Archive for the ‘Skepticism’ Category

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There is No “Western Paradigm”

October 4, 2015

The argument that there is an inherently exploitive “Western” way of perceiving the world, reflects justifiable concerns about neo-colonialist oppression and bigotry. But while it is perfectly valid to criticize lazy or demeaning assumptions about other cultures, the term “Western paradigm” can also be used in a similarly lazy manner, to discredit a particular line of inquiry.

There are other problems with the use of such terminology, too. Often, characteristics that are labeled “Western” are in fact universal. Racism, greed, and colonialism are not exclusively Western; nor, on the positive side, are curiosity and reason. 

It’s neither Western, nor inherently oppressive, to ask straight forward questions about matters of fact. Yet, as we shall see below, such questioning is often dismissed as part of the Western paradigm that tries to subjugate everything to the standard of reason.

The historian Tom Holland made a documentary film a few years ago. in which he asked whether or not the early accounts of the Prophet Mohammed’s life and the development of Islam are really true.

Holland, of course, was aware that the questions he was asking (as well as the evidence he found) were likely to upset some people. He was not merely concerned for his own safety, but also aware that he occupied a privileged position of some academic power, far removed from the people whose history and traditions he was studying. Of course he also comes from a culture that has often exploited and oppressed many predominantly Muslim countries.  

At one point in the film, Holland asked a professor of Islamic Studies if he thought that this line of inquiry was “complicit with the brute fact of Western imperialism”. The professor, Seyyed Hossein Nasr responded:

No, not necessarily, as long as you remain aware of what you are doing. If you come as a western scholar or historian and in all honesty present what your world view is, and say, “When I look at the Islamic world from this paradigm, this is what I see”, and bring out why this is different from how Muslims see themselves, then I think it’s a very honest effort…

This is an intelligent and reasonable answer — an invitation for Holland to do his research and present his results. It is a stark contrast to those who screamed abuse and Holland and made death threats. But Nasr also makes some highly questionable assumptions.

He continues:

Gradually in the West, for the intellectual elite, the sense of the sacred was lost. A tribal person in Africa or in the Amazon has a natural sense of the sacred, whereas a graduate student at Oxford probably doesn’t….. It is from the West that this kind of history came up: that reason is the ultimate decider and judge of the truth…

But “this kind of history” — checking stated facts against available evidence — did not arise “in the West”. It arises pretty much all by itself from human nature. To ascribe it purely to “the West” does a disservice to everyone who has ever asked the simple question, “Is that really true?”

In the 9th Century in Persia, the celebrated physician Al-Razi considered the scriptures of his own culture and started a discussion for which he clearly was not celebrated. He noted that the various prophets contradicted each other and therefore cannot possibly all be right; nor can revelation — varying so wildly between the divine authorities — be trusted as reliable.

Al-Razi:

Prophets are impostors, at best misled by demonic shades of restless and envious spirits. But ordinary folk are fully capable of thinking for themselves and in no need of guidance from another….

How can anyone think philosophically while committed to these old fairy tales founded on contradictions, obdurate ignorance and dogmatism?

Reason, he argued, unlike revelation, is available to all.

Persian_Scholar_pavilion_in_Viena_UN_(Rhazes)Muhammad Zakariyā Rāzī (Al-Razi/Rhazes)

Al-Razi’s genius and importance as a physician no doubt protected him from serious persecution. (His heretical writings, however, were destroyed and are known only from quotations by those who argued against him.) Obviously, anyone daring to speak like that in Iran today would be in grave danger. 

Moreover, if someone speaks like that today in the West, they will probably be accused of letting their imperialist Western paradigm get the better of them. Or, that label’s big brother would be applied and they’d be called an Islamophobe. And, of course, the accusers would remain baffled by the issues raised, and meekly capitulate before their own ignorance for a few centuries more.

Naturally, bigots find it easy enough to doubt the religions of others too — but never their own. (One You-tube user who uploaded a copy of Holland’s documentary used the name martyr4Jesus!)

If there is a peculiarly “Western paradigm”, it would involve the use of the term paradigm.

