What if Plato used the Socratic Method of questioning on Twitter?

Here’s the Euthyphro dilemma as enacted on Twitter:

Socrates: “Ought we to enquire into the truth of this, Euthyphro, or simply to accept the mere statement on our own authority and that of others? What do you say?”

Euthyphro: “We should enquire; and I believe that the statement will stand the test of enquiry.”

Socrates: “We shall know better, my good friend, in a little while. The point which I should first wish to understand is whether the pious or holy is beloved by the gods because it is holy, or holy because it is beloved of the gods?”

Euthyphro: “Oh fuck off, Socrates, you Sea Lion. Blocked!”

PZ Myers has published a post titled ‘At last! A comprehensive reply to sea lions’, based on a cartoon by David Malki ! that can be interpreted in several ways. In one interpretation, a couple is being harassed by a sea lion persistently asking them polite questions. In another interpretation, a couple expresses prejudice about sea lions as a group, and then ‘doubles down’ when a member of that group politely asks them to justify their prejudice. Combining both of these interpretations, PZ supports the prejudiced couple, because the target of their prejudice is persistent in politely questioning them.

Wondermark Sea Lion

I addressed this this issue (and this cartoon) two months ago, in a post titled ‘On satire, sea lions, civility and smears – please support the primacy of reasonable dialogue‘, after a Twitter account called Mick The Sea Lion parodied me for persistently asking PZ Myers to withdraw and apologise for his defamatory smear that I defend and provide a haven for rapists.

What I wrote in my previous post about this

Here’s some of what I wrote then:

There is a strange online meme called ‘tone-trolling’, whereby some people who are rude and abusive to you will complain if you ask them to be polite. Now there is a new turbo-charged version called ‘sea-lioning’, whereby they will also complain that you are being persistently polite yourself.

It is as if some people want to reverse the evolution of civilisation, to make being rude and abusive something to be proud of, and being polite and civil something to be ashamed of. Also, they want to remain unaccountable for their unethical smearing of other people.

This new meme has recently been popularised by a cartoon by David Malki ! titled The Terrible Sea Lion. It is part of his very funny cartoon series called Wondermark, that I would recommend to anyone with a quirky sense of humour and a respect for 19th century woodcuts and engravings.

As far as I can make out, the meme is meant to convey that politely persisting in asking questions might be considered to be harassment. Which indeed it might be, if the topic is trivial, or was introduced by the person asking the questions. But, as with everything, context matters.

Satire can delightfully undermine claims that are silly or unsupported by evidence. But satire depends on a shared set of underlying assumptions, mental shortcuts and stereotypes. Without that shared starting-point, the same joke can reinforce opposing beliefs in different people.

The Terrible Sea Lion is very funny in a ludicrous way, but the moral message depends on your starting point. If you come to the cartoon cold, and if you dislike prejudice and arrogance and cowardice, and if you like civility and reason and accountability, then the sea lion is clearly the goodie, seeming to represent minority groups who are victims of prejudice by the baddies in the car.

The Terrible Sea Lion overhears a prejudiced comment about its group, and asks the person to justify their prejudice. In the terminology of PZ Myers and friends, the Sea Lion is ‘calling out’ a prejudiced couple, who respond by ‘doubling down’ and trying to ignore the consequences of publicly expressing their prejudice.

The Terrible Sea Lion may be criticised for being excessively persistent, by following the prejudiced couple into their house, so maybe that is where its terribleness comes in. Maybe the Sea Lion should just accept that some people are unreformably prejudiced, and allow them to remain so, as long as they restrict their prejudice to the privacy of their homes.

Yesterday’s new anonymously-authored Mick The Sea Lion twitter account parodies me for being politely persistent, despite slightly undermining itself by using all-caps shouting. That’s funny if you think being politely persistent is a wrong response to being smeared as a defender of rapists, and strange if you think the opposite. That is, if it isn’t a Poe.

It misses even the most benign interpretation of the Malki ! cartoon. Imagine if Malki !’s cartoon began with the couple alleging that a named individual was defending rapists, and the target of that smear was then asking them to substantiate or withdraw that smear, and they persistently refuse to do either. In that case, a very different dynamic ensues.

The case for being upset by persistent questions

In fairness, I can see why some people could get upset by some kinds of persistently asked questions. Here are some reasons expressed by James Murff in a post titled ‘Why Sealioning Is Bad’, which PZ linked to in his post.

