• Schools are expected to do a lot of things for kids. We see them as a place to educate kids to be responsible citizens, to prepare them for college or to be able to get a job, to help them learn social skills, and […]

  • Olivia posted a new activity comment 5 years, 6 months ago

    Thanks for the heads up! It should be fixed now.

  • Do you like women? Do you like a secular society? Do you like doing activism? We have the conference for you.

    Introducing the Secular Women Work conference, a conference by and for activists. Do you want to […]

  • Body positivity, skinny shaming, fatphobia, fitspiration. The internet has brought the age of infinite scrutiny of bodies. There are a lot of problems with this. There are fights, there’s an us vs. them that […]

    • I’ve recently been going through back episodes of the Rationally Speaking podcast on my way to and from work. The other day I listened to an episode interviewing Dr. Victoria Pitts-Taylor, a sociologist who has spent much of her career studying the notion of bodies, and particularly female bodies, from the perspective of sociology and the humanities. She makes an argument that the humanities have too long ignored the biological aspect of the human body (and likewise that biologists have ignored the cultural aspect of the human body), which is grounded in a pretty solid understanding of biology and neuroscience. I thought it was a really great interview and I’m hoping to have a chance to learn more about her work when I’ve got some time.

    • Someone will have to explain the bathroom thing to me some time. I mean, I understand the convenience issue (though I did ask a janitor once in college, and the ladies’ rooms where he’s worked have had twice as many toilets as the men’s, but urinals take up less space than toilets), but everything else sounds like Freud.

      More on-topic, all you need to know about how society treats women is to look at Kagan’s confirmation. All the commentary was about her appearance? The only thing I look for in a Supreme Court Justice is her legal opinions. Everything else is irrelevant.

  • Last week there was a horrific shooting at the French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo. Since then, there has been international support for the victims and outrage at the violence, which many people see as a direct […]

    • Olivia,

      Excellent post. We have to protect the rights of people to say whatever they want, regardless of how disgusting it maybe.

    • I’m not sure what the legal protections for free speech are in France, but even in the U.S., which in general has stronger legal protections for free speech than most of Europe, the right to free speech isn’t absolute, and a lot could hinge on the context. Direct threats of or incitements to violence, for example, are not necessarily protected speech, though the standard is pretty high. (If I understand correctly, saying “Alex Doe deserves to die” is generally protected, but “I will kill Alex Doe” and “Go kill Alex Doe” are not. But, context matters, and as humor not intended to be taken literally these statements may still be protected.) For the most part, my moral compass on the limits of free speech aligns pretty closely with the legal theory in the U.S. (though I think the legal practice is not always so commendable). In general we should be permissive even of speech we find abhorrent, but there are reasonable limits when speech infringes on others’ right to safety (among other things).

      I think a lot hinges on the context of Dieudonné’s statement and whether it is reasonable to interpret it as an actual threat to commit a violent act like Coulibaly’s. My bias not knowing anything about the specifics is to guess that given that Dieudonné is a comedian, this is probably a overreaction by the French authorities and an infringement of his rights. “Defense of terrorism” sounds exactly like the sort of vague label that would get applied to anyone expressing any form of sympathy or agreement with the terrorists who attacked Charlie Hebdo or their motivations, which (while I might find it repellent) ought to be protected speech (speaking now from my moral opinion, not French law of which I am ignorant). But if there’s more to the story than that then it could be a reasonable response to an actionable threat of violence.

    • Dieudonné is a racist, anti-semitic asshole, who deserves nothing but contempt and scorn. Seems he is vastly popular with neo-nazis and islamist thugs. Whether he is worthy of arrest is another matter.

      Fred Phelps and David Duke never faced arrest for their toxic spewings either. France and Germany do have speech laws, many around Shoa-denial, neo-nazism, and soliciting hatred/violence. Our laws are better, in theory.

      And the victims at Hebdo included at least two ‘of color’ folks. The knee-jerk claims of ‘racism’ show a bubble mentality that makes Fox News watchers seem informed and enlightened.

      • There were some mildly racist stereotypes that were portrayed in some of Hebdo’s cartoons. But yeah, even the worst of the Hebdo cartoons weren’t as bad as some of the cartoons that were published ‘in solidarity’ with them.

        Whether Hebdo cartoonists were better people than Dieudonné isn’t the question. They almost surely were, but people aren’t (or shouldn’t be) punished for thought crimes. Both Hebdo and Dieudonné offended with their work/art, but only one was arrested for it. It’s a huge stretch to say that Dieudonné’s facebook post was an incitement to violence.

        (Of course, only Hebdo was killed for their work — and obviously killing people for drawing cartoons is a terrible thing to do.)

        • I just can’t have sympathy for what I am now referring to as NoCs (Nazis of Color) who claim their speech is being oppressed because racism. And believe me, until we’re willing to look at who our self-styled ‘allies’ are, well, the standard you walk by is the standard you accept.

          I mean, seriously? Look at the Salaita case. I didn’t know a single Indian who was in support of Salaita. Obviously, there may have been one or two, but most of us were decidedly against him. (Still stinging from the fact that we knew Ward Churchill was a wannabe for decades, but it took “little Eichmanns” to get him fired.) Most tellingly, he defined ‘indigenous’ as having been in a location ‘for a very long time’. Which means that eventually white people will be indigenous to North America. And that I cannot accept.

    • Olivia,

      Jon Stewart on the Daily Show, actually had a pretty good response to this. I think It was on last night’s Daily Show, and I had almost forgotten about it.

      WATCH: Jon Stewart Slams France for Hypocritical Free Speech Arrests

    • Olivia > Hypocrisy in France

      Based on what you wrote, I assume you don’t know the whole story about Dieudonné, dating back to how he driffted since he split with former stage partner Elie Sémoun in 1997.

      Anyway, I’d be curious to know if there is a single democracy where people are totally free to say whatever they want, even if it’s hate speech and its conscequences.