This idea of a paradigm is quintessentially Western. Of course, the complete package includes the notion of a paradigm shift — which for some reason is only ever predicted to be awaiting those who supposedly hold a “Western” or “materialistic” paradigm. I can’t imagine Professor Nasr predicting that the Amazonian natives will have a revelation and drop their supposed “sense of the sacred” in favor of a materialistic paradigm.

Similarly, the “sense of the sacred” is a vague notion whose only clearly defined quality is a fence that divides it from the “materialistic West”.  The whole of Western scholarship is deemed to be an inherently exploitive paradigm that ethnocentrically distorts and demeans its subject matter, simply to avoid the uncomfortable truth that some stories are myths rather than factual history.

One non-Western academic who took issue with this over-simplification is Ibn Warraq. His book Defending the West identified three aspects of Western culture that are overlooked by those who see Western scholarship as inherently colonialist.

Here is Warraq’s list:

1. Universalism, i.e. recognition that the rights granted to oneself must be granted equally to others.
2. Curiosity and learning for learning’s
sake. (Edward Said had claimed that all knowledge of the Orient was acquired merely to enable colonialist exploitation. Warraq refuted this by pointing to the vast German scholarship of the 19th Century that was carried out in countries where Germany had no colonial interests.)
3. Self criticism.
(I would place the awareness of various paradigms in this category!)

To sum up, it is certainly easier to practice free inquiry in the West. But this should make us want to try to spread this freedom to non-Western countries, not do the opposite: to hinder and devalue it with pejorative labels and lazy judgments. It is ironic, and potentially disastrous, that the only truly Western idea that might ever spread to the Orient is that reason is not a universal quality, but part of an exploitive Western paradigm.

Posted by Yakaru

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Skeptic Fail #2: Manipulation vs Critical Thinking

March 8, 2015

Welcome back to this series that looks at the blind spots and failures that skeptics are especially prone to making.

In Part 1 we saw the well known skeptic Michael Shermer fail to debunk the “law of attraction”, simply because he hadn’t researched the topic enough — before making a silly, self-indulgent video about it.

This post features Dr Shermer again, but in a different role. This time he becomes the victim of a rather frivolous piece of journalistic trickery, and thereby demonstrates the mechanisms that get people sucked into scams like the law of attraction. Critical thinking skills offer limited protection under such conditions.

I am going to highlight this incident because skeptics — including Dr Shermer — tend to underestimate the role that deliberate manipulation plays in popular scams like The Secret. The bad science in that film has been well covered by skeptics, but as far as I know, no professional skeptic or large skeptic organization has commented on the emotionally charged advertising tactics that the film makers employed. And none seem to have noticed the highly manipulative subliminal images in the opening sequences.

27-cScreenshot from The Secret – in ancient Egypt a terrified young priest tries to protect the “secret” for future generations, as soldiers with burning torches run towards him. The flaming figures in the background are part of a fade into the next scene. Images of people burning, as well as sexual images abound.

Furthermore, The Secret built an exploitive relationship with the viewer, by surreptitiously pulling them into the film’s narrative until they became participants themselves in the propagation of the story. As well as being impelled promote the film to their friends (viral marketing), countless people were sucked into entering a highly exploitive personal relationship with one or more of the teachers in it — that was the whole aim of the film.

123The first appearance of James Ray in The Secret – a subliminal image. Four people died while attending his events in 2009.

Professional skeptics overlooked all this because they tend to focus on what they are good at: logical fallacies. This leads to a rather superficial view of human behavior, and an annoying smugness, and most importantly, an impotent response to the most successful popular scam in decades. 

No matter how good your “baloney detector” is, it won’t protect an unsuspecting person from a complicated scam like The Secret that’s specifically designed to deactivate their defenses. It won’t even protect you from a simple con trick…. As Dr Shermer discovers in the exchange below….

The email exchange below, published last year on the Daily Beast website, shows how a trickster mimics a safe situation, and how a person under stress will take greater risks than usual, with less care.

To set the scene, Shermer is under stress because of accusations about him that were circulating in the internet (and which will not be discussed here!!!). He has initiated legal proceedings, but this also requires his own silence, no doubt leaving him feeling defenseless and highly frustrated. He is contacted by a journalist called Ian Murphy:

Dear Mr. Shermer,
I’m writing a story about the recent ugliness in the atheist/skeptic community/movement (last week, and the past two years) for The Progressive, AlterNet, or Salon (not sure yet), and I’m obviously hoping you’ll be gracious enough to answer some questions.
Phone would be best, but I’d settle for email–any way to get your side of things out there.
Regardless, thanks for all you’ve done for the skeptics of the world.

