuable. The statements we make can and do influence the rest of the population (who aren’t always privy to the same information you are, and are too busy living their lives to investigate every claim). If we allow individuals to wildly mischaracterize those they disagree with, we’re allowing them to poison the broader narrative, and not doing our job as skeptics.

So yes, it may be that those you’re engaging with in these posts will never see the reason behind what you’re saying, but others are watching, and I’m certain you’re reaching them.

9 Daniel Engblom September 25, 2014 at 7:46 pm

I think a key point of what Dawkins originally wrote is missed on many:
He wrote that stuff in the past which stayed in the past (left no scars), is harder to judge than stuff which happens now and is fresh, and stuff which has left scars.
Now we can and need to do something, now we know better and have no excuse to be more lenient, now, prevention is key, and quick action is what helps prevent.
But this happened in the past, its consequences for the present are murky at best, that is to say it didn’t leave a lasting impression on Dawkins’ psyche, and the effort to condemn it (‘it’ referring to Dawkins’ experience) by the same standards we go about condemning child abuse still affecting many victims today is more harder to compare.

This is what I read all along. Is that honestly a controversial or apologetic thing to say by Dawkins? I don’t think so.

10 JetLagg September 25, 2014 at 7:48 pm

And Piero, you’re welcome at the pit (everybody is, which is one of the reasons I like it). I’d give you the customary welcome now, but it’s almost certainly vulgar enough to be a violation of Nugent’s commenting policy. Also, you should be warned that if you spend more than five minutes at the pit you will see something you’ll spend the rest of your life wishing you could unsee. The humor there is an acquired taste.

11 Arthur September 25, 2014 at 7:55 pm

Picking obnoxious extracts of writing by PZ Myers is easy. PZ is a gobshite, shooting scattergun from the hip with nary a thought afterwards.

But the problem with the atheism movement isn’t Myers, and besides, he’s small fry anyway.

The problem, as identified by almost every mainstream outsider-looking-in, is sexism; it’s harassment of women; it’s the tacit support of this by many of high profile figures in atheism; and it’s the awful comments by Dawkins on twitter regarding rape, disability and feminism. This has discredited the Atheist movement, likely for good. It’s over. Mention of Dawkins in public now induces a pained cringe at best.

Summed up by a tweet I saw this week by Ariane Sherine, creator of the Atheist Bus Campaign, who worked closely with Dawkins during that successful project:

“I wish Richard Dawkins would stop the daft tweets about rape and abortion, not least because both our Wiki pages have a photo of us hugging.”

The shame that has engulfed the movement is not because of PZ Myers. You’re wasting your time, and reputation here.

12 Arthur September 25, 2014 at 8:05 pm

And for people complaining about Freethoughtblogs comments being draconian, I was an occasional commenter on Jerry Coynes site for over 8 years. Until I made a perfectly civil comment criticizing Dawkins last week. This was removed within minutes, and I was banned from the site.

Too “strident” I guess. Too “militant”.

Pathetic.

13 Shatterface September 25, 2014 at 8:19 pm

Too “strident” I guess. Too “militant”.

The problem with Myers isn’t that he just deletes your posts, it is that he encourages his horde attack you while preventing you from answering back. Coyne has never encouraged sexually violent language either.

14 piero September 25, 2014 at 8:42 pm

@Arthur:

Until I made a perfectly civil comment criticizing Dawkins last week. This was removed within minutes, and I was banned from the site.

I find that rather surprising. What did you say?

15 Blueshift Rhino September 25, 2014 at 8:55 pm

Arthur wrote: “The problem, as identified by almost every mainstream outsider-looking-in, is sexism; it’s harassment of women; it’s the tacit support of this by many of high profile figures in atheism; and it’s the awful comments by Dawkins on twitter regarding rape, disability and feminism. This has discredited the Atheist movement, likely for good. It’s over. Mention of Dawkins in public now induces a pained cringe at best.”

In short: Arthur repeated a number of the claims that have been made against well-known atheists and the on-line (American) atheist community WITH NO CITATIONS OR EVIDENCE. Are you going to force Michael Nugent to go through every one of these in his calm and dispassionate manner or are you going to get the point that many of these criticism have been shown to have no basis in fact, such that simply repeating them, again and again, without giving evidence demonstrates willful ignorance at best (and more likely much worse)?

16 Edward Gemmer September 25, 2014 at 9:04 pm

Thank you. This was one of the most outrageous attacks I’ve seen on a person, which can be boiled down into attacking someone for talking about how they felt about abuse that happened to them. Many, many, many people who have been abused feel just like Richard Dawkins, and it is not PZ Myers’ place to question their feelings.

17 Crackity Jones September 25, 2014 at 9:13 pm

I have exposed Ophelia’s hypocrisy on numerous occasions. I have seemingly done so again, without even really trying.

Benson is claiming my accusation of her transphobia, having published a cartoon from a known transphobe, is “a lie”. Of course, the label of “transphobe” is somewhat subjective, a bit like the FTB use of “rapist”, which has different meanings. Ophelia has little problem with that, of course.

This is simply ANOTHER example of “it’s OK when they do it”. They use every single slur under the sun, and all manner of accusations (“rape apologist”, “rape enabler”, “misogynist”, etc.) when their ideological opponents step slightly out of bounds, and yet, they think they are immune to being called out with these labels.

I have seen people put on Ophelia’s precious Block Bot for far less, and let’s face it, if Dawkins had posted that cartoon, the flack and backlash from Ophelia and her chums would have been tenfold in comparison to an accusation (mirrored by others) that she was being “transphobic” in publishing a cartoon by a noted transphobe.

The hypocrisy is incredible.

18 Colin Morrison September 25, 2014 at 9:28 pm

I applaud Michael for his persistence and reasonableness despite my view, as many have said already, that he is debating others who argue in bad faith.

Arthur’s regurgitations of points Michael has already taken apart over his last few blogs bear examination.

Is Dawkins damaged good? He and Lawrence Krauss are showing up for an Unbelievers screening in Belfast next month. Despite the persistent efforts of a tiny clique of Guardianistas to smear him (their aims and that of Adam Lee and co. coincide), the gig sold out in 12 minutes. They put on a second screening. It sold out too.

His demise has been greatly exaggerated. That he still feeds these scavenger hacks with the crumbs swept from his table is a mark of the considerable influence he still wields.

19 A Bear September 25, 2014 at 9:28 pm

Michael; Good on you for exposing the dishonesty and slander that is thrown around by that nasty clique.
Now the rhetoric being spewed at Benson’s blog is that the atheist movement is covering up abuse just like the Catholic Church did, and they are now vowing to leave “the atheist movement”.
We can only hope.

20 piero September 25, 2014 at 9:28 pm

@Arthur:

Concerning Ariane Sherine, she also tweeted this:

.@RichardDawkins don’t think that is preferable to a stranger rape at knifepoint. Unless you’ve experienced it yourself please don’t comment

She was referring to the fact that she had in fact been assaulted by a boyfriend, and it had been a harrowing experience.

While I sympathise with Sherine, her comments betray a sadly familiar lack of rationality. If Dawkins cannot comment because he has never experienced date rape, then neither can Sherine, because she has never been raped at knife point. So, having experienced only one of the situations compared, she feels entitled to comment on how they both compare.

Yes, I know it is not the best example Dawkins could have come up with; yes, I know that people react differently to similar situations. I know all of that. But Sherine’s criticism is not valid as it stands.

Besides, I don’t think every disagreement has to be publicised on Twitter. Since Sherine and Dawkins had jointly organised the Atheist Bus campaign, why didn’t she just contact him privately? Probably she did, but given the tone and faulty logic of her comments, I doubt it. But then, having a grudge to vent in public is a boon for those whose livelihood depends on their popularity.

21 piero September 25, 2014 at 9:34 pm

@Edward Gemmer:

…and it is not PZ Myers’ place to question their feelings.

Exactly. But you must remember that Dawkins is a cis- hetero- crypto- hyper- miso- Vulcan, so he doesn’t have feelings.

22 Parody Accountant September 25, 2014 at 10:03 pm

You can’t literally kill them with kindness, Michael. The histrionic crowd is arguing in bad faith.

That being said. Do not back down. It’s been delightful to see somebody finally start to stand up to these bullies.

23 john welch September 25, 2014 at 10:05 pm

Wow…wait, who was it that said telling someone that it’s wrong to tell another person that their feelings on an issue are wrong when it’s a deeply personal issue like…you know…sexual assault?

Oh right PZ Myers.

Because It’s Okay When He Does It.

24 Shatterface September 25, 2014 at 10:20 pm

Myers has really fixed views on what level of emotion you are allowed to express.

Dawkins is damned for not being traumatised enough by abuse and therefore belittling the trauma of others; while Robin Williams ought to have just pulled himself together and thanked his blessings that he was born a white dude rather than distract the media from more important matters.

25 piero September 25, 2014 at 10:30 pm

@shatterface:

Dawkins is damned for not being traumatised enough by abuse and therefore belittling the trauma of others; while Robin Williams ought to have just pulled himself together and thanked his blessings that he was born a white dude rather than distract the media from more important matters.

I wish I could laugh at the sarcasm… but it’s just a sad truth.

26 IM608 September 25, 2014 at 10:45 pm

The good news is that for a third time in a row, Ms. Benson will take the time to make a blog post about how uninteresting this is to her.

27 BlueShift Rhino September 25, 2014 at 11:07 pm

@IM608 #26 –

You mean that she’ll cut and paste from a previous post which was probably cut and paste from some other post. Heck, all she’s done here is post a link to her blog.

But don’t you dare ever say the word “click-bait” around them.

28 piero September 25, 2014 at 11:34 pm

Did you know Michael’s previous post was 4,839 words long? I wonder what that makes him. Probably a cishetpolypedodudbrochillguy.

In other news, 4,893 is evenly divisible by 3.

29 BlueShift Rhino September 25, 2014 at 11:44 pm

I can’t believe that you just acknowledged that “cis-het” is bad and then turned around and claimed that there’s something special about 3. Back to the ‘Pit with you, S***L***!

With that said, 4,893 is also evenly divisible by 7. Maybe it was just a typo?

30 AKAHorace September 25, 2014 at 11:45 pm

The complete lack of moderation and organization in the slimepit is a problem. You can say whatever you like. But also unfortunately as often as you like and there are no separate threads. This means that a single long thread is dominated by those who post again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and…..

So it works if you are one of five or six people who has nothing else to do.

So I don’t go there much anymore. Having said that I like the people there and it is a good place to go after pharyngula. I went there after being kicked out of pharyngula.

If anyone has time to waste on Youtube.

If you want to see an example of Ftb level of debate see
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-K4s7cV4Us4

Which is so awful that it is curiously compelling.

Compare and contrast with

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFXIALf9zDA

Creationists may be wrong but they are better musicians than Ftbers.

31 john welch September 26, 2014 at 1:17 am

But…but…three!

IT’S THE MAGIC NUMBER!

32 noelplum99 September 26, 2014 at 2:36 am

I am still struggling to get my head around the image that Benson felt the need to post, as indicative of her feelings, and has subsequently removed.

I am no Benson fan but I largely regarded her as simply a dishonest cross between Morrissey and Marvin (the paranoid android).
I also don’t label people “sexist” lightly but I don’t really see how I can reach any other conclusion.
The image (http://theemperorsnewcottongrannypants.tumblr.com/image/31365682715), and her usage of it, seemed to imply that someone in particular (probably Michael) was in some way out of order for making an argument against her whilst being male. Had the image been reversed to feature a female character (and reworded appropriately) I would have no hesitation in assuming the person posting it, to highlight their feelings remember, was sexist. I think most people would.
Benson removed the image because the rest of the artists work included trans-phobic material. Check out the work on the tumblr. It is absolutely clear that the artist has a real problem with both men and trans women (most likely because she regards them as men and she has a problem with men) but both Ophelia and her commentors appear to either be entirely blind to the man-hate on the tumblr, or they see such a thing as a non-issue. The thing that led to the image being removed was the trans-hate (which truly shocked them, as if suddenly they were dealing with human beings), as if someone born into a male body is fair game for bigotry until and unless they decide to identify as female, at which point continued treatment along those lines become outrageous and unacceptable.

Really very surprising. That she should be so open about it makes me assume either:
1) She sees such bigotry as ok. perhaps it is the “punching up” thing they like to fall back on?
2) She doesn’t see it as bigotry,she is blind to it in some way.
?

33 Pitchguest September 26, 2014 at 3:43 am

It’s a thing of marvel to witness, when we see the queen of copy and paste, Ophelia Benson, whose posts are roughly 90% copy and pasted content, should denigrate someone else for their blog writing capabilities. In addition, what makes it even more amazing is that Ophelia Benson, who constantly lifts verbatim “long” quotes from articles and blog posts alike, is criticising someone for making a “long” and (ahem) “tedious” blog post. However, as should perhaps be pointed out with further clarify, a “long” and “tedious” blog post with his own words.