Why Sealioning Is Bad – Chances are you’ve seen this comic by David Malki if you frequent Twitter at all these days. It even coined a new verb – ‘sealioning’ – to describe the act of jumping into a discussion with demands for evidence and answers to questions….

Sunk Time – The biggest reason why people hate sealioning is because responding to it is a complete waste of time… Of course, these questions are not asked because the person genuinely wants to know. If they did, they would do their own digging based on your statements… This is the “debate principle”; when you go to a debate, you educate yourself on the topics at hand…

Asking in Bad Faith – When you ask a question in bad faith, you are essentially looking for a way to demean, degrade, or otherwise destroy your target… The purpose of sealioning never to actually learn or become more informed. The purpose is to interrogate.

Load the Question Cannons – When the target is continually asked questions – especially the same question under a different phrasing, which is very common when sealioning – it’s rattling… Compound this with being sealioned but multiple people, as is common on Twitter, and you’ve got a recipe for a very frustrating and fruitless timeline.

Lose/Lose – Being sealioned is a lose/lose situation, unfortunately. The only winning move is not to play. In this case, block or dismiss sealioners and go about your normal business, letting them vent their frustrations out where you can’t see them. It’s much healthier for your psyche… You owe nothing – especially not answers – to a mob whose intent is to harass you.

This is a reasonable reaction to a particular set of circumstances – where a mob of people is intentionally harassing you by wasting your time or undermining your reputation as a reasonable person.

However, it is not a reasonable reaction to other sets of circumstances, where you are being politely asked questions for legitimate reasons.

And it is not reasonable to simply apply this label to all circumstances of being politely asked questions, and then use that label to justify your own behaviour.

When you should answer persistent polite questions

I suggest that there are several circumstances when you should answer persistent polite questions.

1. Assume good faith – The first is when the questioner is, or may be, asking the question in good faith. For most people, Twitter is not a formal debate where people are obliged to study material before participating. It is more typically a discussion platform where people can exchange opinions. You should start with a charitable interpretation of a questioner’s intent, and only change your interpretation when their intent is proven (not assumed) to be otherwise.

2. Substantiate personal claims – The second is when you yourself have made a statement that, if unchallenged, would lower the reputation of other identifiable people. If your statement is true, then you should be prepared to substantiate it. If your statement is false, then you should withdraw it and apologise. These are reasonable consequences that you should be prepared to face if you make statements that would lower the reputation of other people.

3. Question your assumptions – The third is when the questioning is intended, in good faith, to cause you to question your own assumptions. This is a valid form of philosophical questioning, popularised by Plato as the Socratic Method. In this method, assumptions are questioned to see whether they stand up to critical analysis, or whether the questioning reveals internal contradictions in the position of one or other of the participants.

There are valid reasons why you might not want to answer questions even in these three circumstances. You might mistakenly believe that you are being asking questions in bad faith, or you might fear the legal consequences of discussing a defamatory claim you have made, or you might not want to have your assumptions tested by critical questioning using the Socratic Method because you are happy to believe what you already believe regardless of its truth. You might not have time to answer, or you might want to do something else, or you might just be in a bad mood and not want to discuss the issue.

But you cannot reasonably justify any of these reasons by describing these types of questioning as ‘sea-lioning’, or by describing the questioner as a ‘sea-lion’. Doing that is simply an evasion of personal responsibility, and an attempt to close down a legitimate line of questioning by deflecting attention onto an inaccurate label.

What if Plato used the Socratic Method of questioning on Twitter?

55 thoughts on “What if Plato used the Socratic Method of questioning on Twitter?

  1. PZ Myers has published a post titled ‘At last! A comprehensive reply to sea lions’, based on a cartoon by David Malki ! that can be interpreted in several ways.

    In the months it took Myers to post this I could have bred fruit flies that would have written something better.

  2. The comic doesn’t really work as an analogy for this situation. Rather than just passing a private off-the-cuff remark about sea lions in general, the prim Victorian lady in our saga announced repeatedly to at least 160,000 people that Mick the sea-lion defended and provided a haven for rapists. While it might be annoying for her to be asked to justify or retract the remarks, she can hardly claim the moral high ground when this happens.
    Mick the sea-lion is also not in her house or interrupting her breakfast, but simply continuing the conversation as publicly as it was started.

  3. Nerd of Redhead sums up the FtB mentality:

    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls
    1 January 2015 at 6:53 pm
    When I detect “sealion” questions (not hard, there are several scripts depending on the subject), I tend to not respond directly to the question, but rather to the attitude behind them. So at post three, fangs out to the underlying attitude.

