By Ken Perrott 17/02/2016 50


 

I had been meaning to comment on the controversy surrounding invitation to Richard Dawkins to speak at the US Northeast Conference on Science & Skepticism (NECSS) – followed by his disinvitation. But events have moved on – he has now been reinvited but has had a mild stroke so there is no longer any possibility of speaking engagements for a few months.

Many people are concerned about Richard’s health – the news seemed good but you can get a better idea from his own description of the problem in an audio message – An update on Richard’s condition in his own words.

He sounds pretty frail to me – and the fact he was hospitalised for 4 days suggest it was more serious than I originally understood. Hopefully, though, he will recover well and be back to his usual speaking programme. That’s of some interest to us in New Zealand as a planned appearance at the Wellington Art’s Festival next month has been postponed. Hopefully, his plan to make an appearance here a few months later will go ahead.

Interestingly, Richard’s doctors advised him to avoid controversy because of blood pressure problems! And he acknowledges that recent controversies may not have help his blood pressure.

The current controversy

It seems this problems stems from Richard’s use of Twitter. Which seems pretty petty because Twitter is hardly a format for reasoned discussion with it’s 140 character limits – and the usually abusive and stupid responses.

A comment I saw said Richard on social media “comes across as petty, insulting and yes, sexist.” Well, I think almost anyone debating on twitter comes across this way. I think he is rather naive to use twitter as much as he does (he refers to twitter in his most recent book – Brief Candle in the Dark – and admits to being in two minds about it). While he appears to make an effort to qualify comments and present logical arguments in his tweets that does not stop people from misinterpreting him (innocently or intentionally) – and misrepresenting him in later articles and debates.

Mind you, basing even a blog article, let alone an op-ed or similar media article, on tweets seems rather desperate of people.

The controversy appears to boil down to reaction to this tweet:

DawkinsTweet

Despite the qualification critics have used the tweet to claim he is misogynist and attributes stupid behaviour to all feminists! It contained a link to a polemically crude video drawing parallels between the arguments of extreme feminists and extreme Islamists – so Richard has also copped the Islamophobia charge too. (As well as a new one on me claiming he is saying that extreme feminists behave the same – rather than drawing parallels).

Faulty generalisation

This interpretation is so mistaken I think only people who are already hostile or desperately searching for something to confirm their anti-Dawkins or anti-male bias would actually fall for it – or promote it. But that is the sort of thing we get on social media – especially Twitter.

Drivers

This is the fallacy of faulty generalisation – or more precisely, faulty induction. Very often resorted to by people with a large axe to grind.

Rebecca Watson is one of Richards most vocal critics. She is very hostile towards the regard that many sceptics and atheists have for Dawkins, recently writing in her article Center for Inquiry Merges with Richard Dawkins & His Twitter Account:

“In conclusion, the skeptic/atheist sphere is an embarrassing shitshow and the organizations will continue polishing Richard Dawkins’ knob until he dies, at which point he will be sainted and his image will be put on candles and prayed to in times when logic is needed.”

(People who find fault with Richard’s tweets should really apply their critical and analytical skills to that sort of anti-sceptic, anti-atheist, vitriol.)

In her article commenting on the NECSS disinvitation, NECSS Dumps Richard Dawkins Over Hate Tweet, she wrote:

“Let’s hope that Center for Inquiry and other organizations take similar steps to distance themselves from Dawkins’ hateful rhetoric.”

So, she has added “hate speech” (or “hate rhetoric”) to her list of Richards failings.

(I must be careful here as some people argue that the terms “hate tweet” and “hate rhetoric” are not the same as “hate speech” – rationalisation by mental gymnastics in my opinion.)

I can’t help feeling there is a lot of bruised ego involved there – but lets stick with her logical fallacy. I have criticised her in the past for committing the fallacy of faulty generalisation. In that case her use of valid cases where studies in evolution psychology amounted to very poor science and bias confirmation (pop-psychology) to attribute that problem to the whole field of evolutionary psychology. See Sceptical arrogance and evolutionary psychologySceptical humility and peer review in science and Sense on evolutionary psychology  for the details.

I was critical because she, and some of here allies, were demonising a whole scientific field because fo the obvious faults of just a part of it.

Professional jealousy

Professionals, like any other human, often suffer from jealousy of other professionals. And this is particularly true in attitudes towards scientific popularisers like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Carl Sagan, and many others. Hell, I have seen it many times in my own scientific community when a colleague gets media coverage.

Massimo Pigliucci has for a long time exhibited this sort of professional jealousy, often being unable to hold himself back when even a distant opportunity arises to have a biff at Richard. He has a Pavlovian knee-jerk reaction to the word “Dawkins.” So, not surprisingly, he has commented on this recent fiasco in a very long blog article – Richard Dawkins.

Massimo in this article describes his relationship with Dawkins as “colleagues who disagree on a number of issues” – but he is being disingenuous. Colleagues “who disagree on a number of issues” (and shouldn’t we all be described this way) do not build campaigns on that disagreement. Perhaps we should look to Dawkins as an example of how reasonable “colleagues who disagree on a number of issues” should treat that disagreement in public – with personal respect. I have yet to see any personal invective for Massimo from Richard.

In summary, Massimo argues that Dawkins has no original work in his field (except “memes” – which to Richard was simply a passing speculation), is “utterly” ignorant about important biological concepts and has a “hopelessly limited” view of biology.  Massimo  criticises the gene-centric view of Richards first book The Selfish Gene and finds The God Delusion “simply ghastly in its cartoonish simplicity.”