Indeed, it’s a strange time we inhabit, when people like Ophelia Benson feels she has the high ground in that debate.

Then, of course, there is the obvious hypocrisy of her attempting to guilt someone by association when she, by all accounts, is guilty of the same thing. Which she, of course, abjectly denies. How convenient. Now, since Ophelia has said herself it is not considered a slur, I shall forthwith refer to her as a “fuckwit.”

34 Iamcuriousblue September 26, 2014 at 4:29 am

Thanks for bringing up this topic, Michael. Dawkins words have been horribly distorted, and at this point, the entire context of his talking about his own abuse is often obliterated entirely. He’s now a “rape apologist” (and “pedophile apologist”) full stop according to these nasty idiots.

Dawkins original point was that he found the fear of Hell instilled in him as a child to be far more damaging than the (relatively mild) molestation he received from that teacher. I don’t think he ever claimed he was speaking for all molestation victims or making light of anybody’s physical abuse, but he was underscoring the idea of Hell as something that can be profoundly traumatizing and abusive. Unfortunately, some SJWs decided to twist it into an abuse olympics kind of competition.

35 Jan Steen September 26, 2014 at 6:03 am

The ultimate irony is that Myers allows the self-confessed child rapist Ogvorbis to claim in the comment section of Pharyngula that Dawkins believes that child abuse is no big deal. The irony meter that can survive this has yet to be invented.

36 Michael Kingsford Gray September 26, 2014 at 6:39 am

Jan Steen wrote:
“The ultimate irony is that Myers allows the self-confessed child rapist Ogvorbis…”

May I add to that description “…Myers allows the *self-confessed multiple child-rapist* Ogvorbis”

And that Ogvorbis has admitted, (multiple times on Myers’s ‘blog), that he raped at least 3 infants, and one or more children?

Of his own admitted free will.

This is all in Ogvorbis’s own written testimony, still available in Myers’ notably censorious ‘blog, wherein polite criticism is met with the full force and weight of PZ’s MIGHTY god-like ban-hammer!

Yet pointing out the hypocrisy of the double-standards applied is enough to garner an admitted voracious serial child rapist the comfort of a “safe” haven for his evil deeds.
(Including multiple offers from the patently insane criminal parents on Myers’ cult-blog who gleefully proffer baby-sitting jobs to this serial admitted CHILD-RAPIST to their own woefully unlucky offspring.)

*That alone* classifies them as dangerously delusional maniacs, from whom social services should remove their offspring from imminent danger.

The Roman Catholic Church, as well as the Cosa Nostra would do well to study the the tactics of the so-called “Free (from) Thought Blogs”.

37 tina September 26, 2014 at 9:43 am

MKG: Yes, ironic to be fighting the religious in our own ranks. All very Catholic, although the determination from the Social Justice League seems to be to create a living hell rather than a spiritual one. But imagine how GOOD it feels: all the ‘calling out’ of others for their ‘sins’ of misogyny and ableism and racism and privilege and sexism and rape apology and being a cishet whitey heteronormative shitlord and. and. and.

Oh, how I want to be saved too: to feel the love of Peezus surround me, for Him to forgive me and scrub the foul stench of patriarchy from my soul, so that I may become worthy, truly worthy, special snowflakey worthy of the loving embrace of ‘the hoard’ (aka guilded choir of angels), and the pouncehugs of Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden.

Then I can spend all day, every day ‘calling out’ sinners from my keyboard pulpit while feeling smugly self-righteous and superior.

It’s ‘Alright When We Do It’ places them above the law on this moral high ground, and then there is always repentance and absolution available should you stray (Ogvorbis?), and a subsequent return to grace in the company of teh saved.

Forgive me Peezus, for I have sinned. Again.

38 tina September 26, 2014 at 9:54 am

OB – I skimmed much of it, and I probably agree with the skimmed part.

What! I just…..WHAT?

39 Phil Giordana FCD September 26, 2014 at 9:55 am

In the end, it is nothing but a waste of time and resources. The SJWs would be best ignored completely. But then, where would we get our lulz?

(Hey MKG, nice to see you around, I hope all is well for you.)

40 TheOwlAtMidnight September 26, 2014 at 12:26 pm

Michael, let me add my encouragement for and appreciation of your efforts here.

While it is no doubt true that your arguments are falling on deaf SJW ears, it is very important that the Internet has a record of rational opposition to their very embarrassing and disgusting pronouncements. It is, in fact, how I discovered you and your blog.

I had happened across Adam Lee’s smear piece in the Guardian and was appalled. I couldn’t believe that the Guardian would “print” such a thing. I also had semi-followed Lee’s blog two or three years ago and thought him much more rational than he sounded from this piece. Shocked, I decided to dig further, and have uncovered a sordid little hive of unsavory activity on the part of Lee and these other…”warriors,” thanks in large part to the education I have received here just by reading your last few posts and their comments.

You’re absolutely right, Michael: this weird and sick little faction of theirs in no way represents atheism beyond a tiny fraction of incestuous Internet-active bloggers and followers. Until the Guardian piece, I had absolutely no idea of their existence or any of this infighting.

My own atheist history in a nutshell is this: I have been an atheist since the age of seven (training for my First Communion in the Catholic Church quickly made me aware that Christian stories just weren’t very good), and was pleased, as an adult, when Dawkins’s, Hitchens’s, and Harris’s books came out in the 2000’s, reading them all. When I joined Twitter about three years ago, I followed Myers very casually in addition to Lee and Hemant Mehta and a few others who were active on line, but I had in no way become part of any “atheist movement.” Since I didn’t follow any of these people very closely (excepting Harris, Dawkins, and Hitchens–oh, I miss that man so much), the attack on Harris for sexism a week or two ago was the first thing I noticed as being ridiculously scummy, so when I saw the Guardian piece on Dawkins follow shortly thereafter, I definitely thought something strange was afoot.

Now I know the backstory, for which I thank you. It’s important that you are putting a reasoned version of events out there. As other commenters have posted, OTHER people are listening, even if not the people whose rhetoric you are addressing.

A parting thought: I as an atheist woman have not noticed any particular sexism from other atheists. To me this is a non-issue, a non-starter. There is plenty of sexism in the world for sure, but from my casual following of the atheist community, I just don’t see it. This looks like a trumped-up issue a la Fox News to me.

Thanks again for your work. I’m glad to know you exist.

41 piero September 26, 2014 at 1:11 pm

@TheOwlAtMidnight:

While it is no doubt true that your arguments are falling on deaf SJW ears, it is very important that the Internet has a record of rational opposition to their very embarrassing and disgusting pronouncements. It is, in fact, how I discovered you and your blog.

That’s exactly how I found this blog too! And I fully agree with you on the need to have a record, lest the general public bundle all atheists with the weirdos.

42 Jan Steen September 26, 2014 at 1:45 pm

@TheOwlAtMidnight,

A parting thought: I as an atheist woman have not noticed any particular sexism from other atheists. To me this is a non-issue, a non-starter. There is plenty of sexism in the world for sure, but from my casual following of the atheist community, I just don’t see it. This looks like a trumped-up issue a la Fox News to me.

You have clearly never attended an atheist conference. People there might offer you a coffee, you know. A coffee! Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink. Say no more. Whatever you do, stay away from the lifts.

43 allison September 26, 2014 at 2:43 pm

I’m delighted by your recent articles, Michael! Please keep up the great work exposing the mendacity and hypocrisy of Myers, Watson, et al.

44 Shermertron September 26, 2014 at 5:17 pm

Tina @ 38:

Benson is famous for copy/pasting ~80% of each of her blog posts. Looks like she’s found a way to copy/paste reading, too.

45 Submariner September 26, 2014 at 6:01 pm

Like many above, I too applaud your (seemingly) tireless efforts in calling attention to the dishonest type of discourse employed by PZ et al.
This type of restatement is used to say precisely what the opponent did not say, in fact often the polar opposite of what they meant.

It needs to be stopped in all discourse. I think we all know how useful it can be to restate someone in a reductio ad absurdum. This is actually a legitimate tactic provided one actually keeps to the meaning and context of the original statement. What we see with PZ and his Merry Minstrels is something else. A dishonest and uncharitable reading and restating of their opponent, when reduced to the absurd, becomes a straw man.

If anyone is interested I wrote a short piece on the matter involving a different Dawkins attack as an example:
http://skeptischism(dot)com/periscopedepth/2014/07/30/weaponized-rhetoric/

Cheers and be well.

46 Submariner September 26, 2014 at 6:03 pm

My link went through moderation and the (dot) seems now to be superfluous.

Re submitted:

http://skeptischism.com/periscopedepth/2014/07/30/weaponized-rhetoric/

47 Aneris ✻ September 27, 2014 at 1:14 am

The article above is one year old and shows that PZ Myers recent “breaking up” with Richard Dawkins was more a symbolic gesture to his followers. The actual break-up was “Dear Muslima” even if PZ Myers didn’t know it back then. He was duped into this conflict and took some time to accommodate himself with the role he slipped into. Perhaps he really needed two years to realize it.

He sided with Rebecca Watson, dug himself in, many a feud sprung up and Richard Dawkins apparently unaware of polarization “sided with” the others by violating social justice warrior solidarity expectations. That prompted Rebecca Watson to declare the boycott which sealed the deal and PZ Myers had to play along.

I believe that this is why “Dear Muslima” became such a monstrous item. It is almost comical now how that comment can generate years of hatred. It became a lynchpin. I can only speculate that there was too much pressure on this one commentary alone that they were motivated to find further “issues” so that their hatred would not just hinge on one comment.

Maybe the article was some kind of mid-point in the mind of PZ Myers. Taken from the article you discuss…

PZ Myers wrote: “I can think of some lasting harm: he seems to have developed a callous indifference to the sexual abuse of children. He was a victim of an inexcusable violation; that he can shrug it off does not mean it was OK, or ‘zero bad’, or something trivial.”

The problem there is that nobody but Richard Dawkins knows what exactly had happened. PZ Myers happily takes Richard Dawkins fairly vague description, but rejects his assesment of the situation. Imagine I explain how I was in a car crash but claim that I was fine. PZ Myers then readily believes the car crash, but rejects that I am fine without knowing what really happened – as if he knows better or can somehow infer from “car crash” how an ideal, perhaps platonic idea of a car crash ought to be. Others in his pack are simply incapable of understanding that “fine” doesn’t refer to the car crash, but as a qualifier to mean that despite expectations one generally has about car crashes, that the person got away “fine”. Likewise, “mild” is meant to qualify a situation against expectation and does not refer to the type of situation. Richard Dawkins tried to explain gradients later to them (of “worseness”) to these people but to no avail.

PZ Myers approach is sadly not a freak in his way of thinking. It is fairly normal for him and the others in his social justice faction to have forgotten what things really mean (yes, they are also often bereft of wits). They produce what Noam Chomsky derided as meaningless “do you support the people in Iowa” type of messages, which he said in an interview titled “On Propaganda” (the title should come to no surprise).

Noam Chomsky said: Anything that’s totally vacuous and diverts, after all what does it mean to be in favor of .. suppose somebody asks, do you support the people in Iowa, can you say I support them or no I don’t support them. It’s not even a question it doesn’t even mean anything. And that’s the point of public relations slogans like support our troops is that they don’t mean anything, they mean as much as whether you support the people in Iowa.

I still don’t know what PZ Myers and his ilk in concrete terms want. They are incapable of spelling it out. Now they want Richard Dawkins to “listen”. But what does it mean to “listen”? In concrete terms it could mean to submit to their prerogative of interpretation, their ideas, or their ideology. We don’t know. All of that is objectionable and actually reaffirms the suspicion that their motive is either selfish (more influence for themselves) or in the interest of some highly dubious, ultra authoritarian ideology.

Likewise, ideas such as “shut up and listen” which made the news a while ago are entirely meaningless or nefarious. If I “shut up and listen” I am simply invisible. I am not in some audience and listen to the preacher or sit eye-to-eye with a friend and listen attentively what they have to say. On the internet it can only mean “don’t voice your opinion when it goes against what we say” while giving attention to their side (since shutting up and listening is also based on factions, i.e. one faction believes they can talk, the other faction is meant to “listen”).

Ironically, the faction that believes they can do the talking also believes they are being “silenced”. It almost too easy to think they are projecting, since “listening” could be an Orwellian phrase for silencing. Someone complained to Michael Nugent on twitter to feel silenced yet that person plays an active role in the operation on the Block Bot on twitter. Just to give you some idea what kind of people this social justice warrior faction are.