    Never answer a question when it’s easier to question the ‘attitude’.

  4. Michael, I get why you are laying this all out in such detail, but I hope you are doing this in the knowledge that PZ Myers and his bedfellows have been using transparent techniques to dismiss questioning for years now. This is a feature of the way they conduct themselves. They have the TRUTH and if you haven’t digested the SJW dictionary or read Feminism 101 you should educate yourself. If you have read the sacred texts then you can’t be honest in your questions because the notion that you have a genuine disagreement and aren’t a bad,bad person is anathema to them.

    I used to believe that Myers was dedicated to intellectual honesty going by the vitriol he hurled at the intellectually dishonest. I was mystified by his disingenuousness, strawmanning and refusal to engage in good faith with people post 2011. The way he conducts himself has been consistent, misrepresenting people and then being dismissive of the response. It no longer matters whether he is deluded or fundamentally dishonest because the effect is the same. Unfortunately such conduct is mainstream amongst many feminists in the media and is made worse by the near complete lack of compassion or concern for anyone who is not them. They are truly more vicious and unpleasant than the bigots they oppose, and certainly a lot more unpleasant than the people they accuse of bigotry without evidence.

    It is becoming tiresome to have to say this, but modern feminism includes a lot of bigotry and nastiness and the no true scotsman”defence falls flat. There are of course feminists who don’t subscribe to the bullshit, but they can’t IMO claim to be the true feminists any more than the radicals can. Time to embrace the humanist label.

  5. Its a very convenient way of dismissing all criticism, especially valid criticism, even if it is made politely and reasonably.

    I can see the appeal

  6. Very nice takedown of the misuse of the Sea Lion meme, Michael. This, along with your other posts documenting the egregious behavior of Myers and his Phlock, are valuable resources, but only if they are used.

    As I noted in a previous thread, Myers & co. are not going to stop with their defamatory smears, doxxing, and harassment until their behavior has repercussions in what they consider the real world — speaking gigs at conferences. The material that Michael has consolidated is the basis of an argument to be made to conference organizers, other speakers, and sponsors that Myers is a toxic presence who should not be given a platform to spread his bile.

    I’ve started using it in this way in discussions with the Gateway To Reason (https://www.facebook.com/gatewaytoreason/timeline) conference that has Myers scheduled for early next summer. I’ve also started contacting the other speakers. I encourage everyone commenting here to let the relevant people know that Myers does not speak for atheists or skeptics. Tell them that you will not give time or money to any organization that turns a blind eye to Myers’ lies and hypocrisy.

    If anyone knows of other conferences that are supporting Myers and the other FtBullies, please share the information.

  7. Why does PZ Myers refuse to respond directly to Michael Nugent, instead calling him a “demented fuckwit” on twitter?

    Why does PZ Myers refuse to debate UCLA anthropologist, Ed Clint, on evolutionary psychology, but agree to debate a young Earth creationist in a SDA church in Fargo?

    Because PZ Myers is a coward.

  8. Because PZ Myers is a coward.

    That’s hardly the only option.

    For example – laziness might also help explain it.

  9. I disliked this new “sea lioning” meme from the start. In essence it is a dismissal of civility in discussion. While almost no one would question the blocking of uncivil replies, this meme allows those who desire a one way communication (they pronounce – you “Listen and Believe”) an excuse to block even civil and reasonable questioning/criticism.

    It is the newest tool of the authoritarian.

  10. Matt Cavanaugh @9,

    Do you have any more details on the debate in Fargo? Perhaps the organizers would like to know more about Myers’ dedication to the principles of skepticism and the scientific method with respect to his own claims. Creationists might not understand science, but they’re experts on hypocrisy.

    Every time Myers ventures out of venues he controls, he should be challenged on both his baseless, defamatory smears of Michael Nugent and his doxxing of two commenters on his blog. This is not a man who should be seen as representing atheists or skeptics unless and until he apologizes for his behavior.

  11. Jan Steen January 2, 2015 at 8:29 pm.

    See also his unbelievably disingenuous defence of plagiarist Avicenna. It tells you all you need to know about his ethical standards.

    I think it’s funny because it’s 180 degrees conduct different from another plagiarism case.

    Years ago, Jonah Lehrer was a SciBlog/Seed Blogs blogger who had a very successful career going as a pop-science author until he got caught plagiarizing and fabricating quotes.