      Besides, nazism is still fresh in people’s memories, and France has to deal with the presence of millions of Muslims originating from former colonies and half a million Jews. Add mass unemployment among Muslims and far-right agitators like Le Pen to the mix , and you can understand it’s anything but an easy situation to deal with.

  • 1. My generalized anxiety disorder

    2. My borderline personality disorder

    3. My support for GLBT+ individuals

    4. The fact that my car is very dirty

    5. I do not have my passport in my car

    6. My major […]

  • Skepticland is a place where Science and Studies are all important. Anecdotal evidence? Bah! Not important. Especially when it comes to questions of human behavior, people want proof. This is even more true when […]

    • The weird thing is, a lot of those same skeptics don’t seem to have any issues believing wacky claims if they reinforce their own biases.

      Transhumanists telling you that you’ll live forever? Absolutely.
      Evolutionary psychology telling you that rape is totes natural? Damn straight.
      Sam Harris got you convinced that saying we should specifically target Muslims for airport searches is not racist in any way? Seems legit.

      Yeah, skeptics have no issues accepting dubious evidence if it tells them what they want to hear.

      • I guess they haven’t left their religion entirely behind. Utopian eschatology? Sin as a state of being? Those are fairly Christian concepts.

    • So why are otherwise skeptical individuals suddenly incapable of Googling (social science studies) when questions of bias appear?

      Perhaps because they are skeptical of the reliability of studies involving the social sciences.


      • I have to agree. I can’t count the number of times someone has linked me to an article claiming Study A has proven Thing Y, only to find out that when sources are checked that Study A does not even claim Thing Y at all, but instead somewhat related Thing X. Upon further inspection it turns out that Study A’s proof of Thing X is unconvincing given their data*. Worse, it turns out their data relies entirely on an questionnaire filled out by 27 white, middle class, early 20s undergrads who did it for extra credit.

        And that’s entirely leaving out that the better part of these articles are behind a pay wall, and I’d be broke trying to read them all.

        *As an example, I was linked once to a study claiming that regular church attendance leads to better classroom results. Their data was relatively sound, but it didn’t seem to cross their minds that, like breakfast, stable families were far more likely to regularly attend church and that children with stable families are more likely to excel in school.

      • I’d be curious to see how often the people who are skeptical about social science research that seems to show social influences are equally skeptical about the research that seems to show evolutionary influences.

    • It also may have something to do with the fact that there are numerous contradictory studies on most social science questions. For every study showing a certain bias, there is another study showing no bias, and it takes more than a quick Google search to analyze the methodology and interpretation of each study in a given area.

      This is a good post that address it: http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/12/12/beware-the-man-of-one-study/

      • Unlike all other sciences where there are rarely or never any contradictory studies… oh, wait. Hell, the article you link to isn’t even specifically about social sciences – the first example in it is actually about medical science.

        • Right… the point is that we should never trust a single study, and that many of the points cited in the OP have contradictory studies showing the opposite of what she claims. Telling someone “just Google it” isn’t a solution to that.

    • The ongoing discrimination in housing is one of my favorite (least favorite?) examples. It demonstrates that racism is not only still a thing, but a serious problem that is limiting the opportunities of minorities and perpetuating cycles of ghettoization. Here’s a recent version of a HUD study, but fair housing advocates basically conduct experiments on this every day in major cities and find discrimination: http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/press/press_releases_media_advisories/2013/HUDNo.13-091

    • One of the most insidious parts of privilege is the privilege to be oblivious to privilege. It’s also one of the most vigorously protected parts of privilege.

    • People are only too willing to give the “benefit of the doubt” as to whether a given action is motivated by prejudice or bigotry. There is also the matter that seeking the reality of prejudice and bigotry will expose the similar preconceptions in the actions of the seeker.

    • What’s especially weird is people who have advanced degrees being entirely dismissive of other fields of intellectual endeavor. It is as though they believe that their knowledge and expertise is directly tied to their innate goodness and smartness and personality, rather than years of studying the hard work of people who came before them. Because they tie their expertise to themselves as an awesome genius person, they feel like if they don’t immediately “get” another field then it must be invalid.

  • Olivia posted a new activity comment 5 years, 8 months ago

    Yes! Thank you for bringing that up, I completely forgot to include it but it’s a great point.

  • Things on the internet (and really everywhere) have been stressful lately. Conversations about race and police violence, rape and sexual violence, and harassment and online violence are just about everywhere. This […]

    • My Son has a few triggers, but I didn’t know about the “discussion of dieting” being one.

      • It depends on your mental illness. And remember, PTSD works because human memory is highly associative. If only it were so simple as discussing rape being the only thing that reminds a survivor of rape. But if the room had sky blue curtains or smelled of rosewater or a particular song was playing downstairs, those things can also bring back the memory of rape.

    • Thank you. I didn’t have a clear understanding of the difference between a trigger and something upsetting. You have clarified it nicely. I think the word “trigger” gets misused fairly often, sometimes intentionally, mostly from ignorance. Either way, misuse of the word doesn’t add understanding.

      • This is certainly a valid concern and I think is part of what leads to not only misunderstanding, but ridicule of the concept of trigger warnings. I’m partial to the Shakesville-style “content notes” instead.

    • Triggers aren’t just for mental illnesses, physical illnesses have triggers too. I don’t know of many that could be affected by a website, but epilepsy is one.

  • I don’t really get Shia LaBeouf. I’m not entirely sure that anyone “gets” Shia LaBeouf, as his behavior is often self-aggrandizing, sometimes bizarre, and repeatedly unethical (plagiarizing an apology for […]

    • I completely agree with you and I also think he was sexually assaulted. His art show made me so uncomfortable because I thought surely someone would take advantage of him like that so I was not surprised to hear his allegations.

      Not that I am comparing him to Yoko Ono, but her “Cut Piece” made me uncomfortable too for the same reason.

    • The Atlantic article was a little confusing until I realized the link is to the 2nd page of a 2-page story. Just scroll down to the bottom and click “page 1” or “single page” to read the whole thing.