PZ Myers continues…

And that all Richard Dawkins experienced was a brief groping does not mean that greater harm was not being done. That man was a serial child molester; do we know that he didn’t abuse other children to a greater degree? That there aren’t former pupils living now who bear greater emotional scars?

Let’s assume for a moment PZ Myers was entirely correct: the man was serial child molester and he did abuse other children of a greater degree and somebody has to bear greater scars.

And then what? The man is dead and to my knowledge wasn’t named. So Richard Dawkins, based on his knowledge was wrong then by believing that this man didn’t molest other children even more. Let’s further assume there was a victrim with such deep scars who, despite that the person was not named, somehow recognizes the perpetrator. Again, what is the problem there? If I was that victim, I would think that Richard Dawkins underestimated the activities of that molester but I see no good reason to be mad at RD for believing this, since he reported faithfully on what he experienced and saw. And even this situation is highly hypothetical. PZ Myers’ claims are meaningless posturing. His message is about conveying that he cares about the victims of child molesters and he requires a contrast of somebody who (allegedly) doesn’t. If you have read my previous comments you recognize this as a basic social justice warrior pattern.

PZ Myers wrote: Thanks for swapping the moral high ground for a swampy mire of ambiguity, Richard. I’m not going to argue that compelling kids to memorize Bible verses and fear hell, as stupid an excuse for education as that is, was child abuse, while getting manhandled by lascivious priests was a trivial offense, to be waved away as harmless. I’m sure many Catholics are quite gleeful that Richard Dawkins has now embraced the same moral relativism that they use to rationalize crimes against children.

… written by someone who hosts a comment section that reacts to a rape confession in a congratulatory manner, that offered love and support and even write they would have the rapist of three girls babysit their kids (again, I know, he was only twelve and abused himself before, but it doesn’t make the reation of PZ Myers’ moral high ground community any more defensible).
Now that’s moral high ground PZ Myers! The same PZ Myers who whines that other people point this out, after his own regulars brought up the topic while feeling “bored” (also see e.g. “It’s more of a guy thing” on Butterflies and Wheels, Ophelia Benson’s blog who also helped in the cover up).

✻ ✻ ✻
Dear Michael Nugent, I am unsure if thanks from a certain side does you any favour: thank you (again). We have seen long enough that ignoring the issue won’t do anyone a favour. Distortions just pile up and are then used by mainstream media that is anyway all too eager to attack Richard Dawkins et al. Whatever one does, ignore isn’t an option. Thank you for not ignoring. I hope you keep it up.

48 theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物) September 27, 2014 at 5:30 am

@ Michael Nugent

You are turning your blog into a colony of the slymepit.

Perhaps, if you would take a little time to familiarise yourself with their ways, you might want to think twice about providing a platform for such people. You will be doing your own stated goals a great disservice.

I beseech you in the bowls of FSM’s pasta, please stop! Don’t choose the side of people who revel in using sexist language. Don’t let this blog become a place for apologetics for such either. Don’t place yourself on the wrong side of history.

.

A recent episode of The Daily Show shows parallels with much of the recent discussion here, with regard to social justice and the power of words.

Link Here.

@ piero #4

[slymepit] …so far it doesn’t look like a place I’d like to hang around. [piero – 24 September 2014]

vs

I’m off to the slymepit to vent some anger at these clowns. [piero – 25 September 2014]

Careful, piero. By next week you may be hoggling with the very best of them.

49 Michael Kingsford Gray September 27, 2014 at 8:48 am

48 theophontes
“Don’t choose the side of people who revel in using sexist language.”

I agree.Mr. Nugent should instead choose the side who harbour, vigorously defend and staunchly support a self-confessed multiple, serial, infant-rapist.

Heaven forfend that he should associate with those who employ what you, by dint mere fiat, an evidence-free label as the the horrific crime of the use of “sexist language”. (Even when mainly quoting others)

“Don’t place yourself on the wrong side of history.”

Good advice, I’d say.

50 theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物) September 27, 2014 at 8:52 am

@ OP

“I am very conscious that you can’t condemn people of an earlier era by the standards of ours. Just as we don’t look back at the 18th and 19th centuries and condemn people for racism in the same way as we would condemn a modern person for racism, I look back a few decades to my childhood and see things like caning, like mild paedophilia, and can’t find it in me to condemn it by the same standards as I or anyone would today.”

Why not condemn it? Why the hell not?

Because it happened at an earlier time, we (“logically”) can achieve nothing by condemning something that we can do nothing about in the present?

What is it with all this moral relativism? What do we do about such crimes that happen in our own time but occur in a different place? The racism and sexism in North Korea is fine and dandy because it is happening somewhere else (spatially if not temporally) and there is not much we can do about it?

Let me try and spell this out for you by paraphrasing Richard Dawkin‘s little brainshart:

“I am very conscious that you can’t condemn people of a different culture by the standards of ours. Just as we don’t look at Pyongyang or Riyadh and condemn people for racism in the same way as we would condemn a Western person for racism, I look at the TV and see things in other countries, like caning, like mild paedophilia, and can’t find it in me to condemn it by the same standards as I or anyone would in Oxford.”

Do you understand how bad such an argument is Michael?

51 Jan Steen September 27, 2014 at 9:03 am

Look who’s calling for censorship.

52 Jan Steen September 27, 2014 at 9:10 am

If putting words in your interlocutor’s mouth and evading their questions doesn’t work, the next step is to try to silence them altogether. What a pity that this blog is not ruled by a PZ Myers with his mighty banhammer. Right?

53 theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物) September 27, 2014 at 9:48 am

@ Michael Kingsford Grey

Mr. Nugent should instead choose the side who harbour, vigorously defend and staunchly support a self-confessed multiple, serial, infant-rapist.

You are blowing this out of your ring. Furthermore, Michael has expressed that he does not want to let his blog be used by others for smearing victims of rape.

Anyhow, what is the point of arguing with a person, such as yourself, who makes a career out of having his feefees offended? As soon as any argument against you starts getting to the point, you trot out pseudo-legalistic boilerplate:

[gumby] By employing my full real name in this multiple libel, you, as well as [fill in name of arbitrary interlocutor here], have committed an actionable offence in law. I request that the legal owner of this web-site redacts my name from this list. [/gumby]

54 Aneris ✻ September 27, 2014 at 10:10 am

theophontes wrote:Perhaps, if you would take a little time to familiarise yourself with their ways, you might want to think twice about providing a platform for such people. You will be doing your own stated goals a great disservice.

Granted! Now deal with the criticism that was brought up. Are you aware that a member of the FTB community has reported to have raped three girls while on a babysitter job (all the nuances and details have been mentioned many times, don’t dare to pretend they weren’t taken into account). Are you aware that other members of your FTB community, perhaps you too, have reacted by expressing love and support to this confessed rapist and someone even expressed that they would have him watch their children, too? (to no protest or criticism)

Do you even acknowledge the issue?

Your side made clear that child molestation cannot be trivialized in any way, not even in the indirect way you believe Richard Dawkins did (but didn’t ). However, in your community on FreeThoughtBlogs there is no misunderstanding or misrepresentation at all. It’s all there in no ambiguous terms. And the person who reported this was not a victim in this instance, like Richard Dawkins, but the perpetrator. And the issue is not some “mild touching up”, but what he himself called “rape” of three girls.

Let’s be charitable in your communities’ favour and let’s believe he exaggerated or misremembered and somehow no lasting harm was done, just child’s play. Do you see the problem with that? You have established that such an argument would be trivializing. You may read PZ Myers again. Since you were all behind that with the usual zeal, I am sure you would have to reject my charitable offer anyway. Such self-reported issues can’t be “child play” or “mild” –I hope that is evident.

However, we don’t know if your community friend you all love so much told the truth, misremembered, trolled or something else that could make us dismiss his confession. We do know for a fact how your community, including PZ Myers, Stephanie Zvan and Ophelia Benson reacted to it and that is perhaps even more damning, since it is on record and again unambiguous. They refered to the blog post where that happened in a positive manner, are fully aware of the thread, or were alerted several times and had plenty of opportunity to react to the issue in some way. They haven’t and to this day seem determined to sweep it under the rug.

At the very least, PZ Myers should have kicked out the people who expressed love and support and babysitter jobs to someone who just confessed. He bans people for trivial reasons. This issue is allegedly very important to him, yet he did not only do nothing, he covered it up and repeatedly looked the other way. And not only that, he used it to smear his critics by claiming it was “one of the vilest things” that we draw attention to this problem which PZ Myers also claims doesn’t exist (he confuses it with another instance despite being told about it – aside that it’s all under his nose anyway).

Dear theophontes. I understand you want to draw attention away to some other issue. Are you suggesting it is worse to make however awful remarks about your Dear Leaders (in an obscure forum no less) than expressing love, full support to someone who just confessed to rape? I would love to hear your thoughts and some clear statements how you stand on this issue and what you will do about it.

I may add that we’ve seen a lot of hot air recently form your side. Whenever you are asked to show your hand, or called a bluff, you have provided nothing and resorted to silencing tactics or by inventing reasons why you would not deal with the criticism however measured, brief or throughout it was stated.

If your head didn’t explode from cognitive dissonance, I would love to hear back from you, theophontes.

55 theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物) September 27, 2014 at 10:12 am

Look who’s calling for censorship.

That is for Michael to decide, it is his blog after all. He is remaining disconcertingly silent in criticising the people (like yourself) who undermine his own social justice goals. Instead he spends his time defending the most ridiculous and potentially damaging ideas because of their provenance, rather than examining just how illogical those ideas are. One such damaging idea is the crass moral relativism that he defends (sadly with much praise) in this thread.

56 Michael Kingsford Gray September 27, 2014 at 10:21 am

53 theophontes
“@ Michael Kingsford Grey”
The very least a totally and transparently anonymous commenter such as you might do as a human courtesy to me is to take the time to spell my surname correctly.
I post using my real, globally identifiable birth name, as do Michael Nugent, Richard Dawkins, et alia.
I am not a coward.

“You are blowing this out of your ring.”
Quite charming.

“Furthermore, Michael has expressed that he does not want to let his blog be used by others for smearing victims of rape.”

Then you should excuse yourself.

“Anyhow, what is the point of arguing with a person, such as yourself, who makes a career out of having his feefees offended?””

My career is in safety-critical software & hardware.

[gumby] By employing my full real name in this multiple libel, you, as well as [fill in name of arbitrary interlocutor here], have committed an actionable offence in law. I request that the legal owner of this web-site redacts my name from this list. [/gumby]

“Gumby-quotes”, eh?
Are they not exclusively employed on Pharyngula as a vacuous ad-hominem?

And what,exactly, is SO wrong with identifying ones-self in written interactions?

“You are blowing this out of your ring.”
Again, utterly charming. If this is in keeping with the attitude of decorum that you claim is Mr. Nugent’s goal, then we must be posting in alternate universes.

Internet anonymity has much to answer for in terms of civility, or lack thereof.

57 FishCakes September 27, 2014 at 10:30 am

theophontes @50

Here’s a free hint: if you find yourself having to “paraphrase” (i.e., straw-man) your opponent’s direct quote in order to make your point, rather than relying on the quote itself and/or the subsequent clarifications of said quote, that’s a clear indicator (to everyone else, at least) that you are a disingenuous d-bag.

58 FishCakes September 27, 2014 at 10:34 am

theophontes @53

Oh look, you did it again. You made up your own words and tried to put them in the mind or mouth of your opponent. Is this the kind of thing you do so often that you don’t even realize it anymore?

59 Phil Giordana FCD September 27, 2014 at 10:41 am

I love it when SJWs lose it. Poor Theo cannot control the discussion here, so s/h/it goes crying to the proper authority for a rightful censoring. It’s almost cute to see how having their ideology questioned infuriates them. Almost…

60 Phil Giordana FCD September 27, 2014 at 10:42 am

sub (I forgot)

61 Jan Steen September 27, 2014 at 10:53 am

That is for Michael to decide, it is his blog after all. He is remaining disconcertingly silent in criticising the people (like yourself) who undermine his own social justice goals.

That could be because his social justice goals are not what you think they are, or because he doesn’t think I am undermining them.

Making fun of Christian fundamentalists is not the same thing as urging people to treat their neighbours poorly. Similarly, making fun of censorial SJWs is not the same thing as arguing against social justice.

62 Aneris ✻ September 27, 2014 at 11:50 am

More distortions from Ms Benson. On the “too drunk to testify” tweet.

Ophelia Benson in “To testify & jail a man” (sep 26) wrote: Also – still on that mind-exploding tweet by the atheist pope – notice what a very peculiar way to describe a rape that is. […] Nobody wants to be tricked into getting drunk, nobody wants to get raped, nobody wants to be in a position to testify about the rape. Women want to not be raped, instead. Giving them advice on how to be in a condition to testify about their rape is no help at all. What about telling the man not to trick the woman into getting drunk and not to rape her? What about that for an idea?

