This Week in Atheist Hate: Does Stephanie Zvan Hear Voices?

Does Stephanie Zvan hear voices?  Does she see things that aren’t there?  I don’t have the training necessary to make such a diagnosis, but the evidence is what it is.  For example, she did write a treatise about on whether D.J. Grothe is a psychopath.

Who are these people?  Good question.  Zvan is apparently an unemployed blogger with a history of attacking people over the internet.  Grothe is the president of JREF (James Randi Educational Foundation), which is a skeptic organization that specializes in disproving goofy stuff like bigfoot and psychics.  Why would anyone attack the president of such an organization?  Good question.  Let’s look at Zvan’s examples.

1. D.J. Grothe hates vaccines

Zvan writes at length about a situation where Grothe and JREF made a grant to an organization called Women Thinking to do a “market study” as to what people think about vaccines.  This research apparently took longer than expected, but the real crime was that D.J. Grothe just kept lying about everything.  Apparently, people associated with Women Thinking started to publicly insult D.J.  One person, Sasha Pixlee, claimed that D.J. (who is gay) made some tawdry gay joke in Sasha’s presence.  Another person named Elyse Anders carried on about how terrible D.J. Grothe was.  D.J. then completely blindsided these people by taking longer than expected to approve their funding and findings.  This is apparently a hallmark of a psychopath.

2. Grothe claimed to not know about sexual harassment at The Amaz!ng Meeting

What is an Amaz!ng Meeting?  It is a big meeting that JREF conducts in Las Vegas where people apparently meet and talk about JREF types of stuff.  Apparently, DJ had a concern that women were not coming to this very amazing meeting, and a public attempt was made to figure out why.  DJ was concerned that people were painting the meeting as hostile to women.  Many women responded, saying that the only thing hostile about the meeting was that it was too expensive.  DJ had deviously ignored “cost” as part of sexual harassment.

3. DJ lied about the cost of TAM.

Because DJ is such a psychopath and deviously promotes his organizations meetings, he wrote a letter talking about how TAM was comparable or cheaper in price than other conferences.  This is an obvious sign of mental illness.  No lucid person would try to promote their own organization using such tactics.

4. DJ lied about sexual exploits of women

This is a tricky one, as Zvan quotes herself as proof of her assertion.  Apparently, when Grothe was trying to understand why women weren’t going to TAM, he referenced some stories of women about sleeping with the speakers.  He was puzzled because he claimed no incidents of harassment had been reported to him, yet there seemed to be an image promoted by people that TAM was full of people harassing women.  Zvan explained: “You’ve been told by Ticktock, who is supporting you in this, that he reported harassment to TAM last year. Where is the documentation of that report and why is it not included in your statistics?”

What is a TickTock?  It’s a good question.  Apparently it is a person, who responded “The situation was complicated. The incident wasn’t reported because the person couldn’t be immediately identified and the harassment was vague enough that it didn’t immediately merit anything but vigilance. DJ didn’t have any actionable information, but it was mentioned in conversation after the fact.”

Obviously a very clear lie by Grothe.  While he claimed things weren’t reported, and in fact they weren’t reported, this is secondary to the idea that Zvan feels they were reported. Further, someone named Ashley Miller claimed she had been harassed, and DJ kicked out the harasser, and she was impressed.  This is very important information to show that DJ is a psychopath who encourages harassment.

5. Erm, I’m just skipping ahead, because really none of her assertions make any sense.

14. DJ Grothe is going to lie about Pamela Gay.

Who is Pamela Gay?  She is apparently an astronomer who claimed that in 2008, some other guy named Michael Shermer made a “lunge” for her breasts.  DJ Grothe apparently saw this lunge, and intervened to prevent some sort of hand on breast contact.  She was so repulsed by the situation that there are several photos of her hugging Shermer after the fact.  Apparently, DJ has threatened to give his side of the story on this very important matter.  This makes Grothe a terrible person and quite possibly a psychopath, even if Zvan can only speculate as to his mental problems.

Does Stephanie Zvan hear voices?  Does she imagine things that aren’t there?  I hope so.  The only other answer is that she is a liar and a fraud.

 

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The Atheist Bubble

Do you live in a bubble?  An interesting idea comes from libertarian Charles Murray, who always has provocative ideas.  In his book “Coming Apart,” he posits that people are drifting apart in groups mostly based on their class, and as a result people are living in their own little bubbles.  He even developed a quiz to determine your bubble, with questions based around your parents, your neighbor’s education, and what television shows you watch.  While Murray is an unabashed libertarian, such an idea appeals to liberals, with the idea that your race and class and parents give you a certain amount of advantage over other less privileged people.

