Daniel Fincke vs. Justin Vacula on Feminism in the Atheist Movement

Justin Vacula and I sat down to debate feminism’s role in the atheist movement tonight. Here’s the video of that:

Please, I implore you in the comments section to stick to the civility pledge demands that you argue as charitably and patiently with each other as possible, not verbally abuse each other, and especially do not escalate existing interpersonal hostilities. Let’s try and have as reasoned a debate about these issues as possible.

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • Brian G.

    “Please, I implore you in the comments section to stick to the civility
    pledge demands that you argue as charitably and patiently with each
    other as possible, not verbally abuse each other, and especially do not escalate existing interpersonal hostilities. Let’s try and have as reasoned a debate about these issues as possible.”

    Dan, are you even remotely conscious of what’s been going on? That feminists didn’t start this, and that it’s not based on a “reasonable disagreement”?

    • Ace_of_Sevens

      Have you read the other stuff he wrote about civility? Just because someone else started something and is being a jerk doesn’t mean you should escalate it. That mainly just increases hostility without resolving anything.

    • Brian G.

      And I happen to think that’s wrong. Not all positions are equally valuable, and some are actively harmful.

    • Ace_of_Sevens

      Does escalating conflicts with people with dangerous ideas make them less dangerous?

    • Brian G.

      It challenges them. It doesn’t give them validation or tacit approval. Focusing on “civility above all else”, though, gives those people that. Going off of your position, or what I assume is your position, am I required to calmly and reasonably and patiently debate someone who is against gay rights for hours and hours? If so, to what end?

    • Dustin Quigley

      Is it not possible to challenge opinions or ideas while remaining civil?

    • Ace_of_Sevens

      I’m leaning toward the idea you didn’t read the stuff he’s said about civility then, or you would know that he doesn’t promote civility over all else and that he’s quite aware of these issues.

    • Brian G.

      He found fit to debate Vacula “civilly” after Vacula’s actions, so I don’t see how I’m so far off the mark. I don’t consider Vacula to have positions regarding feminism that are worth civil debate.

    • Dustin Quigley

      Whether he’s worth debating is a separate question from whether it’s worth being civil imo.

    • Ace_of_Sevens

      Vacula’s main argument has been that people are straw-manning him and generally misrepresenting him. The only way to address this is to focus on what he actually said rather than speculating about his motives and trying to tell him what he really believes, apart from what he said.

    • Caias Ward

      Can you detail some of these actions?

    • Edward Gemmer

      Well that’s you. You haven’t made a case that they are unreasonable, so why should anyone listen to you about that subject?

    • Brian G.

      By the way, you’d be right that I haven’t read all of Fincke’s writings about civility. I’m going off of what he put in the OP: he debated Vacula civilly, and anyone in the comments is supposed to debate civilly and even ignore “existing interpersonal hostilities”. To me, this gives carte blanche to people who want to bring up sexist opinions as long as they can couch it in “civility”.

      This probably upsets me because I’m more than familiar with the way bigots use “civility” as a cover for their bigotry. Anti-gay people have been doing it for years, portraying themselves as moderate, even kind Christians who just wanna protect their families! Except, ya know, that the actual content of their rhetoric doesn’t reflect that tone. I don’t give as much importance to tone as I do to content, because it’s the content that makes a difference.

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      You can expose bigoted ideas by showing that they have no merit. Interpersonal abuse of people and nastiness is unnecessary. If you will actually read the civility pledge (I’ve added a link to the OP), you will see that implicit creation of hostile environments is not acceptable either.

      But, yes, even people who advance content that I find repulsive deserve respect for as long as they are not bullying and intimidating and putting down individuals (explicitly or implicitly). That’s how free and rational debate works. It’s not about everyone deciding because they find the other’s content so appalling they can berate that person. I don’t want to be treated that way by theists or conservatives who find my views appalling. I’m not going to allow them to be treated that way by me or my friends either. We have to be above the view that feeling oneself 100% right gives us the right to push others around like bullies.

    • Brian G.