The journalist presents this, basically, as an offer of help from a fan. In effect he is saying I have what you need, and I will serve you. This of course is the promise of every scammer in history.

Shermer politely declines, citing his lawyers and a book he is busy writing. The journalist replies:

I figured as much, but I had to ask! And have fun writing. (One fortunate thing about all this is that your sales will be higher than ever! Look at Paula Deen. Silver lining? Yesh. Sorry. ) Anywho, will you please forward my request to your attorney? Pretty please? A presumptuous thanks! Or awwww. Thanks for your time.

Here are offers of emotional and moral support as well as more clearly submissive signals, softening the persistent request for further attention. Shermer refuses again, and it goes back and forth a bit until the journalist blurts out:

To be honest, I’m not entirely certain what the charge is? You bought a woman drinks, for god’s sake?! What, she felt taken advantage of the next day–years later?–because you’re a charismatic person, memories are dramatizations of someone’s dogma du jour!? The story’s not about the “charge,” whatever that actual is, it’s about skepticism, truly, no?

Here the journalist is modeling the behavior he hopes Shermer will impulsively imitate — trying to get Shermer to respond with the same kind of out-blurting. And it works.

Shermer:

“….I haven’t been charged with anything. An anonymous woman told another anonymous woman to tell PZ Myers that I raped her at some unspecified time in the past at some unspecified conference which was alleged reported to unspecified persons who allegedly covered up whatever it is I allegedly did….”

The journalist responds with some speculation about how he might include those remarks in a story he wants to publish. Shermer, still not smelling any rat-like aromas, tries to assert his authority:

Ian. Stop. Nothing I have written to you can be quoted…

Shermer issues this imperative, having believed the journalist’s submissive behavior from before. And when the journalist persists, he sharpens it:

No, Ian, you cannot “convey the meaning of the emails….”

Shermer still thinks he can assert his authority here, and it only slowly dawns on him that the journalist is no longer being submissive. But by then it’s too late.

Shermer is incredulous and invokes his lawyers, but the journalist knows his legal rights and informs Shermer that he will publish the entire email exchange, which he does. (No dire consequences ensue, beyond some chuckling and some grizzling about journalistic ethics.)

Once the Murphy had gained his trust, it simply did not occur to Shermer that the journalist might not share his goals. Nor, of course, would it be likely occur to anyone else in such circumstances.

But, like many scam victims, had he been psychologically capable of doing even the most basic background check, Shermer probably wouldn’t have fallen for Murphy’s submissive signals. A minute on google, and he would have discovered that Murphy had recently spent a week in jail, in preference to doing 70 hours community service — which he found “boring”. And this was after a “public nuisance” conviction for showing up at an anti-gay Christian rally and interviewing people with a dildo. All this does not exactly fit the profile of the obsequious fan-boy he played for Shermer!

And real scammers don’t pull the plug as swiftly and honestly as Ian Murphy did. Once you have signed the charges to your credit card, they keep it rolling until they have taken everything they can get to.

Posted by Yakaru

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There is no taboo on studying psychic phenomena, just boredom

October 20, 2013

Regular commenter (and blogger) @lettersquash left a great comment here yesterday. I want to write a quick post picking up an important point from it. It concerns the repeated yammering from parapsychologists and psychic researchers (not to mention cancer quacks) that mainstream science has a taboo against studying psychic phenomena. Lettersquash notes that Rupert Sheldrake, for example,

rails against the taboo against studying psychic phenomena, although people have been studying it for centuries (and finding nothing).

The ‘taboo’ is boredom, the boredom some of us feel when someone tells us enthusiastically their house is haunted or they saw a spaceship land on their lawn last night or they know their dog can understand everything they’re saying….

The whole rant is excellent and well worth reading and responding to. I will post a few quick thoughts on this topic here…..