Atheists tend to be very white, very middle to upper class, and tend to live in their own bubble.  A good example of this would be a recent article in SkepChick, where Rebecca Watson takes on “Wayne,” who asks her if the word “creep” dehumanized people.  Watson apparently likes to call people creeps, and defends it for various reasons, among them “men are not a marginalized class.”  She put it in bold, so I will too.

When you are living in a middle to upper class bubble, this is a very accurate statement.  Middle to upper class white men are living large, as are middle to upper class everyone, as that’s what middle to upper class tends to mean.  When you pop the bubble, though, the statement doesn’t quite stand up to scrutiny.  For example, it’s tougher to get more marginalized than being put in prison, and men are ten times as likely to be in prison as women.

These gentleman enjoy not being marginalized.

Crime not only leads to incarceration but also victimization.  As it turns out, men also lead the way here, being three times as likely to be a homicide victim as a woman.

This man died happy, because he knew he wasn’t being marginalized

Of course, living in bubbles usually results in not having to see prison or the end of a gun, so it’s quite easy to make general statements about men or women or whatever demographic group you wish, so long as you don’t try to apply it to individuals who you don’t see or care about.

 

 

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BDC Takes Aim: Pharyngula

It’s probably no secret to anyone that this network tends to think of PZ Myer’s as an anathema to skepticism.  However, the actual reasons why tend to get bogged down in insults and theories over what feminism means and lots of hilarious photoshops.

These are usually not particularly fair.  There is fair criticism to be made, and that’s that what he says is often bullshit.  Let’s take a look at his recent post on Malcolm Gladwell, “Malcolm Gladwell is simply an awful person.” It’s quite a small post for such a bombastic judgment of someone else’s character, yet length is not a substitute for quality.

I don’t get it. Jonah Lehrer was rightly pilloried for dishonest journalism, so why is Malcolm Gladwell, the king of shallow, pseudo-scientific hackery, still getting published, and still raking in absurdly high lecture fees? Why is anyone still giving him the time of day? For instance, read this piece published in the New Yorker in September: Do Genetic Advantages Make Sports Unfair?. It’s more of his glib, counter-intuitive nonsense, and it’s dangerously bad.

He argues that performance enhancing drugs aren’t so terrible after all — they’re just equalizing the playing field. But the only way he can do that is by pretending the consequences don’t exist.

What Gladwell fails to mention – at all – are the risks involved in using performance-enhancing drugs. There is nothing about the risks of blood doping or of pharmaceutical enhancement. He even skips the risks inherent in the very genetic condition he holds up as “lucky.” There is no mention of contact sports, where the decision to illegally enhance could be the difference between life and death for your competitor. There is no recognition that healthcare access for athletes is a continuum with the Lance Armstrongs at the upper end, with their elite teams of morally questionable medical practitioners,and with some kid at the bottom end, desperate for a place on the team, taking injectables that he gets from a friend of a friend.

So journalists can lose their jobs for plagiarizing or making up facts, but actively distorting the evidence and making dishonest arguments is apparently still within the ethical compass of some journalists.

The key to successful skepticism is being able to examine the facts presented and separate them from the puffery.  Puffery?  Yes, puffery.  Puffery is a term of art that references marketers and the things they say about their products.  Toyota may tell you that buying a Camry will make you a better person, but no idiot actually believes that.

Lucky Strikes wants to sell you cigarettes, so they told women Lucky’s would help them with weight loss.  This is puffery – there is no evidence that there is anything special about Lucky Strike brand cigarettes that make them easy on the waist line compared to any other cigarettes.  PZ Myers makes the claim that “Malcolm Gladwell is simply an awful person.”  We will look at his post and determine whether his statements are supportive of his argument or just puffery.  Wait, what website is this?  I don’t mean puffery, I mean bullshit.

I don’t get it.  Clearly bullshit.

Jonah Lehrer was rightly pilloried for dishonest journalism, so why is Malcolm Gladwell, the king of shallow, pseudo-scientific hackery, still getting published, and still raking in absurdly high lecture fees? Why is anyone still giving him the time of day? More bullshit, as it just essentially restates his conclusion that Gladwell sucks.

For instance, read this piece published in the New Yorker in September: Do Genetic Advantages Make Sports Unfair?. It’s more of his glib, counter-intuitive nonsense, and it’s dangerously bad.  The first paragraph is just a big pile of bullshit where Myers says Gladwell sucks in using many adjectives and no facts other than Gladwell wrote an article.