      And, to me, that sounds exactly like what someone would say when they see such debates as academic exercises. A debate about gay rights, for example, is not an academic exercise. I am, frankly, appalled that you’re telling me I should *respect* someone that’s making anti-gay arguments to me “as long as they are not bullying”, and I also disagree with what I’m assuming that you’re saying: that content itself cannot be bullying, intimidating, or abusive.

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      Brian, in many Muslim countries you’re not allowed to question Islam because that would appall and hurt the very feelings of Muslims, since their religion is SO deep a part of one’s identity. We cannot go down that road, just instead, for gays or atheists or trans people, or whomever. At a certain point we must respect other people’s rights to interrogate even our identities as long as they do not do so in ways that try to make us personally unwelcome and threatened. As long as people keep their focus on abstract issues and not demeaning their direct interlocutors, we have to allow everything to be on the table if we are genuinely committed to free expression of ideas.

      Now this isn’t necessary everywhere. Not every place need be a debate space. There can be safe spaces where people’s identities need never be called into question. But in philosophical spaces, we cannot shut down preemptively any positions advanced civilly and sincerely and without interpersonal threats, and still call ourselves defenders of freedom of thought and reason.

      And even in safe spaces, etc., there is rarely excuse becoming interpersonally abusive. You can make all sorts of harsh moral criticisms civilly. The idea that the only way to morally rebuke someone is to disrespect them as a person is a pernicious slander against morality itself.

    • Brian G.

      “Brian, in many Muslim countries you’re not allowed to question Islam
      because that would appall and hurt the very feelings of Muslims, since
      their religion is SO deep a part of one’s identity.”

      I think it’s interesting that you bring up an example in which a minority is offending a majority who holds power, when the examples I can think of have exclusively been cases where the power differential is different: straight white males talking about women, POCs, and LGBT people. An atheist questioning the religious majority in a Muslim country is not analogous to me to a straight majority questioning the human rights of gay people.

      “At a certain point we must respect other people’s rights to interrogate
      even our identities as long as they do not do so in ways that try to
      make us personally unwelcome and threatened.”

      I’m not sure how one could both “interrogate my identity” and not make me feel personally unwelcome and threatened. Can you give me an example of such a case?

      “As long as people keep their focus on abstract issues and not demeaning
      their direct interlocutors, we have to allow everything to be on the
      table if we are genuinely committed to free expression of ideas.”

      Hmm. I don’t think I buy that. If I were to say “I think the study of philosophy is a pointless waste of time”, given the time and effort you’ve put into your work, could I not have just used an abstract to insult you personally? They’re not mutually exclusive in this case.

      “But in philosophical spaces, we cannot shut down preemptively any
      positions advanced civilly and sincerely and without interpersonal
      threats, and still call ourselves defenders of freedom of thought and
      reason.”

      Above, I asked a different commenter about a case in which abstract debates can, and do, have real-world consequences. What do you think of that and do you give thought to those consequences when you decide whether to discuss a topic and, if so, how you go about it?

      “The idea that the only way to morally rebuke someone is to disrespect
      them as a person is a pernicious slander against morality itself.”

      So…bad people don’t exist? I’m not sure what you mean by this.

      ETA: sorry for the long post. I quoted you because you said a lot and I was trying to keep everything clear.

      I also removed a section as you answered it above.

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      “So…bad people don’t exist? I’m not sure what you mean by this.”

      No, the point is that there exist non-abusive terms for identifying their character flaws without denigrating them with merely abusive epithets like “asshole” or “douchebag”.

      It does not matter whether Islam is a minority or a majority position. In America, Muslims are a minority. That doesn’t mean they can say no one is entitled to question the legitimacy of their faith. They cannot say it’s too deep a part of their identity to ever be questioned without insulting them personally as people. As upsetting as some Muslims (or Christians or anyone for that matter) might find it to have their beliefs on which they base their identity challenged, beliefs, identities, values, et al. are fair intellectual game. You just can’t be personally abusive in ways that say because you’re a Muslim we can be hostile, to you as an interlocutor. People have to be separable from their identities this way lest we never be able to question poor choices or understandings with respect to identity. And that means everyone’s identities must be abstractly fair game, just not aimed at the individual as a person in the debate.

    • Brian G.