1) No court has convincted anyone. Therefore, it can’t be a reasonable expectation that we just pretend the person was already convicted. This is a common standard media has to abide.

2) We can assume that Richard Dawkins has no reason to believe a random person, or five random persons more than somebody he knows. Especially not when the faction that signal boosts these accusations is known to distort and misrepresent. Technically that is not a valid reason to dismiss anything, but an understandable reaction.

3) Richard Dawkins makes no statement about whether the accused comitted a crime. That is not even the point.

4) His tweet was about being able to give reliable evidence. Again, it is not about whether the person was a victim of a crime. We just don’t know at this point. It is still not in court. Even if you knew or strongly believe a crime had happened (as Ms Benson evidently does), Richard Dawkins tweet still holds up. It still is difficult to give reliable evidence when one was drunk.

5) The burden of proof is on the claimant and hence skeptical people will question what was claimed. It became clear that Ms Benson and co want to reverse the burden of proof or are fine when innocents go to jail. Stephanie Zvan argues for that in “The Elided Rights of Accusers” (July 15, 2014):

Stephanie Zvan wrote: […] will result in more innocent people being found guilty. I am willing to accept that, because the alternative is even less acceptable.

6) Ophelia Benson wanted Richard Dawkins to also tweet “What about telling the man not to trick the woman into getting drunk and not to rape her? What about that for an idea?” but Richard Dawkins did tweet “not to rape”. I’m quoting the tweet via Michael Nugents article (/2014/09/21/adam-lees-misleading-guardian-article-about-richard-dawkins…)

Richard Dawkins tweeted: “Don’t EVER rape anyone, drunk or sober. But also, don’t accuse anyone of a crime if you can’t remember what happened (& no other evidence).”

It is a nice gesture of Richard Dawkins, even if its generally known and probably wouldn’t impress a rapist to change their ways. Yet, here is Ophelia Benson again misrepresenting and grossly distorting yet again as if nothing happened. She is remarkably ignorant for someone who otherwise finds every “problematic” tweet or comment when it suits her. She was also made aware of the situation by Michael Nugent (at least) yet she simply continues unperturbed.

63 ZenGuard September 27, 2014 at 12:00 pm

“You are turning your blog into a colony of the slymepit.”

Curious. Why does this seem to happen in every forum where FTB and their ilk cannot control the dialog?! The pattern has been repeated over and over exactly as seen here. The main protagonists may post an early ‘how dare you’ comment and then disappear to their personal, tightly controlled spaces to post a series of coordinated rage blogs against the offender and the offense. Look at Ophelia Benson’s dance of misbegotten outrage and Adam Lee’s disappearing act for recent examples of the usual pattern. Their more determined minions will try to put up a fight but are slowly and steadily worn down by their exposed hypocrisy, logic failures and even overt untruths. When the failure is blatantly obvious to all, even to them, finally the cry for censorship of the ‘evil ones’ goes out.

It has become sadly predictable.

Michael, I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: thank you for your patience , fair-handedness and open mind through this process. Thank yoy, thank you, thank you.

64 Edward Gemmer September 27, 2014 at 12:18 pm

@ Theophontes

Do you understand how bad such an argument is Michael?

Not sure I understand this. Richard Dawkins doesn’t condemn people of other cultures as much as those of his own? This certainly entirely up to Richard Dawkins. It is also entirely unimpeachable. Nearly everyone in the world has similar feelings, and for good reason. Culture has a pretty significant impact on a person, and before “condemning” them, it is important to note if they would have any reason to live up to the standards that you have imposed on them.

Of course, I may have missed your meaning here.

65 piero September 27, 2014 at 2:04 pm

I’ll try to keep this comment on topic despite theophontes’s attempts at derailing.

@theophontes #50:

Why not condemn it? Why the hell not?

This is an astonishing remark from someone who would have us believe that gender is entirely a social construct. It should be obvious that the cultural environment does play a role in shaping our moral values, and it would be rather silly to judge history using contemporary criteria, because you’d have to conclude that 90% of all the people who have ever existed were despicable monsters in their time. This is not, by the way, moral relativism: it is obvious, again, that anyone today who behaved according to 14th century standards would be rightly shunned as a moral monster. Hence, recognising that applying current standards as if they were absolute and valid for all the past is not to exempt current societies from them on the basis of cultural differences. Your question is therefore as silly as “But Newton didn’t go on to formulate relativity, did he? Why not?”

You are turning your blog into a colony of the slymepit.

I learnt of the pit’s existence in this very thread. I am not here to side with anyone; I’m reading arguments and evaluating them on their merits. So far I’ve found myself mostly in disagreement with you and your fellow FTB regulars, but that’s been attributable to the quality of your arguments. Occasionally I’ve appreciated a point you’ve made, but your batting average is on the whole dismal.

…rather than examining just how illogical those ideas are.

On the contrary, Michael has been exhaustive in his anlysis of Adam Lee’s, Ophelia’s and PZ’s arguments, and Richard Dawkins’s actual words. In fact, Ophelia complained that Michael posts were too long (tl;dr) and too many (yet another article by Michael?). To me, Michael’s posts have been invaluable, and I haven’t found anything illogical in them to complain about. So when you ask:

Do you understand how bad such an argument is Michael?

you are making a fool of yourself in a rather egregious fashion.

@aneris #47:
Your text walls are getting better and better. The higher they are, the less inclined are FTBers to climb them.

66 JetLagg September 27, 2014 at 2:10 pm

@Theophantes

I think all you’re doing is demonstrating to Nugent that the accusations leveled at you and others similar to you are completely accurate. Rather than argue in good faith, you’ll attempt to shut the conversation down. When you find yourself in a venue where the moderators are not sympathetic, and will not censor on your behalf, you’ll appeal to emotion rather than defending your points and pointing out the flaws in ours.

67 JetLagg September 27, 2014 at 2:22 pm

@Theophantes

“I am very conscious that you can’t condemn people of an earlier era by the standards of ours. Just as we don’t look back at the 18th and 19th centuries and condemn people for racism in the same way as we would condemn a modern person for racism, I look back a few decades to my childhood and see things like caning, like mild paedophilia, and can’t find it in me to condemn it by the same standards as I or anyone would today.”

Why not condemn it? Why the hell not?

I’m at a loss to explain why you are incapable of acknowledging qualifiers. I don’t like to assume dishonesty, but the only other option I see is that you have some sort of condition that blinds you to nuance, no matter how many times it is pointed out to you. Dawkins said it could not be condemned by the same standards. Consider these two statements:

a) I fully condemn Bob’s actions.

b) I do not condemn Bob’s actions by the same standards established under U.K. law.

If you think those two statements are mutually exclusive than I’d like to have a stern word with your teachers.

68 HiHo HcHihihuck September 27, 2014 at 3:01 pm

@Theophantes

I won’t drag your past into this (remember comparing Rebecca Watson to Nelson Mandela and MLK?), but I’ll say this much to you:

Your demand directed towards Michael to suck up to the FTB party line is impertinent and misplaced. The amount of vitriol and abuse he had to endure at the hands of Ophelia, AdamLee, and their goons during the last days, has exceeded most of what we’ve seen from you people before. Un-effin-believable.

You folks tried to pull the same stunt on Peter Boghossian, Sam Harris, and -as many time before- Richard Dawkins during the last week, and now it seems you’ve finally overplayed your cards.

Normally I’d say you folks should take a time-out and think about whether you want to continue like that, but I know this would a fruitless endeavour, because you never listen to anyone outside your echo-chamber, so – kindly take your thinly veiled threats and crawl back into the darkness, will ya?

(BTW: Never mind my nick, I’m 1/16 Cohnitschihua)

69 theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物) September 27, 2014 at 4:10 pm

@ Bullshitter Grey #55

The very least a totally and transparently anonymous commenter

Are you pretending to be an honest broker? The only reason that you present yourself by your own name is that you can use your wholly contrived pseudo-legalistic threat (as posted above) on people. You live in a country in which to identify your RL name won’t get you jailed for speaking truth to power (not that you ever would anyway.) You are a shallow coward, with a shallow shtick, hiding behind legalese lies to threaten people who correctly identify you as the bullshitter you are.

Have you ever brought a case against anyone? (No,I didn’t think so. ) Please bring a case against me if you think anything I say is less than truthful, bullshit merchant.

do as a human courtesy to me is to take the time to spell my surname correctly.

And thereby risk getting sued by you? Oh wait… sue me? I challenge you to try. Put up or shut up, pissant liar.

I am not a coward.

In your head, coward. I challenge you to sue me. Put up or shut up, pissant liar.

And what,exactly, is SO wrong with identifying ones-self in written interactions?

Wonderful for you, as long as you are living in a country which guarantees your basic human rights. You are smugly flaunting your ignorance of how most of the world works with such a statement.

Internet anonymity has much to answer for in terms of civility, or lack thereof.

Oh you courageous hero you! If you don’t like what I am saying , then sue me. You keep threatening. Prove yourself, pissant coward.

70 theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物) September 27, 2014 at 4:18 pm

@ HiHo HcHihihuck

(BTW: Never mind my nick, I’m 1/16 Cohnitschihua)

You completely missed the point being made in the linked video I posted? Really?

71 john welch September 27, 2014 at 4:18 pm

Oh Look, Theophontes is wanting Michael to ban the Supressive Persons for Badspeak and Badwords.

Since we’re on the topic of “bad” words and like, care to explain why your Deviant Art link is to a piece with an ableist title like ‘Tardy Ark”?

I see no sign that the image is about be late for something, so clearly that meaning cannot apply. Therefore, applying the SJW judgement techniques, you are clearly ableist, and therefore an unforgiveably Bad Person.

You are a Supressive Person, and must be cast out of the Body. LANDRU! LANDRU!

72 theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物) September 27, 2014 at 4:21 pm

NB, MN:

At every comment I make, I get blocked. What is this?

In the stuck comment I called a certain, less than completely honest person, out for being, … well,… less than honest. Are my opinions all to get stuck in your spam trap?

73 piero September 27, 2014 at 4:38 pm

@theophontes:

I can read your comment all right. What are you complaining about? If it’s any consolation, I too have a pending comment in moderation. So there.

74 theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物) September 27, 2014 at 4:43 pm

@ ZenGuard #60

Their more determined minions will try to put up a fight but are slowly and steadily worn down by their exposed hypocrisy, logic failures and even overt untruths.

You seem to regard Michael Nugent as an asset, whereas he is steadily proving himself to be a liability. Not just to atheism (a lost cause) but also (and especially) to humanism.

Thank yoy [sic] , thank you, thank you.

For turning to the right, to the right, to the right …. (in repetitione, veritatis?)

75 theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物) September 27, 2014 at 4:47 pm

@ piero

What are you complaining about?

Piero, you seemed like a fairly intelligent person. I am disappointed that you may well become yet another reactionary.

76 theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物) September 27, 2014 at 5:05 pm

@ Edward Gemmer #61

Of course, I may have missed your meaning here.

This may be the case. However, Michael Nugent understands fully well what is meant by the term “moral relativism”. He also understands that whether the distance between our current moral Zeitgeist hangs on time, or distance, it comes down to the same thing essentially. We must condemn wrong wherever (spatially or temporally) it occurs. Without this, our humanism is nothing. Sound and fury, no more.

77 noelplum99 September 27, 2014 at 5:07 pm

@Theophontes
“Not just to atheism (a lost cause) but also (and especially) to humanism.”

I am really interested as to why you regard atheism as a “lost cause”?
Are you aware that atheism is not simply a vehicle for you to drive forwards your sociopolitical agenda but is actually a lack of belief in a god or gods?
If you have some evidence to fasify the atheist position then let us hear it. If not, if indeed you yourself do not express belief in the proposition “a god or gods exist”, then I respectfully suggest you try and remind yourself of what atheism was before your friends tried to turn it into a political movement and what it CONTINUES TO BE.

78 theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物) September 27, 2014 at 5:26 pm

@ noelplum99 # 74

I am really interested as to why you regard atheism as a “lost cause”?

Noel, the fault may be wholly mine. I am trying to follow the atheist cause through the internets, but find that the positions proposed in the atheist blogosphere are always, and inevitably, at odds with the precepts of my humanism. Why I get so upset with Michael Nugent, is that he completely understands the humanist position that I share with him, yet chooses to provide a platform for self absorbed egotists like Grey (who continues to threaten me with law suites… the sad, compulsive, self-abuser that he is).

