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Posted by on Jan 17, 2013 in Atheism, Drama, Freethought Blogs, Skepticism, Socialism | 56 comments

A World Without Dogma

A world without dogma would be unprecedented. As a species, we’ve rapidly become technologically advanced, but changes in our culture have been far more lethargic in their development. Simultaneously, for the first time in human history, at least in the Western world, the belief in god is becoming less important. Partially, this is because modern science is incompatible with the notion of a magical theistic overseer. And partially, it’s because for those of us living in the West, modern medicine and better living conditions have made it less necessary to ask for divine intervention.  We are taught to attribute our successes to ourselves (the ever-present free will question notwithstanding), and most people seem happy to do so. As for our failures? Well, those are due to bad luck, of course. But if we assume that no gods exist, where does that lead us? Does is logically follow that Marxist feminism is the best way to live? Based on history, I dare say no. So far, experiments with Marxism have lead to genocide and mass murder. Am I supposed to believe that Marxist feminism will be any different?  Maybe a few years ago, you could have convinced me of this, but after seeing the divisiveness, vindictiveness, and vengeful behavior of people like PZ Myers, Rebecca Watson, and Richard Carrier, I don’t believe it. Further, I don’t believe in any dogma that puts the interests of one group over others in its very name. Human beings have not yet learned to live in peace with each other. This is true both with religion and without.  Even without god beliefs, atheists are constantly at each other’s throats. And frankly, I’m no exception. But at least I know it. I also know that a program of selfish killing and outright eugenics is just as “logical” an outcome as Marxist feminism when no god exists to pave the way. After all, it’s survival of the fittest, right? A godless universe comes with no inherent meaning, and no hell fire for your wrongdoings. It literally leaves you staring into the abyss. But the beauty is that you have to freedom to create your own meaning, whether that be love, art, integrity, helping others or anything else of your choosing. Human beings are social creatures, and as such, we’ve arrived at a few core and noble principles. Religion hasn’t hindered us in doing so. “Do onto others as you would have done unto yourself.” “Love your enemy.” “Love your neighbor.” Don’t murder. Don’t steal. Don’t rape. Don’t harm others. Most of us live by these principles at least to some extent, and I see a system of tolerant pluralism as a far more desirable outcome than one man’s neo-puritan and divisive ideology. Have you ever seen a PZ Myers video where he’s talking about anything but science? Watch carefully, and you’ll notice that he’s preaching. And what he’s preaching isn’t kindness. We are drawn to powerful and charismatic personalities, and because of this, we should always treat what they’re saying with skepticism.

  • Ronlawhouston

    I’d actually bring your comment back around to belief. Isn’t dogma more or less a belief system about how the world should be? Studies have shown that beliefs are resistant to things like logic and evidence. I think dogma is merely belief on steroids.

    Maybe that explains PeeZus – roid rage.

    • Copyleft

      You make a valid, if discouraging, point. It’s clear from numerous psychological and neurological studies that we humans have, at best, a thin veneer of rationality overlying a HUGE chunk of emotion, instinct, and primitive reflexes. And that layer of reason is almost trivially easy to bypass.

      It may be that we’re stuck with dogmas and beliefs until we evolve into something that’s no longer homo sapiens…. but something more worthy of the name.

      • bluharmony

        If people were only willing to question themselves and their beliefs… but then, we’d lose all forward momentum. It’s a double-edged sword, as it were. I don’t have the answers.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thaumas-Themelios/100001074236927 Thaumas Themelios

          If you’re headed towards a cliff, losing forward momentum can be a very good thing.

          We’re not in a race. The destination is the most important thing, and it’s going to take time to get there. Might as well read the map first, and also check the terrain as we go, because maps have been known to be wrong, too.

          Better to head at a moderate pace in the right direction, than rapidly in just any direction.

          I don’t think it will take us evolving into super-rational-humans. It just takes an additional level of thinking skeptically about our own thinking. It’s not hard to do, it just takes time and persistence, very much like the deconversion process from religion to atheism. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it can and does happen.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001520476469 Alex Norman

    You might want to see what DprJones said about Watson this past Sunday. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lX7GcUrDCMY&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    • bluharmony

      Do you know at what point I should start watching? I don’t have the patience for the whole thing.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001520476469 Alex Norman

        Around 30 seconds in is when Dpr starts talking. What slice you precisely want to watch depends on the person. Around 1:45 he stops giving relevant background and actually expresses his opinion.

        • bluharmony

          Thanks!

  • ShaunPhilly

    Huh, I don’t see that at all.

    But let me ask for clarification; are you associating the FtB and Skepchick people as Marxist feminists? Because when I took a feminist thought class in college, I remember learning a little bit about Marxist feminism, and I don’t see that comparison as being valid.

    Also, neo-Puritans? in what way? I see sex-positivity in most of both PZ and Watson (having met them both IRL and talking with them), and I do not see any preaching. I dislike preaching, and I tend (but not always) to like what they say.

    I read this blog to try and understand your point of view, but I simply cannot find it to be reasonable in this regard.

    • bluharmony

      For Myers’ Marxist ideology, you have to read his blog. As for neo-puritanism, I’m referring to Watson renouncing nude modeling, talking about having a male escort take her to her hotel rooms at conferences, requiring men to cross the street when they see a single woman coming, and the impropriety of approaching a strange woman or asking her out to coffee. Read Shroedinger’s Rapist. Myers says it’s required reading for all men who want to get laid; I think it’s brilliant comedy.

      • ShaunPhilly

        I do read PZ’s blog, every day. I don’t see any Marxism there. Sure, some unapologetic liberalism, but that’s not anywhere near the same. I know real Marxists as well, but not any Marxist feminists (that I know of).

        As for Rebecca Watson, she is an advocate for sex-positivity, which requires safe environments for people to exist in. In fact, the concept of consent, which is critical in places where swingers, kinksters, polyamorous people, etc congregate, is closely related to the concepts of safe spaces and so forth. You seem to be ignorant of the sex-positive community like the ones I belong to, because the concepts that Watson and her allies espouse are pretty common among such sex-positive communities, and it’s just that some people in the atheist community don’t seem to understand that.

