In which I rejoice: The Rebecca Watson-fueled implosion

Rebecca Watson is sort of the Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton of the ‘skeptic’ world. She’s famous for no reason and not really qualified to add anything of any importance to anything. There are really only two reasons most Gnu Atheists even know who she is. First, she mentioned in passing something about a socially awkward guy making a pass at her on an elevator. From there a number of small feminist blogs made an issue of it. Second, PZ Myers jumped on the bandwagon in order to up his cred amongst his ilk because, apparently, he has decided to switch from being a leader amongst Gnu Atheists to a leader amongst the entirely unrelated feminists. (I’m fine with that. PZ is as bad at philosophy as Michael Hartwell or Jack Hudson; I’d rather not have a person who doesn’t even understand the difference between normative and descriptive claims leading things.) Soon after PZ almost single-handedly blew things out of proportion, he began lying about things and blaming others. It was rather pathetic, but not surprising given that we’re talking about someone who thinks that skepticism* and feminism are at all related.

Anyway. After being out of the limelight for more than a few hours, Ms. Watson has made a self-important post about why she won’t be attending the next TAM meeting. It started when the guy in charge of the meeting, DJ Grothe, made this post somewhere in the bowels of the Internet:

Last year we had 40% women attendees, something I’m really happy about. But this year only about 18% of TAM registrants so far are women, a significant and alarming decrease, and judging from dozens of emails we have received from women on our lists, this may be due to the messaging that some women receive from various quarters that going to TAM or other similar conferences means they will be accosted or harassed. (This is misinformation. Again, there’ve been on reports of such harassment the last two TAMs while I’ve been at the JREF, nor any reports filed with authorities at any other TAMs of which I’m aware.) We have gotten emails over the last few months from women vowing never to attend TAM because they heard that JREF is purported to condone child-sex-trafficking, and emails in response to various blog posts about JREF or me that seem to suggest I or others at the JREF promote the objectification of women, or that we condone violence or threats of violence against women, or that they believe that women would be unsafe because we feature this or that man on the program. I think this misinformation results from irresponsible messaging coming from a small number of prominent and well-meaning women skeptics who, in trying to help correct real problems of sexism in skepticism, actually and rather clumsily themselves help create a climate where women — who otherwise wouldn’t — end up feeling unwelcome and unsafe, and I find that unfortunate.

I have highlighted what seems to be the most offensive portion. Apparently in Watson’s head, what Gouthe said was this:

DJ was blaming women skeptics for creating an unwelcoming environment.

(Yes, that is real. I was going to put in a fake, caricature quote, but the real deal is just as good.)

Reading skills, people. Get them. This really shouldn’t be that hard: Grothe said that a small number of people were guilty of fear-mongering without justification. That isn’t to say harassment doesn’t happen. It does. And it isn’t to say that the victim is at fault. Again, reading skills: It is to say that people are fucking fear-mongering. These skeptic-jacking feminists are the FOX News pundits of the Gnu Atheists.

Again, this shouldn’t be that hard to grasp. Grothe even quoted Watson from a USA Today interview:

“I thought it was a safe space,” Watson said of the freethought community. “The biggest lesson I have learned over the years is that it is not a safe space. . . ”

He disagrees that the environment is unsafe. I don’t really doubt him. The reports are few and far between of anything happening from his account, plus there is no reason to suspect that atheists and agnostics would be different from any other gathering of average Americans. But maybe every gathering of large crowds is hugely unsafe for women and everyone has just been oblivious. Quick, tell women to stop going to Wal-Mart!

But don’t try to argue any of this to PZ, skepchicks, or any other atheism-second people or groups. They’re all in a tizzy about this. And that gives me joy. I hope more of these people will cross themselves off the list for speaking at conferences and meetings and whatever else comes up. Gnu Atheism is interesting because it takes a hardline stance against religion from a scientific perspective. That is, it takes two descriptive angles: atheism and science. Separately, these things are fine and true, but together they can be made into a powerful normative case. The feminist faction, however, wants to take their pre-formed normative position and usurp the description of science – but not to a particular end. They aren’t interested in a strong incorporation of science into feminism but rather a strong mantle-claim. If they associate themselves closely enough with science, then maybe that objectivity will rub off on feminism a tad. It, of course, won’t be used in feminism, but the faux perception will be there. I don’t support any of that.

Anyway, I’m not sure if I’m enjoying the implosion or the take-downs more. Check out this hilarity. Also take a look in the comment section. I’ve got some great quotes from Mallorie Nasrallah.

*”Skepticism” is a meaningless word at this point and I resent its use. Simply being open to the possibility that there is a God, as Dawkins and Harris and Coyne and Dennett and I are, does not make one a skeptic. We’ve already taken up our positions, just as global warming deniers skeptics have. A real skeptical position is one where there is notable doubt. For instance, I was skeptical that this home brewed beer from Nate would be that good. (It turns out it is. Well done, old chap.)

Confessions, corrections, and the iPhone

Ashley F. Miller, blogger extraordinaire, writes for a site called Social Axcess. In one of her recent articles she talked about the iPhone app the Catholic Church has recently created for information about confessing. She notes a few key things:

  • The Church has had a lot of recent problems
  • The Church is usually behind the times
  • This is a good move for the Church

None of these things are too crazy, offensive, or out-there. What’s more, they’re all true. The Church has had that whole boy-raping scandal. I think that’s been a problem. It has less and less (positive) interest in it by the day. This isn’t a problem in my view, but from the Church’s perspective I’m sure it is. And it has to constantly defend itself against New Atheists and all its other critics; it hasn’t been doing so hot in that department. And I’m just talking about the first bullet point.

