Friday, August 31, 2007

Carnivalia: Sexual Violence takes a hit again.

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Marcella is hosting another large and fantastic edition of the Carnival Against Sexual Violence. In it is plenty of discussion of the 'grey rape' excuse that was recently bolstered by an article in Cosmo, some discussion on statistics and logical fallacies, and even the story of an angry commenter who decided to impersonate Marcella in an effort to discredit her.


[LINK]

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Skeptics Circle: Stockholm Edition

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Aardvarchaeology has the scoop this week. Sadly, no comments yet. I tried to give a boost by pinging it, but it doesn't seem to have helped.

Any readers should go give it a read here.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

To Terror-Stricken Cowards: Eat me.

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With a hat tip to the nogod blog, I am going to post a link to a comic that was censored by newspapers because they were afraid of pissing off Muslims.

Bite me.

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Carnivalia: Anthropology Edition

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Four Stone Hearth, the anthropology / archeology carnival, is up at Hominin Dental Anthropology.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Now this is taking a comparison to far.

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I was just asking Grothe for some concrete evidence of an atheist leader (Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Hitchens, Myers) actually equating atheists to either blacks or gays. Sure enough, thanks to my many feed subscriptions, an example just dropped into my lap. Not an atheist leader, but still an inexcusable equivocation.

intergalactic hussy: A motivational (Poster)

Intergalactic Hussy: You Are A Fucking Moron.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Canundrum

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I think I just figured out why Haloscan works on the front page or an archive page, but not on individual post pages. It's not supposed to. I was just on another blog and I clicked a permalink, and it was just an archive page with other posts present, and the links to comments were still only to Haloscan.

In my blogger settings I'm supposed to go to the Archive section and set "Individual post pages" to "no." It seems so obvious all the sudden.

I can do it, but that means cutting people off two three comment threads I should be involved in now that I'll be able to get to them. I have to migrate the comments, then. I'll try to get on that.



August 27th: Okay, I did it, but Haloscan still isn't working. All that happened was blogger put the comments on archive pages so that the pages became incredibly long. And you know what else is really peeving me off about this? I've emailed a bunch of people and gone on a few forums and nobody is helping in the least. Either they give redundant advice I've already followed, or somehow in spite of having a blog for more than 2 years or so, suddenly they only remember how to configure Beta blogger, and I'm on a classic template. How can I be getting so little help? I know that Haloscan worked on classic templates...

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Nisbet, Grothe, Shermer, a Veritable Trio of Fools

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I know I titled my last rant against Nisbet and Grothe as "Closing Words," but I just can't leave it alone. Not when the bullshit escalates.

The other day, Michael Shermer published a piece in Scientific American magazine called "Rational Atheism" — link here — in which he jumps on the bandwagon blaming outspoken atheists for acting like, for lack of a more accurate description, big meanie doodieheads (althought their actual words exaggerate the attitude beyond all rationale). The bullshit starts immediately.

Since the turn of the millennium, a new militancy has arisen among religious skeptics in response to three threats to science and freedom: (1) attacks against evolution education and stem cell research; (2) breaks in the barrier separating church and state leading to political preferences for some faiths over others; and (3) fundamentalist terrorism here and abroad.

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. In fact, I am sure of it.

I am sick of having to explain this to you fellas. There is a large difference between being staunch and responding to discrimination/harassment/abuse with vigor, and behaving intolerantly, being militant or zealous. One is only intolerant when one goes about finding and creating ways to prevent the opposition from speaking. One is not militant until one is, shall way say, actually militarized, combative. Please, tell me when you hear that an atheist protester or officer beats the snot out of another simply for being a theist. Or when an atheist leader (and not an incompetent principle) outright bans religious speech from a public school to promote atheism. Until then, stop twisting things around.

