Circumcision: The evidence still isn’t vanishing

Increasingly, circumcision is becoming a health policy in places where it is needed most. WHO, UNAIDS, and especially The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are some of the groups at the forefront of this fight against deadly diseases and infections. More recently we’ve seen American groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics come out in favor of circumcision. This is in large part due to three extremely strong studies that came out in 2006, but those were really just the final straw. Evidence has been building for the effectiveness of circumcision in fighting disease and infection since the late 70’s, and more specifically it has been building against fighting HIV since the late 80’s. The evidence is in: Circumcision helps protect against infections, penile cancer, and STD’s, including HIV. It’s an extremely important tool that should be promoted around the world. And so, as the debate quickly pivots from whether or not circumcision is effective to figuring out why it is so damn effective, more organizations are coming out in favor of it in ever stronger terms:

U.S. health officials on Tuesday released a draft of long-awaited federal guidelines on circumcision, saying medical evidence supports the procedure and health insurers should pay for it.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines stop short of telling parents to have their newborn sons circumcised. That is a personal decision that may involve religious or cultural preferences, said the CDC’s Dr. Jonathan Mermin.

But “the scientific evidence is clear that the benefits outweigh the risks,” added Mermin, who oversees the agency’s programs on HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

I went into the circumcision debate many years ago without a dog in the fight. I was neither passionately against the practice nor fervently in favor of it; my general indifference parted greatly with what any Google search will show. However, as I began to hear more and more about the topic, and as I began to study global health issues more and more (especially during the time I was studying and volunteering my time in Haiti), I found my position slowly shifting. But it was indeed a very slow shift. With degrees in both biology and philosophy it was easy to be torn. The evidence had clearly tilted – at the least – in favor of circumcision, but what about the ethical arguments against it? I would need to resolve those concerns before I would support circumcision as a health policy. And that I did. The sole argument the anti-circumcision crowd has against circumcision is that it violates bodily autonomy. But so do other things which many in that crowd clearly support. Namely, vaccines can and do permanently change a person’s body for life without their consent. Looking at circumcision and vaccines, then, under the isolation of the argument from bodily autonomy, what’s the difference? They both change the body forever and neither is done with consent when done to infants/toddlers. The only responses I ever get to this is that vaccines are more effective or that the changes aren’t visible. Pshaw. They aren’t always more effective, and even where they are, so what? The argument from bodily autonomy doesn’t get to be put on the shelf when it’s convenient to ignore. The effectiveness of a procedure is irrelevant; all that matters is the necessity of the procedure. Vaccines and circumcision are both necessary to a healthier world, but neither is an absolute necessity to survival. Yes, more people will die without either, but that’s immaterial. And as for the changes being internal, I guess I wasn’t aware how aesthetics-focused the anti-circumcision crowd was.

I went on a bit of a rant there, but I hope it was effective. The ethical argument – singular, not plural – is weak. Yet the biological argument is strong. And as I learned more, it became quite clear that it was stronger than I initially thought. I freely admit that by the time I became involved in this debate (likely 2009, and as early as 2010 on FTSOS) I should have done all the proper research; I could have easily found myself where I am right now rather than going through a slow shift.

One of the things which always kept me tilted towards being pro-circumcision was the dogmatic attitude of the anti-circumcision crowd. It didn’t matter what evidence was presented to them, their ethical stance trumped everything. That would be fine, of course, since it would be a valid basis for opposition (even if I or anyone else disagrees with it). Unfortunately, this crowd has a habit of attacking perfectly valid science. PZ Myers did this back in 2011 when he said the following:

The health benefits. Total bullshit. As one of the speakers in the movie explains, there have been progressive excuses: from it prevents masturbation to it prevents cancer to it prevents AIDS. The benefits all vanish with further studies and are all promoted by pro-circumcision organizations. It doesn’t even make sense: let’s not pretend people have been hacking at penises for millennia because there was a clinical study. Hey, let’s chop off our pinkie toes and then go looking for medical correlations!

Emphasis mine. Clearly, whereas the organizations promoting circumcision as a health policy or recommendation have had a history of different positions on the matter, it’s ridiculous to say they’re inherently pro-circumcision. Moreover, the irony meter here is off the charts. The anti-circumcision crowd is incredibly vocal, despite being a scientific minority. Indeed, whereas the pro-circumcision groups came to their conclusions only after being presented with evidence, the anti-circumcision groups are composed entirely of people who oppose the practice on ethics first; they cherry-pick the science after the fact.