Most of all, Massimo bridles at the occasional media portrayal of Richard as “a leading evolutionary biologist.” Perhaps Dawkins also bridles at that description as it is rather meaningless – there is a media tendency to label any scientist they cover as a “leading” or “top” scientist (and that often causes jealousy among colleagues).

My point is that Massimo comments seem motivated by professional jealousy, rather than any real concern about the sceptic/atheist “movement.” He is being unprofessional to carry out a personal public campaign in this way. And he ends up looking foolish for that and his identification with the NECSS blunder (I have not seem any comment from Massimo on the later reinvitation which attempted to correct that blunder.)

A critical minority?

I don’t want to give the impression that all the reaction to Richards tweets has been negative – far from it. Here is a long blog article from Michael Nuget, chairperson of Atheist Ireland. – NECSS should reconsider Dawkins decision, made in haste without full information It’s worth reading and probably gives a more representative assessment of the issue but, for reasons of space, I won’t comment on it here except to quote this significant passage:

“This is the fourth recent controversy involving activists having speaking invitations withdrawn. Warwick University Students Union and Trinity College Dublin both withdrew invitations to Maryam Namazie, citing fears of incitement to hatred of Muslims. And Saint Dominic’s College in Dublin withdrew an invitation to me, citing fears that my talk would undermine its Catholic ethos.

After being asked to reconsider, each of these three institutions reinstated the invitations, with Warwick Students Union publicly apologising to Maryam. All three talks have since gone ahead successfully. I hope this article will help to persuade NECSS to follow the example of these other bodies, and revisit their decision based on the skepticism that they promote.”

Well, I guess  we now have 5 recent examples of disinvitations under pressure from biased pressure groups, followed by organisations coming to their sense and reinstating the invitations.

See also: Sam Harris’s audio comment on the fiasco.

What about responses from Richard Dawkins

I think Dawkins handled this issue very well – even wishing the organisers a successful conference after their disinvitation (made rudely by public statement, not personally to Richard):

“I wish the NECSS every success at their conference. The science and scepticism community is too small and too important to let disagreements divide us and divert us from our mission of promoting a more critical and scientifically literate world.”

In his later oral message – An update on Richard’s condition in his own words – Richard revealed his invitation had been reinstated and politely expressed his thanks and gratitude, even though his health now prevents him taking up the invitation (or reinvitation).

Here are the full texts  of the NECSS formal reinvitation and Richards response:

From the NECSS executive committee, February 14, 2016:

We wish to apologize to Professor Dawkins for our handling of his disinvitation to NECSS 2016. Our actions were not professional, and we should have contacted him directly to express our concerns before acting unilaterally. We have sent Professor Dawkins a private communication expressing this as well. This apology also extends to all NECSS speakers, our attendees, and to the broader skeptical movement.

We wish to use this incident as an opportunity to have a frank and open discussion of the deeper issues implicated here, which are causing conflict both within the skeptical community and within society as a whole. NECSS 2016 will therefore feature a panel discussion addressing these topics. There is room for a range of reasonable opinions on these issues and our conversation will reflect that diversity. We have asked Professor Dawkins to participate in this discussion at NECSS 2016 in addition to his prior scheduled talk, and we hope he will accept our invitation.

This statement and our discussions with Professor Dawkins were initiated prior to learning of his recent illness. All of NECSS wishes Professor Dawkins a speedy and full recovery.

The NECSS Executive Committee

Richard’s Response:

Dear Jamy,

Please convey my thanks to the entire Executive Committee for their gracious apology and for reinviting me to the NECSS conference. I am sensitive to what a difficult thing it must have been to rescind an earlier, publicised decision. I am truly grateful. Politicians are regularly criticised for changing their minds, but sceptics, rationalists and scientists know that there are occasions when the ability to change ones mind is a virtue. Sympathy for the victim of a medical emergency is not one of those occasions, and I therefore note with especial admiration that the Executive Committee’s courageous and principled change of mind predated my stroke.

That stroke, however, does make it impossible for me to accept the invitation, much as I would like to do so. I shall especially miss the pleasure of an on stage conversation with you. I hope another opportunity for that conversation will arise. I wish the conference well. May it be a great success. You certainly have managed to put together a starry list of speakers.

With my best wishes to you and the whole Executive Committee

Richard

Richard’s refusal to be pulled into a silly tit-for-tat online – with all the usual charges against the other side – reinforces my favourable opinion of him. He is not prone to extremist positions or personal infighting. I suggest that he comes out of the little tiff well – even if he did make some mistakes on his twitter account (and who doesn’t). In contrast, his critics have exposed their unreasonable and extremist attitudes and NECSS has ended up with egg on its face – unable to resist bullying from these extremists. Let’s hope similar organisations do not get caught in the same trap.

Finally, I welcome the NECAA organisers decision to include a panel discussion on these issues in its conference. As they say – “There is room for a range of reasonable opinions on these issues and our conversation will reflect that diversity.”

Let’s hope that they do not abandon this plan just because Richard is unable to take part. The issues of cyber-bullying and use of labels like “sexist,” “misogynist” and “islamophobic” to shut down important discussion should be dealt with. These issues – the ability to discuss topical problems and those problems themselves – are too important to ignore. Hopefully, organisers will find a person (perhaps Michael Nugent?) who is brave enough to stand up and speak openly and honestly about them.

As Richard would have done.

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50 Responses to “Richard Dawkins and the Skeptics Conference controversy.”

  • I don’t think it has anything to do with “the fallacy of faulty generalisation”. A logical fallacy is not what is going on here. It is simpler than that. Dawkins has his enemies/detractors, and they will grasp any opportunity to twist his words, and then they will all agree that this was his intended meaning all along! This is usually the way that detractors operate. The strategy is helped if the target (Dawkins in this case) says anything which seems to make even the tiniest concession to something like antifeminism or Islamiphobia (or any number of other things).