He argues that performance enhancing drugs aren’t so terrible after all — they’re just equalizing the playing field.  Ah, Myers now refers to an actual fact – the substance of Gladwell’s article.  The article is quite interesting if you like sports and are interested in the performing enhancing drugs.  The point of Gladwell’s article is to show that some athletes are simply naturally better at some athletic competitions due to genetics.  Performing enhancing drugs give other athletes these same advantages, so what makes them so unfair?  The article is clearly aimed at exploring the fairness of using or not using PED’s.

But the only way he can do that is by pretending the consequences don’t existThis is bullshit, though you have to read the articles to understand why.  Myers references an article that says that Gladwell ignores some negative consequences to PED’s.  However, Gladwell makes no statement at all about whether the performing enhancing drugs are wrong, terrible, safe, or in any way physically problematic.  Since he isn’t talking about their safety, but rather the fairness of using them and the concept of cheating, this link makes no sense at all.  Of course Gladwell doesn’t bring up the consequences of using PED’s – it’s not relevant to his argument.  Now, it is fair to say that PED’s may have negative consequences to one’s health, but being unhealthy and unfair are two different things.

So journalists can lose their jobs for plagiarizing or making up facts, but actively distorting the evidence and making dishonest arguments is apparently still within the ethical compass of some journalists.  Myers ends his article with yet another restatement of his conclusion, and even throws in some other unsupported arguments too.  This is more bullshit.  You can claim someone is asshole ten thousand times, but that doesn’t actually make them an asshole.

All in all, Myers says exactly one thing that is factual – Malcolm Gladwell wrote an article about performing enhancing drugs.  Everything else is just a glorified marketing campaign about how much Myers hates Malcolm Gladwell.  That’s why this article can be safely classified as BULLSHIT.

 

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This Week in Atheist Hate (Dawkins makes brains explode edition)

So this week, Richard Dawkins gave an eye-opening interview about his upcoming autobiography.  In it , he talks at length about sexual abuse he received in his youth.  The interview is well worth a read; Dawkins’ perspective is that the abuse he received was mild and caused no lasting damage to him, though he notes the abuser committed suicide.  It helped shape his thoughts about abuse today, and he laments that he is unable to be very upset about forms of sexual abuse similar to his own.

His perspective is interesting – we rarely hear reports from abuse victims who feel their abuse wasn’t that big of a deal.  This isn’t because his perspective is rare; many victims, perhaps most, move on with their lives with little lasting effect.  However, because we rarely here their stories, we don’t appreciate what they have been through.  Instead, we are bombarded with pictures of evildoing villains and helpless victims and not given a true appreciation of how abuse actually occurs.

All in all, it was a very honest and open talk with Dawkins, one that should be applauded by anyone concerned with sexual abuse.  As it happens, many atheists claim to be quite concerned with sexual abuse .  You might think the skeptic and liberal community would appreciate a victim of child abuse talking about his experience.  Then again, if you follow atheists, then right now you are doing this:

 

How did the atheist community respond?  BY TRYING TO LIGHT DAWKINS ON FIRE WHEWWW SCREW THAT GUY!!!!!

PZ Myers, describing Dawkins (note, not his abuser, but Dawkins himself)

“Christ, that sounds like something out of NAMBLA.”

Yes, PZ Myers just said that someone who has been abused and talking about his abuse sounds like something out of NAMBLA.

But that’s not all:

Greta Christina:

“And it appalls me to think that the world will see this as representative of the atheist community.”

Yes, Greta Christina said that she can’t handle someone who was sexually abused as a child being representative of the atheist community.

But that’s not all:

Adam Lee:

” I have no explanation for why he can’t see that he’s harming not just his own reputation, but the entire secular movement that, for better or for worse, he’s widely assumed to speak on behalf of.”

Yes, Adam Lee said that Richard Dawkins talking about his own sexual abuse would ruin the community.

Oh, and don’t forget Rebecca Watson, who already hates Richard Dawkins but tweeted this about his abuse when someone asked her if she was romantically interested in him:

“Unfortunately “mild pedophilia” is a dealbreaker for me.”

Yes, Rebecca Watson isn’t romantically interested in Richard Dawkins because he was a victim of pedophilia.

 

 

Why is the atheist community looked at as a joke?  Do I really have to answer that question anymore?

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Interview With a SkepticDoc

Hello there friends!  Ace reporter Mr. Fluffles here, back again to bring you the very best in hard hitting atheist interviews.  Recently, a nuclear bomb was released in our community, as we discovered that many famous males in the skeptic movement are actually serial rapists.  Some people doubted the anonymous reports that flooded in, but my friend PZ Myers had a wonderful post about these derpwads.  In it he asks the question: how would we get by if doctors were ever skeptical of our claims?  He aptly illustrates that if doctors doubted what we have to say, we would all die in parking lots.  After my last job exposing Renee Hendricks as an evil Slymepitter, Mr. Gemmer has kindly allowed me a bit more power.  He introduced me to one Skep Tickle, M.D., to talk about all things in skeptical medicine.