But that isn’t the important point here. As the title of this post says, the evidence of the benefits is not vanishing. It’s not vanishing with further studies. It’s not vanishing with time. It’s not vanishing at all. All we’ve been seeing is 1) more and more groups coming out in favor of the practice and 2) research focused on why it’s so effective. Myers is plainly wrong. (Of course, all the criticism by Myers is coming from a guy who once had a debate with Jerry Coyne where he said that no evidence could ever convince him of the existence of God. While I share his lack of theistic belief, I don’t share his position here. I can’t imagine a more anti-scientific thing to say than that there is no possible evidence that could convince me of something. I could be convinced unicorns exist. I greatly doubt that will happen, but it’s possible; denying these possibilities when speaking in abstract terms is doltish.)

Anyway.

[The new guidelines] are likely to draw intense opposition from anti-circumcision advocacy groups, said Dr. Douglas Diekema, a Seattle physician who worked on a circumcision policy statement issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2012.

“This is a passionate issue for them and they feel strongly that circumcision is wrong,” said Diekema, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington.

Indeed, the head of one group did argue against the CDC’s conclusions on Tuesday, saying they minimize potential complications from the procedure.

The guidelines “are part of a long historical American cultural and medical bias to attempt to defend this traumatic genital surgery,” said, Ronald Goldman, executive director of the Circumcision Resource Center.

Notice the name of the anti-circumcision group in that quote: Circumcision Resource Center. Hmm, what other group of people try desperately to sound legitimate despite everything they hold dear? Perhaps it’s the people who run sites and groups like Evolution News and the Discovery Institute and the Geoscience Research Institute – creationist groups. Honestly, I’m not sure who should be insulted more by this association.

If you don’t like women’s sports, you therefore also hate women.

At least that was the implication being made by Ashley Miller when she posted this article from The Onion:

SOCHI, RUSSIA—With a dominant 6-1 win over Sweden in Monday’s semifinal, Team USA advanced to the gold medal game of women’s ice—whoa, where the fuck do you think you’re going?

Hold on a minute, you sexist prick. Come back and read this.

After surging ahead thanks to first-period goals from Amanda Kessel, Kacey Bellamy, and—what, did seeing the names Amanda and Kacey already make you want to navigate away from this page? Because sources saw your dismissive, misogynistic bullshit coming a mile away before posting this report about a women’s sporting event, even though it involves a team representing the United States of America at the goddamn Olympics.

According to reports, the U.S. will be favorites against longtime rivals Canada in Thursday’s final, and why don’t you just park your ass right where it is for 10 more seconds, because reading 300 words about a talented team of female athletes on the verge of Olympic gold isn’t going to kill you.

C’mon, you honestly think sources can’t see right through you, you chauvinistic fuck?

Speaking to reporters following her impressive one-goal, two-assist performance against Sweden, U.S. forward Brianna Decker said—well, do you really want to know what she said? Or are you just going to ignore it like you do every story related to the LPGA, the WNBA, women’s tennis, and the U.S. women’s soccer team? Sources also apologize that this page doesn’t contain images of female hockey players wearing bikinis, because Lord knows that sort of crap would keep your attention.

Reports went on to confirm that this shit you’re pulling right here is exactly why women struggle to make a living as professional athletes.

At press time, you certainly didn’t make it this far into the story, so just forget it. You fucking pig.

Presumably, The Onion’s point here is to say that people who don’t like women’s sports are like that for misogynistic reasons, but I could see a few other interpretations, albeit less likely ones. In the case of Miller, though, when she posted this on her Facebook page last week, she was clearly cheering it on as not only a feminist, but as a fan of women’s (and men’s, for that matter) soccer.

