• CSICon 2018 speaker Kavin Senapathy left when her beliefs were questioned

    From Thursday through Sunday, CSICon 2018, organized by the Center for Inquiry, took place in Las Vegas (Nevada).

    The speakers roster was quite impressive, including the great Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker, Stephen Fry, Susan Blackmore, Banacheck, Susan Gerbic, James Randi, Joe Nickell, Robyn Blumner, and Carl Zimmer, among many others. In general, a lot of great people who have done tons for advancing secularism and advocating a naturalistic understanding of the world via science.

    Out of almost 40 names (some of whom I am not familiar with), only two I thought would be problematic: Kavin Senapathy and Massimo Pigliucci (who has been throwing skeptics and fellow atheists under the bus before it was even cool).

    Now, the thing with Senapathy is that she thinks that people who disagree with her on anything are bigots by definition — she’s said so herself:

    “Diversity of thought” is a fancy way of saying “we don’t care about actual diversity.”

    Which I thought was rich, for she made that comment only a few days before ReasonFest 2018, for which she was a speaker… and which motto this year was “Celebrating Science & Intellectual Diversity“.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see that much of a difference between “diversity of thought” and “intellectual diversity”.

    Anyway, CSICon 2018 began and looks like it was an awesome conference, for the most part. At some point, however, Senapathy complained about Stephen Fry’s ideas and left the room:

    I must respectfully say I’m disappointed he chalked up convo about patriarchy & cis het privilege as merely complaints of what Dawkins calls the “regressive left”.

    Just so we’re clear Kavin Senapathy was at a skeptics’ conference, she heard something that threatened her deeply held beliefs and instead of waiting for the Q&A, or bringing forward evidence that this “patriarchy” and “cis het privilege” actually exist, she just left. Gee! And that didn’t convince anyone about the existence of the patriarchy? Wonder why!

    Apparently, her temper tantrum wasn’t getting enough outrage or attention or any apologies, so she doubled down, posting it on her Facebook profile, with a “Fuck that”. That did the trick! Her Facebook wall became a Dawkins-hating fest, with quite the collection of creatures: PZ Myers, David Gorski, Ryan Bell and Thomas Smith all showed up to put oinment on Senapathy’s bruised ego while trying to one-up their hatred for Dawkins (and Fry). Wow, that horseman envy really messes with people’s heads.

    Another commenter who showed up to add gasoline to the fire was Yvette d’Entremont (the SciBabe), who was also a speaker for CSICon 2018 — this didn’t come as much of a surprise, because d’Entremont had already displayed this kind of un-skeptic traits earlier. For instance, before we got credible evidence about Lawrence Krauss‘ conduct, I asked her about the trustworthiness of a tabloid, and all I got in response was a half-assed ad hominem attack and an appeal to authority. So she joining the pile-on wasn’t exactly a shock.

    One thing that called my attention was that some of these people really hate the term “regressive left”. Someone tried to reason with Gorski about how it’s worth using the term in the way Maajid Nawaz and Sam Harris do, which was a perfect opportunity for “Mr. Respectful Insolence” to gratuitously start throwing jabs at Harris as well. The person asked whether the slurs and attacks were even warranted, instead of focusing on the content of the arguments… which got him a waterfall of comments explaining why failing to engage with what people actually say was not an ad hominem attack. How not-regressive of them.

    Back to CSICon, Troy Campbell gave a talk about how to talk to believers with care. I don’t know, I think Stephen Fry wasn’t careless at all, and he got smeared by lots of people who didn’t even know what he said, or how careful he was when said it. According to Senapathy’s own version of the events, this is what got her all riled up:

    Dawkins asked what his thoughts are about the regressive left. Fry said it was like a Grand Canyon. And that there are racist alt right people on one side. on the other side is the regressive left. And all reasonable people are inside the canyon looking up in horror. And then he said (mild paraphrase) while rolling his eyes and sounding very dismissive, “if I have to hear about the patriarchy or cis het [privilege] one more time…”

    Which sounds like an accurate portrayal of current events. I don’t know how much more care we can muster when describing reality.

    For the record, if someone thinks the “patriarchy” is a thing, I’m fine with that. If they want anyone else to take them seriously about it, though, they better have a clear definition of what it is and evidence of its existence.

    For instance, it is my understanding that “patriarchy” means a system of society or government in which the father or eldest male is head of the family and descent is traced through the male line or a system in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it. Having Theresa May as serving Prime Minister in Britain and Hillary Clinton getting more popular votes than Donald Trump calls into question the existence of a patriarchy in either the US or the UK. I don’t see why Stephen Fry should have to see it differently.

    Now, someone might very well say it was Fry and Dawkins who were the believers, in which case Kavin Senapathy just missed the chance to lay the facts to them with care, opting instead to make a fuss.

    No worries, though. She will keep be hosting the CFI’s Point of Inquiry podcast (just announced last week), and getting invited to talk to skeptic conferences, because where else but in the supposedly rationalist community can you eat the cake and have the cake at the same time? If Massimo Pigliucci and John Horgan have been doing it for years, I don’t see a reason why Kenapathy and d’Entremont couldn’t.

    What is left of the skeptical community continues to crumble under the guise of retributive-styled “social justice” based on vindictiveness. I’ll keep on chronicling it’s suffocating death by subtraction of matter.

