Tag Archives: skepticism

Feminism, Skeptics and Atheists – House Cleaning

The whole issue with some irrational feminists trying to change the discourse in the skeptic/atheist community reminds me of another society I am a member of.

The society is one the one hand very elitist, on the other hand very open to those who qualify. Members are usually a bit strange and socially awkward — well, there is a strong self-selection at work. There is an incredible amount of tolerance to other members idiosyncrasies. However, sometimes the society accepts social predators, who use the open climate to exploit other members for their personal gain. The uncritical acceptance can keep people in the society even if they severely damage it. It usually takes exceptional effort to kick them out.

I think things are similar in the skeptic/atheist community. It’s nice to have more members. It’s nice to have more female members. And it might even be nice to talk about women’s feelings and how they can be made to feel more comfortable. Perhaps, after a few decades of dismantling pseudoscience and religion, it’s a nice distraction to talk about those things.

But you risk inviting termites into your organization. And sure, termites can build very impressive things. But termites build things for … well, for termites. They build their own structures that do not necessarily benefit your goals. And in the case of feminism, they are diametrically opposed to the goals of skeptics and atheists.

After all, what use it is to replace one dogma with another one?

I think it’s time to stop the inquisition and instead do some house cleaning.

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Feminism, Skeptics and Atheists – Applying Skeptical Thinking to Feminism

If I see one positive aspect of the current involvement of feminism in the skeptic/atheist community (e.g., Atheism+), it’s that those feminists might bite off more than they can chew.

There are some skeptics who think that skepticism is limited to religion and pseudosciences. I completely disagree. I think that skeptical (and critical) thinking can be applied to any topic. Yes, even to the question whether hand-stitched cricket balls are better than machine sewed ones. It might not be a sexy topic that draws the crowds, but it is a valid topic. And who know, presented in the right way, it might even be interesting.

I also think that the current version of feminism — entitlement without responsibility or accountability — is a good target for skeptical thinking. It is a religion is disguise that claims to be for equality, but is not willing to accept the responsibilities that come with the rights. They see the ‘privilege’ and benefits men have, but not their own. They are for themselves, and only for themselves.

Analyzing feminist “theory” and their worldview — and having a close look at the studies they promote and their limitations — it would tear feminism to shreds (for the argumentation style, “A Voice for Men” has some nice infos, including links to “The Feminist’s Guide To Debate Tactics” and “The Catalogue of Anti-Male Shaming Tactics“). It would also allow skeptics to come out of the defensive they are currently engaged in.

Instead of trying to proof that (male) skeptics/atheists are nice men, they could question the need to prove that they are ‘good’. After all, what would constitute as evidence in this case? After all, you could always do something in the next moment that negates it. So instead of trying to defend themselves against the accusation that “they have blasphemed” they could question the worldview and the issue of “original sin” itself.

A much, much more effective way to deal with feminism.

Of course, the problem is that you are dealing with an ideology here and would have to use logic in conversations with hardcore feminists who do not believe in logic. Instead, these feminists follow their feelings and think that what they feel is the truth.

But given their experience with religious types the skeptic/atheistic community is very well suited for this endeavor. 🙂

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Feminism, Skeptics and Atheists – Defining Rape

The current discussion of anonymous rape accusations in the atheism/skeptic community highlights an ugly aspect of the current brand of feminism. It shows what happens when you expand the definition of rape to include “he gave me alcohol, I knew it was alcohol, I drank it, we had sex”.

For some hardcore feminists this constitutes as rape — even when no force was involved, just because a man gave a woman alcohol. I mean, sure, when the aim is to intoxicate a person to force her to sex, then, yes, it should count as rape. BTW, it should count as rape no matter whether the victim is female or male. But as part of a normal interaction? Alcohol has its function as a social lubricant, not to mention that it is polite to make sure that your conversation partner has enough to drink. It is one thing to regret a one-night stand that you had when you were drunk, but quite another to be forced against your will. The first one is a mistake you can learn from, the second is a crime that should have serious consequences for the rapist.

I think the different definition of what constitutes “rape” is the main problem of the whole rape accusation issue. In the beginning of every discussion you have first to define your terms, otherwise you risk false dis-/agreement.

And I suppose that if the discussion starts with a definition of the terms first it would become clear that some feminists have expanded the term “rape” beyond the scope of instances it should cover. It would also show that feminism has become a religion that follows a dogma and not empirical data.

The discussion would also show that feminism promotes a world-view which makes the world an ugly place. Because let’s face it, the aim of these anonymous accusations is not to make the community a safer place. The aim is to change the interaction. To introduce insecurity, self-censorship and inhibition. To make (some) women the sole arbiter of what is acceptable or not in social interactions. And the equivocality and arbitrariness removes any dependability for men when it comes to social interactions. It keeps men in the defensive, always on their toes whether what they do is right or wrong.

I can see the power in it, I can see that it might be fun in some contexts, but it is not a form of interaction I would consent to in a normal public setting.