Mr. F: Hello Dr. Tickle.  Thank you for talking to me.

ST: My pleasure.

Mr. F: So I’m sure you heard about the craziness that might occur if a doctor was actually a skeptic.  LOL!

ST: Um, what?

Mr. F: Anyway, tell us a bit about yourself.  How did you get into medicine?

ST: I was always interested in science, especially biology and chemistry.  I’ve also always liked working with people and helping people, even though I’m an introvert.  I went to a pretty hard-core science institution as an undergraduate, did well, did bench research, considered medicine but (a) my advisor (a wonderful genetic professor) dismissed medicine as “okay…for an applied science”, and (b) I decided that further education in the sciences couldn’t hurt, and that I shouldn’t step away from “real science” & commit to the long & expensive route of medical training if I wasn’t sure medicine was what I wanted to do.  So I went to a pretty hard-core graduate program in chemistry for 2 years and did a bit of volunteering for Planned Parenthood and tutoring of inner-city kids on the side during that time.  All of these experiences were good, and helped me decide that medicine really was a better fit for me.

Mr. F: Inner-city kids?  You mean like black people?

ST: Um, I mean like kids who live in the inner city?  Who could use help to keep up in school?  Whoever they are?

Mr. F: Well just making sure.  You know, you can work with black people and still be a racist.  It’s important that you recognize your privilege.

ST: I’ve heard that before.  I think I read it online somewhere.

Mr. F: Just making sure we are speaking the same language!  You wouldn’t believe how many people who think that just because they “do things” and “help people” then that magically makes them good people.  They don’t even have blogs!  Anyways, where were we?  Did you read Prof. Myer’s masterpiece?

ST: I did.

Mr. F: It was so great!  So ok hypothetical!  I walk in and tell you I need heart surgery.  How long before I get on the operating table?

ST: Well, um, that depends I guess.

Mr. F: Depends.  I just told you I need heart surgery.  What does it depend on, my wallet?  You think I don’t deserve a heart surgery because I don’t make enough money?

ST:  No! I just mean we have to figure out why you think you might need heart surgery.

A lot of it depends on what type of heart problem is suspected.  If you are having chest discomfort or discomfort radiating to your left jaw, shoulder, or arm, that could be “angina”, the term used for the discomfort (often not described as “pain”) from myocardial ischemia (heart muscle not getting enough blood flow) from atherosclerosis (“hardening” – actually, narrowing – of 1 or more arteries, in this case coronary arteries, which supply the outer ~2/3 of the heart muscle with blood & thus with oxygen & nutrients).

In that case, the approach depends on whether it seems to be “stable” angina (comes & goes, typically brought on by exertion) or “unstable” angina (present at rest, or progressing rapidly recently).  For the former, an EKG and an exercise stress test would be the first step.  For women, interestingly, an exercise stress test isn’t reliable enough – there’s a high rate of false positives and false negatives, attributed to estrogen’s effect on the EKG though it’s also true for postmenopausal women so I take that explanation with a grain of salt.  Therefore, for women, some groups advise to do the stress test with additional imaging of the heart muscle to look for functional changes of, or from, blood flow – either echocardiogram or radionuclide imaging.  (This makes stress testing more involved & more expensive for women.)

If you’re having shortness of breath with exertion, that can also be from myocardial ischemia, but the “differential diagnosis” is much, much wider, including deconditioning, obesity, impairment in oxygen-carrying capacity (anemia being the most common cause of that), impairment in oxygen exchange in the lungs (various lung and pulmonary vasculature problems causing that), impairment in cardiac output with exertion (problems with heart muscle – “cardiomyopathy” – from various causes, or heart valve dysfunction, or myocardial ischemia, plus some others I haven’t mentioned).  The evaluation for that symptom would start at a different place, unless angina were also present.

Mr. F: Oh I see.  You are trying to explain my heart to me.  I suppose next you will say you know best how to treat my heart disease.

ST: Like I said, “heart disease” is a huge topic.  There’s valvular heart disease, cardiomyopathies (in which the heart muscle doesn’t work), and arrhythmias (heart rhythm problems).