      I just saw the part about linking to the pledge. I’ll read it now and see what I’ve misunderstood. Thanks.

    • Pitchguest

      Right. Challenging them. What was it you said again?

      “At what point, if ever, can I call them a homophobic bigot and get on with my life?”

      What’s the use of patiently debating someone who’s against gay rights? Oh, I don’t know, so you can CHALLENGE THEM? PERSUADE them? Change their mind? Here’s another scenario for you. An atheist and a theist walks into a bar. Almost miraculously the bar is the only thing left standing, untouched by a city ravaged by natural disasters and thousands have died. The theist says, “Barkeep, drinks on me!” [The bar cheers.] “Dedicated for all those who have perished. God Bless.”

      Now if you were the atheist, what would you do? Would you a) question him about God amidst such anger and death and maybe tell him it’s a bit uncalled for to say “God bless” in that situation or b) call him an insensitive, god-botting wank who should go fuck himself so you can get on with your life?

    • Brian G.

      I don’t see the relevance of your scenario.

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      Brian G., I didn’t say anything about who started this. I never said both sides were equally reasonable. I said to have a reasoned debate. This is a blog for reasoned debate, not vitriol. If you don’t like that, I’m sorry, but that’s the rule here and I think should be the rule anywhere calling itself rationalist, in my view: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/2013/03/what-kind-of-a-rationalist-wants-to-verbally-abuse-opponents-into-submission-like-an-authoritarian/ But in the meantime there are plenty of forums that cater to and encourage verbally abusing and harassing and otherwise intimidating people into agreement, if you insist on doing so.

    • Brian G.

      Dan, then I clearly don’t understand your position yet. Having reasoned debate with people who aren’t reasonable isn’t a concept that I’m grokking, apparently.

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      You do your part to be reasonable. That’s all you can do. Other people being unreasonable is not license to become unreasonable oneself.

    • Brian G.

      Then I’ll ask you what I was asking Ace of Sevens: if I’m in an argument with someone who is anti-gay, and their points are bizarre, religiously based, irrelevant, offensive, etc., how long am I supposed to listen to that? At what point, if ever, can I call them a homophobic bigot and get on with my life? Is doing so vitriolic? Because that’s where I’m getting confused by your civility pledge: when, if ever, does it no longer apply? If your post on the nuances of your pledge explains this, I apologize because I haven’t had time to read it yet.

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      I have explained at length that words like “homophobe” and “bigot” are not terms of abuse, but substantiatable moral/intellectual charges. I argue that you should reserve them for when you have substantial evidence though. And there are prior stages like identifying phrases or ideas as having homophobic connotations etc. before making presumption to a character trait. But, yes, sometimes we can assess people’s characters based on evidence. And then they’re open to rebut the charges based on evidence. But calling people “assholes” and “douchebags” and “stupid” doesn’t do that. So I have none of that here.

    • Pitchguest

      For crying out loud, if you don’t want to debate, Brian, then don’t debate. No one is forcing you to! However, for those not interested in living in a perpetual echochamber and actually DO WANT to debate, this is one place to start. For one we don’t start from the outset that our “opponents” will be hateful bigots, as you have. For one we don’t begin by poisoning the well and hindering any progress from being made. That’s the mark of cowardice.

      But I still want to hear what you have to say. You said you didn’t “start” this. What do you mean by that?

    • Brian G.

      Pitchguest, I know I’m not required to debate anyone, thanks. Thing is, when it’s your civil and human rights in play, it’s not always an easy choice to disengage.

      When I said that feminists didn’t start this conflict, I’m saying that it was not feminists who were not in the atheist community coming in and trying to co-opt the movement. Atheist feminists are already involved in the community. The idea of bringing in some gender equality to the movement didn’t even originate with them. The atheist community has been an overwhelmingly white straight male identified group, and my local atheist group was typical of that. They would often ask amongst themselves why that was. Atheist feminists attempted to answer that question and their answers were dismissed and atheist feminists were even threatened.

      If you want an actual example of “incivility” driving people away, that would be it. I saw many, many women (and men such as myself) who had witnessed the backlash against feminist critique and felt they couldn’t stay engaged with the atheist movement if our concerns weren’t going to be listened to.