      If I’m understanding the story correctly, LaBeouf put himself in a vulnerable position and some vicious predator* took advantage of it to physically assault and rape him. Then the parasites* came out of the woodwork to blame him and not the rapist. How is this different in any essential way than the thousands of other similar stories that occur every week, such as the Oklahoma high school girls in today’s Quickies or the Vassar freshman yesterday?

      Whether LaBeouf was terrible in the 4th Indiana Jones movie (I thought he was adequate) or has done strange things in his personal life is no more relevant than his hair color, choice of automobiles, gender, or whether he was walking down the street at night alone and drunk. Some horrible person did terrible things to him.

      [*] apologies to the real predators and parasites out there who perform essential ecological functions to the benefit (most of the time) to us all.

    • Good article, Olivia. I’d just like to add that, while it’s surely true that “sometimes bad things do happen to bad people”, and while it’s good to keep that in mind, I’m not convinced that Shia Labeouf is a bad person.

    • Exactly. But, as donboc pointed out…maybe bad things happen to odd people would be a better way of putting it? I work with survivors of sexual violence. He was raped. I am not comfortable putting rape on a scale of bad to worst. I refuse to question his rape, simply because he put himself in a vulnerable situation. Can a prostitute be raped? A wife? A husband? A dancer? A porn star? A drunk person? Rape = no consent. Period.

    • It should be open-and-shut, but a lot of men who have been sexually assaulted even deny it to themselves. “Rape”, in their minds, is something that happens to women and gay men. And men are always supposed to want sex, so if you didn’t enjoy sex, it means something’s wrong with you.

      It’s another confusing aspect of rape culture. A lot of internalized victim-blaming.

    • I have no fucking clue who he is. I don’t watch TV much, I hardly make it to the movies, I don’t follow celebrity anything. Just not my cuppa tea.
      Somebody was raped and they have my support. Everything else is irrelevant.

    • I also want to add: It is very unlikely that he ever knows about what I wrote above.
      After all I’m just some weird nobody with a internet access. But he’s probably aware that there are people on the net who support him (and I hope that he and other guys who are genuinly interested in supporting male rape victims do notice who supports them and who doesnt’) and I want to add my drop of water to that ocean.
      Which connects with the main reason I write support notes for somebody who will never read them: Other people, other victims of rape of all genders will read them and know that there are at least some people who will not question them to death and who will support them if they come forward.

  • I was going to write something else today.

    I was going to write a post that was snarky and funny, but hopefully perceptive.

    I was going to write a post about one of my pet issues, something that affects […]

    • I don’t know how to cope with the hideous injustice. It’s as though the US government wants a civil war. Though I suppose the state has already been carrying on a war, and so few people are able or willing to fight back. I don’t know how this can end well, but I hope with all my heart that somehow some of the perpetrators will face justice.

      • “It’s as though the US government wants a civil war.”

        Maybe not all the government, but the South never stopped fighting the last one.

        I have noticed that a lot of the agitators tend to be college-educated whites and tend to be the ones grasping at straws to link Ferguson to Palestine. And people wonder why I’m so cynical about ‘solidarity’ and ‘intersectionality’ at times.

  • Olivia posted a new activity comment 5 years, 8 months ago

    Oh, good point, sorry about that. I was too rage-blinded to think straight 😛

    • Perfectly understandable, I would half expect an American follow-up using We Are The World if it hadn’t already been recycled a few years back to condescend at Haiti. But give it time, they will probably find something to bastardize in the name of “helping”. Maybe That’s What Friends Are For, that would be suitably ghoulish.

      Oh, and let me add…[Read more]

  • Welcome to mid November, the season of Christmas carols and…racism? In all the hubbub about how Christmas is coming too early and atheists are ruining Christmas, a passel of celebs have once again pulled out Do […]

    • Of course this kind of disaster-centric attention to the “developing world” helps focus attention away from the systemic issues that make it difficult for countries in West Africa to deal with this outbreak effectively. How much of the wealth of these nations that could be used on hospitals and doctors is siphoned away by oil companies or frittered away on weaponry?

    • This video is in the same vein as voluntourism. I.E. self-centered attempts at “help” that’s more for the interests of the people giving the “help” (i.e. no help at all) than it is about the people being “helped”.

      Giving aid equals understanding what the fuck the issue even is in the first place, and understanding the many complex factors on the ground to understand first what “help” should even be defined as.

      This video is shameful.

    • Holy fucking shit!

      Did they seriously just replace the horrid line “tonight thank God it’s them instead of you” with the would-be-funny-if-it-wasn’t-so-tragic line “tonight we’re reaching out and touching you“?

      In a song about Ebola? It’s almost like they don’t know the first fucking thing about how Ebola works, or humanity for that matter. Holy fucking shitballs! I’ve thought Bono to be a big ole prat for some time not but whoa, whatta douche.

      Oh, and FYI – While this does sound like something that ‘Murica would do, and I have no issues with taking shots at the condescending “help” that the USA seems to specialize in, all the artists here are from the UK and Ireland with a single “token” African from Benin. You can’t tar us with this shitshow, sorry.

      • Oh, good point, sorry about that. I was too rage-blinded to think straight 😛

        • Perfectly understandable, I would half expect an American follow-up using We Are The World if it hadn’t already been recycled a few years back to condescend at Haiti. But give it time, they will probably find something to bastardize in the name of “helping”. Maybe That’s What Friends Are For, that would be suitably ghoulish.

          Oh, and let me add how pleased I am that Adele “snubbed” Geldof on this. Between this and her yelling at Chris Brown at the Grammys (for refusing to stand for Frank Ocean) I just want to shake her hand.

    • I was listening to a woman from West Africa being interviewed on NPR a few days ago about this song. If I recall correctly she was a spokesperson for a local West African organization involved in community education and developing resources to fight the Ebola crisis. She was not very happy about the song and how it paints Africa with a broad dark and condescending brush or that the production lacked any West African musicians who have been singing their own songs to get the message out for some time. The statement in the interview that will stick with me was hearing this obviously intelligent and compassionate woman saying, “of course we know it’s Christmas in Africa”. I could hear the sarcasm dripping off the words.