The approach  depends on the kind of heart problem.  If you mean coronary heart disease (CHD) meaning angina, myocardial ischemia like we’ve been talking about, the major categories are non-interventional (medications) and interventional (opening up a narrowed artery with a balloon or stent, or bypassing it with another vessel).  The interventional approaches are always followed by medication approaches, but the exact concoctions (it’s never just one medication! usually at least 3) differ depending on whether one had no intervention, intervention with balloon angioplasty or a bare metal stent, intervention with a ‘drug-eluting” stent, or coronary artery bypass surgery).  The medication management of CHD has been a very active area of research & development over the past decade or so.  But still, I don’t know yet that’s what you have.

Mr. F: You are not listening.  Hearts cause heart disease.  Nothing else.  The only way to treat heart disease is to stop hearts in the first place.  Do you even value what your patients say?

ST: Of course!  As a primary care physician and a general internist, I rely a huge amount on what the patient says – only the individual can report her/his own symptoms, concerns, and preferences – but I also use test results (judiciously, I hope, but there are lots of examples) to help us sort out together where things stand on those measures for which symptoms don’t tell the whole story of what’s going on, what condition the condition is in, and whether we should be discussing some intervention.

A patient-doctor relationship, and physician evaluation of any concern, always starts some type of information gathered from patient and/or other close observers, most often verbal but sometimes by other routes like observation.  After all, the patient came in – or was brought in – for medical attention for some reason, and the goal is to help that person with their condition – whether that be reassurance that the condition is not dangerous and will resolve or at least not cause harm, or recommendations of measures for symptom control, or advice for further testing or on treatment options, or urging to pursue some major intervention ASAP.  Even if a patient is in a coma, you ask those around him or her what happened, what they’ve observed, what they know of the patient, and you observe the patient for all sorts of clues: does he/she appear to be in distress? what posture is he/she in? what color are the tissues that reflect oxygenation (esp lips, fingers)? does he/she respond to certain maneuvers at all, or with hard-wired reflex responses, or with a higher-brain volitional-type response?  And so on.

Mr. F: Oh, so you rely on “test results” instead of what patients say?  That figures!

ST: The reliance on patient’s-words versus test-results does vary by specialty (and physician), for example when a patient is referred to a specialist for a specific intervention, such as coronary bypass surgery or joint replacement surgery, the specialist often does start by looking at the radiographic images previously obtained to see the physical problem for which his or her technical skills are being requested.  But, still, the patient’s words about his or her experiences – “history” in medical parlance, including but not limited to “symptoms” – are often crucial in determining whether or not to proceed with that surgery, or what type of surgery to do, or what risks surgery might pose to that person in particular.  Either the patient or the surgeon can decide not to proceed.

There are rare instances where an unexpected abnormal test result starts the ball rolling on evaluation of an asymptomatic problem, for example an EKG done routinely before surgery in an older person shows signs of previously-unsuspected heart disease, but still there will always be questions about the patient’s experience and history to help guide evaluation, including how aggressive to be about it.

Mr. F:  You just don’t get it, do you.  Fine, whatever.  Well it’s not my job to educate you.  How about medicine.  Do you ask questions instead of just giving someone a prescription they tell you they need?

ST: Yes.  I’d be remiss if I didn’t.    I could harm someone with a medication they didn’t need.  And certainly for some medications, some people are addicted and will say anything to get a prescription.  It happens all the time.  It’s a matter of keeping the possibility in mind while gathering information from the patient on his/her symptoms & concerns and “history”, and also gathering information from other sources where possible.  It’d be awful to fail to address someone’s “real” pain, but also problematic to prescribe controlled substances for a false claim of a medical condition (though in that case the person has a problem, too, usually either drug dependence or desperation for income thus diversion for black market sales – but those need to be addressed differently than a narcotic Rx from a physician).  My state now has a statewide database of controlled substance prescriptions filled; it’s been extremely useful in discovering patterns that a patient had not mentioned in your discussion.  It shouldn’t be a surprise that sometimes the people who might best fit some profile of “drug-seeking” don’t have anything untoward in that database & are being up front, while others who many would assume are on the up & up actually are masters at getting these prescriptions.

Mr. F: So, you substitute your own thoughts for someone else’s lived experience.  I bet you’d fit right in on the Slymepit.

ST: I do post there from time to time.

Mr. F: ………… That’s it.  Cut this off.  CUT THIS OFF!