    At that point, Myers (who seemed to always be jealous of Lehrer) just went off on him. Even followed him (Lehrer) for years, criticizing him (most through personal attacks that we’re all so familiar with) for his talks, his apologies, and even had to say nasty things about Lehrer when he finally managed to get a new book deal.


    Yet Avi can cut-and-paste The Guardian and he defends him…

    Pure tribalism. Just like the FTB flunkies that come in and defend him, but yet never actually address the charges or put-on proof that anything Nugent has done is out-of-context or false.

  12. Apparently people are now really checking up on Avi. The plagiarism is far, far greater than just those two articles. He’s apparently plagiarized from all over the Internet, from the CDC to Huffington Post and place in-between.

  13. Charges of plagiarism are serious. C J Werleman recently tried to smear Sam Harris until Harris and Jerry Coyne fought back.

    The passages Harris was supposed to have copied were actually published after Harris had written his book and clearly plagiarised him.

    On the other hand Werleman himself was guilty of plagiarism.

    Turns out Werleman’s accusations were politically motivated and he didn’t think he’d have to substantiate them because he’s on the side of the angels and Harris is a cis white hetero shitlord and therefore guilty of whatever he could be accused of.

    Funny how patterns repeat themselves.

  14. It looks like there is no end in sight for terrible arguments and delusions.

    The degree to which all this “just asking questions” encourages, and empowers those on the dark side is ignored. Ok, let’s say for argument’s sake a bunch of Stormfront members started posting on Nugent’s blog. They are doing what they usually do, expressing their hatred for black people and opposing their presence in the A/S community(let’s just assume these racists also consider themselves atheists and skeptics).

    If PZ Myers had alerted Nugent to this unfortunate state of affairs(your blog has become a haven for racists and Holocaust deniers), this makes PZ the bad guy? Especially if this followed years of racist harassment of black skeptics, some of whom continue to receive death threats? And PZ is “bad” for saying he despises racists and for championing black skeptics and atheists and for being an ardent anti-racist? PZ is “bad” because some confused, incredulous people keep asking him pointless, distracts-from-the-real-problem type questions about why he is so bothered by misogynists, oops, I mean white supremacists infiltrating the A/S movement?

    “But atheism isn’t about anti-racism, they have nothing to do with each other. Those anti-racists are destroying the atheist-skeptic community!” Is what I keep hearing, except replace “anti-racism” with “feminism”.

  15. The thing is, KennyD, Stormfront neo-nazis actually are racist and holocaust deniers. See the difference?

  16. Kenny #16,

    You don’t have to invent hypothetical scenarios about racists in order to discuss this. We already have an actual real-life scenario to address.

    PZ has falsely accused me of defending and providing a haven for rapists, and he has said that the evidence for this claim is that certain people comment on my blog.

    He said this in response to my highlighting of the hurt that he had caused to other people, and the harm he has caused to the atheist movement, by earlier smears and misrepresentations.

    Since then, I have asked PZ “always name names” Myers to tell me (and more importantly, to tell the police) who are the rapists that he alleges are commenting on my blog, and he has failed to do so.

    As an aside, even if there were rapists commenting on my blog, which is an entirely unsubstantiated claim, the claim is being made by PZ Myers who has had a self-described child rapist regularly commenting on his own blog.

    So we don’t have to imagine hypothetical scenarios about racists. PZ has made, and has failed to either substantiate or withdraw, a specific, real-life allegation about me and about people who comment on my blog.

    However, Kenny, if you prefer metaphorical scenarios, here is your comment #16 rephrased into a more directly relevant metaphor.

    It looks like there is no end in sight for terrible arguments and delusions.

    The degree to which all this “just avoiding questions” encourages, and empowers those on the dark side is ignored. Ok, let’s say for argument’s sake a bunch of people making defamatory claims started posting on PZ’s blog, including PZ himself. They are doing what they usually do, making unsubstantiated allegations about people in the A/S community (let’s just assume these defamers also consider themselves atheists and skeptics).

    If Michael Nugent had alerted PZ Myers to this unfortunate state of affairs (your blog has become a haven for defamers), this makes Michael the bad guy? Especially if this followed years of defamatory smears, misrepresentations, insults and threats of anal rape with porcupines and desires that you die in a fire? And Michael is “bad” for saying he supports inclusive, compassionate, ethical atheist communities and for being an ardent anti-defamer? Michael is “bad” because some confused, incredulous people keep making pointless, distracts-from-the-real-problem type comments about why he is so bothered by people defaming and misrepresenting people within the A/S movement?