        I have read Schroedinger’s rapist, and while I have some subtle issues with it, I found it interesting and important to understand. To be clear, I don’t agree with everything PZ says (I’ve publicly criticized some of his thoughts on my blog and even in person. He takes criticism with warranted aplomb and he responds with respect and intelligence, even if he’s not always right.), and while men certainly can get laid without reading that, I have found such ideas helpful in understanding the experience of many women around me. While I don’t really have any trouble getting laid, I have found that I now understand why I was having trouble, in previous times of my life, getting the attention of people of quality. Now I don’t have that problem.

        • bluharmony

          An advocate for sex-positivity does not tell women that posing in the nude is wrong and is not offended by invites for coffee. As for Schroedinger’s Rapist, the first time I read it, I thought it was a joke. I’m friendly, and I like it when people approach me. Even big, scary men. Also, if you don’t read PZ’s blog, then you probably don’t know what’s in it. Just a guess.

          • josh

            bluharmony, I think you misread ShaunPhilly’s comment above. S/he says they read PZ every day.

          • bluharmony

            You’re probably right, I did. Then I don’t understand how he or she can miss the Marxist undertones. But, oh well. Thanks for pointing out my mistake.

          • ShaunPhilly

            As I said, I do read PZ’s blog. Every day.

            Also, as I have said, I don;t agree with everything they say. I disagreed with the nude posing thing, and I agree it is not ideally sex-positive. The issue with the invitation was not about offense. I don’t understand how you don’t understand that it was about feeling safe, not feeling offended. I will not dive into the elevatorgate fiasco. That;s so o2 years ago.

          • bluharmony

            All I’m saying is that you can’t judge who will fell safe in that situation based on gender alone. Part of it is what women are taught.

          • josh

            ShaunPhilly,

            Just so you have some breadth of reply:

            I don’t think PZ and co. are Marxist in any strict sense. (At least no more so than I myself.) I used to read him regularly and I still think he’s done a lot for the online community, writes great articles on biology and is generally right on religion. Politically, we have very similar minds. But I had to stop reading him and the FtB clique. (Not every blogger on FtB). Because someone with whom I agree on 95% of the issues was willing to burn every bridge over the remainder, and represent his opponents as monsters for it.

            No one I’ve come across is against the idea of consent. But consent is central in the sex-positive groups you mentioned exactly because they operate on the boundaries of what is normally considered acceptable or in potentially dangerous situations. Consent isn’t required to walk down the same sidewalk as someone, or to say hello, or to ride an elevator. There are situations: telling a risque joke, asking someone up to your room, touching a friend in a bar, where consent is implied, or being tested, or understood. There will always be gray areas and places where you make a judgment call, and the fact that people would demarcate those boundaries differently, or make a different call, even the fact that sometimes they will make a wrong call, doesn’t mean that they are sociopaths.

            The problem is, in some situations, PZ doesn’t take criticism with aplomb and he doesn’t respond with respect or intelligence. If the sacred cows of his particular brand of social justice get gored, or his circle of dittoheads gets criticized, his skepticism and rationality go right out the window. Not to say that some of his critics don’t go off the deep end any time he or feminism are brought up. [*CoughastrokidCough*]

          • ShaunPhilly

            Understood. It is a complicated issue, and I wish that we didn’t have to even address it, but here it is and we do have to address it. As I have said, there are times when I disagree with PZ and others around him, but I really think that so many people have responded to those moments disproportionally. the FtBullies meme has simply been ridiculous, especially by some bloggers I’ve seen i the last couple of years.

            Your comparison to consent in public v. private (parties etc) is fair, but I think that it would be helpful if more people understood that the interactions that we have–on the street, at conferences, etc–will be taken in different ways by different people. I think there are many people who do not understand, or possibly care, that the people they approach may be intimidated or even offended. That is part of the problem.

            I am of the opinion that most people are grossly unaware of much of what goes on around them. they are unaware that context matters in terms of being a responsible and considerate person,and much of harassment and offense could be avoided by making the effort to understand how our actions affect others as well as how one’s own experience is insufficient in terms of comprehending how one’s actions look to others.

            Most people I have met who don’t understand the elevatorgate issue says something like “But I would not feel uncomfortable in that situation” or even “what did the guy do that was actually wrong?” That’s not the point; How you, I, or even 10,000 others would have felt in that situation is not relevant. What’s relevant is how Rebecca felt that night, and her plea for other people not to do such things resonated and still resonates with many people. It took me some time to understand that, but once I did I started seeing that I was in a privileged position relative to where Rebecca stood that night; privileged not because of my gender per se, but because of my set of experiences (which in this culture tend to be related to my gender, generally) which differed from hers. We have to take that resonance seriously, even if many other people (including many women) don’t understand it, because it is a real phenomenon with real effects.

          • josh

            Shaun-
            I’ve seen some really stupid things written about the FtBloggers, but then, they’ve written some really stupid things in turn. What’s a body to do? There is a pretty consistent pattern of banning, dogpiling, ridiculing and uncharitable interpretation among the usual suspects there. Like I said though, I left because reading or debating them on the contentious stuff was like dealing with not-particularly-pleasant theists. It’s the kind of crap I was hoping to avoid in a skeptic/secular/atheist community.

            Anyway, I’m all for consideration of other people’s situations and reactions, but it doesn’t follow that I think we have to accommodate them in every instance. We need to discuss things in terms of a reasonable standard of social interactions and expectations, not in terms of the most paranoid or easily offended person we can find. At the end of the day I have to make my own judgment about what is and isn’t a reasonable expectation, and I can’t rationally base that on the perceived average offenses against an arbitrary group some person belongs to.

            So if Rebecca had just said “I felt kind of uncomfortable, and guys, in future, please don’t approach me that way,” and left it at that, there would be nothing objectionable. But other people would be well within their rights to say “I don’t think your discomfort is reasonable.” Instead, she said he was objectifying her and issued the sneering “Don’t Do That”. Others disagreed and suddenly became the horde of slavering rape apologists infesting atheism.

            Sometimes, how you feel is your problem and not society’s, sometimes your reactions are irrational. We can debate to what degree in specific circumstances, but I take this to be a pretty crucial tenant of skepticism.

          • bluharmony

            Agree 100% with this comment.

          • ShaunPhilly

            ugh, I just composed a reply that was eaten by the internet.