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This Week in Atheist Hate (8/23/13)

A brand new week means a brand new round of atheists hating each other.  This week, a monumental conference was put on in Toledo by the Great Lakes Atheists, which I assume was focused on fishing and PBR.  At some point, a person by the name of Mandisa Thomas was giving a talk about how atheists could learn from the hospitality business.  This was a probably a good talk, because “Go Fuck Yourself” wasn’t what I heard from Taco Bell when I told them they gave me the wrong order.  Anyways, some lady in the audience got up and asked Mandisa about black on black crime in Chicago.  I don’t know who this lady is but I envision her as looking sort of like this:

 

So Mandisa politely answers as best she can.  Then, during someone else’s speech, another lady named Bria Crutchfield, apparently offended by the idea that black people should be treated as walking encyclopedias of blackness, puts the lady on blast and answers her question in a way to ensure she doesn’t ask stupid questions in the future.  So then another guy, JT Eberhard, talks to Bria afterwards and says “that was probably too much blast” and Bria responds “no I think that was just the right amount of blast.”  The end.

The end?  LOLOL you don’t pay attention to the atheist community.

So JT decides for some reason to post the entire exchange on his blog.  Then the flood starts.  Jen McCreight posts that JT was entirely delusional because he talked to a black lady like she was some sort human being and not one of the Unprivileged.  Greta Christina was upset that he used her own words to somehow suggest that Greta Christina might possibly agree with him and Greta Christina would never do such a thing.  Jason Thibeulx said hey what about me and no one paid attention.  Then JT had the audacity to defend himself and not apologize for his thinking he could talk to a black person.  Then Greta Christina said “I’m feminist Yoda!!! or maybe was like “Yoda is the Jedi Greta Christina!” or something like that and made it clear that disagreeing with Greta Christina is tantamount with disagreeing with all women everywhere.

Then Jen McCreight took it to a whole new level by tweeting that she begged him to stop using his status as a speaker to sleep with college coeds, then implies that he raped the coeds because it’s possible one can’t consent to sleeping with a speaker at a conference.  (BTW I suddenly have an urge to speak at a conference).  So THEN JT’s fiancé pipes in and is like “WTF” and McCreight says she was just so blinded by friendship she couldn’t see the truth but now she sees the truth and if the truth hurts blame the truth, but don’t blame her.

Got all that?  Great.  That’s this week in Atheist Hate.

 

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This week in atheist hate

The never-ending soap opera that is the Atheist Community has a new chapter.

Item #1: Ben Radford accused of sexual harassment in a roundabout way

There is a very bald man named Benjamin Radford who works for the Center for Inquiry.  According to a woman named Karen Stollsnow, he also likes to sexually harass women and he sexually assaulted her several times. However, she didn’t actually list his name in her article for the Scientific American.  No, that was done by other men, including P.Z. Myers.  A response from CFI and Radford seems important, given these claims:

This man is a predator who collects girls of a certain  “type”. His targets are chubby, shy, lonely, and insecure, just  like I used to be.”

I threatened to complain to his employer,  but he bragged that another woman had accused him of sexual harassment  previously and her complaints were ignored. According to him, she had  been declared “batshit crazy”. Then, he saw me at conferences and  took every opportunity to place me in a vulnerable position. This is  where the psychological abuse turned physical and he sexually assaulted  me on several occasions.”

They offered no apology, that would be an  admission of guilt, but they thanked me for bringing this serious matter  to their attention. Then they asked me to not discuss this with anyone.  This confidentiality served me at first; I wanted to retain my dignity  and remain professional. Then I realized that they are trying to silence  me, and this silence only keeps up appearances for them and protects  the harasser.”

The Center For Inquiry issued a vague response.  They did not address the facts but did say this:

Neither allegations nor denials determine the actions CFI takes. The results of the investigation determine the actions taken by CFI. If CFI has employed an outside investigator, we go with the investigator’s findings; we do not substitute our suspicions. If the investigator found, for example, that a sexual assault occurred, we would accept that finding; likewise, if the investigator found that no sexual assault occurred, we would accept that finding.

Reading between the lines, it does appear from Stollsnow’s article that an outside organization performed the investigation, and the CFI seems to be saying they went with whatever the outside investigator concluded, and he or she did not conclude that a sexual assault took place.  However, given Stollsnow’s account that some wrongdoing was found, more facts will hopefully be forthcoming.

The BDC is no fan of creeps, so we will watch closely.  This accusation is refreshing because it doesn’t seem to be based in total bullshit, and there may be actual wrongdoing by both Radford and the Center For Inquiry.

 

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BDC Takes Aim: Greta Christina’s Righteous Anger

Greta Christina blogs about how she feels about the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin verdict.  Let’s see if she got the facts correct.

A young black man was hunted and killed for the crime of being a young black man, and his killer was acquitted.