    • Brian G.

      Also, I’m not advocating “verbal abuse” or “intimidating people into agreement”. You ascribed a lot of things to what I said that I didn’t imply. In fact I thought I was following your call for civility pretty well.

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      You were following the pledge. All the pledge at its core is saying is not to verbally abuse and intimidate, etc. It’s to stick to reasoned arguments. That’s it. So I don’t see why it’s such a tall order to abide by it that you have to complain, civilly or otherwise.

    • Pitchguest

      “Start”? What’s been started?

  • http://skepticink.com/notung Notung

    I agreed with most of what you said Dan, so I’m just going to nitpick the stuff I disagreed with (as it’s more interesting that way).

    At one point you said that people shouldn’t ‘emphasise’ (on their blogs) that atheism doesn’t logically entail other things like feminism, anti-racism, support for Manchester United, etc.

    I don’t agree with that. My blog is primarily interested in the philosophical issues surrounding atheism as a concept. So If I see someone saying ‘atheism logically leads to the idea that woman should be equal to men’ (needless to say I agree that women should be equal to men, but I’ll say it just to avoid being misread like Justin has been) then I find myself wanting to correct that. Atheism doesn’t logically lead to any such thing. My blog deals with the issues I find interesting, and that’s why I (and perhaps others) are enthusiastic about correcting these (to my mind) false statements about what atheism is or entails.

    That said, I think Justin gets the meaning of the two-place predicate ‘is consistent with’ wrong. I think he’s using it to mean ‘entails’, and that was the source of a bit of confusion. Of course atheism is consistent with feminism. Far more consistent than many religions are.

    Anyway, I enjoyed the discussion, and I admire your Socratic approach (or ‘JAQing off’ as some dismissively call it :p). That’s exactly how these sorts of discussions should proceed IMO, and they should happen more often.

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      That’s fine, Notung. There’s a difference though between what kinds of occasions to parse out such distinctions if you want. If you bring it up in an abstract philosophical analysis, then it’s just pedantic thoroughness of a benign certain sort. But that’s why at the very beginning I said that this movement is not just about abstract philosophy, it’s about culture and politics. Harping about the semantics of how atheism analytically entail women’s equality but maybe only synthetically might in reply to activism that is trying to say organized atheism and fights for women’s equality should make common cause signals a hostility to the atheist movement taking a stand for women’s equality. THAT’S the problem.

    • http://skepticink.com/notung Notung

      Well, in context, JV’s statement was in reply to a statement that precisely said that there was a logical connection. It wasn’t as if someone said “let’s take a stand for women’s equality within the movement, or as it relates to religion” and he said “atheism doesn’t logically entail women’s rights”. That would be odd, and irrelevant, but I don’t think it’s what happened.

      But I agree that the movement isn’t about philosophical analysis, as you say. Still, my blog (as an example) does often concern itself with the ideas qua philosophical concepts, and it’s sometimes galling to be told that by doing so I’m in some way hostile to something I’m actually not hostile to in the slightest.

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      I understand that completely. My civility pledge’s prologue goes to great length to defend the space for philosophy blogs to have even broader latitudes than you’re asking for without everything melting into accusations.

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      And “logical” connection can mean not strictly logic in the formal sense but “logical” in the sense of “completely naturally following from when you take everything together”. Like there is clearly a logical connection between democracy and freedom of speech. When someone says that they don’t mean democracy cannot ever happen without freedom of speech analytically speaking. They mean anyone who really understands the issues related to them is going to see their deep affinities. Simpler examples could be marshaled too.

      But even were this about formal logic, you above pointed out what I was trying to get Justin to see. His logic was bizarre. Feminism is of course formally consistent with atheism even were it not logically entailed by it in either sense of logically.

    • http://skepticink.com/notung Notung

      That’s a good point regarding the weaker sense of ‘logical’. Thing is, seeing atheism as an absence of belief means that you need other, positive philosophies on top in order for things like feminism, rationality, existentialism, etc. to take shape. So I don’t think ‘logical’ applies here even in the weaker sense. Again, I stress that these positive philosophies (at least the ones that give rise to gender equality) are good, defensible and worthwhile. By denying the logical connection I am not denying the consequent!