            I don’t feel like writing it again. In short, I think that there is conversation to be had here still, as I think our experiences differ mostly because we have stuck closer to different parts of this debate.

            But comments sections get stale after time, and I think that that conversation could be continued in the future. I don’t often follow comments sections of blogs, so I may or may not talk with you again here. You are, of course, welcome to check out my own blog, or even to contact me directly.

            Shaun@polyskeptic,com

          • josh

            I sympathize with eaten comments. I don’t comment all that often but I do comment at length so… yeah I understand not wanting to recompose.

          • bluharmony

            I really enjoy it when people use the comments sections to try and understand each other, whatever views they hold. And yes, eaten comments are the worst. Eaten blog posts, worse still. If you guys have blogs you’d like me to add to my blogroll, let me know.

          • bluharmony

            This is key: if she spoke only for herself, and without snark or contempt in between insinuations of misogyny, there would have been no issue. But she speaks the way she does to create issues, just like her comment about drunk sex being rape. She intentionally offends people, so I don’t have much compassion if she gets offended in return or feels unsafe in perfectly normal, safe situations.

          • http://twitter.com/GerhardPrinslo1 Gerhard Prinsloo

            People generally don’t pander to my insecurities and I don’t expect them to. People I don’t know have no right to expect me to pander to theirs. This idea of privilege has gotten out of hand and makes unwarranted assumptions based on gender. Besides, so what if you were ‘privileged’ with respect to Watson. Is she so special that a moment of discomfort on her part is worthy of note? Who cares. The rest of us think, “OK, bit of a scare there” and that’s it. It can even be argued that it adds spice to life. This obsession with who might be momentarily intimidated by something is, quite frankly, precious.

        • http://twitter.com/GerhardPrinslo1 Gerhard Prinsloo

          PZ Myers takes criticism with warranted aplomb! Responds with respect and intelligence! You are having a laugh. Try telling that to Sam Harris, Justin Vacula, Paula Kirby and the myriad other people he’s trashed on his blog and then ramped up the rhetoric when shown to be in error.

          He talks a moderate game when away from home, but on his blog it’s all patriarchy,privilege and victimhood bandied around as argument stoppers. He is intolerant as hell of any deviation on the issue of feminism to the extent of banning anybody who asks for evidence of widespread harassment in the atheist/skeptic meatspace scene, as does Watson on Skepchick. In fact Skepchick frequently blocks honest disagreement and lets through the ‘haters’ posts. They play a manipulative game. They are like marxists in terms of the hypersensitivity to words, the intolerance of difference and the need to control the narrative. Equity feminism is ‘clownshoes school of feminism’ to some of that lot. PZ, of course, feigns ignorance about that.

    • Astrokid NJ

      One of the foundations of second-wave feminists who gained power is marxist feminism.. with fundamental tenets of historical oppression of one class by another (women by men) and top-down social-re-engineering for equality of outcome. There’s enough documentation on this, as well as first hand corroboration by participants from then.. such as Erin Pizzey. Do you deny this?

      I see PZ and co. follow these tenets all the time. They always ask “why isnt there 50-50 distribution between the sexes? It must be due to discrimination of women by men. This has to be fixed by men at the top.. or men in general.. relinquishing their positions”. There have been science-based explanations for why men are at the top, as well as at the bottom.. such as by Darwinian Philosopher Helena Cronin, but this is just brushed aside. They may not call it marxist ideology.. but their actions speak loud and clear. Of course, their actions are not restricted to marxist ideology alone.. for e.g they never bother about “equality at the bottom” i.e men being at the lowest levels of society as well, such as garbage disposal workers, homeless, coal miners.
      As with all humans, they wear a complex mix of identities so its not obvious.

      • ShaunPhilly

        Yes, there are indeed some overlaps between the ideology they espouse and Marxist feminism, but this is more superficial than endemic. They are not Marxists (at least they don’t identify as such, and there is no reason for them to be shy in doing so if they were), they just happen to agree with some of the implications of a Marxist-style analysis of gender. But many other forms of feminism come to similar conclusions, so it is not Marxism per se which is the grounding for these ideas, even if Marxism might be consistent with it in some specific cases.

        I will not try and speak further for them. I will say that for myself (neither a Marxist or a Socialist), there is a strong need to shift our understanding of gender, the roles they play, and the historical structures of power and behavior which are the result of such things. I am interested in the effects of the various cultural, historical, and often religious realities of the world we live in, and I think that the plight of all the affected should be of concern. I think that while many men receive the shitty end of the stick, more often it is women who receive the worst of the effects of such cultural, political, and social mis-alignments. And as a reader of both FtB and Skepchicks, I see the same concern. Again, I don’t always agree with them (as I don’t always disagree with things said here), but I generally agree with them (and generally disagree with things said here, especially in relation of the feminist issue discussed recently).

        • Astrokid NJ

          I will say that for myself (neither a Marxist or a Socialist), there is a strong need to shift our understanding of gender, the roles they play, and the historical structures of power and behavior which are the result of such things…
          I think that while many men receive the shitty end of the stick, more often it is women who receive the worst of the effects of such cultural, political, and social mis-alignments

          Its always back to square one isnt it? We have had 40+ years of garbage feminist scholarship.. thoroughly ridiculed by
          Barbara Kay: The face of Identity Studies on campus. Terrible policies and laws enacted based on that, and many men’s lives have been destroyed. But you always deny the evil-doings of your side, and come back to.. historical oppression and the wimminz have it worse. And we need to more studies to obfuscate the issue and ultimately confirm your assumptions.

          This is what creates organisms such as the slymepit.. when all evidence and arguments they present is brushed aside, all that remains is ridicule and mockery and flinging poo. FTB deserves all the harassment it gets.

          On a larger scale, this is what created the MRAs in their current form. 30+ years of Warren Farrell, and Glenn Sacks and Stephen Baskerville of Father’s Rights talking rationally and pleading and protesting didnt work. Now we have a bitch ready to bite.

          being nice, polite, and civil–it does not work.
          Nobody listens, nobody cares.
          Even if they do politely agree with you all they give you is quiet agreement but then they do nothing. Or they change the subject to try to minimize, or equalize. So if some woman faces street harassment once in a while, or guys occasionally make sexist remarks about women in the workplace, why that’s just exactly the same as men having no reproductive rights to speak of (beyond the right to have sex), debtor’s prison for guys who can’t make their child support and alimony payment because they’re destitute, workplace deaths, higher suicide rates, higher homelessness rates, parental alienation which disproportionately effects fathers and their children, genital mutilation… I don’t know what’s worse, having people deny these problems exist, or the people who acknowledge them but try to equalize or marginalize them so women’s issues are “just as bad” or, even more annoyingly, try to say “but it’s getting better now.”