    • Olivia, somebody, on QI I think it was, pointed out that a merkin is in fact a pubic wig, which gives a whole new perspective to some of George W’s speeches in which he proudly claimed to be A Merkin!

      Seriously though, this video has been getting a lot of stick here too, and rightly so. Your points are well made.

      OTOH I would be really interested to buy a compilation of the music made by West African artists that Jacob mentions. Why doesn’t somebody do that instead?

      • …and hot off the press, here it is:


        Proceeds to MSF, who did most of the heavy lifting in the early days of the outbreak. Perfect!

        • iTunes Canada won’t let me buy because it’s on the French site. It is payday so instead I just sent a bit of money MSFs way.

    • The tl;dr version of my opinion is, everything I’ve seen about outbreaks in Africa (and not just Ebola) has had varying degrees of ethnocentrism, with the less-ethnocentric ones simply being written by people trained to catch their own ethnocentrism. Dunning-Kruger very much applies.

  • Did you know that plus size models are totes no big deal anymore? They’re like…just like other models, you know? Or at least that’s what Elle tells us in a recent interview with Myla Dalbesio. The modeling […]

    • I mean, shopping for clothing of any size is hard enough as a woman without calling a model who wouldn’t have to go out of the misses section* ‘plus sized’ because she has some body fat between her skin and bones. I want to be able to guess with size I am without having to try on six pairs of pants every time I buy clothing.

      * Except possibly because of her height. I can imagine that being tall is one of those not-fun things when shopping.

    • I was curious and looked at her measurements on her web page, and by some sizing standards (yes, in the US!) she is a 12, with 42″ hips and 32″ waist. At Calvin Klein, she’d be snug in size 12 pants and might have to go up to 14.. and of course the pants probably wouldn’t be long enough for her.

      One of my friends recently scoffed at me when I was looking at the plus size section of Forever 21. I told her, I AM plus size. With 44″ hips, I’m a size 16 at most stores. Yet I’ve been eyeballed by shorter women as an 8. I understand the disgust with someone this beautiful and relatively thin being called “plus size,” but maybe we just need to remove the stigma from that word. It’s a stupid term by the fashion industry for those who wear above a 12. My friend thought I was being insulting by calling myself “plus size.” But I am, or at least, I am sometimes, because it’s totally not consistent among clothing manufacturers.

      • Yeah, this is kind of a problem. It’s true that this model is still very skinny and still not someone the average woman probably relates to and that’s well worth pointing out. The whole argument that this shouldn’t be called “plus sized” is entirely reasonable. But that also doesn’t remotely mean she’s lying when she says she’s a size ten.

        It turns out that the whole 6 versus 10 thing is a whole other, but strongly related, discussion. Women’s clothing sizes, I’m sure I don’t really need to tell anyone, are insane. At 5’11” (if the internet is right) I’d be very surprised if this woman could fit into a size 10 off the rack. My wife is not that tall and has always been bigger than a size ten, even when she was probably a good deal to skinny back in college.

        What would it take to get the fashion industry to completely revamp their sizing and do away with notions like “plus sized” and single number sizing, and “misses”, “juniors”, “petite”, and “women’s” altogether?

    • I don’t think I even have to get into how ridiculous all of this is, and how awful the modeling industry standards are, but I do want to add to the height/size proportion discussion here.

      I have nearly the exact body of this woman. I’m 5’11” (actually a bit closer to 6′) and my measurements are within an inch or two of hers (smaller boobs and smaller waist on my end — more pear-shaped). I’m a US 10-12 in most pants (UK 12-14), and an 8-10 for shirts and dresses that don’t have a pencil skirt. We could probably swap wardrobes and you wouldn’t notice a fit difference.

      Women of short to average height usually guess that I fit a 6 to 8. Nope. Turns out that width scales with height, so the measurements of a tall woman of similar proportion are larger (duh). My mother has a little more weight on her than me, but is of a similar height, and has to shop Plus size sections. I would not consider myself “plus-size” (whatever that means), so the fact that they’re hailing Dalbesio as such seems ridiculous. I know and love many “plus-sized” or just plain fat women. They are lovely and sexy, just the way they are. They deserve clothes that fit in the same styles as smaller sized women.

      The last time I fit a size 6, I was 40 lbs underweight and the outpatient of a hospital eating disorder unit. My *bones* would barely squeeze into a size 4 (child-bearing hips ftw). That was also when I got the most solicitations to do modeling tryouts, etc. Of course, I’d never be hired long term as a model even if I’d stayed that size, because sample sizes are usually a 2-4. You have to be built with a very specific frame in order to meet supermodel standards, and the majority of women on the planet are not physically capable of meeting those standards.

      Can we please go back to sizing things by bust-waist-hip measurements in inches? No more “vanity” sizing, please. I don’t care about the numbers, I care about being able to know whether something is going to fit or whether its a lie. I have everything from a size 0 to a size 14 in my closet at the moment (and a size 18 or 22 or something if you look at the vintage pieces). That is beyond ridiculous.

    • Looking at this woman I would assume we have a similar body type. I’m 5’9” and usually wear a size 14 or 16, depending on the kind of store I’m shopping in. The last time I fit in a 12 I was shocked. I haven’t worn a 10 since I was in high school. Vanity sizing makes shopping for clothes for women extremely difficult. Even BMI standards make healthy weight maintenance for women nearly impossible. If I went by what my little fitness app on my phone says, I’d be around 45 pounds thinner than I am now. The last time I was close to that weight, my husband and friends started growing concerned and asking if I was eating enough and if everything was okay. When my husband needs a new pair of pants, he tells me his number measurements and it’s simple for me to shop for them without him. When my birthday rolls around and my mother asks what my size is so she can buy me a cute dress or nice jeans, I simply don’t know. Shopping is always a trial and error experience for me, and for most women I know, that involves grabbing clothes in a range of sizes(for me 12-16) and trying them on to see what fits closest. There is no “Oh, I am a size 14.” I just want some numbers that make sense. Right now, I have size small through x-large t-shirts hanging and old maternity pants that are sized ten as well as jeans and pants anywhere between size 12-16. And they ALL fit me. How does that make any sense? It’s time for a change, both for women’s benefit and because the system now just doesn’t make any freakin’ sense.