    “But atheism isn’t about anti-defamation, they have nothing to do with each other. Those anti-defamation people are destroying the atheist-skeptic community!” Is what I keep hearing, except replace “anti-defamation” with “anti-defamation”, because that is what we are actually addressing.

  17. “The degree to which all this “just asking questions” encourages, and empowers those on the dark side is ignored.”

    Of course it’s ignored — because it does not either encourage or empower the dark side. Asking pointed questions that apparently can’t be rationally answered can only help the cause of rationality. PZ needs to correct his approach so that he ceases to be an embarrassment to the cause of rationality. PZ motivates and empowers the racists, sexists and religious dreamers by making the rest of us look bad by association with him. I don’t went him as a spokesman — not any more. I want him to apologize to all of us, especially to Michael, and to follow Michael’s suggestions on how to deal with disagreement.

  18. KennyD,

    But PZ didn’t merely point out, for MN’s benefit, should he not have realised, that rapists were commenting on MN’s blog, he specifically accused MN of providing a haven for them, as if knowingly supporting them, and accused MN of defending rapists. Not that he provided any evidence to back up those claims about commenters on MN’s blog in the first place.

    And MN isn’t asking PZ pointless questions but very specific ones, first about PZ’s broader behaviour towards people he disagrees with, and second about PZ’s subsequent attacks on MN after asking the first questions. None of that matches the hyperbole of your racist analogy.

  19. Are you a feminist Michael? Support feminists?

    Feminists have long engaged in this tactic. They say, “this is not feminism 101!” They say, “you are JAQing off!” They say, “you are a troll!” They say, “you are tone trolling!” They say, “you are a concern troll!” They say, “we bathe in your tears!”

    They say, “we are an aggrieved and oppressed group, it is oppressive to tell us to be polite and respectful. That sort of tone is a tool of the patriarchy intended to maintain the oppressive status quo”. They say, “a polite woman never accomplished anything!”

    Then they say, “you are boring, banned!” They say, “you are whining, banned!” They say, “you are repeating yourself, banned!” They say, “you’re cissexist and bitter and ugly and cannot get laid, banned!”

    There has been a lot of sharing of these sorts of bogus debate tactics between feminists, various leftist groups (in the US), and sometimes sadly, even among those debating creationists.

    Anyway, I am glad you are calling this nonsense out. I encourage you to call it out regardless of who is doing it.

  20. Student: KennyD
    Class: Sophistry 101
    Final Grade: B-
    Comments: Your fundamentals are acceptable but you really need
    to work hard upgrading your fabulist skills.

  21. Patrick,

    I was mistaken — the debate is being held in a motor lodge, and is sponsored by North Dakota State University:

    Is There Evidence for a Creator or Not?
    Biochemist Fuz Rana is joined by biologist PZ Meyers at North Dakota State University part of their annual Darwin Day celebration. Join the conversation on science and faith as they discuss the evidence of a creator from a biological perspective. This event is free and open to the public. . Title: Dialogue. Speaker: Fuz Rana. Thursday, February 12, 2015, 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM. Ramada Inn 1635 42nd St. S. Fargo, ND 58103.

    For some reason, Myers is a popular antagonist for creationists and IDers. The Discovery Institute maintains a dedicated web page for Myers’ ramblings about genetics & evolution.

  22. @Jacques Cuze #21

    “Are you a feminist Michael? Support feminists?”

    No, I’m a humanist, I hate everyone equally.

  23. The degree to which all this “just asking questions” encourages, and empowers those on the dark side is ignored.

    There’s an easy way to get around that, Kenny. Answer the questions. I mean, surely the questions are easy to dispense with, right? After all, Myers has truth and justice on his side, doesn’t he? Oh. I forgot, the proof of Myer’s accusations is that he made them and questioning him is further proof of evil. Only kooks, loons and doucheweasels would question him.

  24. Another thing Kenny and his ilk could do, if they really are having to field repetitive questions all the time, is produce an FAQ and get in the habit of citing it.

    Provided the FAQ isn’t a load of codswallop, and that it actually treats the questions seriously and gives good answers, and that it is up for revision when it fails to sustain sensible objections to its content, and that people cite it honestly, this could solve the alleged problem.

    However, this will take more effort than accusing people of being sea lions.

  25. KennyD @16,

    It looks like there is no end in sight for terrible arguments and delusions.

    You mean the terrible (nonexistent) argument for the delusional claim that Michael Nugent provides a haven for rapists?

    Your attempt to associate the commenters here with racists is as transparent as it is pathetic and grossly dishonest. If you want to defend Myers, provide some proof of his defamatory smears. He is too much of a disingenuous coward to do so.