          No, it isn’t fucking getting better, not on most of these things. On most of them, it’s getting worse. In too many ways to count.

          • ShaunPhilly

            It does not seem you are listening either. I am making an attempt to have a discussion here by saying that I am concerned with the inequalities inherent in the culture we live in, and because I am of the opinion that women have it worse, even if men have it bad too….

            You know, I won’t continue in that vein, because of this:

            when all evidence and arguments they present is brushed aside, all that remains is ridicule and mockery and flinging poo. FTB deserves all the harassment it gets.

            You are perpetuating the problem. There is a philosophical disagreement here, and some people use mockery. I don’t prefer it either, but this comment is perpetuating it rather tahn fixing it. Youa re concentrating on the tone, and not the substance. I know, I know…you don’t think there is any substance, right?

            I disagree with you. I agree, generally, with the view espoused by Myers and others around him. I’m trying to talk with you, but this is counter-productive. You don’t like PZ Myers; I get it. You think he’s wrong, fine. You think he’s done some terrible things to people he disagrees with. Get over it. I don’t like what this post said, but I’m trying to understand it, rather than perpetuate the vitriol.

            We have a philosophical disagreement here, and I am at a loss at how to have a discussion about it rather than perpetuate the meta-war between FtB people and their opponents. I want to ditch the meta-conversation about what PZ did to Thunderf00t, how much of a bitch Rebecca Watson is, and why we are all bullies. I want to have a fucking conversation about the godamned substance.

            If you would rather fling the poo back at PZ Myers through me, then by all means keep masturbating.

          • Astrokid NJ

            I gave you the “equality of outcome” tenets that are fundamental to marxism, and why such equality of outcome is impossible as per current scientific understanding, and as per the historical experiment of marxism. I claimed that 2nd wave feminists had plenty of marxist influence, and that modern day feminists are pursuing pretty much the same thing.. FTB’s insistence of 50-50 is just the same, as are their methods. It doesnt matter whether FTB calls themselves marxists or not.. its that their actions indicate it. So we identify them as such.

            How did you respond to this argument? Did you address any of them.. did you deny/disprove that they arent following these tenets? No. You say they are incidental and common to other forms of feminism. Who cares? If it quacks and walks like Marxist Feminism, I am going to call it that. The key issue is that those tenets are absolutely dangerous, and you dont address that.
            And then you moved back to square one.. how women have it worse, and we need new study of gender? what happened to all the 40 years of garbage study that I pointed out? No comments on that? And you say you are trying to have a conversation and understand the original claim?

            In the end, I couldnt care less about PZ and FTB. They have discredited themselves in the eyes of the people that matter and accomplish things. Sam Harris, Dawkins, Shermer, Hirsi Ali.
            I am enormously more worried about the feminist laws and policies..as documented by mainstream critics like Barbara Kay and Hoff Sommers.

          • ShaunPhilly

            Discussions such as this inevitably become more difficult in these comment sections, but I will do what I can.

            I am not concerned with “equity of outcome,” and my understanding of many of the people I read (whether at FtB or elsewhere) is that they are not either. I’m sure some of them are, and I may take issue with them on that particular question. So it may be the case that Marxist feminism influenced second wave feminism, but I am not sure that you could classify me (or the FtB crowd) as second wave feminists (again, I’m sure some might be). I’m sure I agree with much of Marxist/second wave feminism, but those are merely terms used for the purpose of group identification, and we should not conflate what I actually am seeking with my feminism and what falls ideologically under that term.

            I am concerned with the fact that experience is different based upon things such as gender in our culture, and I want a culture which understands the difference of experience and addresses the circumstances to respect those differences. I am not looking for the equity of outcome, I am looking for some kind of consciousness raising concerning how different perspectives create complicated cultural inequalities. For more detail, you’d have to talk with my wife (who is studying concepts of gender in the context of a graduate level human sexuality program, using much more current scientific literature, rather than 40 year old research).

            I am referring, of course, to the concept of privilege, which is a term that evokes strong emotions in many people (I’m not sure how you feel about the term). It’s clear to me that the average experience of a cis man will be different than that of a cis woman, or a trans-man, etc. The differences play out in a multitude of ways (in too many ways to easily summarize here, of course) based upon cultural realities around us,. Such cultural realities are influenced by religion, concepts of appropriate gender roles, etc. My feminism is informed by the awareness these differences in experience, and I am concerned that we create a society where the environment is safe, unrepressive, and respectful of such variances in perspectives.

            If you think that is based, philosophically and historically, upon Marxist feminism and other ideologically similar schools of thought, then fine. The fact is that I’m not a Marxist, and the conflation between the dangers of Marxism politically (assuming they are inherently dangerous, which I do not know) with the potential dangers of a feminist ideology which may or may not share a name-similarity is a bit stretched, as far as I can see.

            I acknowledge that there are aspects of our cultural realities which are not beneficial to men. I recognize that some of the effects of the inequalities which arise due to the nature of our psychology, group behavior, politics, etc are detrimental to men. I am of the opinion that in the world, and even in our culture, the dangers presented to women are, on average, a more pressing concern that the dangers to men. I want, and I think people such as Greta Christina agree with me on this (she has said as much), to address the cultural detriments to all genders by addressing how culture, religion, etc effects different people. That is, my feminism is designed to address the plights of men, women, and any other gender which exists.

            I have arrived at this perspective through 1) studying feminism in as an undergrad (not as a major, but as part of my minor), 2) reading blogs about feminism over the last few years (at FtB, patheos, and other sources, nowincluding here at skepticink). 3) Talking with people who have some interest in the subject of feminism, gender studies, etc. Now, I have a MA in philosophy, so feminist history and thought is not my area of expertise, but I have been a writer about atheism, polyamory, and skepticism for many years now so I have been a part of this atheist skeptic community for 11+ years now, and I have watched this issue grow and explode in the last few years. I know many of the FtB people personally, and consider some of them friends (I’m also close friends with a blogger here at skepticinc). I say that to point out that many of the FtB people are people that I genuinely respect, both personally and philosophically (a feat not achieved by many, cynic that I am). These are people who I genuinely, after years of interested attention, agree with.