  • If you wish to accurately describe the people criticizing Richard Dawkins simply appealing to his use of Twitter is not accurate because people seem to understand him quote well and have specific explanations for why they don’t like his tweets, none of which you seem to have read or understood.

    For example in the current situation,
    >”Despite the qualification critics have used the tweet to claim he is misogynist and attributes stupid behaviour to all feminists! It contained a link to a polemically crude video drawing parallels between the arguments of extreme feminists and extreme Islamists –…”
    Have you seen the video? Which part is supposed to indicate that it’s directed to a subset of feminists? Because the name of the video is “Feminists love Islamists”, the video mocks many things feminists argue are problems broadly with the token Islamist (for example psychological triggers, rape culture…). Those things are not specific to a group of feminists criticizing criticism of Islam or Islamism. Over and over it uses “I’m a feminist” and “I’m an Islamist”, not some feminist subgroup.

    That video is a criticism of feminism broadly and simply uses Islamism to do it. It’s reasonable to think that Richard Dawkins and his defenders making the “only some feminists” claim like this are either lacking in perception, reasoning and logic, and can’t see that they have a problem with what feminists are addressing, or they knowingly and deceptively wear the label of feminism while being anti-feminist. If the former, welcome to the club, lots of us find out we are part of the problem and work to change ourselves. If the latter, well I’m being charitable and asking you to show me the part of the video that indicates it has to do with some feminists Ken.

    • Yes, I have seen the video – it is a crude satire (then many satires are crude – aren’t they) It was also removed when Richard was made aware it may possibly portray an individual – the last thing he wanted was to direct hostility or harm to an individual.

      I don’t wish to hunt down and view the video again but I certainly did not take it as a description of all feminists and all Islamists – quite the opposite. And surely the text of Richards text made clear he saw it this way as well.

      I am finding this concentration of feminism this particular video and tweet very tiresome so I will repeat in the next comment my motive for challenging the current group think which is leading to suppression of voices of reason and allowing open ground to the extremists, nationalists, racists, sexists and fascists.

      • Before responding to specific criticism of my comments here I want to briefly reinforce what is the main point of my article – my reason for taking up the NECSS invitation-disinvitation-reinvitation fiasco.

        I appreciate commenters may be more concerned with what I consider peripheral issues – and that is their prerogative, of course. We all have own preoccupations and interests. I just want to make sure mine, and the motives for my article which sparked the one above, are not submerged because of other’s preoccupations.

        Michael Nugent’s article (all links in my original article) perhaps summarises the issue. He said:

        “This is the fourth recent controversy involving activists having speaking invitations withdrawn. Warwick University Students Union and Trinity College Dublin both withdrew invitations to Maryam Namazie, citing fears of incitement to hatred of Muslims. And Saint Dominic’s College in Dublin withdrew an invitation to me, citing fears that my talk would undermine its Catholic ethos.

        After being asked to reconsider, each of these three institutions reinstated the invitations, with Warwick Students Union publicly apologising to Maryam. All three talks have since gone ahead successfully. I hope this article will help to persuade NECSS to follow the example of these other bodies, and revisit their decision based on the skepticism that they promote.”

        To which I added that I guess we now have 5 recent examples of disinvitations under pressure from biased pressure groups, followed by organisations coming to their sense and reinstating the invitations.

        I regard the 2 examples involving Maryam Namazie as the most serious of these attempts to muzzle important messages with the NECSS probably the least serious. This is because Maryam, as an atheist Muslim and an advocate for women’s rights (especially Muslim women’s rights), has what I think is the most important message for us today in our dangerous times. It is very important for us to be able to deal with the problems arising from the clash of cultures, the massive immigration into Europe and the dangerous situation in the Middle East – particularly in Syria.

        Unfortunately, the group thinking (some people are using that horrible word “political correctness” which I think is inappropriate) prevents discussion of the real issues and neglects. the rights of suffering people because of the fear of Islamophobia (or more correctly the fear of being labelled Islamophobic). Worse, this imposed silence on liberals and humanitarians gives a free reign to extremists and bigots to use these problems to promote nationalism, racism and a fascist mentality. (See Islam and the Future of Tolerance: A Dialogue by Sam Harris and Majjid Nawaz for a more in-depth consideration of this issue.) Voices like Maryam Namazi’s are very important in countering such group thinking and it is shocking that otherwise decent people may have thought she should be muzzled and appear unconcerned about the physical bullying of her by male Islamists when she did speak.

        The sort of group-thinking I have discussed here and in my article are components of a larger group thinking derived from the current geopolitical struggle. We are confronted with a complex situation in Syria involving the two major powers, USA and Russia, in military action – usually alongside each other but sensitive to their rivalry and different relationship to the legitimate government of the country. We are now confronted with the possibility of an invasion from Turkey which is an ally of the USA but an enemy of the Kurds who are allied and armed by the USA. This invasion, if it occurs, will most likely also involve Saudi Arabia. And, in effect, its purpose will be to prevent the possibly impending victory over the terrorist groups Daesh and Al Nusra so as to topple the Syrian regime. This intervention could spark a regional war – if not a world war.

        Yet the group thinking of our media and politician’s currently has us sympathising with the terrorists (mainly Al Nusra) around Aleppo rather than seeing the importance of liberating that territory which has been held by terrorist for 4 years. That is dangerous. Our news media should not be afraid to report what is actually happening on the ground.