    It was good while it lasted.


    **Update: At first, I mentioned that Sharon Hill “commented approvingly” in Kavin Senapathy’s Facebook wall where everyone was bashing Richard Dawkins and Stephen Fry — upon inquiry on her part, and further reflection on mine, I think there is a more charitable interpretation of Hill’s comment (she was just asking an honest question), and thus I have edited the article to reflect that.

    (picture: Center for Inquiry)

    Category: PhilosophySkepticism and Science


    Article by: Ðavid A. Osorio S

    Skeptic | Blogger | Fact-checker

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    • Was there an actual “convo about patriarchy & cis het privilege” at CSICON?

      I’d like to see how it went before attempting to draw any conclusions about it, or about any comments about it.

      • Fair enough.

        Can you draw any conclusions about Senapathy’s behavior and the comments on her Facebook wall with the info available now?

        I don’t think the actual words of Fry/Dawkins (whatever they were) would have such a powerful impact as to change what we make of Senapathy et al’s actions and comments.

    • I was a witness to these events. Mere minutes before, Stephen Fry was talking about the role of skeptics as active, open listeners to new ideas, and then was suddenly dismissive of the issues that women and trans people face. Kavin spoke to me on her way out of the room, and afterwards.

      The event on stage was a closed conversation between three men, and no questions were taken from the audience. So there was no Q/A to wait for as you suggested.

      Suffice to say, you were not there and did not witness these events, and your bias is showing in how you are interpreting facebook comments. I mean, at the beginning you indicate you weren’t there but say that Fry’s comments were not careless, but you did not hear them. To me, that sounds like “un-skeptical” traits.

      • “was suddenly dismissive of the issues that women and trans people face”

        How exactly? Please don’t tell me the only thing you got to substantiate this is the patriarchy and cis-het privilege comment.

        I could poke holes on the concepts of “patriarchy” and “cis-het privilege” all day long, and that wouldn’t take away an inch of the things I’ve done for the LGBTQ community and for women. It wouldn’t even mean that I am dismissive of said issues. It would only mean that I’m very allergic to post-modernism, and that I can fight for a better world without resorting to BS.

        So, once again: how, exactly, was Stephen Fry dismissive of women and trans issues?

        “you were not there and did not witness these events”

        True. Yet, it wasn’t me who failed at giving an opposing view a charitable interpretation. And, at the very least, when I hear someone say something I might strongly disagree with, I have enough courage to stay and listen to them before jumping to conclusions.

        “your bias is showing in how you are interpreting facebook comments”

        Yeah… the word you’re looking for is “experience”, not “bias”. Feel free to click on any of the names I mentioned, and you come back here and tell me again I am misrepresenting these assholes’ views.

        Gorski goes around saying Richard Dawkins is a misogynist, and doesn’t even bother to either withdraw that claim or to present evidence to back it up. Myers has a long-ass track record of intellectual dishonesty, but just to mention two off the top of my head: he falsely claimed Hitchens said he couldn’t care less if Iran was wiped off the face of earth, something there’s no evidence whatsoever of Hitchens ever saying. More recently he spread an edited video of Pinker in which he supposedly gave praise to the alt-right, which is exactly the opposite of what Pinker was doing. Ryan Bell has accused people of being white supremacists and sexual predators without any evidence, and thinks every single human with small gametes is automatically a threat to women.

        So please, tell me: how have I misrepresented their views? Or even better: how should I have interpreted their comments? What was the context that I missed?

        “you weren’t there but say that Fry’s comments were not careless, but you did not hear them”

        Yes. I also mentioned they were not careless to me *from Senapathy’s own account*. I’m more than willing to watch the talk and reconsider, but it is my understanding the video has not been made available.

        “To me, that sounds like “un-skeptical” traits”

        You might want to revisit your Skepticism 101: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principle_of_charity

        If using words by the objective dictionary meaning and not blowing disagreements out of proportion are un-skeptical traits, then, for sure, it was un-skeptical on my part. I guess I’ll have to live with that!

      • Just watched the clip. Much more careful than what Senapathy let on.

        Now that I have actually listened to him, saying how he’s with the left, always have, and that he doesn’t support the jingoistic authoritarian traits of the illiberal left, I stand by my remarks.

        Actually, I wish I had gone even further; for now I realize I was very cautious when writing the post, in case Fry had missed the mark by really long shot. Turns out, he didn’t.

        My due diligence is done here. Where are you with yours?

      • Peter Harris

        Now what do you have to say, about the Court in California rejecting Monsanto’s appeal?

        It’s now confirmed, that Roundup is carcinogenic, and people like you who keep promoting this deadly chemical will one day go to jail for being an accomplice to mass murder.

        • First of all, off topic.

          Second of all, no: it’s not confirmed that Roundup is carcinogenic. Juries can rule whatever they want, but they don’t replace peer-reviewed papers published in long-standing indexed journals with high-impact factor. Truth is not decided by vote count.

          The best available evidence suggests glyphosate (Monsanto’s Roundup or otherwise) is not carcinogenic, so I couldn’t care less whether a handful of people were led to believe it is, with appeals to emotion and documentary-styled propaganda.

          This blog is not for you, @disqus_8dddGqj2Go:disqus, so be kind enough not to come back: https://www.skepticink.com/avant-garde/2015/01/29/is-this-blog-for-you/

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