            And you do not, so I want to know why. I wonder if you have ever met PZ Myers or Rebecca Watson? I have met them (and many other of the FtB/Skepchick crew) as well as those you mentioned above; Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Michael Shermer, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. I like much of what all of those people say, and I disagree with many other things they all say. My concern is that you have taken a philosophical disagreement with such people and turned it into a party war. The fact is that I like all of the people listed above as individuals (to varying degrees, of course), and while I disagree wit them, I do not demonize everything they are about. I criticize their arguments as I see fit to do so, agree with them when I do, and I do not perpetuate the tribalism.

            And yes, PZ and so forth are guilty of perpetuating the tribalism as well, and I criticize them for that to some degree, except that I agree with the message that there comes a point where you just don’t see any use in associating yourself with some people. In my mind, very few people in the atheist community have gone far enough to say that they have “discredited themselves.” I, for example, would not have gotten rid of Thunderf00t (even though I don’t like him personally, nor do I agree with much of what he said while at FtB), but I understand why they decided to do so. I disagree with their decision; I think keeping people you disagree with, even vehemently, is a sign of community strength. But I will not condemn, demonize, and write off a person completely because I disagree with their decisions or opinions.

            These divisions of opinions have existed all along, we just were not talking about them until recently. So yes, I do want to talk about them, whether here or elsewhere.

            On a last note, I will apologize for my previous comment. I was a bit emotional and was not being completely fair or rational. I hope you accept that apology.

          • bluharmony

            I’ve had dinner with PZ and went on a cruise with Watson. Also, Watson and I both spoke at Dragon*Con. But that was before she was a feminist (and before PZ held the views he holds now).

          • ShaunPhilly

            I didn’t realize there was a time when Watson was not a feminist. She says, in a post I read recently, that she was thinking about feminist issues long before she started to address them as part of her public skepticism.

            I wonder if maybe we have met at Dragon*Con, since I first met her there back in 2009 (if memory serves me).

          • bluharmony

            Mine was a panel on DI, and I think it might have been 2009. Not sure now, time flies. I’m not a very good public speaker, so I had lots of friends on stage with me for moral support. Watson’s feminism is relatively recent (and same with Myers’). Partially, the reaction is to the sudden change.

          • Astrokid NJ

            Debating “your feminism” doesnt really get us much, does it? This post is about the brand of feminism that Maria got from PZ et al, and to be fair, human behaviour is rooted not just in philosophy/ideology, but in human nature and pathologies of human nature. for e.g Laden’s insistence on “crossing the road if you see a woman coming from the other side” may be just his own white knighting, just as the “Dear Woman” conscious men were a bunch of toilet slaves. We cant tell where exactly their concepts are situated. This whole thing about “feminism means different things for different people” is bollocks that I have had enough of. So the best I can do.. is take the types that are listed out there in wikipedia.. and approximately situate where somebody is. PZ is not a liberal feminist (like NOW is supposed to be), nor an independent / individualist feminist (like the lot more respectable Wendy McElroy, Cathy Young, Hoff Sommers). Maybe he’s a radical feminist (if so.. where does it leave those dastardly women at radicalhub.com), or a marxist feminist (seems like a best fit.. albeit nobody is trying to destroy capitalism overtly nowadays. Radical Women seems to be the only dinosaur thats trying to in some ways). Anyways.. all this is of academic interest only.. the benefit of which is better information.

            For serious activists.. the real deal is to deal with feminist actions in the real world. laws and policies passed via lobbying by NOW, AAUW, etc. This is my primary interest.

            For internet keyboard warriors.. one can debate major feminist tenets that have pervaded society. This is my secondary interest.
            Has there been a historical oppression of women by men? (Nope)
            Do men owe women anything as reparations? Affirmative Action, Title IX in STEM fields, VAWA, Family Law Inequities (Nope)

            …These are people who I genuinely, after years of interested attention, agree with.
            And you do not, so I want to know why.. My concern is that you have taken a philosophical disagreement with such people and turned it into a party war.

            I am poles apart from you on where we stand, but thats ok. On your blog, you also say that you want a reasoned debate, and there are indications of sincerity. Thats where we were 1.5 years ago.. Have you read about the journey we have taken over the last 1.5 years to get to where we are today? I urge you to read Letter to the slymepit by a brilliant man from Uganda James Onen. I am a very irregular slimepitter and Maria was on it for a very short time in the beginning. It is said that you dont know a person until you fight him. And thats exactly what happened between PeeZus and rest of us. You probably havent fought him (or disgreed substantially).. so you dont know. In our simple interaction here.. you said you got emotional and said something about me masturbating (LOL.. I am quite thick skinned so its cool), and offered an apology as well. Now.. imagine how emotional both sides got during the fights over 1.5 years.

            I think the anti-FTB skeptic community would do well to debate you, if you defend mainstream feminism or FTB feminism (at least the parts you agree with). Either way, my own position is even further than what the average anti-FTB people have. I am an anti-feminist and an MRA. I am not even a white guy.. I am an Indian who has migrated to the US over a decade ago. In terms of privilege (as per that dumb chart thats been going around) my privilege level should be -400 or something (LOL), yet I reject it completely and am happy to fight it out on my own in Manhattan. I have studied feminist history and actions as thoroughly as my activism requires, and continue to study it. My own journey is documented here

          • Astrokid NJ

            I am of the opinion that in the world, and even in our culture, the dangers presented to women are, on average, a more pressing concern that the dangers to men

            One final note.. you say you have reached these conclusions by studying a good deal of feminism. Now, the duty of a skeptic or any evidence-based person.. is to study all sides of the story. Have you read anti-feminist writings from Hoff Sommers at aei.org, with titles like this?