79 noelplum99 September 27, 2014 at 5:40 pm

@Theophontes

I really don’t think it is a good idea to start holding bloggers and vloggers to the worst excesses of their commentors, whether that be PZ Myers all the way through to Thunderf00t.
Hold people accountable for their own contributions and for the general ethos under which they allow commentary is my suggestion. Michael is allowing comments from both sides and has , apparently, fairly strict guidelines limiting the kinds of language he will allow.

For the record, I don’t think any of us really ought to be threatening one another with law suites, if that is what has happened.

PS: To clear up one more thing. Someone earlier said they recognised me as a “pitter”. Whilst that is a forum I browse from time to time it is not somewhere I have posted, in fact I am not even registered there.

80 john welch September 27, 2014 at 5:50 pm

Theophontes is a master of the dramatic insult. “I know michael MEANS well, but if ONLY he could see how these AWFUL PEOPLE are just RUINING his intentions.”

He decries the simply awful things “pitters” say while saying things that are just as awful, but when called out on it, proclaims he is not, for his language is fair, with nary a harsh word contained within.

To which the reply should be:

“The ‘Dred Scott’ decision is as obscene a piece of writing ever created by humans. Yet within, you will find only the most gentile of legalistic language. The same can be said of the judgement against Alan Turing, Plessey v. Ferguson, and a host of very proper essays written to strip humans of their humanity.

It is not an individual word that makes something bad. The obsession with ‘bad words’ is a distraction, a feint that allows people to be just as “abusive” or “mean” or “bad” as the people they are decrying, all the while hiding behind a veneer of ‘nice’ language.”

Theophontes is far, far more hurt that his feint is failing than by any individual “bad” word anyone has used here or anywhere else.

81 john welch September 27, 2014 at 5:52 pm

Noel, “pitter” is the all-purpose “othering” word. It’s used in the same way that “misogynist” and “privilege” are. Once someone who thinks correctly uses it, you are forever an SP, and nothing you say can have any value.

82 theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物) September 27, 2014 at 6:05 pm

@ noelplum99

For the record, I don’t think any of us really ought to be threatening one another with law suites, if that is what has happened.

Michael Kingsford Grey is continually threatening his opponents with lawsuits. That is his shtick. If he had to advance an honest argument, the glue would come out of him. I am calling his bluff, because I wish to point out that he would never dare act on his threats in reality. I don’t threaten him with lawsuits – my arguments stand on their own virtues. In his case, he pretends that adding his RL name, grants his arguments an added value. What a loser!

[slymepit] … in fact I am not even registered there. A simple fact that rebounds to your eternal credit. (I am not sure whether I am banned for having a Chinese ISP (ooooh, scary!) or just being me. It is really hard to get into the quintessential last outpost of freeze peaches.

83 theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物) September 27, 2014 at 6:10 pm

@ john welch

AWFUL PEOPLE are just RUINING his intentions.”

They are! If only Michael would wake up to it….

84 noelplum99 September 27, 2014 at 6:23 pm

@John Welch

I realise that “pitter” alongside “MRA” are just used as general slurs, regardless of actual affiliation but another commenter (AKAHorace) said “hi” to a list of people they recognised from the forum. I was incorrectly listed on that list.

For the record, having browsed the forum it is nowhere near as extreme as how it is (mis)portrayed and is occasionally very amusing. That is not to say that the kind of commentary that takes place there is appropriate for every venue.

One of the criticisms I see levelled at the site, one worthy of consideration, is that it is purely reactionary, existing solely to negatively critique and criticise the FtB (et al) mob rather than as a positive and self-sustaining entity.
Superficially this seems a potentially legitimate criticism.
However (there is always a however) those making the criticism are invariably atheists. specifically atheists who are involved in atheist movements. Can they not see the hypocrisy here? Would they accept the same criticism if made by a theist?

85 noelplum99 September 27, 2014 at 6:27 pm

PS: I uploaded a video on privilege and its use to silence about an hour and a half ago.
Shameless self-promoting link incoming——-
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EBVl10AZrI
Needless to say, I agree on the misuse of the concept of privilege (which is not the same that I deny the usefulness of the concept)

86 Tigzy September 27, 2014 at 6:33 pm

Noelplum said:

‘For the record, having browsed the forum it is nowhere near as extreme as how it is (mis)portrayed and is occasionally very amusing.’

Yeah. Well. You haven’t seen what goes on in the members’ only threads, so…yuh.

87 Blueshift Rhino September 27, 2014 at 6:44 pm

I actually like it when folks post simple comments such as “atheism is a lost cause” because it tells me much more than their longer and jargon-filled posts. It also makes me feel good, as it suggests that at least one person who has been trying to hijack atheism for some unrelated purpose might soon be leaving. And, finally, on the off chance that I subsequently regain any respect for them, it tell me what to get them for their birthday: a dictionary.

88 Steve Vanden-Eykel September 27, 2014 at 6:51 pm

Piero @28

Did you know that recent studies indicate that one out of every three numbers is evenly divisible by 3? It’s true! 😉

89 theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物) September 27, 2014 at 7:03 pm

@ Blueshift Rhino # 85

it tell me [sic] what to get them for their birthday: a dictionary.

Merriam-Webster? Keep it, sad person.

90 Steve Vanden-Eykel September 27, 2014 at 7:10 pm

The ‘Dred Scott’ decision is as obscene a piece of writing ever created by humans. Yet within, you will find only the most gentile of legalistic language.

I thought all the best lawyers were Jewish.

91 Vaal September 27, 2014 at 7:10 pm

Re Dawkins:

theophontes wrote: Why not condemn it? Why the hell not?
Because it happened at an earlier time, we (“logically”) can achieve nothing by condemning something that we can do nothing about in the present? What is it with all this moral relativism?

This is just a misunderstanding of either moral relativism, Dawkins’ point, or likely both. And it comes from a seemingly wilful misreading of Dawkins that I see over and over among his critics (and Sam’s, and now Michael’s).

When you re-phrased Dawkins’ comments with “different cultures,” it still indicates you don’t get the issue. We, Dawkins, you me etc, can have a moral standard (especially if we espouse some form of moral realism) that applies across cultures, condemning immoral acts wherever, whenever they occur. But it is a DIFFERENT question as to how much moral responsibility we assign to anyone PERSON for having done an act.

Here, to help you out, are the relevant parts bolded, so you don’t miss them this time:

DAWKINS: “I am very conscious that you can’t condemn people of an earlier era by the standards of ours. Just as we don’t look back at the 18th and 19th centuries and condemn people for racism in the same way as we would condemn a modern person for racism,…

He’s just clearly told you the context of his point, that he’s talking about to what degree he feels we should condemn PEOPLE, so when he ends with this part….

” I look back a few decades to my childhood and see things like caning, like mild paedophilia, and can’t find it in me to condemn it by the same standards as I or anyone would today.”

…you should understood that the question is how much we ought to condemn the PEOPLE, in terms of their moral responsibility, not the acts themselves. The acts themselves remain bad.

Far from being some naive, out of touch concern, this is STANDARD issue in moral philosophy and ethics. When assigning moral blameworthiness, there is always the problem of “what did the person know, and what could he be reasonably expected to OUGHT to have known?”

We would aim moral opprobrium at a modern doctor who didn’t bother to wash her hands, or wear gloves, when doing surgery or delivering a baby. She ought to know better. But is it reasonable to hold doctors or mid-wives of the past, before germ theory, before knowledge of sepsis, etc, JUST as morally blameworthy for not washing their hands? Surely not. You can’t reasonably expect them to have had the knowledge we do now, which mitigates how we judge their moral blameworthiness. Not washing hands or other prophylactic action before medical procedures is JUST AS BAD in the past as now, but our understanding of another person’s situation and knowledge can rightly mitigate how we judge HIM or HER for an act.

This is clearly Dawkin’s point. That we have to keep in mind that there are all sorts of ways in which WE now benefit from an enlightenment, altered societal norms etc, denied most people in the past. We’ve benefited from a history of social, cultural experiment and change and Dawkins in his God Delusion underscored that by reminding us out just how recently blatantly racism (and homophobia etc) was accepted (not that long ago that family’s brought their kids to see public hangings…something that would horrify every parent NOW). As much as it may feel good-in-the-tummy to scream “I’m on the right side of a moral issue,” you and I aren’t some inherently morally enlightened creatures; if we’d been born 200 years ago we would in all likelihood espouse the very racism and general insensitivity we condemn today. It’s important to keep that in mind when deciding how much to hold people responsible for their views and acts in the past.

So, at least, if you are going to produce an argument against what Dawkins is talking about, at least show you’ve understood what he’s saying. He may in the end be wrong, but at least try to hit the target.

92 piero September 27, 2014 at 7:14 pm

@Steve:

Ha! But you forgot that 4,893 is also divisible by 7! So, expressed in prime factors, 4,893 = 3*7*233! Now I expect you to appreciate the deeper, hermetic meaning of Ophelia’s message.

@theophontes:

Piero, you seemed like a fairly intelligent person

If that’s a compliment, it’s an incredibly ableist one.
If that’s a slur, it’s an incredibly ableist one.

93 piero September 27, 2014 at 7:21 pm

@Vaal:

I fully agree. When I try to imagine how current values will be judged in a few decades I fear it won’t be pretty.

94 Blueshift Rhino September 27, 2014 at 7:45 pm

Theophontes –

Rather that spam up MN’s blog, you should definitely come play in The ‘Pit. You just need to tell someone your IP (from whatsmyip.org) so that it can be unblocked, assuming that you’re really in China and not telling untruths like oolon.

95 Lsuoma September 27, 2014 at 7:45 pm

Theophontes – just send the IP address that gets reported by whatsmyip.org to the email address from the Slyme Pit registration page. I’ll unblock it.

96 Blueshift Rhino September 27, 2014 at 7:47 pm

Oops. I included a bad word in my message to theophontes. If you have a Chinese IP, you need to tell someone what it is (from whatsmyip[dot]org) so that it can be unblocked.

97 Matt Cavanaugh September 27, 2014 at 8:29 pm

Theophontes @48 wrote:

“Don’t choose the side of people who revel in using sexist language. Don’t let this blog become a place for apologetics for such either. Don’t place yourself on the wrong side of history.”

Who do you think you are, Theophontes — Kommisar for enforcing PC language restrictions across the entire world wide web?

Have any pitters used inappropriate language at this blog? At any site we visit, including the rare instances when we are briefly permitted to comment at Thought Free Blogs? No, we are consistently polite and respectful. And if you don’t care for the language or style of humor at The Slymepit, then stop lurking there!

Also, people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. You might wish to stop by my blog, to see the base, personal insults hurled at me by “the Horde”. Or simply peruse the latest hate-filled screed at Pharyngula.

No, Theophontes, what you most want to silence is not “sexist language”, rather any opposition to the Atheism Plus / SJW dogma. To forestall the application of logic & reason to your anti-science, anti-skeptical, PoMo garbage; to prevent us calling you lot out on your endemic mendacity or your attempt to subjugate everyone to your maoist version of atheism.

Take a hike.

98 DHudson September 27, 2014 at 8:39 pm

Ophelia Benson apparently isn’t as open to free thought as I thought. Just left a comment at her blog that didn’t make it through moderation in response to another poster. So here goes:

Graham Mullan says
September 27, 2014 at 11:57 am
“I have not followed in any detail the apparent controversy surrounding Prof. Dawkins and what he may, or may not, have said concerning rape but I do know that, seen from the point of view of fundamentalist religious types, the most reliable way of ruining the reputation of an opponent is to embroil then in a scandal involving sex. I’m only surprised that no-one has yet manufactured anything involving him and children. Guaranteed to ruin anyone.”

/End of post.

To which I responded:

DHudson
( awaiting moderation )
“I’m only surprised that no-one has yet manufactured anything involving him and children.”

PZ Myers 2013: “He seems to have developed a callous indifference to the sexual abuse of children.”

http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/09/09/i-beseech-you-in-the-bowels-of-christ-please-stop/

/End of post

I wonder why she wouldn’t allow that comment to make it through?…oh well, her blog, her choice.

99 John Greg September 27, 2014 at 9:37 pm

JetLagg said (to Theosophist):

“I’m at a loss to explain why you are incapable of acknowledging qualifiers.”

The inability to acknowledge qualifiers is, like the general execrable readng comprehensionproblem, a trademark of both the SJL and FTB in general. Any and all issues in the world are black and white; yes or no; right or wrong, in SJLville and FTB. There are no gray areas; no nuance; no subltlety; no range.

And so on, and so forth.

“… ban the Supressive Persons for Badspeak and Badwords.”

Hear, hear.

He he; Ha ha; Ho ho.

Theophilatory said:

“At every comment I make, I get blocked. What is this?”

HAHAHAHA! Ye old irony meter just went Poop!

Or is that *Floosh*?

noelplum99 said:

“One of the criticisms I see levelled at the site [Pit], one worthy of consideration, is that it is purely reactionary, existing solely to negatively critique and criticise the FtB (et al) mob rather than as a positive and self-sustaining entity.”