  • Atheism and science are bros. Everybody knows they belong together, just like Troy and Abed. For most of the reign of New Atheism, science has been right hand man, directing New Atheism’s trajectory and enjoying […]

    • 1000%

    • Well said.

    • Check out Stoicism…

    • Finally, a comprehensive rational thought from those who claim to be preeminently rational. Well done, Olivia.

      When new atheists like Feynman, Myers, and deGrasse Tyson decide to unnecessarily (and emotionally) turn off their brains, and utter unsophisticated gems like, “Philosophy is bullshit”, they sound like slow and frustrated children. Why they assume something they’ve obviously never studied is a natural enemy of their cause simply because various religious traditions have a history with it, is nonsense, and ultimately harmful. You need to engage intellectual enemies on all fronts, not arbitrarily cordon off the academic landscape and give people you don’t like the silent treatment forever.

      I believe they do this because they genuinely misunderstand philosophy and regard it as a competitor to scientific knowledge, when any professional philosophy scholar has never claimed such a thing, and never would, as it has been a distinct field of study for hundreds of years. Moreover, to disrespect other academic fields and extremely learned scholar simply for not studying physics or biology is self-defeating, pointless, and bigoted, quite frankly. New atheism needs a total package, not huffs and puffs or I’ll blow your house down!

    • I also want to add that the atheistic community suffers from wishful thinking just as much as the religious, and they must accept this part of themselves. If you oppose a method of thinking purely on basis that you believe it shows (albeit erroneously) the opposing worldview they espouse, you are simply accepting their interpretation without taking the time to meticulously build up your own case. You will be inclined to believe that you empirical method of discovery is capable of demonstrating all manner of metaphysical truths, which is not only nonsense and tarnishes the intellectual reputation of new atheism, but this conflation of diverse spheres of knowledge also harm the sciences by introducing unnecessary metaphysical dependencies into the naturalistic worldview. One need not wishfully believe that philosophy must either demonstrate one’s own metaphysical worldivew or that of one’s opponent! That’s not what philosophy is, and it’s not how logical thinking works. A modicum of self-criticism is in order for the new atheists to accept the same human limitations in which the religious fit faith, and simultaneously show with confidence the reasonableness of the atheistic position, if possible. You can’t just pretend there are no logical gaps about the ultimate meaning of life, and simultaneously attempt to play philosophical definition games!

    • Humanism, sitting in the corner, smiles and waves.

    • The way I see things, skepticism is the philosophical view. Science is the application of that philosophy. In other words, science is applied skepticism.

    • On the importance of science, from Epicurus’ Principal Doctrines:

      11. If we had never been troubled by celestial and atmospheric phenomena, nor by fears about death, nor by our ignorance of the limits of pains and desires, we should have had no need of natural science.
      12. It is impossible for someone to dispel his fears about the most important matters if he doesn’t know the nature of the universe but still gives some credence to myths. So without the study of nature there is no enjoyment of pure pleasure.
      13. There is no advantage to obtaining protection from other men so long as we are alarmed by events above or below the earth or in general by whatever happens in the boundless universe.

    • Hmmm. Philosophy would seem to be, at best, a static set of mental tools for approaching other endeavors. If philosophers want to lay claim to boolean algebra, mathematicians may concede it, because it’s origin is of little consequence, and mathematics has so much else going for it.
      I submit, that while saying it is useless is too harsh, philosophy has had it’s day. When does philosophy ever prevail when it collides with a field of science? So long, and thanks for all the tools.

  • The dudebros are at it again, and this time they’re confused. At The Daily Banter, Michael Luciano asks “Did I sleep through some radical redefining of the word ‘atheist’? It’s always been my understanding that an […]

    • Oh no Olivia, you can’t use that kind of language when talking to anyone at The Daily Banter (except maybe Bob Cesca). It’s liberal/libertarian dude-bros all the way down. Chez Pazienza is even worse, having once boldly declared that “people who find things ‘problematic’ are simply people with out real problems.”

    • He is right, there is nothing inherent in the word atheist that suggests skepticism, liberalism, humanism, or even curiosity.

      Plenty of atheists are not skeptical (looking at you Bill Maher), or liberal (Penn & Teller, S.E. Cupp although I’d suggest she is more a pseudo-atheist since she buys such a large swath of the Christian mythos), or humanist (Dawkins’ and Hitchens’ antiquated views on women, Harris’ and Maher again on Islam, and any number of libertarian dudebros on the poor), or curious (as I would suspect might be Mr. Luciano’s problem, trapped in his me, me, me bubble).

      All those people are atheists, all those people fail to live up to these other ideas, and all these people are free to not join in the new direction on the atheist movement. Now if they would kindly just shut the fuck up and let us by they can be on their way to the dustbin of history.

    • So I read the article and my look on my face was pure “Wow, he tried it”.

      I was pretty sure we were past the whole “Dictionary Atheism is the only true Atheism” nonsense some time ago, so this cat’s point is as stale as month old bagels. If that’s how he wants to roll, great. No need to lecture the rest of us trying to do more with our atheism than sit on our high horses being better than religious rubes and only speaking up when there is a Nativity scene on a city hall lawn.

    • I came to atheism through philosophical and ethical objections to the Christian faith I was raised in and honestly believed and practiced into my twenties. Before I decided that I didn’t believe that any god existed, I first decided that regardless of existence the god of Christianity didn’t deserve my love, worship or service.

      So yeah, I’m a feminist and a social justice warrior first. Those things triggered my exit from religion. It’s entirely possible that if the religion I was exposed to hadn’t been so virulently awful, I might still profess faith (not that I regret anything, just being honest).

      I wonder if this person has a problem with the atheist charity orgs or if he would disapprove of the hedonistic atheist social group I belong to that does a lot of drinking and talking and eating together and rarely talks about being atheist because none of that has anything to do with disbelieving in god.