            In making campuses safe for women, a travesty of justice for men.
            Domestic violence myths help no one
            Baseless Bias and the New Second Sex: Claims of bias against women in academic science have been greatly exaggerated.
            Meanwhile, men are becoming the second sex in American higher education.
            No Country for Burly Men:
            That an emergency economic recovery program should be designed with gender in mind is itself remarkable. That, in current circumstances, it should be designed to “skew” employment further towards women is disturbing and ominous.

            You didnt reply to my pointing out that feminist studies (not some 40 year old research.. current gender studies) have been rubbished/exposed by Barbara Kay’s article. And by Daphne Patai in the 90s. And by Christine Stolba in early 2000s. Have you considered that?

            Have you studied the male story by ex-feminist Warren Farrel or psychologist Roy Baumeister Is There Anything Good About Men?: How Cultures Flourish by Exploiting Men before concluding that women have it worse?

            Have you studied the story of lesbian feminist Norah Vincent who masqueraded as a man for 6 months.. to “walk in his shoes”, and at the end of it said .. “Women have more privilege”?

          • ShaunPhilly

            This Norah Vincent?

            http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/22/books/review/22kamp.html?_r=0

            Who said this?

            “As a woman,” she writes, “you couldn’t walk down those streets invisibly. You were an object of desire or at least semiprurient interest to the men who waited there, even if you weren’t pretty.” But in her makeshift man drag, she found that the same stoop-sitters and bodega loiterers didn’t stare at her. “On the contrary,” she says, “when they met my eyes they looked away immediately and concertedly and never looked back. It was astounding, the difference, the respect they showed me by not looking at me, by purposely not staring.”

            I have not read the book, and I don’t know if I will be able to get a hold of it easily soon, but it sounds like an interesting read. If she did say that women have more privilege, I’d be interested in how she’s using the term and her argument.

            Otherwise, I don’t see any more to talk about with you. As a man, I am not concerned with my plight in society. I have it pretty easy.

          • Astrokid NJ

            Yes.. that same Norah Vincent who said more than just that.. Its all covered in this ABC piece
            Self Made Man, Part 1 for 20/20
            . Wait for the money quote towards end of part 3.

            Of course “you are not concerned with your plight in society and you have it pretty easy”. That touch about “your feminism” being for women AS WELL AS men.. yeah.. it shines through. This is typical biased assimilation and belief perseverance, and affected even the great einstein The Myth of Consistent Skepticism: The Cautionary Case of Albert Einstein. As GirlWritesWhat says, Male disposability and gynocentrism are the pillars of civilization. Its only a select few who are able to see through this, and thats why I normally dont debate feminists, esp females.
            My eyes were partially opened after repeated readings of an anti-feminist on a forum just like this.. while all others were flinging poo at him. I leave comments with the same hope for select others, and to expose how shallow many self-described “skeptics” and “freethinkers” are. T

          • http://twitter.com/GerhardPrinslo1 Gerhard Prinsloo

            And a lot of women have it easy, including the ones who tell me that I am privileged. I would be ecstatic with their existences.

            I don’t begrudge you your easy life. If you were a woman you wouldn’t want to express a similar lack of concern to your FTB feminist friends. I am not an MRA and I wouldn’t criticise you for your lack of concern. However, I know a number of men who have been gutted by the system and had their lives ruined by the system abetting the vindictiveness of some women. Women, I might add, who are the first to claim persecution.

          • http://twitter.com/GerhardPrinslo1 Gerhard Prinsloo

            You, PZ Myers and others are welcome to have as many opinions as you wish about what’s wrong with the world or what needs to be done about it.

            What I don’t agree with is being treated like an axe murderer because I don’t unquestioningly share those opinions. That is pure dogmatism. You, or PZ Myers, or Greta christina are no more the experts on women’s issues than the women who disagree with you, and quite frankly, neither is your wife.

            The rhetoric about harassment, potential violence and guilt by imagined association from elements of FTB has reached serious levels. It is actually quite worrying how inflammatory and manipulative, or unhinged, Ophelia Benson is becoming.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thaumas-Themelios/100001074236927 Thaumas Themelios

            “What I don’t agree with is being treated like an axe murderer because I
            don’t unquestioningly share those opinions. That is pure dogmatism. You,
            or PZ Myers, or Greta christina are no more the experts on women’s
            issues than the women who disagree with you, and quite frankly, neither
            is your wife.”

            This is exactly my position as well. Great post, Gerhard, thanks for making it!

            Shaun:
            The problem with the feminism of Myers/Watson/et al. is that *it is not* the only version of feminism out there. There are other versions, and even more mainstream versions, that are very different in certain core concepts. So *which* of the many versions of feminism is right? Are you saying that PZ’s/yours/your wife’s is the only correct version? I know you enough to know that you would not; this is a rhetorical question.

            But — and here’s the kicker — *that* question would get me banned from Pharyngula in a split second. That’s fucking dogma, anyway you look at it. *That’s* the problem I have with it. (Well, one of the problems, anyway. The other main one is that it’s not evidence based.)

          • bluharmony

            The studies I’ve seen show that American women are more unhappy now than ever, to the extent such studies can be given any weight, anyway. Men’s happiness levels, have remained the same, based on those studies. I am, actually, a mixed economy socialist. I think everyone knows that, right? But I also believe that such system cannot work unless it arises organically, through the democratic process, and not by bludgeoning dissent. You’re right as to how the Slymepit arose — through suppression of dissent.

        • bluharmony

          I just wanted to let you know that I appreciate your thoughts and contributions. Thanks for taking part in this discussion.

          • ShaunPhilly

            I appreciate that.

            :)

      • Astrokid NJ

        @Shaunphilly:

        I will say that for myself (neither a Marxist or a Socialist), there is a strong need to shift our understanding of gender, the roles they play, and the historical structures of power and behavior which are the result of such things…
        I think that while many men receive the shitty end of the stick, more often it is women who receive the worst of the effects of such cultural, political, and social mis-alignments

        Its always back to square one isnt it? We have had 40+ years of garbage feminist scholarship.. thoroughly ridiculed by
        Barbara Kay: The face of Identity Studies on campus. Terrible policies and laws enacted based on that, and many men’s lives have been destroyed. But you always deny the evil-doings of your side, and come back to.. historical oppression and the wimminz have it worse. And we need to more studies to obfuscate the issue and ultimately confirm your assumptions.