        My motive for this article was to argue against such group thinking. This issue has concerned me for some time but, like many others, I was aware it could cause an unpleasant reaction (a result of group thinking and the group conformity it produces). I guess that is just a cop-out a polite way of saying I was intimidated into silence.
        I see the rude and unjustified treatment of Richard Dawkins by NECSS as a result of group thinking and resultant intimidation. Ironically, Richard is one of the few person brave enough not to be intimidated by the group thinking and, for this reason, we are lucky to have such a public figure – even if he, like everyone else, from time to time makes mistakes on social media.

  • PZ’s screed against this article is truly atrocious. Quick point.

    Massimo did respond about the reinvitation on Twitter. He said it was an awfully wrong choice. https://twitter.com/mpigliucci/status/699445304542830592

    I fear he is still channeling the bitterness of the accommodationist wars. He finds Dawkins simplistic, crude and unaccountably respected. He categorises the video as simple sarcasm rather than satire – be it well done or not. Hence he has to choose to ignore all the framing issues – Cologne, Goldsmith, patriarchy and privilage etc etc.

  • Don’t mind if this is simply read in moderation or published. But Brony’s seemingly restrained comment above should be contrasted to their comment at PZ’s:

    “People like Ken Perrott have a problem in that they are essentially cowards, but they can get away with it because they are part of the dominant social group.” Comment #15.

    Ideologue.

    • Thanks for the heads-up Brive. I think it just indicates who is really the coward.

      As for PZ – I met him at the 2010 Melbourne atheist conference, although eh may not remember me now. Thought he was a nice guy. So sad to see the level he has descended to.

      • PZ’s very different in person compared to the persona he adopts behind his keyboard.

        2010 was the last year before he wholeheartedly adopted identity politics (post elevatorgate). He pretty much sees things through the prism of the patriarchy/privilage model. “Opponents” are lumped into a single camp and branded with identical invective.

        It has been a sad decline to watch.

  • I have no problems with what Brieve1987 posted. I stand by that characterization, but applying an insulting characterization to a person in their social space is something that should be worked towards over time and letting them come to the conclusion themselves. I make no apologies for such political behavior, I get to make my insulting characterizations based on characteristics I see in other part of the internet, I and am comfortable being challenged on it. You may test my courage at your leisure.

    It’s fair enough to have your own priorities when it comes to issues of social importance, frankly the part of this social conflict that I am involved in is related to people getting to work on what is important to them. I’ll try to respect what you are most concerned on your blog by staying relevant. If our differences are too broad I will simply leave.
    However you may want to consider an edit however since your wording asserts facts about the video that are at the core of the dispute in this example that you bring up. There will likely be more people challenging that because the characteristics of the video are quite clear and even crude satire has an analyzable structure (I’m in the middle of summarizing theories of humor for a post on the video). Also while I’m aware of the reasons for why Richard Dawkins removed the video, my comment was addressing the different aspects of the video.
    Now on to your issues.
    ***
    Before I comment on any more of your points let me see if I understand you correctly some questions that would help clarify your position for me. I’ll first try to summarize your position first to see if I have it correct in general.
    First you are concerned about what looks like an increase in the number of, or maybe just the appearance of, disinvitations of speakers to groups such as universities, meetings and conventions. Your reasoning for opposing these disinvitations is that there is bias and group-think present among the groups of people applying pressure on the universities, meetings and conventions.
    Secondarily you see these disinvitations as a means of silencing people. An effect of this silencing is that bigots and extremists have less opposition.
    Thirdly the group-think associated with groups applying pressure for disinvitations of people is a subset of a geopolitically larger group-think associated with military complications that arise from the political opposition between the USA and Russia.
    Fourthly you believe that there should be a priority that our larger community emphasizes social problems that result from immigration from the middle east to Europe, at least in part because of the status and experience of women from the middle east. You see these as the real issues and neglects that the skeptic/(atheist?) community should be focusing on.
    Fifthly you believe that this bias and group-think is biasing politics and the media towards sympathy for terrorists, which results in neglect of attention towards important events and issues. (We may have perspective differences, I am in the US).
    Sixthly you oppose the treatment of Richard Dawkins by NECSS as rude and unjustified, and as having come from bias and group-think.

    *Do you believe that it is ever appropriate for a group to disinvite someone, or refuse to ever invite them to speak for any reason?
    *Do you believe that insulting characterizations are ever appropriate?
    *Do you differentiate between irrational bias and rational bias?
    I ask this one because:
    1) I spend a lot of time in brain science literature and the typical use of “bias” basically means “irrational bias”, and the same machinery that produces irrational bias also produces rational bias that has to do with what we would think of as good decision-making.
    2) I don’t see you addressing the reasons for the bias that leads to the insulting characterizations. Some characterizations, which are conclusions, are just going to be insulting to people that don’t accept them such as “racist”, “sexist”, “misogynist” and similar. You only post the characterization and call it a problem. I don’t see the reasoning and logic that go into them.
    *Do you differentiate between strategic group communication and group-think?
    I ask this because if a group of people is correct about something they will simplify their language for reasons of political competition. This will look like the pejorative “group-think” to a person who opposes them but is incorrect. You call it group-think but since you don’t outline why the reasoning in the characterization-conclusions is incorrect I can’t tell the difference in this post.

    • Brony – you may well “standy by” your statement on PZ’s blog – this statement of yours:

      “People like Ken Perrott have a problem in that they are essentially cowards, but they can get away with it because they are part of the dominant social group.”

      But you have deen nothing to justify it, or poivide evidence for such a claim.

      And it is cowardly to make such statement behind my back – isn’t it?

      Your pretentious verbiage is just a smokescreen – not an explanation, justification – or indeed an apology (which would have been the simplest, and possibly the most honest, response).

  • >”But you have deen nothing to justify it, or poivide evidence for such a claim.”
    You professed a desire to stick to your most important issues so I did so. If you wish me to tangent in such a manner I am willing.