It seems to me that far from having a taboo about spiritual or psychic phenomena, scientists and serious researchers have been especially accommodating of such ideas. If people were not so emotionally invested in these ideas (and I include scientists here) there is no way that science would have wasted so much time and energy on them. Yet regardless of how many times such claims are demolished by properly conducted research, and such ideas are shown to be utterly useless by the laws of physics, nutbags like Rupert Sheldrake or Dean Radin continue to insist that it’s merely because of a taboo that these ideas have not entered mainstream science. No. It’s because these presumptious nitwits have published their poorly researched failures too quickly and are too egotistical or too greedy to back down.

The history of science is littered with failed hypotheses and disproven theories. Even very popular and plausible ones were swiftly dispatched pretty much as soon as it became clear that they were implausible. The theory that gravity was due to the existence of an “ether” through which the planets moved was dropped as soon as Newton figured out the math for measuring the exact velocity of planets at all points of their (elliptical) orbits. He was shocked to find that it they moved exactly according to his theoretical calculations which deliberately ignored the effects of the resistance he expected to find. (Like air resistance, it was supposed that ether would also cause a slight drag.) Had ether been equated with the Holy Ghost, or — a more relevant example — been supposed to be the medium through which we can communicate with the dead, we would probably still be forced to speak of it respectfully in hushed tones and fund research into why science “can’t explain” how it allows planets to move through it without resistance.

It’s an insult to science and to scientists to claim this taboo exists. Science itself is the process by which evidence is evaluated for its reliability and usefulness. Scientific method is entirely concerned with this, and scientific knowledge can be said to consist of those things which are so well established that it no longer makes any sense to test it. It’s not that difficult to realize that this valuable knowledge has implications — namely that we don’t need to waste time on investigating clearly implausible ideas.

If there is a taboo it’s against treating religious ideas exactly the same as other ideas and dismissing them when they have been clearly shown to be useless.

Of course, it’s fine if people want to go on gathering data and carrying out experiments (though why not try conducting them properly for once???). Maybe one day you’ll hit the jackpot. ESP will be proven to exist and we will be able to read minds with exactly the same accuracy as if we were guessing; homeopathy will be proven and we’ll be able to heal people just as effectively as a placebo; psychics will legitimately be able to help police find missing children with exactly the same success rate as random chance…. And a Golden Age will ensue….

UPDATE 17 June 2014

I wasn’t joking in the comments below when I warned of a $20 fine for any commenter linking to a paranormal claim that has already been thoroughly debunked. Unfortunately, one commenter below posted this link to a book containing a veritable encyclopedia of idiotic charlatans and woos, (Uri Geller, for example) and a long list of fraudulent and debunked woo practices (Kirlian photography, for example). Many of these topics are no longer worthy of consideration, beyond serving as rather mundane cases studies of well documented fraud, delusion, and ignorance. 

For this act, I hereby fine commenter Roman Voronjanski $20 to be paid to Doctors Without Borders. As an act of clemency, however, a fitting donation has been paid by this website on behalf of the offender. Please do not offend again. Next time I won’t pay it, and you will be placed on moderation until you do.

spende
Confirmation notice – €20 donation (click to enlarge if you can read German)

Posted by Yakaru

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Skeptic Fail #1: Michael Shermer fails to debunk the Law of Attraction

September 28, 2013

I probably should have started this series a long time ago. but I didn’t. I guess I wanted to “focus on the positive”. For many years I’ve only felt able to shake my head at some of the things that professional skeptics do, and simply focus on the good skeptic work — done mostly by amateur “skeptic” bloggers or by professionals who aren’t dependent on skepticism for their income.

I also don’t pay much attention to what professional skeptics and their organizations are doing, and I don’t see any reason to start. But some of their failures do need to be pointed out, as do the blind spots inherent in the usual skeptical approach to many issues.

So let’s start with a generally disgraceful piece of failed skepticism which looks more like a pathetic attempt at self-promotion by Michael Shermer. He attempts to debunk the — dangerous and wrong — “Law of Attraction” as presented in The Secret. Unfortunately he ignores one of the most basic rules of skepticism, in that he didn’t sufficiently research, and therefore doesn’t understand, the idea he is criticizing. The result is that he winds up making a video that would be more likely to reinforce the belief in the Law of Attraction. This is known in the business as a failure.