Of course, the article is entirely incoherent and clearly not written by a sports fan that thinks much about sports in the first place. Here’s what I wrote about women and sports over 3 years ago:

I just wish we could all be a little honest. Men, on the whole, are better at sports than women, on the whole. We have these systems that rely on the ability to perform to a certain level – most runs, most points, most goals. And the best male athletes are going to be able to reach these levels better than the best female athletes. This is a big reason why women’s sports flounder. Is this so wrong? I really have no desire to watch a basketball league where it is big news that one of its players managed to actually dunk. (This really was big news for the WNBA a year or two ago.) So we can’t just give a blanket blame to society and culture and biases and discrimination, even if all those things might play a role. Sports are about top performance. If a woman can compete with the best men, great. But she’s the exception, not the rule.

As a sports fan, I almost always want to watch the best of the best. (My one exception is college hockey during the Frozen Four, provided Maine is one of those four, but even then I’ll choose to watch something else from time to time.) The fact is, women’s sports do not feature the best players out there. That’s why there is a separate league in the first place. Indeed, I think there’s a good chance any final 16 NCAA men’s basketball team could beat any WNBA team. Not that I’m a fan of NCAA basketball (nor even the NBA), but the point is a valid one: in general, men are better at sports than women. Even two of the top female tennis players – the Williams sisters – were only willing to claim they could beat any men outside the top 200 in world rankings. (They played a guy ranked around 203 or 204, each losing to him in an exhibition match when they were teenagers.) But perhaps my point would be better made with video. First up is a video of uncontested warm-up dunks prior to a WNBA All-Star game:

Notice that some of the women were barely able to reach the rim. Now here is LeBron James from last week’s All-Star game (which may as well be uncontested):

I don’t think it’s so crazy (or sexist) to say which one of those was far more exciting. And just imagine if we could extend these highlights to other sports. Who would you rather see hit a baseball, David Ortiz or a female player who would struggle to reach the Mendoza line in the MLB? The answer is clear to any rational sports fan, but Ashley Miller is not a rational sports fan. (It shouldn’t surprise anyone that she’s on FreeThought Blogs.) As a result of me posting similar videos on her post praising The Onion’s article, she blocked me. This was probably in part cumulative since I had recently criticized her Internet investigating of Woody Allen where she effectively said guilty until proven innocent should be the default stance concerning anyone accused of any sort of sexual misconduct. (I wonder how many of Miller’s supporters would believe me if I said she had asked me for “coffee” in an elevator. Methinks ‘innocent until proven guilty’ would make a rapid comeback.) None-the-less, this sort of echo-chamber blocking is pretty characteristic of the people associated with FreeThought Blogs and atheism+. Quite the movement they have there.

(One last point on Miller: She quoted and blogged about a Facebook response of mine to something she posted. She did not message me or tag me in anything on Facebook. She didn’t even bother to link to my blog from her blog. I happened to see her post on my feed. Then on that post when someone responded to me in a way she liked, she made it a point to politely ask if she could quote that person in one place or another. Go ahead and quote me, fine, but have the decency to let me know. This is about par for FreeThought Blog ethics. We’ve seen a similar mindset with ringleader PZ Myers who refuses to help a person with whom he disagrees, even if the point of help matters to him. Nope, too bad, he disagrees with you on other things, so principles don’t matter. Yet when he makes third-party accusations about Michael Shermer and the great Ken White offers to help Myers find counsel, Myers has no problem accepting the assistance. Why, who cares that Ken White thinks I’m an attention whore who treats complex situations like they’re cartoons?! Principles! How convenient.)

But I digress. It’s utterly ridiculous to claim that the reason women’s sports do so poorly is because everyone just hates women. No. Professional female athletes just aren’t the best of the best. It’s entirely possible for a women’s hockey game to be entertaining, and I don’t fault anyone who happens to like watching that type of competitiveness, but that’s not what most sports fans want. What we want is a high class of athletics. If there comes a day that a female baseball player can hit .300 in the majors, then every baseball fan will love watching her hit. But until then, let me see Big Papi hit an opposite-field shot over the Green Monster.

What do some people hate honesty so much?

Every so often I’ll come across something on the Internet about me that I hadn’t seen before. This is fortunately less common than it once was, but it still happens from time to time. Back in May it was a video:

I knew about that video long before it happened, but I never knew that it had been published until I was searching something else. (My part happens around 4:25.) Just the same, I didn’t know about this post by PZ Myers until just today. It was a response to the above video (which you should watch if you want the rest of this post to make sense):

[The case study in the video] is Michael Hawkins, a skeptic. C0nc0rdance is aghast; he notes that:

In two years, PZ went from praising Michael Hawkins for his courage in standing up to homeopathy…to banning him permanently for “being a douchecanoe”.