    >”And it is cowardly to make such statement behind my back – isn’t it?”
    No. Like I said it’s political. The internet has simply forced us to face what we actually are. Beings that waver back and forth between personal and group language depending on the social context. The difference is that I am willing to be honest about what I am, and what I perceive us to be.

    I did offer reasons for my characterization in the following paragraphs and posts, but they are meant for that audience. Like every other human I wear different hats in different places. I’m happy to elaborate if you change the terms of social engagement in this post.

    Tourette’s in part inspired demon possession and that thing about demons and contracts exists for a reason. I’m exquisitely sensitive to local social context.

    >”Your pretentious verbiage is just a smokescreen – not an explanation, justification – or indeed an apology (which would have been the simplest, and possibly the most honest, response).”
    Believe what you want. If you are wrong about what we are I am only too happy to use that to my advantage.

  • I noticed that you put me into moderation. That is your right and I do not contest that. There are good reasons for such.

    However since you did not announce to me and the others watching that you did this, I reserve the right to post my replies in other parts of the internet. I will not do this for 48 hours so that I can give you a chance to explain why you changed the social rules on me without explanation.

  • Perhaps I was too hasty with that last post since I see the one above, and I do not see my previous post. Let me try again, and I apologize for the assumptions.

    >”But you have deen nothing to justify it, or poivide evidence for such a claim.”
    You professed a desire to stick to your most important issues so I did so. If you wish me to tangent in such a manner I am willing.

    >”And it is cowardly to make such statement behind my back – isn’t it?”
    No. Like I said it’s political. The internet has simply forced us to face what we actually are. Beings that waver back and forth between personal and group language depending on the social context. The difference is that I am willing to be honest about what I am, and what I perceive us to be.

    I did offer reasons for my characterization in the following paragraphs and posts, but they are meant for that audience. Like every other human I wear different hats in different places. I’m happy to elaborate if you change the terms of social engagement in this post.

    Tourette’s in part inspired demon possession and that thing about demons and contracts exists for a reason. I’m exquisitely sensitive to local social context.

    >”Your pretentious verbiage is just a smokescreen – not an explanation, justification – or indeed an apology (which would have been the simplest, and possibly the most honest, response).”
    Believe what you want. If you are wrong about what we are I am only too happy to use that to my advantage.

    • Brony – this is a syndicated version of my blog – Open Parachute. I do not often have to use the comments section here – and do not have a lot of control over what happens.

      Even with my primary blog moderation often kicks in for unknown reasons – I don’t know if something you wrote promoted moderation on the SciBlog platform, or not.

      However, as you stick with your characterisation of me as “cowardly” (not even faintly falling back on the “too hasty” excuse) and do not seem to make any sense with the verbiage you use to avoid the real issues I do not see you are adding anything of value here.

      But I urge you to post whatever you want – wherever you want (and please don’t wait 48 hours – how silly). All I ask is you provide links so that any readers have the opportunity to understand where you might be coming from and hence what your motives might be. 🙂

  • Hi Folks, a note on comment moderation:
    Any new commenters need approval before their comments appear, once you’re approved your future comments should go up automatically.
    If your comment includes two or more links it will get held up for moderation because the system thinks it’s spam. Please bear this in mind if you’re keen on your comments going up as quickly as possible.

  • Is it angled or square bracket for html?

    >”Brony – this is a syndicated version of my blog – Open Parachute. I do not often have to use the comments section here – and do not have a lot of control over what happens.
    However, even with my primary blog moderation often kicks in for unknown reasons – I don’t know if something you wrote promoted moderation on the SciBlog platform, or not.”

    Fair enough. I apologize for being hasty, but I can understand if that does not do much. The short version is that the social justice community I have been a part of tends to get people that record lots of little things out of context as evidence of bad intent, and often all you can do is take up the same tools. I don’t want to hold you responsible for something you are not a part of if I can help it. If anything else seems strange feel free to point it out. I try to point out everything, but when your language system is different from 99% of the human race’s that can be challenging.

    And thank you for being more specific. I realize that it can be tiring taking the specific features of people into account, but those urges to insult and break boundaries in TS exist for a reason, and I’m not trying to use it as a shield, merely an explanation. My instincts to engage in social dominance tend to be stronger than most and it can be a bit more complicated to make sure I am meeting the needs of the person who owns the social space.

    >”However, as you stick with you characterisation of me as “cowardly” (not even faintly falling back on the “too hasty” excuse) and do not seem to make any sense with the verbiage you use to avoid the real issues I do nti see you are adding anything of value here.”

    That is the core of the problem as I see it. We don’t agree as communities on what the “real issues and neglects” are (in fact I see two categories, local and distal, or international issues). I stated that you thought others were not paying attention to the “real issues” as a paraphrase of your position, but I don’t believe that I have a reason to think you are correct about what the real issues are based on this post and I wanted to see if I could paraphrase you correctly first.
    My characterization of you as cowardly has to do with characteristics you share with Dawkins, Nugent, and others like Lukianoff and Haidt in their “The coddling of the american mind” article.
    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/09/the-coddling-of-the-american-mind/399356/
    You take the characterizations meant as emotional conclusions* of the perception of others as an argument instead of addressing the underlying reasoning that the conclusion is attached to (Watson even explicitly says “conclusion” in the quote you provide). It’s like acting like a summary is what goes into a summary. I’m open to be wrong about fear being the source of the reason that you avoid the substance of others, but you still avoided it from what I can see.

    >”But I urge you to post whatever you want – wherever you want (and please don’t wait 48 hours – how silly). All I ask is you provide links so that any readers have the opportunity to understand where you might be coming from p and hence what yoir motives might be.”