    If you can’t, perhaps you should reconsider why you feel the need to defend the odious little rage blogger.

  26. Matt Cavanaugh @23,

    Thanks for the details, I’ll be contacting them.

    I encourage others to do so as well and also to contact the organizers, speakers, and sponsors of the Gateway To Reason (https://www.facebook.com/gatewaytoreason/timeline) conference. Arguing online is all well and good, but it’s time to hit Myers where it will hurt.

    (No, that was not a threat of physical violence.)

  27. In the comments to PZ’s blog comment #63 says:

    **Yes, Mick Nugent is an awful sea lion. He has this weird idea that it’s wrong for people to falsely and maliciously accuse him of defending and supporting rapists, and then sneering at him and mocking him when he objects. Obviously he’s the bad person here.**

    To which PZ responds (comment #65)
    **You got two adverbs twisted wrong-way around there. ITYM “accurately and forthrightly”.** (in regards to ‘falsely & maliciously)

    It seems that PZ is standing by his claim that MN defends and supports rapists. There really is no charitable view of PZ’s behavior anymore.

  28. Michael Nugent PZ has falsely accused me of defending and providing a haven for rapists, and he has said that the evidence for this claim is that certain people comment on my blog.

    Some of the follow up posts on FTB later claimed ‘providing a haven for rapists’ meant refusing to name someone who hasn’t actually been charged with anything.

    Words and sentences completely change their meaning depending on what they want to say next.

  29. @Citizen Wolf,

    You should have cited comment #64 by rabid PZ Myers fanboy Nerd of Redhead too:

    And if he [MN] would quit providing a haven for those who rape and support rapists, he wouldn’t be the subject of any criticism here, would he?

    And there is even a pound shop version of Nerd of Redhead, someone or something that calls itself anteprepro, who writes:

    Cue the world’s tiniest violin. Mick Nugent is a sea lion. That’s a minor offense. Mick Nugent sealions in order to continue providing a nice lil’ hub for the slymepit to make rape jokes and rape apologetics. That’s less minor. And assholes like you flail about on his behalf, whining about how poor, poor Mick Nugent was MALICIOUSLY ACCUSED of things. Oh heavens, good gracious, oh me oh my. How terribly impolite.

    I think this all lends support to my hypothesis that posting as a regular on Pharyngula causes brain rot, a form of dementia praecox. One of the main symptoms of this debilitating condition is making serious accusations that are not supported by evidence. In addition, for some unexplained reason, it makes you sound like a gangster in a B movie. I call this the wise guy syndrome. Nerd of Redhead and anteprepro are probably beyond medical help, the poor souls. Of course, the most prominent victim of this disease is PZ Myers himself.

  30. #31 Jan “All Aboard for Dementia Praecox!”
    Apologies for going utterly OT but your comment brought to mind the title (above) of a Robert Benchley piece which I hadn’t thought of for forty-plus years. Man did I love that guy’s stuff.
    Thank you for the memory tickle.

  31. Citizen Wolf @29,

    In the comments to PZ’s blog comment #63 says:

    **Yes, Mick Nugent is an awful sea lion. He has this weird idea that it’s wrong for people to falsely and maliciously accuse him of defending and supporting rapists, and then sneering at him and mocking him when he objects. Obviously he’s the bad person here.**

    To which PZ responds (comment #65)
    **You got two adverbs twisted wrong-way around there. ITYM “accurately and forthrightly”.** (in regards to ‘falsely & maliciously)

    It seems that PZ is standing by his claim that MN defends and supports rapists. There really is no charitable view of PZ’s behavior anymore.

    I saved that for posterity here: http://www.freezepage.com/1420302886EHVPXNINCD

    Myers’s comment is #65.

    Anyone planning to give Myers a platform to spew his nonsense should be informed of this.

  32. Interesting development — CFI Los Angeles no longer lists Myers as its guest speaker for the Feb. 15 edition of its “Feed Your Brain” lecture series. PZ was to present the 35-year old Gould & Lewontin essay, “The Spandrels of San Marcos”, generally make the case for non-darwinian evolution, and trash EP.

    Not sure if or why CFI axed the talk, or whether PZ suddenly remembered that Ed Clint is just a few miles up The 405 …

  33. To me, the funny thing is that Kenny is trying to say that what PZ does is okay because people don’t like him.

    the implications of that philosophy are interesting. Depressing, but interesting.