Well, yes and no. I mean, the primary purpose and goal, so to speak, of the Pit is to do precisely as you have outlined. To change that, to burden the Pit with any kind of specific agenda, outside of lampooning and highlighting the egregious idiocy from the SJL and the likes of Skepchick.org, FTB, et al, would ruin, besmirch, and eradicate the primary purpose and function of the Pit.

In a very real sense, the Pit absolultely must adhere to having no specific goal beyond the aforementioned, otherwise, it would lose its legitimacy and its right to act as it does,

So to speak.

By which I mean the Pit only acts as its individuals do, and that, to the Pit’s greater glory, so to speak, is the simple base fact that no one, no single individual controls the content, and to a very, very large degree there is almost no coherent ideological agreement on anything at the Pit, beyond the aforementioned, and there is, in point of fact, a very great amount of disagreement that remains, and will remain. unresolved.

The Pit is and remains one of the few places on the ‘net, at least that I am aware of, where true free thought abounds. And, to underscore the point, the Pit is, generally speaking, a far, far safer place, even using the FTB-stylee definition, than is either Skepchick.org, FTB, or A+ in both its moribund sites.

100 Phil Giordana FCD September 27, 2014 at 10:06 pm

The Slymepit is, by far and large, one of the most pleasant internet places to post one’s thoughts, grievances, jokes, stream-of-consciousness…

It is mostly unmoderated, unedited, open, and full of diverse arguments on diverse topics (do not engage Mykeru on the correct use of a poop shovel, though). And I must admit it’s quite a breath of fresh air to see Michael here allowing strong yet (mostly) polite discussion on his blog. A rare sight these days.

I’m quite confident more than a few FTBers would enjoy the Pit, if only to be able to let their hair down and vent out a bit. Many have already, so why not come and join the (mildly) dark side?

101 piero September 27, 2014 at 11:32 pm

Having spent a few hours browsing the pit, I can positively assert it is nowhere near the den of iniquity I was expecting. I’m disappointed. 😉

102 Steve Vanden-Eykel September 28, 2014 at 12:05 am

Piero: It’s still the honeymoon. We’re hoping you’ll make us sammiches.

103 john welch September 28, 2014 at 12:09 am

Theophontes @83

Why should anyone listen to someone who is as clearly ableist as you. You even tell us not to, in your own words:

I beseech you in the bowls of FSM’s pasta, please stop! Don’t choose the side of people who revel in using sexist language. Don’t let this blog become a place for apologetics for such either. Don’t place yourself on the wrong side of history.

Or is ableism okay, given your other ableist slur.*

Noleplum @84

Good points all the way ’round. Especially the last one. I hadn’t quite thought of it that way, but now that you point it out to me, it is quite amusing

Piero et al:

The ‘pit is a dreadful failure as a place of iniquity.

And since it has come up here: my own recent absence there should not be taken as any sign of disapproval of the forum overall. I did however realize that for *me* specifically, I needed a break. I realized that I tended to get in what are really the same arguments over and over, just with different people. And often not that.

It made me realize that I wasn’t really bringing anything new to the forum, nor was I getting anything new out of it, and so perhaps a…sabbatical(?) was in order. So that I might not just repeat the same things over and over.

Again, because of the subject, I am not now “anti-pit”. I think there are some folks in there with some views I rather heartily disagree with, but I’ve told them that to their “faces” as it were. There are also some folks in there I like rather a lot, and pay close attention to what they say. I’ve learned a lot there. (I know more about the economics of the fast food industry thanks to the ‘pit than I would have EVER learned otherwise, which is awesome.)

But every so often, you fall into a rut, and rather than staying in said rut, I’m wandering elsewhere for a time.

*note for the possibly dim: I don’t think Theo is actually being ableist. I am pushing the concept to the extreme a bit to make a point, namely, if he is going to be so strict about policing what other say, and demanding they live up to his standards, then his arse best well be at the top of the damned list in terms of following said standard.

clearly, he is not living up to his own standards, and so it amuses me to tweak him about it until he stops being such a martyr about it.

104 FishCakes September 28, 2014 at 12:13 am

noelplum99 @84 said in regards to the slymepit:
“One of the criticisms I see levelled at the site, one worthy of consideration, is that it is purely reactionary, existing solely to negatively critique and criticise the FtB (et al) mob rather than as a positive and self-sustaining entity.”

With all due respect, this is quite inaccurate. The scope of discussion there is much broader than just the nonsense that happens over at FtB, although there is no denying that FtB a never-ending and rich source of fodder and lolz.

Don’t believe the hype – give it a try and you might discover that there is more to offer than you have been led to believe. Nobody there wields the mighty banhammer and most of the regulars seem quite willing and eager to discuss anything that seems interesting.

105 john welch September 28, 2014 at 12:15 am

Oh, and for the technologically dim: yes, Lsuoma does block IP ranges (from accessing the pit) that come from certain areas of the world, notably china, india and probably russia as well.

Given the amount of spam and attacks that come from those IP ranges, he’s actually quite correct and intelligent in doing so. I have multiple web servers that will never exist for rather large netblocks, because trying to block individual IP addresses is a fool’s game.

Sucks for the non-arsehelms in those parts of the world, but given the level of problems those netblocks cause, it’s a rather logical response.

106 John Greg September 28, 2014 at 4:11 am

I think one of the biggest ironies, perhaps THE biggest irony of this ongoing thingamajig is that of all places on the net, the only one (that I am aware of) that actually puts its money where its mouth is, and actually provides REAL free thought, is the Pit.

And, of course, one of the fun things about that is that whenever some deluded irrational raging dogmatist at FTB, or skepchick.org, or either of the moribund A+ blogs reads what Pit people have to say, the very first words out of their mouths are “Ban them all”, not listen to lived experiance, “Silence them” not let’s learn something we did not know before, and so on and so forth, and yet, especially according to LousyCanuck, those sentiments are the actions of real free speech and free thought. Orwell would have been proud.

I guess, as a point against “our” side, that breaks the irony meter into teeny tiny pieces.

Also, I would like to reiterate the point that many have made before me: M. Nugent, bravo to you for actually walking the walk and talking the talk. Almost no one, outside of the Pit, actually does that. Even that very interesting blog, Skepticblog (now become Insight) does not walk the walk and talk the talk, which is a real problem in my mind, because that is one of the very few places that we can actually read B. Drescher.

Sadly, and most frustratingly, Scepticblog, and the new Insight blog, play three monkeys to the so-called great rift, which, in my opinion, is profoundly contradictory to their stated goal and ideals.

107 theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物) September 28, 2014 at 3:42 pm

@ piero # 94

If that’s a compliment, it’s an incredibly ableist one.
If that’s a slur, it’s an incredibly ableist one.

Thank you for calling that out. I stand corrected and amend my comment to reflect my original intention:

Piero, you seemed like a fairly intelligent intellectual person. I am disappointed that you may well become yet another reactionary.

I apologise for my mistake. I understand that I cannot praise(nor, alternatively, insult) you on your intelligence, as it is what it is.

108 john welch September 28, 2014 at 3:47 pm

Theophontes@106

Why are you linking to an image that encourages violence and has an ableist slur as its title.

109 Kali September 28, 2014 at 5:26 pm

You’re dealing with ideologues and sociopaths. Twisting your words and personal attacks are their modus operandi, not an aberration. They are filth.

110 Mykeru September 29, 2014 at 1:01 am

@ 79 noelplum99

“PS: To clear up one more thing. Someone earlier said they recognised me as a “pitter”. Whilst that is a forum I browse from time to time it is not somewhere I have posted, in fact I am not even registered there.”

Learn to take a compliment.

111 AKAHorace September 29, 2014 at 1:02 am

Hi Noel Plum,

sorry that I incorrectly identified you as a fellow slimer. It is a while since I posted on any of the atheist sites, so I cannot always remember where I saw names.

The pit is good for its absolute liberty. This means that you can find both very well thought out posts and absolute rubbish. Its main drawback is the lack of organization (ie one endless thread) and the refusal to ban anyone at all which means that it can become dominated by those who post incessantly at length.

I think we had that problem with Justin Vacula and Pornalysis. There was nothing unreasonable about them, but they should both have been only allowed a limited volume of posts.

Anyway greetings from the slimepit.

112 noelplum99 September 29, 2014 at 1:54 am

110 and 111

I probably come across quite negative towards your forum in the way I phrased that comment. That was not my intention.
To post on the slymepit would be to allow a whole group of people a free pass in dismissing anything and everything I have to say because they have created such a mythology about the forum that they regard themselves as fully justified in ignoring even the most relevant of questions if it originates from someone who is registered and posts there.
I don’t post there so they either address the question or have to stump up some other reason to ignore – I don’t plan on making things easy for those who would sooner hide from discourse than back up their claims and ideology.

113 john welch September 29, 2014 at 3:17 am

Noelplum@ 111

Sadly, that makes perfect sense and is eminently logical.

114 Blueshift Rhino September 29, 2014 at 3:50 am

@NoelPlum –

You could always use the nym “ChristmasPrune” and hope that no-one connects the dots. FtBers aren’t great at thinking outside their boxes (and, please, let that soak in; it’s rather amusing).

On second thought, don’t use anything involving “prune.” Not with Mykeru around.

In short: NVM.

115 theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物) September 29, 2014 at 4:38 am

@ john welch

Theophontes@106
Why are you linking to an image that encourages violence and has an ableist slur as its title.

Tardy? Different word to the ableist slur you are indifferent to anyhow. Here it is a contraction of “tardigrade” (which you can read in my nym, and see in the image in question).

When you see images of armed DAESH terrorists, do you feel inspired to violence, or revolted by it? Would mocking the paraphanalia of their machoism be seen as endorsing violence?

116 theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物) September 29, 2014 at 7:51 am

@ Vaal #93

condemning immoral acts wherever, whenever they occur.

vs

” I look back a few decades to my childhood and see things like caning, like mild paedophilia, and can’t find it in me to condemn it [not “people”, but “it”] by the same standards as I or anyone would today. -emphasis theophontes.

Are you telling me he is referring to the headmaster rather than the caning/pedophilia? Why has he refered to the person, the headmaster, as “it”?

Richard chose his words carefully. If you are saying he made a mistake, then say so. Don’t pretend you know what he “actually” meant to say.

@ john welch# 109

Theophontes@106

Yeah, the numbers are slipping (I had #108). Perhaps you know why:

Sq’Welch September 27, 2014 at 4:49 pm
Oi, Welch, get back on the Slymepit and start posting again, you lazy c**t!

[redaction: I have redacted out the letters “u” and “n” in the above, with two apostrophes.)

I called this person out on their use of a sexist slur. The original was let through without a hitch, wereas I am still in moderation for calling that person out. Words seem to be very important to the blog owner, less so to the people who cheer him on.

117 Michael Kingsford Gray September 29, 2014 at 9:02 am

By the way, the claim that I am “continually threatening” various people with lawsuits, especially Theophantes, is a bizarre confabulation of some sort.

118 john welch September 29, 2014 at 12:15 pm

Theophontes @114

Oh, now you plead “context”? Um…no. “tardy” is clearly used as an ableist slur by many. By using the word, regardless of context, you perpetuate ableism, and are therefore ableist.

“Context” indeed.

(Here’s the thing Theo: that thing I’m hoisting you with? It’s your own petard. It’s your own demands of others that they NEVER use certain words, and that “context”, i.e. “intent” is not magic. Now, I am under no delusion that you will see how remarkably inane such a stance is, because after all, I’m an SP, and therefore Fair Game, and nothing I say can ever have any value whatsoever. But the point still stands. I’m simply applying your own unyielding, inflexible, hypocritical philosophy to you. And by your own philosophy, your use of that word makes you “ableist”.

Also, I have asthma and I don’t have full use of all my fingers. Therefore, check your ableist privilege.)

119 ZenGuard September 29, 2014 at 12:55 pm

Theophontes said at #64:

“You seem to regard Michael Nugent as an asset, whereas he is steadily proving himself to be a liability. Not just to atheism (a lost cause) but also (and especially) to humanism.”

Michael, there you have it. You have been hereby deemed unfit for civil discourse or any other credible interaction with humanity by the SJW.

Congratulations and welcome to the messy world of real free thought!

120 Jan Steen September 29, 2014 at 1:01 pm

By the way, the claim that I am “continually threatening” various people with lawsuits, especially Theophantes, is a bizarre confabulation of some sort.

Don’t take away his victim points, you horrible man. Next you’re going to deny that you torture kittens as a hobby.