    That was my screw up, I can take the criticism. I said 48 hours because the people I normally read don’t get any warning before others post about changes in moderation status and I do try to be fair even if I have to deal with the reality of social conflict in other places. I can admit that it looks silly to someone at a different level of the social conflict that we are involved in, but like I said if I can help it I don’t wan to hod you responsible for things that are part of the confusion in current internet morals and ethics. (I tend to have to watch this stuff closely, it’s an advantage too fortunately).

    I would have thought that Brive1987 would have linked to my comment at Pharyngula, but I’m not used to such honest forthrightness from them (as I have seen them on freethoughtblogs, yes that is an emotional characterization) as I try to give about myself. I assumed it was one of the links they offered as I skimmed and was wrong. Here is my first comment in PZ’s thread about this post.
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2016/02/19/does-anyone-else-get-tired-of-the-excuses-made-for-the-privileged/#comment-1002482
    *Note that my view of emotions is not that of most of society, whit is thought of as an “emotional argument” does not in fact exist. Emotions are merely the sensation of the programs that the mind runs in response to what it perceives. So technically we are emotional about reason and logic and the usual appeal to someone arguing emotionally is a refusal to look at what the emotions are attached to.

  • Thank you for the explanation Sarah-Jane O’Connor. I appreciate the information.

    My current response is in moderation for the two links, but that comment of mine mentioned above had not links. I suppose that I hit the wrong button or something, but if there are any language specific triggers for the filter I would appreciate knowing.

  • Ack. This one is particularly confusing.

    When I said “It’s like acting like a summary is what goes into a summary.”. I meant to say “It’s like acting what goes into a summary is the body of the argument.” I’ll try to do better but this TS crap is perceptual in editing as well as motor when I type.

    • Brony – you are ignoring completely the elephant in the room – you characterisation of a discussion partner as “cowardly.”

      This is central because I have held off for several year getting into issues like this, being aware of the intimidation and harassment that results – as well as possibilities of misinterpretation.

      So I resent the term “cowardly,” now that I have mustered the courage to take the bull by the horns.

      PZ’s rather silly attack on my is a relatively minor response. I have also been banned from 2 atheist/sceptic facebook groups after extreme reactions from some of their members. (As I don’t wish to make implications against other Facebook groups I will name the guilty parties as Nirmukta and the NZ Skeptics Facebook Public Group.)

      While that elephant in the room remains I will not make the effort to decipher or respond to other comments of yours.

  • Brony, I gave a comment number so your words could be easily checked in context.

    As you know intent is not magic, your meaning (and opinion) of the host of this blog are clear.

  • >”Brony – you are ignoring completely the elephant in the room – you characterisation of a discussion partner as “cowardly.””I ignored no such thing, but I can admit that I may not have been as clear as I wish. When I said,
    <"You take the characterizations meant as emotional conclusions* of the perception of others as an argument instead of addressing the underlying reasoning that the conclusion is attached to (Watson even explicitly says "conclusion" in the quote you provide). It's like acting like a summary is what goes into a summary. I'm open to be wrong about fear being the source of the reason that you avoid the substance of others, but you still avoided it from what I can see."

    …that bit about being open to something other than fear preventing you from addressing the substance of others is where the reference to cowardice is. Fear after all is what drives it. I fully expect you to resent it, and that is an understandable reaction because that is the reaction that insulting characterizations create (which can tangent into your arguments about other insulting characterizations at some point if you wish).

    But that reaction does not change the fact that you have avoided addressing what the people who have pushed for people to be disinvited have said and have only presented their conclusion-characterizations. If not cowardice then by all means tell me why as I said that I was open to being wrong about the emotion behind your lack of reference to what would let you reasonably appeal to fallacies. Because so far the evidence is consistent with fear, I am willing to be corrected and I will not police my language in other places for you (though I am happy to explain it).

    If I did not really want to know I would not have made the effort to paraphrase your argument to see if I understood you properly, and I would not have asked questions relevant to understanding your position relative to disinvitation in general, insulting characterizations, rational bias in reasoning (as in why the people said and did the things they did) and group simplification of message for group action in politics. Those are all real things that matter.

    Rebecca Watson said that was a conclusion in the first quote, the second was also a characterization that would be based on reasons, the people criticizing a whole field have reasons for doing so, the people who have problems with Maryam Namazie also have reasons…

    THAT is the reasoning that you need to apply to those fallacies you mention.

    • You are wasting your time, Brony. Until you withdraw and apologise for the unwarranted description of me as “cowardly”, etc., I have eabsolut6ley zero interest in attempting to decode your ramblings.

      So don’t bother – deal with the elephant in the room first.

  • Then I will leave after this comment.

    This is topical since you mentioned debate getting “shut down” by insulting characterizations. As others can’t deal with sexist, racist and misogynist you are not able to deal with coward, a real characterization that unpacks into real things. I shut down nothing, you are unwilling face what I unpacked the characterization into.

    I provided reasoning for my characterization (your lack of effort to obtain the reasoning of others required for your argument) and you have chosen to ignore it even after saying that you wanted to focus on your most important issues. Insulting characterizations are real things and they are not going away and this display frankly makes me more willing to use them when relevant then ever. If a political opponent can’t handle it when a characterization that has to do with negative characteristics shows up that’s not my weakness. You just ignored things you said were important to you because of things I said on other parts of the net, and not because of anything I said here that made my words somehow irrational or illogical. I have no cares when a sexist, racist or misogynist collapses at the application of the terms, so I have no cares here when I am willing to defend my use of a different insulting characterization.

    I’ll check in later to see if you can handle terminology and associated characteristics. If not, good luck.