I hardly need to go on with this particular piece of trash written by Shermer. Brian Sapient of the Rational Response Squad does an excellent job taking on Shermer point–by–point. Before getting to that, Brian explains, and I agree, that when it comes to combating religion or religious legal supremacy, it takes all kinds

Changing the hearts and minds of the people will occur via a multi pronged approach. Some will best be served by becoming curious and picking up a copy of skeptic magazine. They may find breaking the chains of religion to be calming and enlightening through your magazine. However not everyone operates in this manner. Some people don’t realize there is a reason to rethink questions like God when you pass the age of reason, they’ve been taught to embrace based on faith, and therefore critical examination hasn’t crossed their mind on the issue. A case could be made that the authors listed above were the catalyst for a great many confused people that had no clue that they should turn on their thinking skills and abandon irrational god belief in order to find their solace in life. Different strokes for different folks. We respect that some people will be positively affected by a simply scientific approach and I think we all hope that you, Greg Epstein, and those that align their beliefs with yours find reasons to respect our blunt and yet honest approach. After all if it wasn’t for us (and the authors listed) there would be a lot less attention for the community at large. As Brian Flemming noted in his blog during Epstein Gate, it’s in poor form when atheists receive a platform from blunt talkers like Harris and then use their platform to talk down about his methods.

However, at times it seems that people like Nisbet, Grothe and Shermer cannot tell the difference between standing firmly against quackary, pseudoscience and religious apologetics and just making fun of people. Even so, on many forums such poking fun does happen. But is that really such a useless tactic? Sapient provides an excellent answer with a concrete example.

But I think we should not underestimate the power of embarrassment. The book Freakonomics briefly discusses the way the Ku Klux Klan lost its subscribers, and the example is instructive. A man named Stetson Kennedy, almost single–handedly it seems, eroded the prestige of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1940s by joining them and then leaking all of their secret passwords and goofy lingo to the people who were writing "The Adventures of Superman" radio show. Week after week, there were episodes of Superman fighting the Klan, and the real Klan’s mumbo jumbo was put out all over the airwaves for people to laugh at. Kids were playing Superman vs. the Klan on their front lawns. The Klan was humiliated by this, and was made to look foolish; and we went from a world in which the Klan was a legitimate organization with tens of millions of members—many of whom were senators, and even one president — to a world in which there are now something like 5,000 Klansmen. It’s basically a defunct organization.

So public embarrassment is one principle. Once you lift the taboo around criticizing faith and demand that people start talking sense, then the capacity for making religious certitude look stupid will be exploited, and we’ll start laughing at people who believe the things that the Tom DeLays, the Pat Robertsons of the world believe. We’ll laugh at them in a way that will be synonymous with excluding them from our halls of power.

Sapient also points out that strong atheists by and far eviscerate Shermer's claim that the sudden public presence of atheism is simply an "anti–something movement." We make positive claims all the time. First and foremost, we assert that evidence trumps emotional appeal and belief for the sake of belief. Science always wins over faith, reason over fear, and that freedom of belief is more important than enforcing the truth. Contrast these positions to that of religion, which seeks to put faith before reason, wants before evidence when it comes to belief, and its followers actively seek to quash freedom of thought (and often also freedom with our bodies).

Why should our reaction to the three threats of religious dominance provided by Shermer not be aggressive and unyielding? Do Shermer, Nisbet and Grothe not realize that if you believe that these values aren't worth uncompromising defense, then what they've essentially declared is that what religious people do to freedom(s) is OK?

As for "anti–something movements" not doing any good, I refer you to the work of Robert Lancaster, founder of Stop Silvia Browne. What he does is basically just anti–Silvia Browne in the same way that atheists are "just" anti–religion. Yet he recently received a letter.

Subject: THANK YOU

From: [email address]

Date: Mon, July 23, 2007 3:02 pm

To: [email address]

Dear Mr.Lancaster

My name is [name] and I have been a huge fan of Sylvia Browne for almost 10 yrs.