        This is what creates organisms such as the slymepit.. when all evidence and arguments they present is brushed aside, all that remains is ridicule and mockery and flinging poo. FTB deserves all the harassment it gets.

        On a larger scale, this is what created the MRAs in their current form. 30+ years of Warren Farrell, and Glenn Sacks and Stephen Baskerville of Father’s Rights talking rationally and pleading and protesting didnt work. Now we have a bitch ready to bite.

        being nice, polite, and civil–it does not work.
        Nobody listens, nobody cares.
        Even if they do politely agree with you all they give you is quiet agreement but then they do nothing. Or they change the subject to try to minimize, or equalize. So if some woman faces street harassment once in a while, or guys occasionally make sexist remarks about women in the workplace, why that’s just exactly the same as men having no reproductive rights to speak of (beyond the right to have sex), debtor’s prison for guys who can’t make their child support and alimony payment because they’re destitute, workplace deaths, higher suicide rates, higher homelessness rates, parental alienation which disproportionately effects fathers and their children, genital mutilation… I don’t know what’s worse, having people deny these problems exist, or the people who acknowledge them but try to equalize or marginalize them so women’s issues are “just as bad” or, even more annoyingly, try to say “but it’s getting better now.”

        No, it isn’t fucking getting better, not on most of these things. On most of them, it’s getting worse. In too many ways to count.

      • bluharmony

        I’ve been trying to figure out what school of feminist thought Myers is closest to, and it is indeed Marxist — sex-positive when convenient, and sex-negative when it’s not.. His followers just ape what he says, so they don’t contribute much other than personal attacks.

  • Astrokid NJ

    Good post, as usual.

    Maybe a few years ago, you could have convinced me of this, but after seeing the divisiveness, vindictiveness, and vengeful behavior of people like PZ Myers, Rebecca Watson, and Richard Carrier, I don’t believe it

    Similar thoughts here. I have seen terrible vindictiveness in my own extended family and acquaintances, as well as State corruption and ruthlessness.. but watching the vindictiveness of online figures and group behaviour is eye-opening and humbling. But I submit that this is overall a positive experience for us, in that there’s a huge lesson in humility to be learnt.

    So far, experiments with Marxism have lead to genocide and mass murder. Am I supposed to believe that Marxist feminism will be any different?

    I was watching the chilling documentary “The Soviet Story” yesterday, and it has one segment called Why killing is essential in communism. Engels apparently wrote that (paraphrased) “There are primitive societies/races that are 2 steps behind the rest of industrial society. They have to make way”. This isnt vastly different from Myers calling many (i.e slimepitters) “Marc Lepine’s in waiting” or his take on thunderfoot. “He is a neanderthal when it comes to equality”. Yes.. that alone isnt enough, but put all things together and you know what we are dealing with.

    And the baboons are actually good guys compared to the damaged women at radicalhub, or even many mainstream feminists like the well-known Marcotte, or the lesser known Catherine Comins (dean of Vassar College, upstate NY)

    This line of reasoning has led some women, especially radicalized victims, to justify flinging around the term rape as a political weapon, referring to everything from violent sexual assaults to inappropriate innuendos. Ginny, a college senior who was really raped when she was 16, suggests that false accusations of rape can serve a useful purpose. “Penetration is not the only form of violation,” she explains. In her view, rape is a subjective term, one that women must use to draw attention to other, nonviolent, even nonsexual forms of oppression. “If a woman did falsely accuse a man of rape, she may have had reasons to,” Ginny says. “Maybe she wasn’t raped, but he clearly violated her in some way.”

    Catherine Comins, assistant dean of student life at Vassar, also sees some value in this loose use of “rape.” She says angry victims of various forms of sexual intimidation cry rape to regain their sense of power. “To use the word carefully would be to be careful for the sake of the violator, and the survivors don’t care a hoot about him.” Comins argues that men who are unjustly accused can sometimes gain from the experience. “They have a lot of pain, but it is not a pain that I would necessarily have spared them. I think it ideally initiates a process of self-exploration. ‘How do I see women?’ ‘If I didn’t violate her, could I have?’ ‘Do I have the potential to do to her what they say I did?’ Those are good questions.”

    • bluharmony

      I think as it stands, largely due to the efforts of some feminists, rape is very poorly defined. But in reality, it’s still hard on the victims. Very few are willing to go through the trauma of a rape trial unless the rape was serious and brutal.

    • Vic

      This whole discussion has been quite interesting to read from the perspective of a marxist/communist.

      I interpret PZ Myers’s views and the so-called “marxist feminism” of FTB as antithetic to marxist thought and communism.

      It is very much to the credit of feminism that it gave us a new lense to interpret history; the relation between men and women and how gender impacts our behaviour and societal expectations. Just like Marx and Engels gave us the economic lense to view history. But while both interpretations broaden our horizon and can show us correlations or causations and problematic issues where before we had not even suspected to be any, one has always to be careful not to turn his viewpoint into a self-fullfilling prophecy, to ignore all evidence against and amplify all evidence in favour.

      To paraphrase Howard Bloom’s critique of contemporary scientific viewpoints: “problems arise when we mistake our lense for reality”.

      With that in mind, I also view the Men’s Rights lense as a valuable tool to interpret recent and ancient history, without prescribing absolute truths to it.

      When we see that the origins of the feminist movement are within western upper-class women, I think it is easy to see how one could interpret modern mainstream feminism as the continuation of a bourgeousie movement: to keep as many rights as possible while rejecting as many obligations to the collective as possible. That’s also why different standards are applied: A woman’s feelings are a social concern, not a interpersonal between two persons.

      As expected, following that line of thought, women’s rights have been continuously improved by the perceived “pro-male” society. A collective effort to subjugate women could not be observed.

      Seeing as how the equalization of men and women seems to occur during a time when the selective pressure on societal and cultural evolution shifted finally from biological pressure to economic pressure, I see women’s rights in the 20th century as a semi-deterministic event: It could not have happened any earlier or later with the given historical background.

      Since then, if we apply the men’s rights lense, the inherent, human pro-women bias and positive attitude towards feminisim served to propagate feminist pseudo-science alongside valid women’s rights concerns.