  • The issues of cyber-bullying and use of labels like “sexist,” “misogynist” and “islamophobic” to shut down important discussion should be dealt with…

    On the other hand don’t we need to talk about sexism and Islamophopbia? They really do exist after all. I wonder what “important discussion” is being shut down by objecting to a joke about raping feminists…?

    • A Hermit, I wasn’t aware of any “joke about raping feminists” or any objection to such a mythical joke.

      However, I am aware of the way some irrational people are attempting to shut down reference to the way ” the alliance between radical Islamism and radical feminism” has operated to suppress the voice of reason – and to suppress the voice of feminists who are fighting for the rights nof Muslim women for exampole.

      Have a look at these articles:

      https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2015/12/03/the-death-of-liberalism-goldsmiths-feminists-ally-with-muslims-opposing-feminist-speaker-maryam-namazie/

      http://ex-muslim.org.uk/2015/12/goldsmiths-isoc-fails-to-intimidate-and-silence-dissenters/

      And read my article – especially the quote from Michael Nugent.

      Of course, we should talk about Islamaphobia and sexism – but let’s not allow that to descend into a phony hysteria which suppresses the very real problems we face.

      Perhaps closer to home perhaps we should stand back and look at the way such hysteria seems to have taken over elements of the sceptic and atheist communities who usually have claimed to be rational and logical.

      • HI Ken – you said “I wasn’t aware of any “joke about raping feminists” or any objection to such a mythical joke.”

        You’ve hit the nail on the head Ken.

        Your lack of awareness of this ‘joke’ is exactly the problem.

        Not only are you not ‘aware’ of the joke, you then go on to dismiss any possibility of its existence – and therefore any possibility of you ever raising your awareness of it – by declaring it ‘mythical’. Mind firmly closed. Discussion over. No further thinking required.

        FYI – there WAS a ‘joke’. It was about raping feminists. It was not ‘mythical’. Your lack of awareness – and your lack of ability, empathy and courage to look at your lack of awareness, and the reasons for that – IS the problem. It is also Dawkins’ problem.

        Thank you for such an unequivocal and clear articulation of it.

        • Yes, “Just,” that comment was an attempt to entice A Hermit to be specific. I notice in your reaction you are also not specific.

          We are meant to be intimidated by an assertion which is not backed by any link or specifics? Come off it.

          Where is this joke about raping feminists? Where did Dawkins make that joke? Why do you hide the details – is it just a story from your in-group? Do you not understand that assertions like this need supporting evidence?

          You are unjustly ( 🙂 ) attempting to put claims and words in my mouth. That is dishonest.

          • Over 2 hours (for “Just”) and almost 9 hours (for A Hermit) since being assured this joke exists I am still waithing fior ther evidence.

            Is this just another example of group-thought which one is not allowed to question?

  • You’re a bit of a crack up yourself there Ken 🙂
    You’ve already posted the link yourself. So you are clearly ‘aware’ of its existence.
    I can’t quite buy your claim that you are not ‘aware’ that what you (and Dawkins) posted, was intended as a ‘joke’ about raping feminists. Seriously?

    I’ll give you a hint – its a video ‘joke’.

    Oh – btw these most recent posts (including mine) have taken well over 2 hours to show up here on the page I am looking at – so not sure whats going on there? Time in moderation maybe – I don’t know. Of course, I’ve also had a couple of other little things I needed to prioritise today…

    • “Just” if I have already posted the link then clearly you are interpreting and describing it quite differently to me.

      The fact that you still refuse to provide the link – if I have already posted it that should be very easy – suggests to me that you don’t want to let the facts – specific reference to the linked “joke” – get in the way of your claims.

      Come on – front up – provide the link. Let us check it out for ourselves.

      I will then be very happy to discuss it – or is that the last thing you want?

  • A Hermit, I wasn’t aware of any “joke about raping feminists” or any objection to such a mythical joke.

    The rape joke is the punchline of the video Dawkins retweeted, and it is a big part of the criticism of that retweet. You already have links to that video. Maybe you should familiarize yourself with the facts before digging that hole you’re in any deeper…

    I’m sorry it took this long to reply, but believe it or not doing your homework for you is not my first priority.

  • Oh, by the way,, I’m well aware of the disgraceful treatment of Maryam Namazie and I agree that the Goldsmith’s group was misguided in their opposition to her speech (I’d note they also failed to prevent that speech from happening…) but the video Dawkins was promoting doesn’t reference that incident at all, so it’s a bit of a red herring to bring it up. The video generalizes about feminism and does single out another woman who has been subjected to harassment, doxxing and threats of violence though, and ends with a joke about raping that woman.

    http://www.wehuntedthemammoth.com/2016/01/28/richard-dawkins-lindy-west-and-the-cartoon-video-of-great-hatefulness/

    http://www.wehuntedthemammoth.com/2013/04/15/canadian-feminist-activist-receives-death-threats-and-other-abuse-after-being-targeted-by-mens-rights-activists/

    Do you think that kind of thing is appropriate material for a leader in the skeptic movement to be promoting?

    • OK, neither of you are willing to provide a link (which suggests to me you really are not that confident about defending your charges in the face if the actual evidence).

      I suspect you are referring to this specific Tweet of Richard’s portrayed in my article.

      The punchline is actually the text of the tweet – which you guys are avoiding:

      “Obviously doesn’t apply to the vast majority of feminists, among whom I count myself. Buy the minority are pernicious.”

      It was crude satirical video (and Dawkins did remove it when he was told it portrayed a specific individual).