I have bought countless books and audio cd,s fom Sylvia over the years I have even missed work to stay at the book store and read her books when I couldnt afford to buy one because I felt like if I could just follow her advice (which when I think about it was usually ultimatly get the next book) than I would feel more whole and shake off what has been a pretty rough life.

I have been kinda depressed latley because none of what Sylvia promises if I just keep reading her books has really ever happened for me I know it probably sounds like a crazy thing but until this morning I honestly believed I could be what Sylvia describes as a "dark entity" because none of what she suggested and I tried ever worked for me or brought me any peace of mind or comfort. I decided to save $750 to talk to Sylvia on the phone I have been saving money for 2 months insted of paying my car payment thinking that surley if I could just talk to her she would have the perfect answers for me and it would be worth it in the long run.

I never have seen any information that disputed Sylvia's ability and really believed she would be kind and understanding and offer me through her insite a purpose and peace about my life. I went on line this morning to find out more info about where and how to get Sylvia the money and set up my reading I found your website first I have been reading all day I feel like a weight has been lifted off me there is nothing wrong with me except for maybe my gulliabilty.

It really helped me to see what a fool I have been and what a fake she is. Right before I wrote you this email I took That $750 and put it in the mail to pay my past due and current car payments that if I would not have paid surley would have resulted in the loss of my only transportation because there is no way i could have made up for the loss of that money in time to save my credit or my car.

For whatever its worth a singel mom in [state] will be abel to keep my head above water and keep driving to saturday soccer matches and not have to take the bus to work.

signed, No Longer Sylvia's next victium

Robert Lancaster added line breaks for clarity. Following that vein, I added html paragraph elements for further clarity.

Robert Lancaster has many such emails. But he is kind.

Brian Sapient, on the other hand, is not as emotionally sensititive. Last year he started the Blasphemy Challenge, in which he encouraged internet users to submit youtube videos of themselves blaspheming by denying the holy spirit, which the Christian bible holds as the one unforgivable sin. Many of the videos were tame, timid even. However, just as many were visceral, mean, loud and occasionally beyond civility (such as David Mills smearing canine fecies on a bible and lighting it on fire).

And what came out of this? Much, actually. Brian Sapient and the Rational Response Squad have received hundreds of additional emails thanking them for the Blasphemy Challenge for taking a stance against the religious intolerant, and inspiring in many agnostics, atheists and freethinkers the courage to stand up to their intolerant, staunch, and often psychologically & verbally abusive parents and families.

Anti–something methods do not work? Oh please, Shermer. Methinks your ignorance is greater than you know.

Even before running into Brian Sapient's excellent response, I ran into another reaction on a feminist blog with intriguing parallels. Twisty Faster opened up with someting all too familiar to me.

You know how you’re sauntering along through your life minding your own beeswax, and some sexist shit goes down, and you, a feminist, naturally respond as one who is sick and tired of sexist shit, perhaps saying aloud in mixed company "that’s some pretty sexist shit, yo," and your unwillingness to just laugh it off with the rest of the ladies raises the hackles of some asshole pedantic dude who then, out of his profound concern for your well–being, tries to rescue you from pariah–dom, lavishing you with the benefit of his superior grasp of the human condition by setting you straight on the distaste with which every other rational person on Earth regards ‘feminism’? Perhaps even adding that if you really want to get anywhere with your arguments, you’ll get better at appeasing your oppressor with a more solicitous, more conciliatory, more sexyfun tone?

If you simply exchange a few words here and there, you get this:

You know how you’re sauntering along through your life minding your own beeswax, and some religiously bigoted shit goes down, and you, an atheist, naturally respond as one who is sick and tired of religiously bigoted shit, perhaps saying aloud in mixed company "that’s some pretty bigoted shit, yo," and your unwillingness to just laugh it off with the rest of the ladies raises the hackles of some asshole pedantic dude who then, out of his profound concern for your well–being, tries to rescue you from pariah–dom, lavishing you with the benefit of his superior grasp of the human condition by setting you straight on the distaste with which every other rational person on Earth regards 'rationalism'? Perhaps even adding that if you really want to get anywhere with your arguments, you’ll get better at appeasing your oppressor with a more solicitous, more conciliatory, more fundyfun tone?