And after all, rape and other forms of violence are serious issues. Rapists — men and women — should be punished for it. Anonymous accusations and diluting what counts as rape does not help the victims of actual rape. On the contrary, I think the whole discussion makes it harder for victims of actual rape to come forward, because the discussion is not about preventing crimes, it’s about power and political gains.

Seriously, I wonder what the reason for that expansion of rape to include “he gave me alcohol” is? Do they want to create more instances of “rape” that do not really qualify, but help them gain support for their worldview that men are evil and they should be in charge? Do some feminists want to claim that they were ‘raped’ without really experiencing a rape? Hell, how can anyone think of politicizing violence and rape?

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Feminism, Skeptics and Atheists – Skeptics, really?

So, there is a discussion about the role of feminism in atheism and the skeptics community in general. For an intro, I highly recommend the series by Thunderf00t or by noelplum99. Looking at it — at “Elevator Gate”, Atheism+ and all that crud … damn. Aren’t you supposed to be skeptics? How can they be so completely blindsided?

I think is reinforces the old saying that nobody is as stupid as an expert who talks about an area which s/he is not an expert in.

Skeptics and Atheists are extremely skeptical — about religion and pseudoscience that is, but not when today’s brand of feminism with its rape accusations barges in.

I mean, really?

What about:

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”
Carl Sagan

or even

“You don’t seem to give much thought to the matter in hand,” I said at last, interrupting Holmes’ musical disquisition. “No data yet,” he answered. “It is a capital mistake to theorize before you have all the evidence. It biases the judgment.”
“A Study in Scarlet” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

It’s easy to act rational if you have no emotional connection to the subject. For someone who is not religious taking apart religion is easy, because you “know” that religion is not true. You are just applying methods when you already “know” the outcome. Easy, no emotional discomfort here. Perhaps even a little bit of fire from the anger that they trick people this way.

But as soon as you move to another area, you lose your habits and expertise. You no longer know what is true. There is no clear right or wrong, no clear “god does not exist” and “homeopathy is ludicrous”.

And then suddenly it becomes all emotional reasoning and speculation that would make a cultist envious. It becomes a defensive stance against accusations that are not supported by evidence.

It would be laughable if it were not so soul-crushing.

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A Voice for Men about Atheism+ and Elevator Gate and (of course) Feminism

While I would consider myself a skeptic, I am not really part of any organization or group. So, the whole “Elevatorgate” incident passed me without noticing. That is, until a few weeks ago, when I stumbled upon a couple of videos on YouTube. Well, shit, that’s not only why women become scarce, that makes some men not want to attend ever as well. While I missed the whole discussion I was eager to read what other people thought about it. Better yet, hear some smart people talk about it on YouTube. So I was very happy to see that “A Voice for Men” did a show about it a few days ago. You can find the show as Podcast in iTunes, or more information in this posting on their website.

I was also interested enough to leave a comment on their site how the whole incident seems to me. It turned out to be rather long (time and words flies/fly when you are having fun), probably a bit long, but, what the hell, I’m reposting it here.

*snip*
Thank you for the show, it was further food for thought. I have to admit that I missed the whole “Elevator Gate” incident and even the Atheism+ movement until a couple of weeks ago. While I would consider myself a skeptic, I’m not really a part of any organization. So my view might be old and I might not have all the information.

When I heard about “Elevator Gate” — mostly by stumbling upon videos by ‘The Amazing Atheist’, ‘Girl Writes What’ (I think), and the series by ‘Thunderf00t’ — first I shook my head, then it made sense, then it made even more sense. Not in the logical sense but in the ‘this is how humans sometimes operate’ sense.

The first thing that came to mind was the research in psychology on the role of interpersonal distance. In an elevator people are usually standing closer than what we would normally like. People come into our personal/intimate space, even when they normally would not qualify to stand that close to us. In other settings we would move back, but in an elevator we can’t. The closeness produces anxiety, which is simply due to the constraints of the room. Combine this with 1) being “trapped” into a metal room where the doors shut noticeably and cannot possibly be opened for some time (no way to ‘escape’ from the situation), 2) no way to politely avoid eye contact (as many people normally do in these spaces) due to being asked a question, and 3) the time of night — yeah, some people might feel uncomfortable in such a situation. And they might mistakenly attribute their anxiety in that situation to the person standing close, ending up with the interpretation of regarding him as a threat. If you see yourself as an independent, competent and logical/skeptical person and you feel anxiety, it has to have a good reason, doesn’t it? It has to come from the outside, from a real threat, from someone else, doesn’t it? Nope, not if you mistakenly attribute your anxiety, something which humans are prone to do.

And sure, one could even make a case for not starting a conversation in a situation where the conversation partner cannot leave easily/at all, esp. when no other people are around.

However, I think this is mostly a personal problem — you need a certain worldview to mistakenly attribute the anxiety and interpret the situation this way. And (no news here) that tells you a lot about the … really ugly social climate we are living in — what it can do to some people. And I really mean people here — women and men. If men are vilified and seen as potential rapists or murderers, it poisons the interactions, not only between men and women, but also the normal interactions between men. To put it differently, when I walk the streets at night, I feel some anxiety when I see a man/group of men — but not when I see a woman/group of women. That might be a personal problem, but I do not think that it is that rare. Society sends very strong signals that men are possible threats. And yes, while I am a man, I have also experienced violence and harassment by other men. It happens (in some forms actually much more frequently to men than to women).

That fear would be okay and even useful if it really were a problem. But while more men commit assaults, it is a very small minority of men. The view that men are the problem as a group is wrong, and that begs the question why Elevator Girl as a self-proclaimed skeptic did not start the conversation this way: Why do (many) women and (probably some) men feel uncomfortable when they hear a man walking behind them? When they are ‘trapped’ with an unknown man in a small, confined space? Why do we ignore the data and make a whole biological demographic responsible and not the small subgroup of really screwed up criminals or sociopaths?

I mean, it’s easy to be skeptical about something you don’t believe in. But noticing the sexism in our everyday life, noticing that many men and women are positively and negatively discriminated by men and women? Noticing one’s own biases — that’s where things get interesting. And I guess that these biases are prevalent also among skeptics, women and men.

Instead the discussion started and went on with the one-sided narrative of ‘all men harass (and they don’t even know it and we have to indoctri… aehm, educate them)’ or even ‘all men are (potential) rapist’. By criticizing men this way and continuing to trying to justify herself, elevator girl rang a bell she cannot unring — and I suspect she does not want to unring it. Not only because of ‘attention due to assumed personal victimhood’, combined with assumed ‘moral superiority’. Attention and a feeling of superiority are nice to have and much easier to achieve this way than through the hard work of thinking critically. Not to mention that after a certain point there is really no way to stop it unless you are willing to lose face big time. And risk the scorn not only by falsely accused, but also by your former allies who want to ride ‘the cause’ and are absolutely willing to bury you beneath it if you stop. To put an end to it after it went rolling — that demands not only insight but a strength of character that is extremely rare.

But it’s not only elevator girl who profits. This ideological version of feminism (e.g., rights without responsibilities/accountability/fairness) itself profits by it. For any ideology, a strong, organized movement of skeptics is a threat. If you apply skepticism to that kind of feminism — it just tears it to shreds. That kind of feminism has used dogma, and misrepresented the data, for far too long — it’s like a religion this way. Or rather, even worse than a religion. If criticizing religion is shooting cows with a high-powered rifle and a scope, criticizing that kind of feminism is doing the same with a grenade launcher. There is no save escape by an appeal to faith, or by referring to a god. And what’s worse, the former sheep of the fold pack an even harder punch. You can discount men (“they want their positions of power back — and they are evil”), and you can discount a handful of women who publicly criticize feminism (“Stockholm syndrom” or even — gasp — “Quisling” might come to mind). But if a large portion of women publicly criticize your brand of feminism you’re gonna have a problem if you claim to fight for them.

And it seems that that was happening before: A growing number of women became involved with skepticism/atheism. Given that critical thinking has an epistemic quality (people who learn to think critically quickly begin to think critically about a lot of things), it could have ended up with a lot of women skillfully criticizing feminism.

So, from a certain viewpoint it makes sense to attack and discredit skepticism via an preemptive strike. To infiltrate it first and then explode it from within. It seems to have brought down the number of women in the atheist/skeptic community. I guess it makes the interactions awkward — when frank conversations and honest criticism is what is needed to think critically. It distracts from the relevant issues. It might even bring down the whole movement by combining it with a dogma, the very anathema of skepticism and atheism. How can you balance thinking skeptically/critically in one area but not in another? Criticize religion and pseudoscience, yet accept a certain feminist ideology as gospel? How can you live with such a strain, such a cognitive dissonance?

But hey, some men might even like it, given that a religion like Christianity runs partly on guilt (sin, atonement) — so that branch of feminism with it’s ‘all men are evil theme’ fits right in. Feel guilty just for being alive (as a man). And the atheist finds new faith in the next ‘religion’ that pushes him down — where it’s familiar and the world is ‘known’.

I don’t think it was planned this way, but I would not be surprised if some people would regard this as an serendipitous development. After all, the biggest threat to feminism are people, and especially women, who are able to think skeptically and apply their critical thinking skills to feminism itself. And organized skeptics are a big threat for any ideology (if organizing them even without these disturbances weren’t already like herding cats).

To end on a positive note, I think that skepticism/atheism will survive. The ones outside of movements and conferences will likely ignore it (or miss it). Movements itself might take a hit, it might even split or destroy some groups, but thinking critically is inherent in too many skeptics/atheists. People are already dismantling the attacks and the dogma. In the end, it brought the ugly side of that version of feminism onto the radar of the skeptics and made it one more topic to think critically about. What began as a vile poison that did and does much damage might end up as a painful inoculation.

The thing many of these feminists have yet to learn is that many skeptics/atheists, men and women, might be hit or fooled once or twice, but they can also deal with it — deal with criticism and attacks, dismantle them, examine their merit, learn from them, and become better in the long run.
*snap*

Hmm, in any case an interesting topic to think about … esp. to think critically about.

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