Yes. Two years. Almost from the beginning of his interactions here, Hawkins was a carping jerk, yet somehow he managed to continue dissenting here regularly for all of those years before he finally convinced me he was too stupid and oblivious to allow him to continue. This is of course an excellent example of my notorious hair-trigger banning of all disagreement.

I can’t search for my comments on Pharyngula, so I can’t link anything, but Myers is lying. My comments on his blog, whether on scienceblogs.com or his new, group-think site, have always been pretty sparse. Too many people post there for any fruitful debate to really happen; it’s like talking to no one in particular at a Metallica concert. No one is likely to hear you, and if they do, you better not say anything bad about the band, no matter how much you think St. Anger sucked. Furthermore, most of my comments on his scienceblogs site were generally pretty positive.

Not shown, though, are his whining emails to me. Yes, I praised his work fighting a quack in Maine; why wouldn’t I? What you don’t see is that after I put four posts on my blog on the Maloney issue, Hawkins would write to me complaining that I wasn’t doing enough, that I must not like him, that I was allowing my personal distaste for the guy interfere with the importance of his cause (there was no personal distaste until he started demanding my attention!) And from that point on, he came onto Pharyngula with a chip on his shoulder and was persistently obnoxious.

Again, Myers is lying. I would write to him when something new popped up about said quack, but that was a matter of keeping him generally updated. I didn’t complain about anything. After a short time, my emails (which were never that frequent anyway) tapered and I stopped bothering with any communication. Fast forward a bit and Myers gets a cease and desist letter from the quack and his wife/lawyer demanding Myers give up his First Amendment rights. Several months later, I got the same thing. I sent Myers an email about that as a matter, once again, of keeping him updated. At this point I was probably expressing some dissent at Pharyngula, but nothing major. And again, no complaining. Fast forward even further and now a lawsuit is being threatened against me. But by this time I had been dissenting a fair bit more in the sparse comments I did leave. Myers ignored my need for help, but once again, I did not complain. I eventually got help from Ken White and moved on with life. It was only in a comment or two, at most, that I said anything about Myers not helping me. Indeed, it would appear that Myers’ claim about all those complaints I made all boil down to one post – one post which was amongst a series on a particular thread which soon got me banned by Myers.

Let’s quickly review the above paragraph: Myers clearly says that I complained that he wasn’t doing enough and that I thought he should give me all the attention I want. As a result, this contributed to a lengthy interaction which, despite Myers’ incredible patience, resulted in my banning from his echo-chamber. However, the only time I complained at all was over 250 posts into some random thread where I made a post addressing 9 different people. I wasn’t even talking to Myers at the time.

But I’m not the dishonest one here, so I feel obligated to point out that, yes, I do think Myers ignored my request for help in a lawsuit because he dislikes the views I’ve expressed on his brand of feminism. I fully believe that he would have responded to and helped someone he considers to be ‘on his side’. (After all, he was quick to ‘help’ someone accusing Michael Shermer of rape. That person had unfounded claims that may get Myers sued. I had actual facts and legal materials to offer up.)

For example, here is Hawkins’ very first comment (aside from some test comments) on Pharyngula after I made the move to Freethoughtblogs.

I hate to feed the troll (PZ), but the fact is Watson and (more so) those who spread her video and story are the ones who made this all a big deal. Anyone who says otherwise is either a moron or liar. Take your pick.

By the way, you don’t get to damn Christians for projecting, PZ, when you did the exact same thing in this very post when you went out of your way to use “shrill”.

That was in September 2011. He wasn’t banned until four months later, after he’d piled up an impressive record of belligerance and antagonism. And note the source of his ire: that Rebecca Watson had said, “Guys, don’t do that” in a youtube video. You want to really piss off the regulars here? Take that attitude. It’s one of the most annoying things anyone can say here, and yet, notice, it didn’t get him banned.

For once Myers isn’t lying. He’s wrong because he isn’t very good at parsing language, but at least he isn’t lying. My “source of ire” wasn’t what Watson had said. I was annoyed that Myers and co had recently taken to claiming that they had always been aloof to and above “elevatorgate”. Why, they weren’t the ones who created a mountain out of a mole hill. It was all those damn women-haters! They just won’t shut up about it! Yeah, right. As I’ve said before, almost no one would know what “elevatorgate” was today if Myers hadn’t picked up on the story and later continued to push it.