Suddenly it hit me. I know an almost perfect word to describe people like Nisbet, Grothe and Shermer: Concern Trolls.

A concern troll is a pseudonym created by a user whose point of view is opposed to the one his/her sockpuppet claims to hold. The concern troll posts in web forums devoted to its declared point of view (for example, Democrats or fans of the Prius), and attempts to sway the group's actions or opinions while claiming to share their goals but with some "concerns". The goal is to sow fear, uncertainty and doubt within the group. [7]

For example, in 2006 a top staffer for then–Congressman Charlie Bass (R-NH) was caught posing as a "concerned" supporter of Bass's opponent Democrat Paul Hodes on several liberal NH blogs, using the pseudonyms "IndieNH" or "IndyNH." "IndyNH" expressed concern that Democrats might just be wasting their time or money on Hodes, because Bass was unbeatable. [8] Bass ended up losing the election.

The only difference is that Grothe, Nisbet and Shermer really feel they are on the right side when they publish crap like the "atheism is not a civil rights issue" delusions and Shermer's "Rational Atheism" sham.

Whether they really think they're doing us a favor or not, just as I am tired of being told to shut up about sexism so I don't ruffle feathers, I'm tired of being made to walk on eggshells because atheist concern trolls are afraid of waking up daddy.

Pretty much right after I found Twisty's rant, my feeds brought me up another post direclty dealing with Michael Shermer. The Barefoot Bum picks up where he thinks (correctly, I concur) where Brian Sapient left off. First he nails Shermer (and Nisbet, and Grothe) about how foolish it is to concern onesself only with the superficialities of strategy in a legitimate debate about a real issue.

Shermer has fallen hook, line and sinker for the technique of caging and framing, which philosopher Steve Gimbel eloquently describes. Theists want to allow only the manner of the presentation to be discussed; the actual substantive points are caged and left undiscussed. Then that one point is framed in terms of atheists' supposed hostility; the lie of militancy (of course no atheist actually supports opposing theism by military force) has been shouted so often by the theists that even a supposed skeptic such as Shermer swallows it, along with its negative connotations.

At one point, BB points out that Shermer, seen as a skeptic leader even to atheists, does not equate atheists to the civil rights movement like Grothe thinks some do, and like Grothe, he sees the civil rights movement more as a convienient bookmark to wave in others' faces than as a revolution performed by human beings.

Shermer seems to think that the entire 1960s black civil rights movement sprang Athena-like from Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech. Now this is a terrific speech, and Dr. King was a terrific guy, but there were a lot of other people involved in the civil rights movement, from the Black Panthers to Malcolm X.

The golden rule is symmetrical. In the words of the greatest consciousness raiser of the 20th century, Martin Luther King, Jr., in his epic "I Have a Dream" speech: "In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline." If atheists do not want theists to prejudge them in a negative light, then they must not do unto theists the same.

King here is exhorting his listeners to not engage in vengeance, retaliation, terrorism, the kind of terrorism and murder that had been used against them. It is not only misguided but utterly despicable to implicitly accuse the atheist community of even contemplating such measures. Perhaps Hitchens, with his support of the Iraq war (and this support is not widely shared in the atheist community), deserves such a warning, but only in the most oblique sense.

Emphasis in last paragraph mine.

Yeah, so this is what happens:

  1. Richard Dawkins: Never even makes a strong inference between atheism and the civil rights movement.
  2. Sam Harris: Uses analogies, but goes out of his way to denounce equivocation.
  3. Chrisopher Hitchens: Uses analogies, but goes out of his way to denounce equivocation.
  4. Audre Lorde, a black woman and atheist: They're all of our rights and this hierarchy of oppressions is just bullshit.
  5. Nisbet, Grothe, and now Shermer: Hey look, those strong atheist guys are trying to equate themselves to the American Civil Rights movement and steal the black man's thunder!