121 Jan Steen September 29, 2014 at 1:25 pm

That the SJWs (PZ Myers, Ophelia Benson et al., theophontes here) now seem to think that atheism is a ‘lost cause’ is good news. It looks as if they have finally realized that their takeover attempt has failed. They have made fools of themselves with the Atheism Plus fiasco, and no amount of Dawkins bashing is going to restore their reputation. In fact, the Dawkins bashing is only making their reputation plunge even faster and deeper.

Maybe they should now focus their locust-like attention on other causes. I hear that there is a huge gender imbalance in circles of model railway fanciers, no doubt caused by a pernicious problem with sexism and misogyny there.

122 Aneris ✻ September 29, 2014 at 1:43 pm

There is a flurry of new things going on. The Nation published a smear piece called “Atheists Show Their Sexist Side” full of inaccuracies and distortions, wherein Richard Dawkins now mocks and parodies Rebecca Watson directly, instead of responding to the heated discussions flame war. Also, Rebecca Watson’s complaint was about sexual harassment and not about a double entendre anymore. Richard Dawkins apparently now parodies someone who reports about sexual harassment. Who get’s positively mentioned? I am sure you can name the names without looking. By order of appearance. Mark Oppenheimer of the Buzzfeed article, Rebecca Watson, (Anita Sarkeesian), Melody Hensley, Ophelia Benson, and Amanda Marcotte.

✻ ✻ ✻

Adam Lee, Ophelia Benson, Dana Hunter and PZ Myers now also recommended Libby Anne. She wrote that stating psychological differences between men and women was sexist. She then argues against (gender) essentialism but then goes on to explain that Sam Harris and the likes can’t know how it is inside “women’s heads”. She now followed up on her recent fame with “What to Do If Someone Calls You Sexist: A Short Primer” which accurately sums up what the Social Justice League believes (which is known from many earlier instances).

Here we see that they really don’t care what is true (Richard Dawkins of course was correct). If an accusation of sexism was made (and clearly, similar accusations) then the person should not defend themselves. Libby Anne believes it is not “an attempt at character assassination” based on the premise that everyone is a sinner sexist. Accusing someone of sexism is also not about the person being accused. Somehow. She then demands that the person being personally accussed of sexism to open up to her ideology, in the next step called “listen”. The previous was called “stop”. Their soundbites sound comical to me by now. In the last part she wants to sprinkle in a dash of common sense by claiming that someone doesn’t have to agree to the judgement of others. But it’s meaningless, since they can’t defend themselves anyway. She also believes that this is conductive of “discussion, a conversation, a process”.

Someone called this technique “kafkatrapping” and explains it here:
http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=2122

Let’s face it. This is what american online atheism is now. Double-think, disregard what is true, propaganda. It’s in mainstream media, and actively supported by the Center for Inquiry. Other organisations and public speakers are silent or silenced (like Peter Boghossian).

Do people still think it is a problem that can be sit out?

123 Aneris ✻ September 29, 2014 at 1:46 pm

[without broken tag]

There is a flurry of new things going on. The Nation published a smear piece called “Atheists Show Their Sexist Side” full of inaccuracies and distortions, wherein Richard Dawkins now mocks and parodies Rebecca Watson directly, instead of responding to the heated discussions flame war. Also, Rebecca Watson’s complaint was about sexual harassment and not about a double entendre anymore. Richard Dawkins apparently now parodies someone who reports about sexual harassment. Who get’s positively mentioned? I am sure you can name the names without looking. By order of appearance. Mark Oppenheimer of the Buzzfeed article, Rebecca Watson, (Anita Sarkeesian), Melody Hensley, Ophelia Benson, and Amanda Marcotte.

✻ ✻ ✻

Adam Lee, Ophelia Benson, Dana Hunter and PZ Myers now also recommended Libby Anne. She wrote that stating psychological differences between men and women was sexist. She then argues against (gender) essentialism but then goes on to explain that Sam Harris and the likes can’t know how it is inside “women’s heads”. She now followed up on her recent fame with “What to Do If Someone Calls You Sexist: A Short Primer” which accurately sums up what the Social Justice League believes (which is known from many earlier instances).

Here we see that they really don’t care what is true (Richard Dawkins of course was correct). If an accusation of sexism was made (and clearly, similar accusations) then the person should not defend themselves. Libby Anne believes it is not “an attempt at character assassination” based on the premise that everyone is a sinner sexist. Accusing someone of sexism is also not about the person being accused. Somehow. She then demands that the person being personally accussed of sexism to open up to her ideology, in the next step called “listen”. The previous was called “stop”. Their soundbites sound comical to me by now. In the last part she wants to sprinkle in a dash of common sense by claiming that someone doesn’t have to agree to the judgement of others. But it’s meaningless, since they can’t defend themselves anyway. She also believes that this is conductive of “discussion, a conversation, a process”.

Someone called this technique “kafkatrapping” and explains it here:
http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=2122

Let’s face it. This is what american online atheism is now. Double-think, disregard what is true, propaganda. It’s in mainstream media, and actively supported by the Center for Inquiry. Other organisations and public speakers are silent or silenced (like Peter Boghossian).

Do people still think it is a problem that can be sit out?

124 Sirmoogie September 29, 2014 at 5:03 pm

NoelPlum said,

“To post on the slymepit would be to allow a whole group of people a free pass in dismissing anything and everything I have to say because they have created such a mythology about the forum that they regard themselves as fully justified in ignoring even the most relevant of questions if it originates from someone who is registered and posts there.”

Blueshift Rhino said,

“FtBers aren’t great at thinking outside their boxes (and, please, let that soak in; it’s rather amusing).”

I do find this amusingly ironic. Tossing around labels like “slympitter” and “FtBer” aren’t very constructive ways of discussing issues or evaluating claims. While there is something to be said about evaluating the reliability of information based on the history of the source, I don’t think it’s fair to disregard any opinion coming out of FTB or the slymepit on any issue just because some members have poor arguments on particular topics. We should consider the individual before the blogging platform they come from, and first-and-foremost their record on the issue being discussed rather than their record on any issue. For example, I may have an unreliable history when it comes to discussions of history, but can be reliable on mathematics. It would be unfair to use my history of writings on history to evaluate my reliability when it comes to discussions of mathematics.

125 john welch September 29, 2014 at 5:30 pm

Ah, Theophontes, unwilling to keep arguments to the post they belong on, is trying to start drama on a post which has nothing to do with any of this.

But that’s how it works right? I dared compliment Michael for Atheist Ireland’s work on their UN submission, and so now somehow I’ve…tarnished…that work?

because I’m an apologetic for a bad word.

Well, that’s inaccurate.

Me being an apologetic for the use of a “bad” word would require me to acknowledge that a word is inherently bad or good, that it is capable of causing real harm solely by its existence and that it’s power is so great that if we remove it from use and human knowledge, then somehow, some form of harm will also be removed.

I am not an apologetic for any word, because I do not think any word is inherently good or bad, anymore than a hammer or a concrete block or a knife or a gun is inherently good or bad. It is the person using the word or the block or the gun or the knife or the hammer that creates the good or bad, and no, the word is not the cause.

It is the context that matters. I do not, unlike Theophontes, demand the world kowtow to how I think they should speak. I’d like it if people weren’t so goddamned dumb about things, but that is their choice.

The ‘n’ word (and I only use that popular idiocy out of respect for Michael) did not turn the american south from a paradise of equality and respect to the home nation of the Klan, any more than Whiskey turned Ireland from a Jetsons’-like advanced civilization to rioting drunks with pigs in the house.

(http://www.adultswim.com/videos/family-guy/irish-history about :36 for context)

Yet theophontes, in spite of his on casual use of ableist slurs, only withdrawing them when caught, will now, probably forever, follow every post on Michael’s site so he can dismiss everything I or select others say because we are not part of the Committee Firmly Against The Use Of Bad Words Unless We In The Committee Firmly Against The Use Of Bad Words Use Them Because Clearly We We In The Committee Firmly Against The Use Of Bad Words Are Good People And So Do Not Have To Live Up To The Standards Created And Pushed By We In The Committee Firmly Against The Use Of Bad Words.

So no, I am not an apologetic for “bad” words, because I don’t subscribe to the concept. I think it is stupidity, and provably so. Truly obscene language never uses bad words.

126 Deepak Shetty September 29, 2014 at 7:11 pm

Just as we don’t look back at the 18th and 19th centuries and condemn people for racism in the same way as we would condemn a modern person for racism
we don’t? I missed the part in the God Delusion where Dawkins made similar excuses for e.g. for Religion and Slavery.
I’d say I can understand why someone was a racist/slaver previously- but I will condemn it now or before. Dawkins too does the same when it comes to religion.

127 Piero September 29, 2014 at 7:26 pm

@Deepak:

Drop it, Deepak. That line of argument will lead to your making a fool of yourself. Who is it that regards gender as a wholly socially-constructed reality? Why then should morality not be similarly shaped? Interestingly enough, the only wait out of that contradiction is a scientific, rationally constructed morality of the king Sam Harris has discussed.

128 Piero September 29, 2014 at 7:27 pm

Ooops, kind, not king

129 Vaal September 29, 2014 at 8:18 pm

@theophontes,
theophontes wrote: “Are you telling me he is referring to the headmaster rather than the caning/pedophilia? Why has he refered to the person, the headmaster, as “it”?
Richard chose his words carefully. If you are saying he made a mistake, then say so. Don’t pretend you know what he “actually” meant to say.”

Yet again you’ve isolated a quote from it’s context, ignoring what I explained. This has been a similar experience to discussing Darwin with Creationists who habitually isolate/cherry-pick quotes about evolution that fit their narrative. The classic creationist cherry-pick from what Darwin wrote:

“To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree.”

What do you DO with people who take such a quote and infer Darwin’s message was that evolution theory is “absurd?” The best you can do is try to hand-hold them through the process of how you arrive at more reasonable inferences: Do you REALLY think that the most reasonable inference is that the father of evolution theory thought evolution theory is absurd? Why, for instance, do you suppose Darwin employed the word “seems” in that quote? You don’t really have to strain to hard to figure out out; Darwin’s already TOLD you what he’s getting at via the parts you are ignoring – which clarifies his message: that what *seems* to be a difficulty isn’t one at all, once understood in the context of evolution.

The fact that their cherry picked interpretation of a Darwin quote renders the large part of Darwin’s writing incoherent just doesn’t seem to raise any red flags to the creationist. They’ll keep returning to the quote in isolation: “But…but..it’s right there in the quote! He WROTE that it ‘seems absurd!’ The creationist’s M.O. is to ignore how irrational his interpretation is given the wider context of Darwin’s writing, and retire to the echo-chamber of other creationists who will be as happy to re-enforce this quote-mining mindset.

I don’t understand why you’d adopt a similar approach instead of giving Dawkins a fairer try at understanding his point.

130 Deepak Shetty September 29, 2014 at 8:24 pm

Piero
Why then should morality not be similarly shaped?
Sure – but be consistent , is the point. Does Dawkins allow for cultural differences when he talks about Islam? Is religion the only time when moral relativism is not allowed?

131 Vaal September 29, 2014 at 8:26 pm

Back to Dawkins…theophontes,….

(I’m not trying to write you off; I’m arguing you haven’t yet, it seems, pressed your own interpretation very much to see if it ultimately makes the most sense. Which is also what I think is the case with many others on this issue.)

You’ve interpreted Dawkins as a moral relativist in the sense that he (by your lights) is saying we can not condemn ACTS (not people, acts) as wrong if they happen in a different cultural or temporal context. How does that fit within the context that Dawkins has regularly condemned atrocities and “evils” in religion, Catholicism being one objects of his outraged (not to mention his setting up a fund concerned with Catholic child abuse), and his also characterizing Islam as “one of the great evils of the world?” Does this really sound like a moral relativist, who advocates that we can’t judge across time or culture, to you?

In The God Delusion Dawkins goes on at length with ancient examples of actions and precept, from the bible, that we recognize today as immoral. It’s because we now recognize biblical acts and injunctions as immoral that he argues the Bible can’t possibly be the source of our moral judgements. His argument would be nonsensical IF one concludes Dawkins was a moral relativist in the way you have inferred!

He also has another entire chapter about how immorality has often not been recognized as such due to the religious mind-set. As he put it “evils that arise explicitly because it is religious.” For instance his discussion of the 1858 Catholic Church abduction of Edgardo Mortara, which he clearly condemns as a “terrible thing.” He pointed out religion’s role in the Pope not RECOGNIZING the action as terrible. Dawkins argued that the religious milieu had “warped” their judgement and “perverted” human decency.
Sound like someone who is saying “we shouldn’t judge ACTIONS as harshly if they were in the past” to you? Of course not; the chapter would make no sense if Dawkins were a moral relativist. He’s not, he clearly holds that we can condemn past immoral actions and prescriptions with full, modernity-enlightened censure.