He became notorious here as a tone troll: the substance of a complaint didn’t matter, what was horrible was being so irritating as to make a complaint in the first place (we note the irony that he was actually hoist by that petard eventually). He had a reputation as someone who demanded irrelevancies, like the time he told me to go “craft a few hundred words” and publish them in my local paper, rather than writing blog entries (there’s a theme here, too, of people ordering me to run my blog or my life in the particular way they prefer).

Again, that’s a lie. Aside from the fact that I’m very, very, very far from being a tone troll (I mean, really? me? c’mon), there was one thread in which I talked about using more effective rhetoric. That is, I said that if a person’s strategy is to get a person to listen and be engaged, then insults aren’t likely to work. However, if the strategy is to shame a person (and for many of the caricature feminists out there, it is), then using harsh language and insults may be the way to go. That isn’t me being a tone troll. That’s me describing rudimentary rhetoric.

As for me ‘telling’ Myers to go craft a few hundred words, he is intentionally taking that out of context. That is, he wants it to sound like I was saying, “Why don’t you go fuck off?” Then to add to the quote-mine, he says that I was telling him to do that instead of writing blog entries. Again, we have another magnificent lie. What actually happened is that another poster came into a thread bitching about how awful those threads were. A bunch of people piled on that poster and nothing interesting happened. I then noted that that user did have a point about the lack of productivity in those threads. So, I thought and wrote, why not use a better medium for an important message? That is, I thought an OP-ED (not a mere letter to the editor) by Myers in his local paper would be a good way to get people discussing this or that issue. But who knew that “Have you thought about using your status as a professor to contact a newspaper about an OP-ED” was equal to saying, “STOP WRITING YOUR BLOG POSTS AND DO WHAT I DEMAND!”

The final straw was his privileged, oblivious pomposity. Hawkins, the fellow who got terribly irate that a driving range made him buy their golf balls, then waxed indignant that poor people might use food stamps to buy lobster in Maine. It was classic privileged meddling. Subsidize my golfing hobby, but no, no, no, don’t let those poor people enjoy a good meal!

Again, we have a lie. The issue I had with a driving range was that I was treated poorly by a business. I went to hit a few of my own golf balls near closing time at an empty range. The owners, outraged that I would dare not immediately pay them $1.50 for a small bucket, berated my girlfriend and me. At no point was my problem that they had a rule about buying a bucket. (Most ranges in the area have no such rule, nor did this range have that rule written anywhere; an owner of another range told me he always gets customers from the one where I had an issue.) Had they said, “Oh, sorry, we don’t allow people to use their own golf balls. You need to buy a bucket”, I would have bought the fucking bucket. But that isn’t the real issue for me here; I’m well over that incident. What bothers me is the incessant dishonesty from Pharyngula, now continued by Myers. This issue was brought up randomly in a thread in which I was disagreeing about something else. People focused on it for the sake of personally attacking me. It is easily the absolute best real life example of an ad hominen I’ve ever seen.

As to poor people buying lobster, Myers has about as much understanding of economics as he does of philosophy: he’s a dolt. I dislike the idea of expensive foods being available via food stamps because 1) they fail to contribute to lifting people out of poverty, 2) they are not nutritionally necessary nor without more than adequate alternative choices, and 3) they cost the taxpayer more, thus hurting the economy (and thus poor people). (Lobster happened to be the example I used.) So did Myers respond to each of my points, considering and perhaps rebutting each one? Of course not. He simply characterized me as hating poor people since my position wasn’t sufficiently liberal.

At that point he was toast. Again, it’s not that he disagreed with me — there are plenty of people bickering on that thread, and some making the same claim that these youtubers do, that I’ve violated FREE SPEECH by kicking him out — but because a persistently sanctimonious asshole wore out his welcome at last.

Of course I was banned because I disagreed with Myers. He even admits as much when he talks so dismissively about me, in his view, not wanting poor people to have a good meal. Why, how dare I hold such an opinion! It’s just so privileged. There was simply no way such a viewpoint could be tolerated at Pharyngula.