And how some so many activist organizations, such as labor unions and Mothers Against Drunk Driving can conduct marches in Washington D.C., and only when some atheists do it does DJ Grothe suddenly become offended? And how come each time they referred to the black and gays but left out the women and feminists? The only reason he gives is that in the one atheist march, they used the words "civil rights" — somehow to Grothe that's crossing a line.

Not only do these guys say we should stop equating ourselves to the American civil rights leaders (we don't), Nisbet and Grothe outright deny that atheism is a civil rights issue at all. What a backwards point of view! Atheists who end up having to litigate to defend themselves from religious discrimination often have to utilize the ACLU. That stands for the American Civil Liberties Union. Obviously, they fight for civil liberties. But by "liberties," it is clear they do not mean "privileges" — they mean rights. To say defending atheists from religious discrimination doesn't make it a civil rights issue is not only mistaken, it's a lie.

I need to repeat myself. Because it bears repeating.

People who quotemine Martin Luther King, Jr., and use the American civil rights movement in such a way as this, see the civil rights movement more as a convienient bookmark to wave in others' faces to put them down, than as a revolution performed by human beings. It's just so arrogantly flippant of the work that went into it. For Nisbet, Grothe, and now Shermer, to look at all that and claim we're not as brave, only to turn around and yell "Oh yeah? Well at least I'm not pretending to be black!" is inexcusable. Considering how every time a black person quotes King in the media he or she faces intense scrutiny from everybody else in the country, and that they would not dare make such a comparison in any of their tv interviews, it's quite a display of white privilege for Nisbet, Grothe and Shermer use the tactic with such ostentation when their audience is just on the internet. It's so crass, I'll even go so far as to say it's racist. Hey, you can't compare yourself to them! But I can compare myself to them if I want to pretend to be better than you by saying I'm more of a friend to them than you are. So there! Fuck off.

Finally, I'd like to point out that yes, Nisbet, there is such thing as atheist bashing.

A Myrtle Beach man and admitted atheist was attacked and robbed on Thursday night by a group of men who took offense to an anti-Christian phrase on his windshield.

The victim told police he was getting out of his car in the parking lot of the Crabtree Gym in Myrtle Beach about 8 p.m. when the men pulled up beside him and inquired about a derogatory statement on the back windshield of his car, according to an incident report.

The victim told police he wrote the statement as a "rebellious act against the National Day of Prayer," the report states.

When the victim argued with the suspects about the statement, they attacked him and robbed him of his wallet.

The victim, who was taken to South Strand Ambulatory Center, told police he was atheist, the report states.

Perhaps the phrase "Fuck the skull of Jesus" is a bit of an extreme protest to put on one's own vehicle, but still, Christians often put up with similar slurs from each other.

Sources and Citations

  1. Rational Atheism — An open letter to Messrs. Dawkins, Dennett, Harris and Hitchens, by Michael Shermer, Septemter 2007 Skeptic magazine, Scientific American online August 23, 2007
  2. An Open Letter to Michael Shermer, by Brian Sapient, Rational Response Squad, Wed, 2007-08-22 09:38
  3. Email: "Thank You" From a "Soccer Mom", private email to Robert Lancaster, Monday, July 23, 2007 3:02 pm
  4. The Fucking Pedantic Asshole Chronicles, by [nick] Twisty Faster, August 20th, 2007
  5. Wikipedia — Internet Trolls
  6. the Chamberlain of Atheism, by [nick] Barefoot Bum, Wednesday, August 22, 2007, 8:58 PM
  7. Admitted atheist attacked outside gym, by Josh Hoke, the Sun News [Myrtle Beach Online], Friday, May. 04, 2007

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In Which Dawkins Speaks What I Think

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For the last couple of weeks, Richard Dawkins has put out two episodes of a new show called "the Enemies of Reason." In it, he takes on other forms of faith and pseudoscience, such as alternative medicine, the egregiously vague and all–encompassing term "spirituality" and all the crap it produces (from self–help books that don't help anybody to cults scams that hurt or take away from everybody), and soon enough I think UFO's/aliens and crop circles, and any other form of nonsense that steals meaning and rationality from the modern world. Here are the links.