  34. Hmm. Having looked up ‘All Aboard for Dementia Praecox’ I see that in the same collection is an essay “Prodigal Sea Lions’! What are the chances of that?


  35. Pretty sure FtB will be to distracted to post about Michael for the next few days – and that Hemant Mehta will be the next Witch of the Week.

    In case anyone has any sympathy at all for Avicenna, just remember he identifies himself as ‘Proud FTBully’ on his Twitter profile.

    Since when was being a bully something to be proud of?

  36. #37 LG, Weird. Went to the attic and dug it out; sure enough, both were published in the Benchley collection: “MY TEN YEARS IN A QUANDARY And How They Grew Cue TLZ theme.

  37. Shatterface #38,

    ***In case anyone has any sympathy at all for Avicenna, just remember he identifies himself as ‘Proud FTBully’ on his Twitter profile.

    Since when was being a bully something to be proud of?***

    By the same token, how did “social justice warrior” become a slur? It is directed at people who fight for social justice, as if that’s a bad thing. It really doesn’t make sense, unless you have a problem with people who fight for the oppressed. Whenever I see “SJW” used as a slur, I find it very difficult to take the person using it seriously. They aren’t interested in debate, they just want to insult people who are trying to make the world a better place.

    Increasingly, many of us who us who fight for social justice are embracing the label. It’s funny how anyone could have thought it would make a good insult.

    Just about everyone who is nowadays almost universally respected as a civil rights leader or social justice trailblazer was largely despised and violently opposed by most people back in their day. The Suffragettes, Margaret Sanger, Marthin Luther King Jr., and many others.

    The fact that there are so many people opposed to PZ Myers and other prominent social justice activists is actually a good sign. If there weren’t so many people fighting against him, that would mean he wasn’t working hard enough, not ruffling enough feathers. It really isn’t surprising it has gotten to the point that his opponents are doing all they can now to sabotage his career and get his talks cancelled. This strategy will ultimately backfire.

  38. Whenever I see “SJW” used as a slur, I find it very difficult to take the person using it seriously.

    Whenever I see the name KennyD I find it very difficult to take the person seriously, because I remember that he habitually makes outrageous accusations for which he fails to provide evidence.

  39. Opening a second front against Hemant Mehta would be unwise on Myers’ part. He’d be getting nice’d to death from two directions simultaneously.

    On the other hand, Mehta does allow known Slymepitters to post on his blog, which is exactly the evidence used to smear Nugent. Perhaps we will hear more allegations of providing a haven for rapists.

  40. KennyD said:

    By the same token, how did “social justice warrior” become a slur? It is directed at people who fight for social justice, as if that’s a bad thing.

    SJW became a slur because it was coined as a slur, and not against people who fight for the oppressed, but against people who rage about anything that contradicts there personal meme, pet peeve, or emotive and dogmatic ideology of the day.

    Well, it is more complicated than that. If you seriously want a more in-depth description and definition of SJWs and what they do, and are not just trolling for LOLs, go here: _http://monsterhunternation.com/2014/11/14/why-i-dont-like-social-justice-warriors/

    It is far more comprehensive, descriptive, and specific than I can be in a simple blog comment.

    You are, and I suspect it is an intentional derail/misdirect, confusing social justice activist, with social justice warrior.

  41. KennyD @40,

    I oppose PZ Myers because he made a defamatory smear against Michael Nugent and has failed to either support it or retract it and apologize. He stands exposed as dishonest and lacking in integrity. That makes him a very poor spokesperson on atheist and skeptical issues.

    Do you agree that Myers owes Michael Nugent an apology?

  42. #35 Matt Cavanaugh

    PZ announced the date on his blog. CFI just never got around to updating their calendars.
    It wasn’t removed, they just still have yet to list it.
    The talk is still on according to CFI.

  43. Linda @47,

    I encourage everyone who finds Myers’ defamatory smears of Michael Nugent unacceptable in a so-called “leader” of the atheism and skepticism movements to contact CFI, the other speakers, and the sponsors to make it clear why. Unless and until Myers retracts his libelous claims and apologizes, he should not be given a platform to spew his bile. Any organization that does provide such a platform should be made aware that they will not be receiving any form of support from those of us who value honesty, decency, and integrity.

  44. Patrick @48
    I agree.
    In addition, when PZ first announced the CFI L.A. talk on December 1st, it was to be March 15th 2015, and he asked people to suggest topics for the talk. He was hired by CFI L.A. not for a specific reason, but just because he is PZ.