As to a ‘violation of free speech’, there seems to be mass confusion about this. People think that simply because something isn’t an illegal violation of free speech as described in the First Amendment, it also isn’t censorship. I don’t know what YouTube comments are being referenced, nor am I saying that Myers is expressing this type of confusion, but no one seems to have any idea that censorship can happen in both an illegal and legal context. In this case, yes, Myers legally censored me. That’s the entire point of the video – and it’s a point that is 100% correct. Furthermore, it’s important to note when censorship is justified and when it isn’t. Simply because it is allowed does not mean that it is defensible.

And that’s C0nc0rdance’s Big Lie: that I don’t tolerate any disagreement, that I’m quick to pull the trigger, that no dissenters can get a word in edgewise here. If you actually look at the record honestly, you cannot come to that conclusion…but it’s now the party line for people like NoelPlum99 (168 dissenting comments here) and C0nc0rdance (12 dissenting comments).

C0nc0rdance closes with the horrifying statistic that there are 105 entries in the dungeon file. Oh, no! A big number! Let’s terrify the children with it!

Perspective: that’s the number of permanently (there were a few others who were released) banned individuals accumulated over ten years of blogging. I get between 15,000 and 20,000 comments per month, and have banned less than one person per month.

You want to argue that my commenting policy is just too brutal? The facts say you’re wrong.

It’s so cute that Myers is calling someone else a liar. It’s even more cute when he tries to use facts, as if he has any clarity on any matter in which he’s so clearly biased. Yes, the number of total bans are small. So? Think, Myers. If your argument is that your policy isn’t bad because you only implement it on occasion, then you have a shitty argument. When that exact same logic is applied to something more extreme, like murder, any reasonable person can see that it fails. (I suspect that analogy doesn’t work for Myers, what with his poor record in philosophical thought.) The real fact is, you ban people for disagreeing with you. You can’t handle the speech of others, so you get rid of it when it begins to offend you. Aw, your poor wittle feelings. Deal with it, man. Deal with the fact that other people are going to dissent and do so in a way in which you will lose the argument. Don’t pretend like allowing a handful of people to say a negative thing here or there proves that you have nothing but patience. Rather than constructing these elaborate tales of your tolerance for other views, drop the ego and own your censorship tendencies. Just be honest and own what you do.

PZ Myers’ “The Happy Atheist”

I was considering reading PZ Myers’ new book “The Happy Atheist” so I could do a brief review of it here. However, I have decided against it after reading the user reviews on Amazon. Here are a few random excerpts:

“The Happy Atheist” is just a collection of blog posts cleaned up and converted into a book format, arranged in an order so they make sense. Unfortunately this leads to a lack of substance on some of the chapters, as it doesn’t appear anything new was added. In some cases this is a serious problem, because a book is not a blog – and it’s not unreasonable to expect a book to cover issues in more depth than a two page blog post would. There are some chapters just screaming out to be expanded on so that more info could be presented, more sources cited, more angles covered, more caveats added, etc. Reading along you can pretty much guess where the links to other blog posts or news stories would have gone in the text – but this is a book, so I can’t click them, and all that extra info is lost.

and

Hoping this would be entertaining, as it didn’t appear more than a series of essays, I figured it wouldn’t be a scholarly book or researched tome. Instead, it was a collection of essays that I realize much have been part of his blog. The Introduction, About the Author and next couple of chapters really had me interested. By the 7th, I was pretty bored.

I found myself skipping over whole passages, as they were just repeating themselves. It was chapter after chapter of stories outlining arguments and disagreements between him and different people and organizations. It just didn’t keep my interest.

and

If you read his blog,this books adds nothing. It breaks no new ground, offers no new perspective and has no insight. It is a very insular work, reflecting the experiences and thoughts of someone trying to “jump in late” with an atheist book – but not really having any justification or reason to do so. You get the sense he is like a “little kid” on the atheist schoolyard. His heart is usually in the right place but he’s immature (which you can also see on this blog sometimes). He’s just out of place on the basketball court where the older kids like Harris, Dennett, Hitchens and Dawkins play.