  1. Episode One
  2. Episode Two

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Chat Links

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I've added links to chatrooms I like to visit in the left sidebar. There are some things you need to know, however.

  • CGI: — this means the links brings you to a page with the chatroom accessed by "CGI-IRC" — It's a java applet that connects to an irc server. You need java enabled on the page for it to work.
  • IRC: — This stands for "Internet Relay Chat" — To use these links, you will need an IRC application. This could be mIRC, or if you use Firefox, you can use the extension ChatZilla. If you have this extension, clicking the IRC: links will automatically open Chatzilla and bring you directly to the channel.
  • IRC: and CGI: links with the same title are the same thing, just accessed differently.
  • Stickam: This means the chat is entirely flash-based. Stickam.com allows you to use a microphone and webcam to chat with other users. You will have to set up your own account to begin chatting.
  • SQL: — Some advanced vBulletin forums have set up AJAX chat applets that use an MS SQL server to function. Most of them are a puny div on top of a forum index and aren't very much fun. However, the Skepticality chat I linked to has it's own page, which means you are able to view this chat full-screen. This only applies if you are a member of Skepticality, however, and any other forum that uses this feature.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Carnivalia da le Femme

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The Carnival of the Feminists #43 is up at Femtique.

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

New Links

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If you take a gander at the sidebar, you can see two new links. First, I added the Angry Black Woman under the notable section. Next, I added the Erase Racism! carnival to the carnivalia section. This latter edition definitely should have been done when I featured the July 27th edition. Lazy mistake on my part.

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

My first banning

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For the first time, I've had to ban a troll from my blog.

The interesting part is that he's not even a frequent commenter on my blog. The other day, the Atheist Experience Blog run by Martin decided to delete any anonymous comments, as to cut down on trolling. This troll who calls himself "dan" decided to create a fraudulent image that was looked like a screenshot of Martin banning somebody, and posted it to comments of any bloggers he found on that particular post's comment thread, including mine and Possum Momma. He captioned it implying that Martin just deletes all dissenting opinion on his blog. To make it even more asinine, he hosted it on the Iron Chariots wiki, run by the Atheist Experience crew.

Well, when I clicked on the blogger profile link for dan to see if he had his own blog, I got a 404 error. I posted a comment at atheist experience stating that it looked like dan's profile was gone. Then today dan paid a visit to my blog just to show off that he considers himself a professional troll instead of a normal troll.

Well, mr. professional, you're getting what comes to you.

Everybody, I'd like you to meet dan's IP address as provided to me by Haloscan.

67.182.46.132

Goodbye, Dan.

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Monday, August 06, 2007

Carnival of the Godless 72

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It's up at Atheist Revolution.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

KHAAAANN!!!

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All week I've been trying to get help getting Haloscan to work on comments on individual posts…

And now all the links and comments are gone! Arg!



Edit: Okay, after some investigating through my settings, it seems that "show comments: show¦hide" got set to "hide."

I was there earlier today setting comments to "Anybody can comment" to see if that would help make Haloscan work on individual posts. It didn't, BTW.

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Today: Carnival Against Sexual Violence 28

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And even though I did not submit it directly to the carnival, my post about my father that made the carnival of the feminists has made it to this edition of carnival against sexual violence. But they're right, it does belong.

Go give the carnival a read: http://abyss2hope.blogspot.com/2007/08/carnival-against-sexual-violence-28.html

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