    • Right, an atheist doesn’t need to be a decent human being, but every atheist I want to associate with, or spend time with, or talk to, or have the slightest interaction with has to be a decent human being at a minimum.

      I have not the slightest bit of desire to associate with people who are not decent human beings, whether they are atheists, christians, Democrats, Republicans or Libertarians. If they are not decent human beings they can all rot in the Hell hole they are digging for themselves.

      I love to associate with decent human beings of all persuasions, gay, straight, male, female, black, white, Christian, agnostic, atheist, trans, SJW and everyone else. If you are a decent human being, I will embrace you because we have enough in common that matters, in fact, we have all that matters in common, we are both decent human beings.

      All you non-decent human beings, please stay away from me until you have pulled your shit together. Thank you.

    • Neither Skeptic nor Atheist equals ‘libertarian’ or Randroid. Yes there is a Venn-diagram overlap, but it is scarcely enough to let the confusion continue.

      I wear my Red A still, and hope it would catch on. I wish I could tack on a blue ‘plus’ sign for the one in 100 people who recognizes the symbol at all.

      Perhaps, instead of pointing out that Atheism and Skepticism imply taking authority with a grain of salt…isn’t that obvious already? We should begin issuing an ‘Atheism MINUS’ tag to the misogynists, guru-worshippers, homophobes etc.

      The vast public is still pristinely unaware of these clashes, and barely comprehends that the Religious Right isn’t in control of the entire U.S.

      • I simply say if ‘atheists don’t owe your social justice agenda shit’, then obviously, you don’t get to use religion’s historical oppression of women in discussing atheism. Nor do you get to talk about sexual abuse by priests. Or religion’s role in excusing genocide. Or…

        Because using causes you don’t really believe in to prove your point is hypocritical.

  • A few nights ago I was chilling with my friends and my boyfriend, eating dinner and talking about nothing in particular. I live with a pile of atheist/feminist/heathen types who are all very much on the same page […]

    • I agree with what you are saying, but I will agrue that there is no reason that emotional speech need not be careful or specific.

      And that guy you linked to, I don’t know how people who are so wrong about almost everything could possibly believe they are absolutely right about it all. It must be hard to live in their world.

    • Generic mockery is pleasurable and funny, but as you say, potentially damaging. I think one should be allowed to indulge occasionally, but if it becomes the rule rather than an exception, it goes from “obvious joke, not an attempt to argue” to “that’s all you’ve got, inaccurate mockery”.

      I think it’s important to also note how this ties in with the science behind the decision of a place like popular science to dissalow comments. The comments colour the readers impression of a text, and many rational, deliberating, careful bloggers who argue specifics and make sure to use sources allow a fairly high ratio of generic mockery in the comments. I think it’d be hard to rein that in by moderation by the author, but to the keep the impact of the actual work I think it’d be wise to work to instill a culture that minimizes the casual, generic “that’s just like _them_” type comments.

    • I think the difficulty is when people stop realizing the joke is a joke. Besides, every MRA site has some stuff that simply invites ridicule. (In simple terms, like, maybe once or twice every 50 megabytes, they might have a point, but then they’re all hurf durf FEMINISM!!!1!1one and lose said point.)

      And of course, the internet makes people immediately lose their sense of humor without a winking smiley after it. 😉 Even if people get Poe’s law all wrong.

    • Broad acrimony online is probably a reaction to the “equal sides” nonsense that the MSM puts out. The snark may be closer to the truth, but it’s still not always accurate.

    • When we’re having a serious discussion (not emotional rants), my partner and I do this to each other, challenging each other’s generalisations. I think this works best when it’s between people who can trust each other and are arguing in good faith.

  • Just recently I posted about the Somali community in Minneapolis working to get funding for a halal food shelf and the utter fail of the atheist community in response to that attempt. Well we have more sad news […]

    • Signed and shared. This is kind of beside the point, but most transgender kids would be mortified to have to use those kinds of open showers. I hate open showers, and not even because of my queerness or gender dysphoria. Some people like their privacy. All school showers should have private stalls.

    • Because we need more ways for people to not see each other naked, not have a clue what other people look like naked, and more easily perpetuate body shame and related illnesses Jackal? Personally, I think we need the total opposite – less of the, “Not only can you hide if you want to, you are required to, because nudity = sex, and think of the children!”, not to make that sort of self perpetuating cycle of confusion and shame worse. Not that open showers are, by themselves, worth jack at preventing such problems, but, seriously.. stalls, would absolutely not help the much bigger issues, for both sexes, about body image, and its corresponding disorders, at all.

      • There are people who don’t mind being naked, and people who object to nudity. There are people who don’t mind being naked, but object to compulsory nudity. Nobody, to my knowledge, advocates compulsory nudity.

        I also noticed they said ’14 year olds’. Not every high school athlete is 14.

    • Sorry, I don’t see compulsory nudity in front of strangers as the answer to body issues. People are free to walk around shower rooms uncovered if they want to. They’re free to seek out nude beaches and nude saunas. I don’t think schools should force kids to be naked in front of people not of their choosing.

    • Yeah, its kind of an iffy thing though. If someone actually bothers to shower, then they could claim they where compelled, even if their other option was to not shower – which brings up whole other issues, but then, some teens you can’t get to shower period, never mind after gym classes. But, yeah, my point was simply that any goal towards a more sane future can’t take the path of, “Lets fix this problem, by aggravating another one.” One could argue that such compulsory nudity is a part of some schools in other countries, or that it should be, if for no other reason than hygiene, etc. One can also make the argument that a lot of things get compelled as it is, including all of the negative social ideals, including the ones driving these exact sorts of problems (and, more than a few parents, who are nudists, would state flat out that one of the biggest “compulsions” they every had, or is ever pressed on anyone else is, “Keep your dang clothes on!” lol)

      In any case… no, it shouldn’t be compelled, but neither should the polar opposite, which, frankly, is what has been winning in the game of, “You do this, but not that!”, for a rather long time, and to, many would argue, a great deal of people’s detriment.