When you read Dawkins write: “can’t find it in me to condemn it by the same standards as I or anyone would today” don’t you ask yourself “well, what does he MEAN by reference to “judging from the standards of today? ” Maybe that’s important in understanding what he means!

Dawkins not only gives the context in the very words you are ignoring before that quote, but he’s set the context for years now. It’s why he spent time in his God Delusion book discussing the influence of the “moral zeitgeist” where we become more sensitive to harmful ideas and actions over time, e.g. slavery, racism, demonization of homosexuals, etc. A position which he has repeated in other media (TV).
Interpreting from one quote-bite that Dawkins advocates moral relativism makes nonsense of what Dawkins has written and said on morality and religion. It’s just as ill-fitting and nonsensical as taking one quote and deciding that Charles Darwin was an evolution-denier!

Then again, you can ignore all this, not worry about setting Dawkins words into the context of his wider work, assume Dawkins is a nutty, incoherent, moral apologist for child-abuse, and find an echo-chamber elsewhere in which others will re-enforcement such modes of interpretation. I don’t know why you’d want to do that, though. I suggest you look a little harder into whether your interpretation makes the most sense of Dawkins, within the larger context of his work)

Cheers,

Vaal

(And, again, that I’m in disagreement with you doesn’t mean I just write your views off on this or some other subject).

132 Deepak Shetty September 29, 2014 at 8:26 pm

@piero
Separately
Interestingly enough, the only wait out of that contradiction is a scientific, rationally constructed morality of the king Sam Harris has discussed.
Harris did nothing of the sort. He made a bunch of assertions and bypassed the reasons why most people believe morality cannot be determined by science , only informed by it.
To make it worse, he did it with his arrogant Don’t need to read no stinkin’ philosophers attitude.

133 Aneris ✻ September 29, 2014 at 9:43 pm

What was suspected, next to science wars (PoMo vs Sokal, SSSM vs IM, humanities vs natural/empirical sciences etc), there is also a hint of accommodation wars, as well as conflicts around multiculturalism within the left leaning spectrum. Social Justice Warriors also soak that all up.

The personal smears appear even more like mere weapons in the arsenal and it might be actually unimportant what Richard Dawkins and the others tweet , as long as it can be properly distorted and used as ammunition against them.

134 Piero September 29, 2014 at 11:09 pm

@DeepaK:

Harris did nothing of the sort. He made a bunch of assertions and bypassed the reasons why most people believe morality cannot be determined by science , only informed by it.

Because, as you should know, truth is not arrived at by majority vote. In the case of morality most people are wrong. Indeed, most people are wrong about most things: for example, most people believe that heavier objects fall faster than lighter ones, that Columbus proved the Earth was round and that giraffes developed long necks in order to reach the leaves on high branches. Similarly, most people believe “you can’t derive an ought from an is,” even though it is self-evident that nothing can be derived from a not-is. Where would you derive morals from?

135 Shatterface September 30, 2014 at 1:07 am

@Theophontes
“Not just to atheism (a lost cause) but also (and especially) to humanism.”

If you, Benson, Peezus and the rest want to distance yourself from atheism, good riddance.

Find another word for your cult.

136 Aneris ✻ September 30, 2014 at 1:33 am

Another heads up. Adam Lee now responded in his own unique way to Michael Nugent, and others:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/2014/09/the-wall-of-silence-around-michael-shermer

I responded, too (and have backed up my comment at the usual place). It looks like he deleted it and came back with the claim that Slymepitters were using “rudeness, sexist slurs or derailing” which he would not tolerate. My comment did not contain any of these things and if he means derailing then I am not any more guilty than any other poster he tolerates there, including the tag-team Oolon/PZ Myers who discuss JREF forums and the Slymepit. I actually quoted Adan Lee and responded to his claims.

We aren’t on topic here anymore, which I recognize. People take it as the last comment section in the series where all left overs are thrown together.

Dear Michael Nugent, if that is an issue please let us know (to come back to topic, or consider closing the comments).

137 piero September 30, 2014 at 9:21 am

@Michael, @aneris:

Dear Michael Nugent, if that is an issue please let us know (to come back to topic, or consider closing the comments).

Yes, Michael has been remarkably tolerant, but I wouldn’t like to overstay my welcome. As we Italians say: after three days, guests, like fish, stink.

Thank you, Michael, and thanks for all the fish.

138 tina September 30, 2014 at 10:21 am

So Lee is ‘done with it’ and has retreated to his ‘safe space’ where the dialogue can be controlled by him. Evidence, once again, of the strategies of the self-serving SJW mindset exposed so thoroughly in these pages. Myers trajectory of disowning scepticism, embracing post modern notions that the truth is what we make it, and latterly his mournful musings concerning the atheist ‘community’ confirm the ideological underpinnings of this peculiar brand of merkin atheism.

The reluctance of ‘the hoard’ to engage in a public space they cannot control speaks volumes in itself. Hopefully many more are now aware of the disingenuous and hypocritical nature of the writings of Myers, Benson, Lee et al, and can begin to consider their true motivations in their attacks on Dawkins, Harris, Coyne, Shermer, Krauss, Blackford, and many many others. To which list must now be added the name of Michael Nugent, one of the most tireless and effective campaigners for secular society on either side of the pond.

As we continue to hold up a mirror to their small, poisonous bubble, it will eventually thin and burst. I hope more will speak out now.

139 Deepak Shetty September 30, 2014 at 3:33 pm

Because, as you should know, truth is not arrived at by majority vote.
And where did I imply that it is? I said he did not address what most people think about morality (doing what is right ) – If he wanted to for e.g. redefine it to be about well-being , fine make the case, instead he just waved it away (equating it to creationists or psychopaths).

So if you take the Trolley problem with a bystander v/s transplanting organs as described in the God delusion, the whole point of the exercise , is that the well-being of 5 people goes up and 1 goes down in both cases – yet what we consider moral differs in the two cases. Harris could either argue
a. That actually well-being goes up in one case and down in the other (good luck with that)
b. That indeed the moral action is well-being of 5 (in which case good luck explaining why we shouldn’t implement forced transplants)
c. Anything else
He didn’t. He simply asserted his conclusions. There are many ethical scenarios (for e.g. cheating on your spouse without getting caught) – that may increase well-being but which are currently thought of as immoral. Harris simply ignored them to allow him to focus on his black and white acid thrown on a woman type of examples.

140 theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物) September 30, 2014 at 4:05 pm

@ Vaal # 131

I would like to answer your questions properly but have little time at the moment. I think the issues you raise are very relevant, but that you are wrong in your conclusions. (That is very much a compliment: asking the right questions is by far the hardest part.)

In the interim, I would only ask that you consider that things in the 50’s were not quite as Dawkins says. Society was very much against homosexuality, paedophilia and the like (though perhaps not caning) at the time described. The whole sordid Alan Turing episode lives on as a rather upsetting example of just how people of the time regarded any same-sex intimacies. Dawkins is simply wrong in this regard. The historical facts speak louder, and more eloquently, than he does.

141 Aneris ✻ September 30, 2014 at 5:39 pm

In the interim, I would only ask that you consider that things in the 50’s were not quite as Dawkins says. Society was very much against homosexuality, paedophilia and the like (though perhaps not caning) at the time described. The whole sordid Alan Turing episode lives on as a rather upsetting example of just how people of the time regarded any same-sex intimacies. Dawkins is simply wrong in this regard. The historical facts speak louder, and more eloquently, than he does.

This is a completely opposite allegation. This time you are claiming Richard Dawkins was seeing the past through rose-coloured glasses, when the charge before was that he saw the bad things but was excusing them.

Excellent comment, Vaal. Too bad theophontes was struck down with the Regreta Virus.

142 john welch September 30, 2014 at 7:20 pm

Theophontes @140:

In the interim, I would only ask that you consider that things in the 50’s were not quite as Dawkins says. Society was very much against homosexuality, paedophilia and the like (though perhaps not caning) at the time described. The whole sordid Alan Turing episode lives on as a rather upsetting example of just how people of the time regarded any same-sex intimacies. Dawkins is simply wrong in this regard. The historical facts speak louder, and more eloquently, than he does.

that has, literally nothing to do with what Dawkins was saying. He was talking about HIS “lived experience” and how he saw it. he even acknowledged that others in the same situation might see it differently. He was not, in any way, trying to make 1950s England seem like a paradise of LGBT equality, and implying he was is beyond strawmanning.

143 piero October 1, 2014 at 1:37 am

Well, it seems my departure was premature. Sorry, Michael!

@Deepak:

I said he did not address what most people think about morality (doing what is right )

And “doing what’s right” means, of course, “doing the moral thing.”

The whole point of promoting a scientific view of morality is to avoid running in circles. Harris did not, by the way, ignore the scenarios you mention; in one of his public appearances (can’t remember which one) he addressed utilitarianism and dismissed it for the obvious reason: who would like to live in a society where the next victim of forced organ donation might be him/herself? Ditto for cheating on your spouse: if you want your cheating on others to be moral, you must be prepared to accept being cheated on as moral too.

Ethics should be conerned with desires, not actions. For example, if in order to avoid running over an old lady you lose control of your car and kill all seven people standing at the bus stop, was your action immoral? No, it wasn’t, even though the result was terrible. So utilitarianism is out.

Alonzo Fyfe has worked out an ethical system which he calls desire utilitarianism, or desirism for short, which is in my opinion a strong candidate for the logical foundation of scientific ethics. I recommend you have a look at it.

144 Vaal October 1, 2014 at 1:50 am

theophontes,

No problem, I’ve become a bit too busy too recently and have to cut down on my comments section activity. In your brief reply, though you haven’t made the case yet IMO, I do at least feel it’s on the right track for an argument against Dawkins’ comments.

It’s not that I’m against citing any atheist, Big Wigs or otherwise, for sexism/misogyny/covering for people’s reputation. Some of the things raised in Lee’s recent article and in the comments sections raise some red flags for me. What I’m against, like I’m sure most of us, are bad arguments, and I’ve been mostly concerned with arguments that seem to misrepresent Dawkins and especially Sam Harris’ views as I understand them.

Cheerio,

145 Vaal October 1, 2014 at 2:07 am

piero,

I agree: I’ve been a fan and a somewhat proponent of Fyfe’s Desire Utilitarianism (I see you remember when it was called that) ever since he came on the scene. Even if in the end the theory doesn’t pan out, it provides a very powerful way of wading through the issues of objective/subjective/relative morality, Hume’s problem etc. I wish he were still writing more.

My take is: Sam Harris seems to me on the right track in terms of moral realism. To me he *almost* got there, but never could get specific enough about the foundation of value and morality. He was left with the vagueness problem which he himself admits. Fyfe zeroed in tighter, drilled down further, to a more specific, more worked-out foundation that Sam isn’t accessing. (E.g. Sam’s foundational concept of “conscious well being” is vastly more vague that Fyfe’s explication of desires as the only reasons for actions that exist etc. This results in Sam concluding that a question like “why would the worst misery for everyone be a bad thing?”…is nonsensical, because it’s hit philosophical bedrock – at least Sam’s theory’s bedrock. Fyfe’s theory, digging deeper, can consider that a coherent question and answer it by pointing to the thwarting of desires. Anyway, blabbing now…and off subject blabbing at that..gotta run.)

146 Matt Cavanaugh October 1, 2014 at 5:21 pm

Deepak @ 132 wrote:

Harris did nothing of the sort. He made a bunch of assertions and bypassed the reasons why most people believe morality cannot be determined by science , only informed by it.

You misrepresent Harris’ central argument. Perhaps you didn’t make it all the way to page 1 of The Moral Landscape:
“No one expects science to tell us how we ought to think and behave. Controversies about human values are controversies about which science officially has no opinions. I will argue, however, that questions about values … are reality questions about the well-being of conscious creatures. Values, therefore translate into facts that can be scientifically understood…. The most important of these facts are bound to transcend culture — a just as facts about physical and mental health do.”

Harris’ “very simple premise: human well-being entirely depends on events in the world and on state of the human brain. Consequentially, there must be scientific truths to be known about it … forcing us to draw clear distinctions between different ways of living in society … and … to judge some more or less ethical.”

So your real gripe seem to be, not that Harris bypassed your reasons for belief, rather that he rejected them with considerable thoroughness.

*
Deepak: To make it worse, he did it with his arrogant Don’t need to read no stinkin’ philosophers attitude.

While Harris considers his argument philosophical in nature, he acknowledges it “commits me to some form of moral realism .. and some some form of consequentionalism,” both unpopular “in philosophical circles.” He devotes two and a half pages to discussing the intersection between science and philosophy. while also addressing the views of several specific philosophers throughout the book.

You might consider addressing these specific points of Harris’, instead of putting a banal paraphrase into his mouth.

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