      Regarding Justin’s ‘bizarre’ logic, I think it makes sense when you consider that he was simply wrong about what ‘consistent’ means, as I noted in a previous comment (and I tried to tell him this on his blog, but I didn’t get a reply). If I’m wrong and he is using the word correctly, then it’s very bizarre logic indeed, I agree.

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      I am honestly puzzled at how a philosophy student can be as confused on the word “consistent” as he seems to be. Especially when I was spelling out the distinction in other words and he was still refusing me. Ultimately his pro-egalitarianism position, wrung from him with confusing difficulty, shows that logically he sees they’re consistent. But he sure had a hard time showing a basic grasp of a basic logical point.

    • jjramsey

      “I am honestly puzzled at how a philosophy student can be as confused on the word ‘consistent’ as he seems to be.”

      Part of that may be an artifact of his original argument with Amanda Marcotte. Her article was entitled “Why Atheism is Consistent with Feminism and Pro-Choice Positions” but actually argued for a stronger connection between atheism and feminism than mere consistency. When Vacula responded to the article, he seems to have attempted to read the title of Marcotte’s article in such a way as to be (ahem) consistent with the thesis of the article, hence his weird gloss on the meaning of the word “consistent.”

      As for why he kept that weird gloss, well, that may be stubbornness on his part. He certainly was plenty stubborn throughout the Google+ hangout video.

    • Ace_of_Sevens

      Thank you. This is what I’ve been trying to express. I think a lot of people are trying to argue that because atheism doesn’t imply feminism is in the philosophical sense that it’s impossible to believe A & not B without contradicting yourself, they are unrelated. That’s a non-sequitur and no one seems to use this standard of connection on anything but feminism. Otherwise, we’d be seeing fits that atheism doesn’t automatically lead to LGBT rights or secularism.

    • http://skepticink.com/notung Notung

      Good point – yes I should stress that by claiming that there’s no logical entailment, I’m emphatically not claiming that there’s no connection at all. It’s just that the connection is not one of logical entailment (or the weaker and colloquial ‘logically leads to’). It’s one of history, of freethought, of liberating oneself from oppressive and archaic traditions and social structures.

    • 3lemenope

      Well, perhaps not “fits”, but I for one have pointed out exactly those two things as additional examples of things atheism does not imply over the course of this thread and the one immediately prior concerning Vacula.

    • swbarnes2

      Your basic humanity should not be a topic of philosophical spitballing. Neither should the basic humanity of half the species.

      Saying “No, the basic equality of women is a totally debatable subject, let’s treat the opposition like a valid point of view”, is just harmful, in any context.

    • http://skepticink.com/notung Notung

      Am I saying that?

    • 3lemenope

      Placing any concept or proposition beyond consideration and discussion is harmful. Some ideas may be trickier than others to discuss; discourse vocabulary and protocols vary depending upon the sensitivity of the subject at hand and the participants’ interests. But to place an idea beyond all consideration simply because the implications of such an idea are distasteful is a serious breach for any person claiming to be a seeker of truth.

    • Brian G.

      And how does this open, no-restrictions worldview see “debates” over such topics as swbarnes mentions, like arguing over someone’s basic rights as a human being? As a friend just said to me, saying that one must be open to, and respect differing opinions on, a debate on the human rights of a person or group is comparable to what happened in World War II, and in fact was seen over and over again in European history. That’s not intended as a Godwin, it’s just a demonstrative example of a case where debating the human rights of a group as if there is a doubt to the outcome is not merely an argument happening in the abstract; it has real-world outcomes. If that seems like an outlier in terms of topics, the human rights of people and groups come up extremely frequently.

    • 3lemenope

      I think I come from a slightly different place on this than, say, Fincke’s writings on civility. I personally don’t believe that all ideas are worthy of respect, and it’s not all that problematic to extend that even to people in certain contexts. But I do believe that the discourse itself– the Forum, so to speak–deserves respect, because dialectic and debate are how humans feel our way through ideas and concepts to valuate them and their consequents. Its value as a tool and process far exceeds any benefit that might be gained from intellectually censoring disagreeable notions.

      So, I don’t think that Nazism, for example, is deserving of any respect. But if we are committed to looking over the contents of history to explore how humans arrange our affairs on the largest scales (nation-states, et al.) then omitting Nazism from the data set for no reason other than Nazism has demonstrable bad effects is illegitimate. Not least because we can’t know precisely where it goes wrong without analyzing it closely, but also because errors and wrong turns in the history of ideas are themselves possessed of utility, as mistakes often indicate ways to avoid similar mistakes in the future. To the extent that vituperation damages the ability of people to discuss even grievous errors like Nazism, it makes it more difficult to accomplish a thorough and persuasive debunking of the ideas therein.

      So, it is entirely appropriate for a woman to be deeply offended that a person wishes to subject their rights and dignity to analysis, and yet I think that offense does not justify an abandonment of the principles of the Forum. There is a greater bounty to be had in seeing the arguments supporting misogyny laid bare for the chicanery they are, a process which can only be underwritten by dispassionate analysis and careful discussion.

    • Brian G.

      I don’t think a woman would object to analyzing how their dignity and rights are infringed; that’s basically the purpose of most feminist work. However, I think they would object to framing it as if their rights and dignity were in question. Do you see the distinction I’m making?

    • 3lemenope

      Yeah I do, and I find it, for the purposes of discourse, an illegitimate one. Either one accepts a priori that everyone participating in such a dialogue comes with their own pre-formed views of the issue under discussion, and that many of those views will be incompatible with one another, or one cannot participate in an actual dialogue. It does no good whatsoever to the analytical process to get hung up on the fact that the participants actually do honestly disagree, that their lived experiences cause them to believe more strongly in their original positions than would be expected by strict dispassion.

      Besides, what’s the point of analyzing dead (in the Jamesean sense) questions? Any live question is going to touch upon some real-life experienced correlate or other, and so will be bound up with the reflections, emotions, and dispositions of the person towards the experiences that helped form and inform their position. I would argue that pivoting towards live questions makes it more likely that a conversation, if successful at maintaining discourse, will be productive. It also increases the danger that any given participant will abandon the discourse as their personal limits of tolerance for disagreeable ideas is breached. Dead questions, though, generally lead to comfortable, airy conversations that rarely produce anything of worth; the prototypical satire of an academic debate, if you will.

      In my experience, ideas have neither hilt nor handle. Every end is the pointy end. Getting into the weeds of exactly why you’re right and your interlocutor is wrong is a dirty business not least because you necessarily expose yourself to the possibility of a revelation that you yourself have erred. I personally find it difficult, on another level, to respect people who wish to criticize an argument they find morally repugnant but refuse to allow that it is legitimate for their own beliefs be subjected to attacks borne from a similar source. If their beliefs are superior, they should withstand scrutiny better than their competitors. Such an exercise is worth it if even all it does is expose one’s beliefs to a person who is actually motivated through sincerely contrary beliefs of their own to dismantle them, since it is only under such conditions that one can have confidence that the idea can weather strong scrutiny.

      On another level still, as much as it feels crummy to have one’s dignity and rights assaulted, it feels *great* to defeat such arguments and their proponents without cheating. Such successes expose the idea and its proponents to public ridicule and dismissal, such that it becomes less potent as a social force and perhaps your competitor idea’s social stock rises in its place.

    • Brian G.

      And from my perspective, what you and, by extension, Fincke are saying is that there is no end point. Even if a discrete group of people were to debate, for example, the merits of women having dignity and rights and came to the conclusion that they should, that result is only provisional and may even be subject to alteration in the future. That means that, essentially, if one is a member of a marginalized group, then one will never get a reprieve from having to defend oneself. It’s asking marginalized groups to shoulder the burden of arguing for their continued existence when what we should really be focusing on is the ones who marginalized them.

      Separate from the fact of whether or not that’s fair, do you know how exhausting that is? You characterize constantly experiencing assaults on one’s rights and dignity as “crummy”, but it’s more like utterly demoralizing. This is compounded when ostensible allies exhort you to “take the high road” and be polite to your oppressors. This is less a disagreement with you about what should be subject to discussion and more an explanation of why calls for “civility” haven’t been embraced the way you’d like. It’s akin to asking a beleaguered platoon of soldiers to send boots to the invading army so they don’t get trench foot.

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      There is an end point. It’s when the tide turns in cultural and legal and philosophical opinion and your side is so well assumed that people explicitly challenge it only ever more rarely. But until the argument is so truly and fully one, it has to be had. The only other option is to just try to bully into silence a sizable population that is not on board with you. Or maybe you can just create laws they hate and impose them with no democratic say?

      If we believe in reason and freedom of conscience and freedom of expression as the bedrocks of truth and justice we have to work with people’s minds. There can be laws to protect minorities from unsympathetic majorities. But it goes way too far to start interpersonally bullying people for just thinking wrongly. That’s not gaining their rational agreement. It’s forcing submission like an authoritarian. I think our outcomes need not only be just, but our means too.

    • Brian G.

      I’m honestly at a loss. You already dismissed the importance of power differentials, so I can’t explain to you that a marginalized group doesn’t have the capability to “bully and intimidate the majority” into doing something they don’t like.

    • 3lemenope

      If a person finds engaging within the somewhat demanding strictures of rational discourse too painful for whatever reason, they need not do it. There are oodles of other ways a person can engage effectively with an idea or issue that have nothing to do with arguing with folks who desire to defend unpleasant notions.

    • Brian G.

      Alright. The impression I’m getting here is that you, and possibly Dan as well, are not saying “you can never be rude to anyone ever, you can’t be upset”, but that there should be this little pocket universe where emotions don’t apply and we’re only supposed to have dispassionate, rational debate. Awesome. If you wanna do that, great. Sometimes I want to do that, too.

      Only point I’m making is that there are cases in which emotions can’t, and shouldn’t, be decoupled from the debate because the debate has real and tangible consequences. When I debate an anti-gay person, I don’t get upset and potentially even “interpersonally abusive” just because I’m a jerk. I get that way because the debate is not academic for me, it’s personal.

    • 3lemenope

      I like that a lot, actually. Perhaps a “clean room” would be an even better analogy. The notion I’m advancing is that a discourse is a highly regulated space, and it is regulated in order strain out noise to make it a suitable environment to do delicate and fussy things with the guts of ideas. Much like a scientist seeks to minimize confounding variables through careful construction of an experiment parameters (including the conditions that pertain in the lab where the experiment is to be conducted).

      The only reason it is important is that it allows better access to the idea, allows it to be explored thoroughly and refracted through many points of view, articulated according to rules that make their insights partially compatible. If you don’t care to have that, then there is no reason to bother with the strictures of discourse; it’s only a tool (or really, a process) for a particular task. If you want to claim success in that task–testing a notion thoroughly–you must first use the process.

      If the point of a conversation is, say, to drive home to a clueless thoughtless homophobe that his or her particular comments and activism are hurtful, diving into abstruse semantics and plodding definitions probably isn’t the go-to approach. Emotional appeals have a tried-and-true place in the rhetorical triad for a reason.

    • Verbose Stoic

      The question, though, is whether that framing is being done by the people being accused of doing that, or by the people doing the accusing. Are the people who are accused of not thinking of women as human beings really doing that, or is that an interpretation based on the viewpoint of those who are advocating for the position those people are disagreeing with, or are advocating against their position? This is where listening to people even if you think their ideas horribly wrong is really required: at a minimum, you must make certain that what you accuse them of saying/thinking is really what they’re saying and thinking.

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      I never said all ideas deserve respect, just all people. You can even level harsh moral criticism (even “condemnation”) at someone for their Nazism and express contempt for the ideas of Nazis without being interpersonally abusive.

    • http://twitter.com/Eristae Eristae

      When I read things like this, I hope that you and I are defining “respect” differently.

      I do not respect Nazis and I very strongly feel that Nazis do not deserve respect. In fact, the idea of someone feeling respect for Nazis appalls me. Nazis are not worthy of respect; they are worthy of contempt. And I do not confine this to their “ideas” because ideas are not separate from the individuals who hold them. If one is the kind of person who is going to hold and advocate racist, genocidal ideas, then one is contemptible. To say, “You must respect everyone,” is to render the very idea of “respect” meaningless.