      My only point is – maybe its a good idea to think about whether or not something that sounds like a good idea has… consequences that tend to promote some of the problems, rather than reducing them. And, imho, the last thing we need is “more” places in society where seeing someone nude, or them seeing you that way, isn’t merely “optional”, but implicitly forbidden. Because, if someone puts in stalls, such a thing will not end with, “You have the option of using one of the stalls.”, but will, pretty much 100% certainly, end up being, “We only provide stalls.”, which is itself compelling a choice.

  • Atheism does not have a stellar history when it comes to Islamophobia, particularly in the realm of holding Muslims or Muslim countries to the same standards that we hold everyone else. Instead, Islam has for many […]

    • Maine has seen an influx of Somali immigrants too and a lot of people don’t understand the realities if the situation. These are people who fled war and horrors most of us can’t imagine, coming to a new country, many were prevented for many years from legally working as their immigration status was processed (I don’t know how many are still in that process, some of these people may not have the option of getting a job still), those who can work have language and education barriers. Most of the Somali people I see out working locally are younger, those who came to the US as children because they have had more educational opportunities and it’s easier to learn languages as a child than as an adult. Even so they face hurdles getting jobs, not because they refuse to do jobs but because they are dark skinned Muslims and we still have a lot of racist, xenophobic, islamaphobic douchebags in our society.

    • The comment section in the Patheos article is a fairly good fleshing out of the issues. Should religion be granted special privileges? No. Should disadvantaged people be able to eke out a decent freakin’ meal for their kids? Yup. Might the local mosques play a bigger role? Sure. But what if the mosques are all really poor as well? Good point. Is sopme of their signage presumptuous? Maybe. If they were starving refugees from Northern Ireland would people be telling them to suck up their Catholicism and get a job and eat fetuses? Nope. I think the “tell” was in his post-script, saying “hey, work harder you lazy immigrants!” He tries to defend it with his own immigrant background, but that’s a Clarence Thomas/Hirsi Ali tactic, hey, how can I be a dick since I suffered too?

      I guess my main take-away is why should anyone be upset? Here we have some poor immigrants saying they’d sure like to have a food shelter with culturally appropriate food……like, ya know, if persecuted WASPs in Burma didn’t want to eat dog. If you really think that these impoverished and hungry people are demanding something special, well, I refer you to hedge fund managers getting taxed at a lower rate, and respectfully ask you to shut the fuck up.

    • The cries of ingrate in the comments section at The Friendly Atheist is sickening.

      This bullshit idea that poor people should take whatever shit you deign to give them and be fucking happy about it is part of the reason I fucking hate a certain type of atheist (person really, some of which are atheists). Just because those that are asking (or demanding, which seems to be the sticking point for some) for consideration are religious makes any dietary concerns they have unimportant is such a crock of privileged bullshit and it smacks of racism, xenophobia, cultural insensitivity, islamophobia, and quite frankly just being self-important dickheads.

      I wonder how they would feel if they were asking for money on the street to be able to eat and were given a Canadian toonie? Would they feel grateful that they had been given charity or would they feel put out by the all but worthless (in the situation) gesture? Would they think that “beggars can’t be choosers”? Somehow I don’t think they would.

      Someone rightly pointed out that charity that ignores the needs of the recipients is not actually charity but rather an empty gesture to make the giver feel good about themselves. Boo indeed.

    • I think the main takeaway from this is that it’s pretty clear today that every atheist org or public figure shouting “you can be an atheist and a conservative, an atheist and a libertarian!” were actually shouting: “we welcome atheists even if they’re bigots! (Main thing is you don’t believe in gods, it’s ok to kick the poor, minorities and women under the bus.)”

    • “Atheism does not have a stellar history when it comes to Islamophobia”

      To be fair, Islam does not have a stellar history when it comes to:

      – Treatment of Hindus
      – Treatment of Christians
      – Treatment of Jews
      – Treatment of other religions
      – Treatment of Atheists.
      – Treatment of women.
      – Treatment of children.
      – Treatment of female children especially (their founder “married” and raped a not even 10 year old girl, the Muslim scriptures even have extensive evidence about how he showed up, took away her doll, and then proceeded to do the deed). http://wikiislam.net/wiki/Aisha_Age_of_Consummation

      • To be fair,t his is a straw man. And i could also point out that PEOPLE don’t have a stellar history when it comes to people, particularly poor, disadvantaged minorities.

      • So basically you’re saying “NO! U!” Yeah, blatant logical fallacies won’t fly here.

      • Davidp070,

        Who here said Islam had a “stellar history” as put it, when it comes to respecting the rights of non Muslims, women and children?

        No one here is denying that Muslim did horrible things in the past ( and sometimes do horrible things today ) and use their religion as a justification? People belonging to all faiths do that. Even atheists will sometimes use a political ideology along with pseudoscience to justify inhuman behavior. That’s why we have to fight bigotry wherever we find it, including among atheists.

        Its also bigoted to judge all Muslims by the actions of the terrorists and fundamentalist, who also belong to their religion, which is what a lot of people unfortunately are doing.

    • When I read that “P.S.” my mouth dropped. And then I read the comments. Holy fuck. I stopped reading the Friendly Atheist a long time ago, and my reasons were just solidified. That shit isn’t “friendly” — it’s racist. Ugh.

    • It is the one-two punch of anti-immigrant racism: crap on them in every way you possibly can so that they turn to each other for the only decent treatment and support they’re going to get, and then blame them for not assimilating into the culture that you’ve gone out of your way to exclude them from. Nice work asshole atheists.

    • The PS was definitely bizarre and repellent. But, the core issue remains: how can generic emergency services be ready to give assistance to people who may have specific limits as to what they can/will accept?

      As a white, cis-gendered, male, native born American citizen; I’ve had to seek food assistance in recent years. The assistance was a mockery, food earmarked for the poor is barely fit for survival, even without extra ‘issues’ (I’m diabetic and had to ‘pass’ on about 75% of the ‘food’ offered).