The segment starts with Shermer and another professional skeptic Brian Dalton having a mock argument about whether or not the law of attraction applies to sick people or people who have had an accident. Did they attract it? Dalton pretends to believe they must have done, and Shermer plays the role of the believer who says it doesn’t apply to sick people.

Had they done a modicum of research they would have discovered almost instantly that, yes, the law of attraction says that you will attract anything you focus on, wanted or unwanted. Every single law of attraction teacher on the planet insists that you do indeed manifest negative things if you are not careful. Thus — 

“The law of attraction works whether you believe in it or not, just like the law of gravity, so buy this product and learn how to use it for yourself.”

I’m stunned that neither Shermer nor Dalton have heard that line….. That’s the basis of the whole fucking scam!

They suck you in with promising to show you how to manifest your dreams and then try to scare the pants off you with the information that you are manifesting things all the time whether you like it or not, so you better watch what you think.

This is why the idea is such a trap. All criticism of it is considered by a believer to be inherently “negative” and therefore dangerous and to be avoided lest one attract negativity into ones life. And it is based on fear — the fear that your greatest fears will become a reality if you don’t strictly control your thoughts. The Secret was carefully designed both to disable critical thinking (by presenting it as if it’s a gift from a child) and to trigger deep-seated fears in people (with numerous images of people being hunted and burned alive), without the viewer realizing what they were getting themselves into.

And Shermer and Dalton missed all of that. They don’t know what they are up against. And they are clearly oblivious to the amount of damage this idea has caused to the lives of millions of people who have tried to use it.

These two have clearly invested a lot of time, effort and money in making this video. It’s filmed in a professional studio and has obviously been scripted. They even went to the trouble of queuing up footage of chickens for the exact moment in their scripted banter when Dalton calls Shermer a “chicken”. Really funny guys. Jeez, you blokes are a laugh a minute aren’t you.

4Skeptic humor from Brian Dalton: “You’re a chicken buckaaark”

More disturbing is their sequence in which they try to “manifest” a parking space.

Shermer introduces the sequence with a smirk: “So we’re here in a parking lot with Jen…. who’s a big believer in the law of attraction.”

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That’s right, two guys, both of whom have a bad reputation for manipulative dealings women have got “Jen” in the back seat of a car in a parking lot and are leering at her from the front.

This pointless and unfortunate sequence has an added piece of stupidity from Shermer which is more in the realm of normal every day poor educational practice than sexism or incompetence. Namely, he says that with Jen visualizing a parking spot, that if they find one “then clearly something is going on.” For Shermer this is just a normal over-stated “strictly for TV” Penn & Teller style mock experiment for entertainment purposes only. But it is also exactly the kind of half-baked “experiment” that millions of law of attraction believers have carried out themselves and experienced “success” with. Any believer in the LoA will simply be nodding their head at this and wondering when Shermer is going to challenge their beliefs. Again, I am stunned that Shermer doesn’t know this.

The scene ends with an abrupt cut back to the studio, with the joke that Jen was so worried about Dalton’s driving that she manifested an accident. (A further bit of patronizing and sexist tastelessness has Dalton joking that the only reason she didn’t want to work with them anymore was because she didn’t like Shermer’s beret.)

Then it gets even more tasteless and disturbing with a sequence in which they get a small child to visualize a bike, and she winds up (fictitiously) getting hit by one and taken to hospital. Again, a believer would be nodding at this and saying, “Yep, that’s why you gotta learn to do it right.” Why are they doing this?

They sum up.

Shermer:

If good things happen because people will it, doesn’t that mean bad things also happen because people will it? Do you really think that things like disease and terror attacks happen because people will it on themselves? I don’t think so.

Excuse me, is this supposed to be skepticism? Is this the best you guys can come up with against the most malevolent, ruthless and above all most successful piece of spiritual mass manipulation in decades? — An unwitting confirmation of its main premise; a replication of exactly the kind of experiment that appears to confirm it; and lamely countering it with the phrase “I don’t think so”?

It’s so easy to assume that the only reason why people believe “weird things” is because the human brain tends to make logical fallacies. But that is to ignore virtually the whole of behavioral psychology. It also underestimates the role of manipulation and above all the ruthlessness of people willing to exploit others by what ever means are possible. Shermer and Dalton are way out of their depth with these issues.

Part 2 looks more closely at manipulation

Posted by Yakaru

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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