False.  There is no question that George Zimmerman followed Trayvon Martin and reported him to the police despite the fact the Martin was not doing anything illegal or even suspicious.  One can reasonably imagine that Zimmerman profiled Martin based on his race, gender, and age.  However, there is also no question that there was a fight between Martin and Zimmerman, a fight by nearly all accounts Martin was handily winning, and that this was the main reason Zimmerman shot him.  Most hunters don’t engage in fisticuffs with their pray first.

This is not an isolated case: it reflects the reality of millions of African Americans.

False.  An article from The Daily Beast handily kills this statement. “Yes, from 1976 to 2005, 94 percent of black victims were killed by black offenders, but that racial exclusivity was also true for white victims of violent crime—86 percent were killed by white offenders. Indeed, for the large majority of crimes, you’ll find that victims and offenders share a racial identity, or have some prior relationship to each other.”  This idea that there is epidemic of white people hunting down black people ignores reality.

The rest of her article is more or less her feelings on the matter.  Clearly, she has no respect for anyone who thinks the verdict was defensible, telling them to “Get the fuck out of my life, now.”  This would presumably include former president Jimmy Carter, who said the jury reached the right legal conclusion.  Of course, she believes this was a case of a white person hunting down a black person and killing him for being black, and that this happens to millions of black people, so in that context her article makes sense.  Unfortunately, in her anger she didn’t bother to look at the facts, which is why her post can only be classified as bullshit.

 

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Interview with Renee Hendricks

Howdy folks!  This site isn’t solely run by me.  We have added a crack reporter to the B.S. team.  He is a valued poster on Pharyngula and Skepchick, but wants to keep his pseudonym a secret.  Therefore, he will go by the name Mr. Fluffles on this site.  Being a poster on those sites, Mr. Fluffles regards himself as an expert on nearly every subject you can imagine.  He studied journalism for two thirds of a semester at Mistington University in New Hampshire.

Renee Hendricks is an accomplished woman in the atheist community.  Above all, she created the Skeptischism Network, which you are reading right now.  Besides that, she is a web developer, a mother of three, and a very valued member of the Slymepit.  She has her own blog, Chill Girls in Pink Corvettes, and you can follow her on twitter at @reneehendricks.

Without further ado, here is Mr. Fluffles’ interview with Renee Hendricks.

Mr. Fluffles:  Hello Ms. Hendricks.  Thank you for this interview.  Tell me a little bit about yourself.

Renee Hendricks:  Thank you!  I’m just a mom and atheist.  I put together this network.

Mr.F:  Just a mom?  That sounds like you have something against women who aren’t moms.

RH:  Oh not at all.  That’s actually how I became an atheist.  As a young adult and until the age of 28, I ended up having a number of miscarriages. I was convinced that I was being punished by “God.”  At 28, it was discovered I had precancerous cells on my cervix. After having cryosurgery, I found myself pregnant again.  I became very depressed, thinking that I was going to go through the same misery I had countless times before because “God” somehow saw me as evil.  When I got past my 1st trimester and nothing had happened, *that’s* when I started questioning my religion and “God.”  Science and medicine had cured me of my “evil.”  I stopped believing and started living a much happier life.

Mr.F:  So some man told you what to think.  I bet he posts on the Slymepit.

RH:  Well, no he doesn’t.

Mr.F: And how would you know that?  It sounds like you post on the Slymepit.

RH: Well yes, actually, I do.

Mr. F: …

RH: I came across the Slymepit when I started to tweet things that the regulars within the online community found contrary to their dogma. At the moment, I can’t recall exactly who told me about the Slymepit but once I started reading, I found so many other people who felt the same way. While I’m not keen on the ‘shops that make fun of the way some of the FTB/Skepchick/etal crowd look, the rest of what goes on in the Slymepit either makes me think or brings a smile to my face.

Mr.F: …

RH: Are you ok?

Mr.F: I’m trying to figure out how to ban you from this interview.

RH: Oh.  Well, I don’t think you can.

Mr.F:  Whatever. So tell me something else about yourself.

RH:  Um, all right.  Here’s something.  I was born with a cleft lip and was very lucky to not have the cleft palate that usually goes along with this sort of birth defect. Having been born in the US to parents who had excellent health care and insurance is another bit of luck. Most children born with cleft lips and palates don’t have this sort of luck. A few years back, I came across Smile Train and Operation Smile – both of whom do great work for children in many 3rd world countries suffering from this malady. I can’t travel to these countries to help out first hand but I do what I can by fundraising online and raising awareness in my own community. I suppose it’s my way of paying back for my own good fortune.  I’ve been able to raise some money from the Slymepit besides just posting there.

Mr.F:  Well aren’t you a brave hero. Let me ask you this – why do you hate women?

RH:  Excuse me?