      As a wealthy nation, we should be able to provide food assistance to individuals and communities with problems. In a sane society, there would be enough flexibility and variety to allow for quick adjustment to community needs. Any city or county with a substantial Somali population under the poverty-line, has no excuse for not thinking about dealing with the Halal issue.

      Still, religious dietary restrictions are silly and pointless. And Islam is not a race. This whole mess is about class, poverty, immigration, employment, education…and religion.

      • As someone who has had to utilize food pantries in the past, I agree: The options are mockery. Maybe the answer is that we need to be better at providing better options in general.

        I don’t think religious dietary restrictions are silly and pointless. Compassion is important. Religion is hard to distinguish between culture. What about vegetarians? Vegans?

        Maybe I’m getting more accepting as I get older, but I don’t see anything wrong with at least trying to honor different cultural dietary restrictions. And I say cultural instead of religious because, as I previously mentioned, they aren’t really that different.

  • I’ve been watching Battlestar Galactica for the past few months (warning: some spoilers ahead), and generally deeply enjoying the show, particularly President Roslin. Until a few episodes ago when President Roslin […]

    • First! that’s a first for me.

      There is a difference in perspectives that may apply when you believe in the existence of gods or not.

      It’s easy enough for an unbeliever, schooled with some science, to see that there is no thing as “inherent good”. Value is something only a consciousness can apply, and only has value as “good” (or bad) to that consciousness.

      So yeah, compromising rights for things that have no inherent “good” makes little sense.

      But a religious person on the other hand, will see themselves as the most valuable and good thing in existence since they were personally created by a omnipotent benevolent God whose mind we cannot comprehend, yada yada, and thus “good” is absolute….and that where the trouble starts.

      Such a person who gets it into their head that they know all about what is absolute good, and who feel like they need control, when others disagree, they’ll oppress and kill for it….because “they know” the “truth”.

      I think Roslin, if she was wiser, might have made a announcement that even though abortion was still legal, anyone considering abortion might think of the future, and at the very least consider giving it up for adoption to the designated official civil care group. I’m sure 99% of the population would have thought that reasonable and not aborted, and there would be no need to oppressive laws that threaten imprisonment, etc.

      One aspect of our culture maybe that to be in control it is thought that MUST involve ordering and commanding people to submit, instead of setting a reasonable example that others willingly follow.

    • Well, this is much more interesting than BSG ever became for me (I gave it about two seasons before giving up on it). Your argument about the moral weight of the existence or nonexistence of humans is really interesting. I don’t really agree with it, and I wish I had the time to explain why, since I think I’d learn a lot from the conversation (but unfortunately I am in the middle of both writing a dissertation AND moving, which are basically two of the stupidest things to try to combine). But the conclusion I get from your argument, that whatever moral weight we might assign to the perpetuation of the human species cannot outweigh the value of bodily autonomy for individual humans, I think is spot on. Indeed, I think autonomy is among the traits that makes human existence special and worthy of moral consideration.

      The species is not a living thing that deserves our respect and care. It is simply an organization of other lives, and those individual lives should always be prioritized.

      This is a really interesting idea. What do you think about the analogous idea where this is scaled down from the whole species to a culture? I think many people have a moral intuition that there is something intrinsically bad about the extinction of a culture, above and beyond the deaths of the individuals who belong to it — hence the notion of genocide as a distinct crime from mass murder. Do you think your same reasoning applies in this case, or is there something different between the two? If the same reasoning applies, what do you think the source of the erroneous moral intuition is? (Sorry if this reads like a “gotcha” question, I don’t intend it as one — I’m genuinely curious what you think.)

    • My immediate emotional response is that perpetuating the existence of a culture by demanding hardships of the individuals in that culture isn’t the obvious no-no you make it out to be. And of course now I’m trying to rationalize this stance, which is uncomfortably hard.

      One thing I’m wondering though, unless we put an inherent value on adding lives and the perpetuation of the species, how do we justify creating new life? When you decide to have a child, you “doom” a child to existence, and existence you don’t know if will be appreciated by the child and which will certainly include at least some pain and suffering.

      Based on way too little contemplation I think continuing the species and my culture is the best of not very good arguments. I don’t necessarily think it’s good enough to counter the bodily autonomy argument in the case at hand, but I think by discounting it completely we also end up calling procreation immoral.

    • I always figured that this attitude was Roslin’s flaw.
      I mean, *everybody* in that series was absolutely, seriously flawed in some capacity (except maybe Lee Adama, who was meant as a kind of benchmark of sanity to compare everyone else to).
      This was Roslin’s flaw: her obsession with the number on the white board leading her to ruling other women’s bodies in order to create more mouths to feed. The reasonable course of action was:
      a) establish a stable food source
      b) take the entire cost of child-rearing onto the gov’t (where necessary, at least make the offer to anyone on the edge of decision)
      c) encourage child birth
      Assuming, of course, you could show their population was below some “optimum level” and I don’t know how you’d do that.

    • While this read to me more as Roslin’s own political calculus, both to avoid a direct political confrontation, and to address her personal obsession with the dwindling population, I think the moral question is more interesting in the context of the wider BSG universe — because there are gods, or at least the cylon “god” as present actors in this universe.

      Would relegating personal rights to the will of super-natural, or at least super-technological powers that were indistinguishable from gods be obviously wrong as it is in a universe such as ours where there are no such active gods?

      I’m inclined to argue that it is still wrong to subjugate people in this way, but it’s hard to make moral arguments that apply to a fictitious universe that is significantly different from our own, precisely because morality is an analysis of the emergent properties of whichever universe the events are in.

    • As we all know our resources are very limited. We’re gonna need people, people that can’t work and prevent other people from working as well. Some of you have volunteered to bring these children into the world – No, thank you.

      Volunteers have sacrificed so much; it’s time to delegate a task to the unwilling. Rape victims, people that don’t understand how to use space contraception, and parents whose children will certainly die before reaching adulthood all need to pitch in and try to bring people into this world, even if their doctors insist that mother and baby will die in that attempt.

      (I was not impressed by that moment in the series.)

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