But, Michael, you say, this is the Internet! Shouldn’t someone attack Ashley’s post from an irrational perspective?! Why, I suppose you’re right. Today’s lucky contestant is Luke Vinci.

In correction to Ashley Millers blog post regarding Confession via iPhone…

Let’s stop right there and be sure to note the word correction. Okay, continue.

While the Church has had its share of scandal in the past few years; I must counter that the “new atheist” movement is nothing new to secular assaults on the Church.

I’m flagging this for two reasons. First, the misuse of the semi-colon is egregious. Second, when did anyone say the New Atheist movement was new? And “assaults”? Methinks someone has a rather grandiose persecution complex for his church.

Through all the Church has consistently become stronger out of strife. And that can be represented in the 1 billion Catholics across the world.

So, um, what does this correct? I don’t recall reading that the Church couldn’t recover from its boy-raping. And I don’t see how a large number has any relevance whatsoever. Maybe it’s that whole desire to be grandiose thing again.

The Catholic Church is the fastest growing religion in communist China, is seeing a boom in conversion/membership in San Diego County among many other places around the world and while there are places were the Church is struggling to grow such as old Europe the Church is continually extending Her arms as the Universal Christian faith.

Ah, I see it now. Ashley said the Church is struggling so Vinci is pointing out where it isn’t struggling. Too bad that still doesn’t discount the fact that it’s struggling. Ya know, mostly because of the boy-rape.

In regards to the statement that the Church is behind the times or that the app is “trying to keep it real”; the Church has been slow to just jump at the whims of what public opinion says.

So the fact that the Nazis were bad was merely a whim of public opinion? That condoms save lives is but a fleeting fad of fancy?

This is a fact and the Church moves slow but deliberate in all decisions. All of those decisions are made within the confines of Faith and Reason.

Uh-huh. Sort of like when the Church reasoned that Galileo should be murdered if he didn’t tell the lies the Church wanted to hear. Or maybe when it reasoned that covering up boy-rape was better than exposing all the rapists it harbored. Total use of Reason (capital “R”).

The Church is a guiding institution and Her slow response has served Her well for over 2000 years.

Just not gays, Jews, minorities, Northern Ireland, the victims of the Inquisition, or women. Oh, and all the raped boys.

Ashley Miller should take note that the confession app is not an app that takes the place of confession.

Since Ashley never said the app was to replace confession, it seems Vinci needs to bust out his dictionary and look up the word “correction”. I think he may want to study it for a few hours.

The app that is the first to have an imprimatur from Bishop Kevin Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne in Indiana is a guide to help Catholics in their Christian tradition discern what sins they have committed.

I like Ashley’s response on this one:

I can’t imagine belonging to an organization that has so many silly rules that I need assistance in figuring out if I’ve broken them or not.

Shambling After

I’ve advertised, supported, linked, and done everything within my blogging power to promote a number of my friends. Just take a look at my blogroll: Acadia Sunrise, Gorgeous Green Mama, Mr. Jay Gatsby. And now that we’re tight, tight Facebook friends, even Ashley F. Miller.

I support these people because I like what they’re doing, what they might do, or just the fact that they’re doing. I wish more people would blog. Back in my dark days of actually being an English major (no, Christopher Maloney, I no longer am one), I came across a lot of fellow writers who really knew what they were doing. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely anyone else will ever read much of what most of them have to say – of what they can say.

But I think the bloggers I’ve listed above have that same quality of knowing what they’re doing. At Acadia Sunrise, there’s the clear intent (and accomplishment) of making a connection between nature and prose. Gorgeous Green Mama has some similarities, but with a distinctive community/family flavor. Mr. Jay Gatsby’s writing is driven, clear, and unambiguous. Ashley F. Miller reminds me a bit of my own style, first with the summarizing then with the analysis. But she is certainly her own blogger, bringing a particular wit I’ve just spent the past 10 minutes trying (and failing) to define.

But I mention that all these people know their way around the English language because I don’t want to offend them when I gush over how insanely…good…Shambling After commands her prose.

It may seem as though I am complaining about the way Cairo is. In reality, all of this is what I like about it. Life is not easy here. Every morning you wake up in 109 degree weather, sweat-soaked and more exhausted than when you closed your eyes, you remember that you’re alive. Every time you turn away a begging child on the streets of Cairo, you remember that you’re alive. Every time you walk away from an epic cat battle on the streets, you remember that you’re alive.

My greatest fear is that I’ll leave Cairo, return to my monotonous life, and forget how unbelievable it feels to feel…

And the thing is, yes, out of context “an epic cat battle” sounds like a joke. But within the structure of considered prose, it means something; that I have a vivid idea of just where this cat battle happened, of the particular cats involved, of the numbed people on the streets, is a good indication that the writing is effective.

Keep reading.

Ashley F. Miller on Salon

Ashley F. Miller has an OpenSalon post up on Salon about Prop 8. I enjoyed it.

Give it a read.

What a small world

Shortly after adding her to my blogroll, Ashley Miller had a date dinner with PZ.