    On December 3rd, Ed Clint invited PZ to debate him on Evolutionary Psychology:
    This is a long standing issue, As Ed Clint posted a rebuttal to Rebecca Watson’s talk about evo psych at Skepticon 5 in 2012.
    http://www.skepticink.com/incredulous/2012/12/01/science-denialism-at-a-skeptic-conference/ (Link to update from 2014)

    PZ gave no reply to this request from Ed. Although in 2012, PZ did come to Rebecca Watson’s defence:

    But now his CFI L.A. talk is on February 15, 2015.
    And his subject has been chosen…(drum roll)…it includes evolutionary psychology.
    PZ will get a platform to give his opinion on a subject he is not an expert in and has declined to have a genuine discussion with an opposing view about it at a venue and date of his choice.

    His selection of subject seems like a childish neener-neener to Ed Clint, as Ed lives in L.A. and has been to CFI L.A. many times.
    A volunteer at CFI L.A. claims she made the visit happen. Nothing wrong with that, as she is a fan of his and he is sure to sell tickets:
    (Incidentally, the poster asking about debate, Damion Reinhardt, was blocked by Stacy for his effort)

    PZ Myers has not offered an apology for his smears against Michael Nugent, and has been disparaging about Michael’s efforts to have PZ back up his horrible claims.
    And PZ will be giving a talk about a subject of great interest but refuses to speak with a person with a different take, even though he is traveling to the city Ed Clint lives in. And will be giving said talk at a place with “INQUIRY” as part of its name.

    For these reasons, I DO think people should write to CFI about this upcoming talk. This is an interesting subject, and it deserves a genuine discussion.

  45. It is beyond my ability to comprehend how an avowedly humanist group could invite PZ to speak, given his long history of personal abuse, amply documented on this website.

    As to PZ’s expertise in evolutionary psychology, we shall all hear the tale of the tape, assuming CFI -LA isn’t too embarrassed to upload the talk.

  46. I sent an e-mail to CFI some time ago saying that I would not attend any further meetings, nor donate or bequeath to them as long as they continued to hire speakers who could not possibly represent ethical atheists or skeptics. I didn’t get a reply, so they are screwed as far as my will/estate goes.

  47. If you see some graffiti on a railway bridge saying ‘Blair is a war criminal’, you do not base your opinion about Tony Blair on that graffiti.

    You would be foolish to do so.

    Myers slurs , smears and slanders are no more convincing than if he had spray-painted them on to the side of an Underground train.

  48. Steven Carr @52,

    Myers slurs , smears and slanders are no more convincing than if he had spray-painted them on to the side of an Underground train.

    No more convincing, but he does have a larger audience than the typical railcar and he is making an unambiguous claim about Michael Nugent. He should either substantiate it or retract and apologize.

  49. The most important aspect about the sea lion meme might be the house. It’s interesting how conversation starts outside, where it can be overheard by the sea lion and it is then moved inside the private four walls.

    Social justice warriors, who popularized this comic, might see it that way. They might think that on the one hand, they are in the public to give out their flyers and thumb their ideological Bibles, but when someone challenges them, they conceptually move it inside their “safe space” which works with completely different assumption. In the “safe space” people are like at home, and can be themselves without having to answer anything or justify their beliefs.

    If you squint, you can see how it makes sense. It’s perfectly fine to have such a “safe space” where likeminded individuals get together and do whatever they wish. However the problem with a lot of social justice warrior nonsense is that it doesn’t make sense. Either these people are themselves incapable of thinking it through; just build on believers who don’t get it, or it’s the variation where everyone knows what’s going on, but consider it a useful illusion. People who question are anyway yelled at and block-banned.

    The conversation on twitter doesn’t start in the public and then moves private. Twitter isn’t a house, but the branch on the tree in the backyard. Birds sit there and chirp their songs freely into the air. Sometimes a bird responds to another. Sometimes birds chirp in concert. None of the birds can reserve silence for a solo.

    But that what it comes down to: Social justice warriors want you to shut up and listen to their ideology – they say so –and are quite creative in inventing rationalisations how to have that way. Even when it involves inventing houses and private spaces momentarily when someone challenges them, just to make it appear as if the other person is intrusive and wrong (again from a “feeler” perspective). Why is anyone believing this, and why is anyone in the “skeptical” community is believing this—that’s the big question?

  50. @Aneris

    You’d have gotten a kick out of twitter users accusing David Pakman of aggressive retweeting and harassing via replying. They seriously have no concept of how public spaces function.

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