      It is quite curious, but when reading sociological papers which deal with gender issues phrases like “we are not sure why this difference persists. We assume it’s discrimination” or “we assume this is due to non-quantifiable factors” or “we assume this is due to a persisting bias, but we cannot say for sure” come up regularly. But when you try to trace the origin, there is very few substance behind it. Whether it’s historic sources or cited research, certain passages and texts just, ahem, tend to “mysteriously appear” in feminist writings which can’t be found anywhere else. If one tries to trace the origin, it all seems to rely on someone’s asumption that the early feminists just “got it right” and now we build from there.

      http://www.mindingthecampus.com/originals/2010/11/defend_the_humanitiesa_slogan.html

      As bluharmony mentioned, women’s self-reported happiness has declined over the years since the 1970s and now men report to be happier than women. Interestingly enough: men’s perceived happiness did not increase, it stayed on the same level, whereas women’s happiness decreased:

      http://www.nber.org/papers/w14969

      While the paper discusses different reasons for why that is (e.g. the women’s rights movement showed women different “goals” for life and this set new standards for happiness), which are certainly not altogether wrong, I personally think that it ignores one of its own findings in doing that: Women who belong to minorities (blacks, hispanics) report increased subjective happiness.

      When we look at the target demographic of feminism (white women) and its message which permeates all layers of western media, thought and society: that the male population is constantly on the prowl to rape, hurt and subjugate women and all men either revel in that behaviour or silently approve of it, I’d say that MY happiness would be declining too if that was what I constantly heard while growing up.

      On a positive note, one cannot fail to notice that more and more neutral and unbiased research seems to emerge. Feminist bias still seems to permeate the vast majority, but while it was maybe 99% a few years ago, it seems to be only 80-90% now, which is a vast improvement regardless of the media and the public only paying attention to one side. I think this trend will continue and we will be able to move on from a ideology based approach to social justice to a issue-based apporach: we stop hunting ghosts and phantoms, as, I would say, both feminism and the MRM have a tendency to do (although the latter to a far lesser degree, in my opinion) and instead we identify a existing problem, regardless of who is its victim, analyze possible solutions scientifically without overreacting and then act based on democratic legitimacy.

      • Astrokid NJ

        Excellent comment.
        Re: the John Ellis article on the “save the humanities” issue and corruption of humanities by radicals.. disturbing isnt it?

        And so “Defend the Humanities” is a most attractive flag to sail under. The trouble is that for those who are now using it, it is a flag of convenience only, and a deeply dishonest one. For the conception of the humanities set out above is despised by those who now ask for our help in saving the departments they run. Long ago, they took aim at it, defeated it and abolished it, and that is precisely the source of their present troubles. The story of how they did it and why is well-known. A virulent strain of Marxist radicalism took refuge in college humanities programs just as it was being abandoned in the real world because of catastrophic results world-wide. This created a mismatch of temperaments: humanistic scholars are naturally animated by a profound respect for the legacy of our past, but all the instincts of political radicals go in the opposite direction. Their natural instinct is to denigrate the past in order to make the case for the sweeping social change that they want. That’s why they don’t look at the past and see accumulated knowledge and wisdom, but instead only a story of bigotry, inequality and racial and sexual prejudice that needs to be swept aside. Political radicals are interested in the utopian future and in their present- day attempts to achieve it, not the cultural past which must be overcome to get to where they want to be.

        I have heard of this time and again from several conservative quarters (for e.g Dennis Prager and Kate O Bierne interview on her book: Women who make the world worse) and libertarian quarters (for e.g Greg Lukianoff of fire.org.. just yesterday on the local news, I heard that a student was suspended by Montclair State University, and fire.org intervened to defend his free speech rights successfully). But it appears that the atheist and skeptic communities are unaware of these goings on.

        Jerry Coyne commented on the same issue Keeping the humanities alive .. and he was totally clueless about the underlying truths.

        Bravo, Dr. Petsko! I don’t know where I’d be now had I not gone to The College of William and Mary, a liberal arts school that enforced a wide education on everyone, even prospective scientists. It was there that I took a fantastic fine arts course from a charismatic professor who absolutely awakened my interest in art, leading to gazillions of museum visits in the last four decades

  • Ronlawhouston

    The word “rape” has become a highly politicized word. I follow a colleague’s blog. http://blog.bennettandbennett.com/ I know this person and he is clearly not a misogynist. However, he does defend people accused of rape which automatically makes him one of the “enemy” Read some of his entries. He has a lot of interesting statistics on rape and false reporting.

    • bluharmony

      To me, the word has become so overused in non-rape situations as to become meaningless.

  • MosesZD

    You know, I follow Not Exactly Rocket Science at National Geographic. Read it every day. Ed Yong is a brilliant science writer.

    I sometimes read other blogs at science blogs which is owned by Nat. Geo. Myers, though mostly ranting at FtB these days, does post there some and had a post that came up in the ‘recent posts’ list on Schwartz’s suicide. So I thought I’d read it. See if he was going to do his usual shallow attack-mode piece or was going to do something that showed his brain hasn’t completely fossilized.

    Myers was ripping into MIT and JSTOR for ‘prosecuting’ Schwartz. Offensively stupid because MIT and JSTOR didn’t prosecute Schwartz (that was the Feds) as they lack the power (unlike the Feds). Like it or not, MIT and JSTOR had some concerns and asked the feds to investigate. When they (MIT & JSTOR) saw what was going on, they declined to press charges and, in the end, at least JSTOR, possibly both, was a/were hostile witnesses to the prosecution before Schwartz killed himself because they really wanted nothing to do with this case.

    Yet there he was ranting and raving about MIT & JSTOR. Accusing them of killing Schwartz and proclaiming they had blood on their hands. Despite the fact that both institutions wanted to have nothing to do with this case and have been clear, for quite some time, they thought it was BS.

    It was pure crap. Could have been a wing-nut ranting about Obama being a Kenyan sleeper agent for all the sense it made.

    • bluharmony

      That’s pretty much what I take away from anything he writes these days. He’s not happy unless he finds something to be angry about. What a horrible way to live.

  • http://www.facebook.com/natty4bumpo Chuck Hamilton

    Lot’s of good points. Especially related to so-called Marxism. I’ve made that same argument to many other socialists still clinging to outdated points of doctrine and/or whose “socialism” revolves solely around espousing all the right points of dogma. Trotskyists are the worst.