Mr.F:  I see you have no answers for that question.  Honestly, it’s so hard to be an atheist woman, I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be an atheist slyme woman.

RH: I don’t think the focus is on me being a woman. I can dish and take it with the best of them and that’s how it should be. When reading and responding on the Slymepit, I never stop and think “is this a man or is this a woman?” because this should never matter. Hypocrisy and stupidity knows no gender. Neither does honesty and intelligence.

Mr.F: So you don’t think women are honest or intelligent?  No wonder you post at the Slymepit.

RH: Being a woman in the atheist community to me has been like being a woman in just about any community. If *you* don’t make your gender the focus of your belonging, things tend to run along swimmingly. I use this same philosophy as a web developer letting what I’m capable of and my work speak for me. When the focus is on the community ideas and definition, what sex you are or aren’t becomes rather moot.

Mr.F:  Well how very privileged of you. I wish I didn’t have to focus on my gender every second of every hour of every day.

RH: Um, aren’t you a man?

Mr.F: Well thanks a fucking lot.  What, you think my facial hair and penis make me a man?  GENDER ISN’T BINARY.  You don’t have a fucking clue about me so please don’t spread your ignorance.

RH:  Um..I’m sorry?

Mr.F: It’s not my job to educate you.  Anyways, let’s just forget about your stupidity for a minute.  You were saying you are a web developer?

RH: Yes! I actually created this network.

Mr.F: Well that’s just what the world needs.  More white people with blogs.

RH: Um, aren’t you white?

Mr.F: *sigh* Perhaps one day your veil of privilege will be lifted and we can have an actual conversation.  So you made this little network?

RH:  Yes!  The current atheist and skeptic blogging networks seem to me to be very limiting and prone to coercing members to keep within the “party lines”. Having a blogging network that doesn’t make these sort of restrictions seemed to be the best option. It’s small for now – hopefully it’ll pick some momentum and we’ll end up with a great and *diverse* atheist/skeptic blogging network.

Mr.F:  Yeah well how wonderful for you.  The amount of misogyny in this room is really too much for me to bear.  This is Mr. Fluffles, signing off.  If you enjoyed what you read, please consider donating!  Mr. Gemmer will post my address later, but please put “Basement” on all mailings.  Otherwise my stupid mom will open them.  Fucking patriarchy.

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Getting Back to Your Roots

Skeptischism is the name of the network, and for good reason.  Seemingly not a day goes by without some group of atheists sniping at some other group of atheists over some topic that is too stupid for words.  Elevators, dongles, “shut up and listen,” – the list goes on (and on and on and on).  The entertainment value of watching strangers attack each other over nothing is high, but it hasn’t done much for any part of the community except make it a laughingstock.

So now it’s time to start ferreting out this crap and exposing it to the air.  We must apply some values to any idea if we are going to evaluate it.  The values I personally espouse are:

1. Critical Thinking: Seems like a no-brainer, but this little phrase is at the root of so much of the angst among atheists.  Critical thinking can probably be defined in many ways, but I think Wikipedia hits the nail on the head with this brief description.

“Critical thinking is a way of deciding whether a claim is always true, sometimes true, partly true, or false.”

Challenging ideas and concepts is at the very root of critical thinking – indeed it’s essential.  The goal here will be to challenge ideas and statements, even ones that may make us uncomfortable.  After all, as atheists we often ask people to give up things they have been taught from birth, and we should at least be decent enough to be willing to do the same thing.

2. Freedom of Speech: There will be more about this later, but the most essential part of speech to consider is that freedom of speech is a value, not just some protection against government.   Since critical thinking is essential to skepticism, so is allowing people the freedom to challenge your own ideas.  They may be annoying or wrong, but limiting their speech based on their thoughts is morally repugnant to anyone who values critical thinking.

That’s not to say things can’t be limited.  Spam, hardcore porn, gratuitous violence – all of these things may be limited based on the goals of the site.  However, there must be a process to this doesn’t include any mention of hating another human being based on their thoughts, statements, or questions.

3. Diversity: It takes all types to arrive to conclusions.  People, being the wondrous human beings they are, all have their own unique history and experience and thoughts.  To have any chance of really understanding something, the first step is to realize you don’t understand it, and having many voices saying many things is better than having one or two saying one or two things.  Diversity of people, diversity of speech, diversity of questions – life would be quite sad without all the many, many things in it to enjoy, and learning to appreciate the many other things and people out there is essential to arriving at anything that resembles truth.

4. Humility:  You don’t know everything.  If you think you do, go fuck yourself.  Being wrong is valuable, and accepting it and learning from it is perhaps the greatest skill one can learn in life.

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