      That tweet, and others, make clear Dawkins is concerned about the alliance between radical feminists and radical Islamists, and I think the disgusting treatment of Maryam will have been a factor in his concern. A “red herring” to you because clearly this sort of issue doesn’t concern you – you are much more concerned with the plight of an obviously mentally disturbed women who threw herself into an abusive tirade against some men and has suffered the consequences from a toxic community. Hell, I have had plenty of crude abuse directed at me and I am the most rational person – I don’t get into abusing others like she did.

      Personally, I think she needs psychological help rather than parody. It is sad that she does not appear to have been given that help – and the video makers perhaps should have considered the ethics of parodying a mentally disturbed woman – if they did.

      I am a little concerned you are so out of touch with the issues faced by feminists and by Muslim women that you think only that the Feminist Society and the Islamic Society who attempted to prevent Maryam’s talk because it would make them feel “unsafe” were just “misguided!”

      We should be concerned with the way people are being bullied by group thinking into avoiding important issues that society faces. What happened with the Islamic and Feminist Societies at Goldsmith is just a tip of a very unpleasant iceberg.

      What is being promoted by what leader in what sceptic movement??

      This question is asked by someone who is now banned from the Local Sceptics Public Facebook Group for daring to challenge their bias on this issue. So much for thinking a title like “sceptic” guarantees reason and logical thought!

  • Ken Ken Ken Ken Ken – this is getting silly.
    You know what the video is. Clearly.

    “…clearly you are interpreting and describing it quite differently to me.”
    Well yes… so you do know what is being referred to then? Now maybe we are getting somewhere!

    Yes – indeed I might be interpreting it (that thing you claim to not be aware of – that’s funny :-)) differently than you. Or I might not.
    But clearly – others do. I think probably what they would appreciate is a bit of an open exploratory discussion of those differences. That’s possible isn’t it? I’d like to see it anyway – could be useful!

    PS. Claims? Claims? – what claims?
    PPS – have you actually watched the video?

    • “Just”, I am obviously aware others disagree with my analysis (but not as many as you may think from your internet silo).

      Of course I welcome some “open explanatory discussion” rather than the abuse derived from group thinking – but isn’t that what I am attempting to promote by my article, my other interventions, and my future articles on this subject?

      But think about this – you have come here accusing me of things related to a link which you still refuse to supply – and I think the only reason for this is that you do not wish the actual facts to be considered with the evidence in front of us.

      If you want a discussion – perhaps we can start by your reaction to the treatment of Maryam and what this means.

  • Whoa – Ken! Enough with the “claims” already!

    Accusing you of things? Uh? Ok – this is kinda going from funny – into kinda weird.
    You say – I have come here “accusing [you] of things related to a link which [I] still refuse to supply”? What? You HAVE the link. You posted it! You know what’s being referred to. What kind of weird is this?

    “Abuse”. Eh – what?
    “Group thinking” Blimey – what’s that all about? That’s some accusation right there! What “group”? I’m pretty certain you know nothing about me – or what I ‘think” about almost anything.
    Actually…. it strikes me that someone who throws around accusations of “group think” is probably doing that in defense of some “group” of their own…. hmmm…
    – or are you just trying to intimidate me or something? Joke Ken – joke!

    The actual facts about WHAT Ken?

    PS – Sorry I didn’t reply with the immediacy you might have preferred – it was my dinner time and I really needed to eat.

    • “Just,” – you said a while back you “would appreciate is a bit of an open exploratory discussion of those differences.”

      Well, what about it? Enough of such childish diversions – that is the sort of thing people without evidential backup resort to.

      How about opening the “exploratory discussion” you claim to want?

  • Oh – I missed the bit about my “internet silos”. Oh my goodness! Settle down there bro. I’m sure that’s some kind of fallacy perpetration of something or other right there. No clue what it might be – but good lord! Where do you get off thinking that’s an ok thing to say to a complete stranger? Goodness gracious me!

    • “What? Has the discussion been closed!? When? Where?”

      What “discussion” are you referring to? 🙂 I am not aware of any proper discussion occurring at the moment.

  • OK, neither of you are willing to provide a link

    Richard Dawkins provided us all with the link; we’re talking about the video he retweeted, that’s what this whole conversation is about. You said earlier in this thread that you had watched it (though apparently you missed the rape joke at the end… If you are that unaware how can you possibly be confident in your opinion about the whole matter?) so you obviously already have the link. You don’t need anyone else to go digging it up again for you so stop the dishonest demands that we do so.

    That tweet, and others, make clear Dawkins is concerned about the alliance between radical feminists and radical Islamists, and I think the disgusting treatment of Maryam will have been a factor in his concern

    You think it was a factor? But you don’t know. And the Namzie matter, as I’ve pointed out, isn’t mentioned in the tweet or the video, which is just a nasty piece of antifeminist propaganda ending with a joke about Muslims raping feminists. You complain in your post about people generalizing but that’s exactly what the video does.

    And while it’s been thirty years or more since I darkened the doors of academe I don’t see anything new or extraordinary in people protesting speakers on a campus; I saw it often enough in the `80’s. All this handwaving and pearl clutching about such protests looks like an over-reaction if you ask me. Especially since, as you yourself point out, in most cases the speaker is not prevented from speaking. You used the phrase “phony hysteria” earlier. I think that wold apply more to your concerns here than to the real concerns of those affected by sexism and Islamophobia…

    http://lmgtfy.com/?q=woman+attacked+for+hijab#

    What is being promoted by what leader in what sceptic movement??

    What are we talking about? A hateful, misogynistic video which dishonestly generalizes about feminists and jokes bout Muslims raping them. Which was promoted by Richard Dawkins on his Twitter feed.

    Is this really the kind of thing which you think is useful if we’re going to have a rational discussion about sexism and racism?