Dr Myers is intelligent, and some of writing here is worth being read – but there is no coherent whole or central idea. Nothing here justifies a book.

and

Almost word for word, sometimes with a different intro or ending, and perhaps a few other very small changes, here are the chapters, er blog posts, that I found online with the same titles:

4) The Great Desecration
11) The Top Ten Reasons Religion is Like Pornography
13) Happy Easter! is from an original post titled “Sunday Sacrilege: The Silliest Story Ever Told.”
17) Imagine No Heaven
18) Daughters of Eve
19) Prometheus’s Sin
20) So Alone
21) One Nation Free of Gods
22) An Embryo is Not a Person
23) The Courtier’s Reply
28) We’re Happier out of a Straightjacket Than in One
31) The Active Hand
32) The Proper Reverence Due Those Who Have Gone Before
33) Niobrara
34) We Stand Awed at the Heights Our People Have Achieved.

If someone is putting out a series of blog posts as a published book for a price, readers would want to know so they can make an informed choice before laying down the required money to read it. A publisher would most definitely want to know. They surely paid him a huge advance, probably in the tens of thousands of dollars. Did they know?

So, in short, it appears that I have basically already read the book by virtue of having read most of these blog posts. It looks like PZ was just looking to get some of his more popular or contentious ideas into the public sphere as a way to make an easy buck. I see no reason to purchase this book.

In other news, Richard Dawkins has a new book coming out in a few weeks. I will be devoting a bit of money towards that purchase.

Censorship

I’m a big believer in fighting speech with more speech. That’s why it’s so easy for me to explain to people why I don’t like people like PZ Myers and the thought-police at Freethoughtblogs:

There is a facebook page called The Patriot Nation, and it’s exactly what you’d expect: people raging against an America that isn’t white. And it is on facebook, so hell no, it’s never going to get taken down, even when it lies.

and

I just got a comment on twitter about this post:

@Miserere22: @pzmyers hopefully she gets raped. no offense.

Hopefully their account gets reported by people all over the world. No offense.

and

This is the lounge. You can discuss anything you want, but you will do it kindly.

Status: Heavily Moderated

I found all this within the first 4 pages of his blog.

Links here, here, and here.

This cartoon is stupid

This cartoon comes from the hurter-of-women known as PZ Myers:

Harassment

Quick back story: Someone emailed PZ and told him a big name in the atheist community sexually assaulted her. Without evidence, he named that guy. Then a bunch of other people named everyone under the Sun. Forget that these people either never went to the police or, for those that did, their reports were looked into and closed with no charges whatsoever. No, that isn’t important. What’s important is that someone has made a significant claim and that evidence is only important in philosophical and scientific claims. When it comes to Internet feminism, it’s irrelevant.

The reason the above cartoon is just so fucking stupid is that it ignores why people get these type of responses: Blogs are not the place to make criminal complaints. A person can’t expect to be taken seriously on sexual harassment when the claim is going through such a hugely wrong channel – a channel so huge that it is only reasonable to conclude that at least part of the goal is public shame of the accused, whether the claim is true or not.

I’m not particularly interested in the PZ Myers-style feminist attempt to destroy the fledgling atheist community we have, so I don’t think I’ll be addressing this issue again. I do, however, hope that the people who have made these accusations without first going through the proper channels are sued into oblivion for defamation.

C0nc0rdance, YouTube, PZ, and me

I was contacted several months back by someone seeking to include me in a YouTube video about PZ Myers’ personal policies regarding censorship. Basically, PZ has made it a point to insulate himself from most forms of dissent, taking a small contingent of the atheist community with him. Despite what PZ claims, this has caused DEEP RIFTS; there is a splinter in the atheist community where one side is atheism-first, science-first and the other is all about blaming men for the world’s ills while playing professional victims. The PZ side of the matter bears no relation to atheism and most of the people there, including and especially PZ, don’t even know what atheism is. The Gnu Atheism side, on the other hand, is busy making documentaries and staying focused (all the while snubbing PZ). The only positive to take from this split is that PZ Myers’ popularity has declined precipitously over the past several years.

At any rate, the video. I was contacted by video maker C0nc0rdance about my story being included in one of his videos. I was all for it. However, he wanted to maybe do a Skype interview, so I was waiting for him to schedule a time for that. As it turns out, he decided to take a different direction with the video, but I didn’t realize it. The result is that this video has been sitting on YouTube for 3 months and, well, now you know why I never posted it. Check it out. My part begins at around 4:25: