Archive for the ‘Atheism/ Sex Crimes’ Category


“Not knowing” and failure to prevent harassment (A brief statement about Lawrence Krauss)

March 27, 2018

Update/Note — I should have made it clearer in the text below that Sam Harris took a principled stand, in real time, rejecting Lawrence Krauss’s denials and making it clear that an appropriate apology from Krauss is necessary. I linked to Harris’s statement and wrongly assumed that readers would not only know its contents, but include them as context for this blogpost. Thus, what was intended to be a few minor disagreements and points for discussion looked like a very deliberate and unfair attack on Harris. I should have clearly stated Sam’s position, and my general agreement with- and appreciation of it.

hortly before the recent exposure of Lawrence Krauss’s apparently habitual sexual harassment behavior, I referred to him on this blog for the first time. Had I not mentioned him, I wouldn’t have written anything about this issue, but I have decided to put a few things on the record.

The video posted below is from Cristina Rad, who is fairly well known in the skeptic network. She describes a simple incident in which Krauss groped her. She says it “wasn’t a big deal” and it didn’t leave her scarred; but it ruined her image of Krauss, who she had been pleased to meet.

The only reason, as Rad notes, that she made this video about an incident that occurred in 2011 is because she was so pissed off with Krauss’s denials. She shouldn’t have had to risk exposing herself to the hordes of sexually incontinent males in the atheist network.

It is obvious to me that someone who one time behaves as Krauss did has already behaved like this before. Krauss seems to think his fame entitles him to just grab women. Women have been warning each other about him for years, but mysteriously, none of his male colleagues knew anything at all about it. That can only be down to willful blindness or odd chimp-like tolerance of implicit acceptance of a separate set of morals for alpha males. Whatever the reason, it should be seen as a general failure.

I only know of Krauss via his books and You Tube, but I already had suspicions about him. He was on the record for an extremely stupid statement in 2011 about his friend, the convicted pedophile Joseph Epstein. I had also heard him (on You Tube) repeatedly talking about Richard Feynman’s promiscuity, in a way that I found obsessive, objectifying of women, and just weird.

So why did I refer to him? Because I hadn’t heard anything more about off-putting behavior from him since 2011. It’s not a big deal, but wish I had have trusted my intuitive judgment and not associated my blog with him.

But seeing as I did, and as I also sometimes refer to others who have made public statements about this, I will take a moment to put a few things on the record.

Sam Harris, who I also refer to here fairly regularly, knows Krauss and put out a statement on You Tube.

He says he has done many events with Krauss and “never seen him misbehave”. Okay, but even I knew of accusations against him — and that was back in 2011. Sam Harris must have known of these too, and if so, must have wrongly dismissed them, as I also did. I can’t see any way around that. He should have said something to explain why he dismissed such information and concerns.

[Update 28.3.2018: Commenter E-R S has argued below that it is entirely plausible that Harris really had never heard of the accusations against Krauss — “I personally had absolutely no idea that people had said this about him, ever, and I’ve spent many years running one of the biggest online skeptical pages…”  The link in the previous paragraph goes to Sam Harris’s complete statement. I only refer to parts I want to discuss. I should have already noted that Harris convinced Krauss not to appear with him on stage the night the accusations broke; that Harris effectively disassociated himself from Krauss’s “blanket denials”; and that he has encouraged Krauss to apologize.]

Harris has a talent for noting how bad ideas can lead to bad behavior. Here is Krauss’s idea of evidence for why Epstein shouldn’t have been convicted of pedophilia. Why didn’t Harris see this as a red flag? Krauss:

As a scientist I always judge things on empirical evidence and he always has women ages 19 to 23 around him, but I’ve never seen anything else, so as a scientist, my presumption is that whatever the problems were I would believe him over other people.

(Gulp. I confess I’d read that warning about him on the Skepchick blog in 2011 and must have blotted out the details from memory. Ouch. Ouch. Mea culpa. Holy heck.)

Then Harris casts doubt on the allegations, and says we shouldn’t “rush to accept all of them”. This is remarkably stupid from Harris. Who has been “rushing”? This was in plain sight in 2011. By the time Buzzfeed put out their article, it became immediately clear that Krauss is a habitual, serial harasser, who needs to apologize and stop. But instead, Harris focuses on the article. Yes, it was poorly written, but the issue is that your friend gropes women and you didn’t know enough to stop him!

Then Harris says that he is “not in a position to judge the truth of such allegations”, but says he has since sought and accepted some private confirmation that Krauss does indeed act like that. Again, that’s a bit late.

Then he starts going on about the importance of recognizing “gradations of sexual misbehavior”. Here he is complaining about excesses he perceives in the #MeToo movement. But is this really the time for that? Anyway, he could have saved his breath. The quickest way to stop this spinning out of control would be for Krauss to admit what he’s done, show that he understands why it is wrong, and apologize sincerely and unreservedly. Which didn’t happen.

Even better of course, would have been for other prominent male atheists in 2011 to quietly tell Krauss in private to get a freaking clue. Which also didn’t happen.

Is there a good reason why only women knew about Krauss since at least 2011, and his male peers only found out about it in 2018 after Buzzfeed alerted them?

Jerry Coyne, who I also sometimes refer to here, (and whose work I admire very much) has taken a stand on this. He put out a statement that was, I thought, much better than Sam Harris’s. Coyne was less equivocating, and did at least find time to generally condemn sexual harassment — something which neither Harris nor Krauss bothered to do. But I did find Coyne’s tone somewhat reluctant and perhaps petulant. I’m sure, however, that Krauss would have read it, and it must have stung (and rightly so).

I don’t know how much Jerry Coyne has to do with Krauss, but I must also wonder why he didn’t know anything about it until Buzzfeed told him. And, as with Harris, some private inquiries cleared the matter up very swiftly. That could have happened in 2011 too, couldn’t it? (It certainly should have been enough for me, and I failed to take it seriously, or wrongly assumed he’d improved.)

So, why did all the other prominent male atheists fail to stop Krauss?

Richard Dawkins, who I also refer to here sometimes, has said nothing at all. Not good.

I will continue to refer to him here, but let me put it on the record concerning an earlier matter: his pathetic and disgraceful behavior towards Rebecca Watson makes me feel a sting of embarrassment each time I refer to him. If his writing wasn’t so extraordinarily good, I’d use someone else.

All I can say to anyone who wants to complain about how Krauss has been treated: grow a pair. Krauss’s male colleagues failed to protect women from him, and him from himself. They let him carry on like this in public until so many women were pissed off with him that the lid blew off. Now the story has been picked up by people trying to hurt the atheist movement. It’s too late for whining about that now. It’s their own (our own) stupid fault.

Posted by Yakaru


The Skeptic & Atheist Movements: A Word of Warning for Newcomers

August 16, 2013

It is with a sense of foreboding that I make a statement here about the hateful culture that has been exposed in the skeptic and atheist communities. I have long avoided addressing these issues on this blog, but I have to do it. This blog is not a “skeptic blog” nor is it an “atheist blog”. But the fact is that many people coming to this site for the first time may possibly find themselves exploring the atheist and skeptic communities. 

I have a responsibility to warn them of the dangers.

Sadly this must be a blanket warning about these movements.

  • Do not donate any money to organizations unless you have thoroughly checked them and observed them for one year at the very least.
  • Nor should you attend any events at all without doing a thorough background check AND finding a safe reliable contact who can warn you in private about the dangers of being harassed, abused or raped by specific community members (often well known), or publicly humiliated for many years online and anywhere else you can be traced. 
  • Before even thinking of commenting on any forums, read several hundred comments.

It is probably only a minority — a sizable minority — who are guilty of creating such a poisonous culture, but the situation is so extreme, and the poisons so varied and numerous, that a blanket warning is necessary. The easiest and perhaps the only way to identify the good people there is by checking if they have already vocally condemned this culture of rape, harassment and bigotry.

I decided to label myself an atheist (rather than a secularist or pseudo-buddhist) because I liked the current resurgence of atheism into the popular culture and wanted, at least implicitly, to support it. Also, I thought the label “atheist” was the most accurate one word label for my views, and one of the few labels which I don’t feel like I need to fit a particular mold in order to wear.

And it was a label which I very nearly dropped last year when I read this comment, originally posted on a skeptic/atheist forum:

Would it be immoral to rape a Skepchick?
Post by Pappa » Fri Jul 20, 2012 8:46 am
Not for sexual gratification or power or anything like that, just because they’re so annoying.
I’m really torn on this one. :dunno:

Now, as a message to newcomers and potential future skeptics, if you don’t want to hear that kind of thing then keep away from the skeptic and atheist movement. A Skepchick, by the way, is a member of a particular group set up to promote women in the skeptic movement. They were probably expecting to help promote critical thinking to the general public. Instead they discovered they need to educate and socialize the skeptic movement itself in the most basic forms of human decency and manners that can actually be mastered without problem by the average five-year old..   

The skeptic community has worked out that Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster most likely do not exist — or at least there is no good evidence for their existence (we must be exact about the wording here); but it is still undecided about whether or not rape or harassment is wrong.

The atheist movement has worked out that there is no good evidence that Eve was created from one of Adam’s ribs, but is still debating whether men are inherently superior to women and have the right to use, abuse and publicly humiliate them.

if you don’t want to see a photoshopped or cartoon image of yourself hog-tied against your will and covered in the sperm of men who hate you for speaking out, then don’t join the skeptic or atheist movement. If you feel drawn towards being active in these movements and have the stomach for a bitter fight against a horde of sexually incontinent internet trolls, famous serial abusers, and an entire culture that supports them, then I wish you luck and I will speak out in support of you. But nothing like the amount you will need.

The only reason to even have a skeptic or atheist movement is to strengthen the ways that reason can be promoted in society at large. Now, internal conflicts about how best to do this are to be expected. But a massive and bitter struggle about whether or not rape jokes are funny, or whether known serial harassers, abusers and rapists should be allowed to maintain their prominent status and paid positions simply has no place in any movement that wants a public voice.

The skeptic movement should have been dealing by now with difficult issues like manipulative persuasion by motivational speakers, and the tricky relationship to their victims. Instead, they are defending the “right” of famous people in positions of power and authority to get unsuspecting women drunk, and possibly wind up having sex with them without their consent. Obviously it’s the victim’s fault if they suddenly find themselves too drunk to consent, after being swept off their feet by a slimy but charismatic fellow like Michael Shermer. (Message to Shermer’s lawyers and hordes of infantile trolls: I am not accusing Shermer of rape here. I am referring to skeptic Brian Dalton’s defense of his behavior as reported in the previous link.)

They could have been debunking dangerous religious teachings about human sexuality. Instead the leading skeptic organizations in the US are complicit and even active in this insane bigotry and rape culture.

How dare they even open their mouths about any issues at all until they realize that rape and sexual abuse are wrong and must not be tolerated? 

Now it should be fucking easy as hell for anyone with half a fucking brain to oppose this. How embarrassing it is for two movements that consider themselves the intellectual elites of society to have stumbled at such a fucking simple problem. I am at a loss for words, so I will try this for a statement:

Rebecca Watson, (one of the Skepchicks who “Pappa” wants to rape) wrote a post linking to this video.

It’s from Lieutenant General David Morrison of the Australian Defense Forces. Why would a Skepchick be posting a video made by a member of the Australian armed forces? It’s because Lt. Morrison made a straight forward easy to follow, completely and utterly rational statement about this issue. It is exactly the kind of statement that prominent people and institutions in the skeptic and atheist movements have failed to make.

I have stated categorically many times that the army has to be an inclusive organization where every soldier, man and woman is able to reach their full potential and is encouraged to do so. Those who think that it is okay to behave in a way that demeans or exploits their colleagues have no place in this army.

Our service has been engaged in continuous operation since 1999 and in its longest war ever in Afghanistan. On all operations, female soldiers and officers have proven themselves worthy of the best traditions of the Australian army. They are vital to us maintaining our capability now and into the future. If that does not suit you, then get out. You may find another employer where your attitude and behavior is acceptable, but I doubt it. The same goes for those who think that toughness is built on humiliating others. Every one of us is responsible for the culture and reputation of our army and the environment in which we work.

If you become aware of any individual degrading another, then show moral courage and take a stand against it. No one has ever explained to me how the exploitation or degradation of others enhances capability or honors the traditions of the Australian army. I will be ruthless in ridding the army of people who cannot live up to its values and I need every one of you to support me in achieving this.

The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. That goes for all of us, but especially those who by their rank have a leadership role.

Listening to that statement I’m reminded that members of my family served in the Australian armed forces. I feel, to be honest, kind of proud to have even a second-hand connection to an institution that is taking such a clear and unequivocal stand on this issue.

On the other hand, I feel utterly ashamed and humiliated that such a message from such a source needs to be directed not only at abusive soldiers, but also at atheists and skeptics. Have you guys noticed that your cardboard cut-out “man-hating Feminazi” is telling you exactly the same message as a high-ranking male soldier, who is stating basic policy for the armed forces? 

Do you guys really think your boys’ club is so important that you should be left free to harass any woman or man who comes within your range? Go ahead, debunk dowsing all you want, write about Why Other People, Not Me, Believe Weird Things… Go on, have your pathetic tiny minded smug little careers. But I will do everything I can to make sure that anyone who hears from me about your movement will be warned about you.

Some Links and Resources

From my own blog roll, see Bronze Dog‘s recent post.

Also from my blog roll, Dubito Ergo Sum has covered events and spoken out on these issues.

The Lousy Canuck blog has a timeline of events of recent exposure of rape and harassment, as well as regular detailed coverage and activism.

Skepchick is a good place to start to get a picture of what is going on here, as well as being an excellent all round resource for skepticism.

There are plenty more, but that’s a start.

Needless to say, comments here will be strictly moderated.

Posted by Yakaru