      However, for me, the opposite of granting someone respect is not to abuse them. There are a great many people who I hold in great contempt, but never would I dream of photoshopping their bodies onto pornographic images, loudly declaring that I think it would be fine if they were murdered/raped/whatever, sending them threats, or any such thing. This has nothing to do with the level of respect that I hold towards a person or that I feel they deserve; instead, it comes down to the fact that feel that there are certain things that one person simply cannot do to another and maintain good moral standing.

      In essence, I may respect certain things regarding a person (I may respect their rights, I may respect their status as a human being, blah blah) without respecting them.

      That being said, I don’t know how much of this is semantics. Certainly some amount of it is.

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      “However, for me, the opposite of granting someone respect is not to abuse them. There are a great many people who I hold in great contempt, but never would I dream of photoshopping their bodies onto pornographic images, loudly declaring that I think it would be fine if they were murdered/raped/whatever, sending them threats, or any such thing. This has nothing to do with the level of respect that I hold towards a person or that I feel they deserve; instead, it comes down to the fact that feel that there are certain things that one person simply cannot do to another and maintain good moral standing.”

      But that is effectively all that “respecting” them means.

    • 3lemenope

      I never said all ideas deserve respect, just all people.

      Quite so. I did not mean to imply otherwise, but looking back at the thread I see how you can get that from my comment. I was trying to disavow the position assigned to me by Brian G that all ideas deserve respect.

      Incidentally, I do disagree on the “just all people” prong. I think to the extent that beliefs motivate actions and actions have concrete consequences, a person can lose the assumption of deserving respect by acting pursuant to a belief in a way that is blatantly harmful to others. Not only is Nazism not worthy of respect, but people who act on that belief, i.e. Nazis, aren’t either. Nazis and nazism are a rather extreme and therefore probably too convenient example, but I don’t think that the grant of presumptive respect simply because a person is human is reasonably rendered as either infinite or inexhaustible.

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      I just look at it like this: even Nazis got trials before they were executed. To that extent, we must remain civilized even to those whose barbarism is the extreme antithesis of civilization.

    • 3lemenope

      Yeah, legal protections are definitely a higher bar than social niceties (and certainly one that shouldn’t be as lightly tossed). I think it proper for Nazis in WWII to get trials not because of any respect due them personally, though, but the respect due the concept of truth-seeking in justice itself. That is to say, even if they were dogs instead of people, it would still be morally praiseworthy to make sure that the dog accused is actually guilty before killing it, because justice demands a factual correspondence between the status of guilt and the receipt of punishment.

      Inviting them over for tea and confab is right out.

    • Pitchguest

      Are you honestly suggesting that women in the atheist community are being othered?

      *I’m* insulted by that statement. Frankly it’s despicable each time when the subject is framed as though women have no rights in the atheist community, as I personally think it’s patronising to those women in the community who doesn’t share that opinion, not to mention condescending to think to speak for all women within the community as if you were some proverbial mouthpiece.

    • Sally Strange

      Are you honestly suggesting that women in the atheist community are being othered?

      *I’m* insulted by that statement.

      Wait, YOU are insulted because OTHER PEOPLE report feeling othered?

      I feel othered by the persistent lie about that rape threat thing on Thunderf00t’s blog. I never faked a rape threat against myself. Nevertheless, one somewhat well-known atheist activist, Thunderf00t, has allowed a small faction of atheists to get away with spreading that lie about me.

      And you say you would feel insulted if I report honestly how that makes me feel.

      Honestly, that’s just mind-boggling.

    • Pitchguest

      Does Thunderf00t represent the entire atheist community?

      He doesn’t?

      Oh. Then I guess that portion of people he’s let “get away” is just within his particular circle.

      Why does everything have to be personal with you lot? Did I say you? Did I mention you specifically? I said I felt insulted with the notion, with the suggestion, that *women* (plural) in the atheist community is being othered. I don’t consider Thunderf00t’s private circle to constitute the entire atheist community (although a tiny portion of it) and frankly that you should use that against me, against the argument I was making, is pathetic.

      There is no evidence that women are being othered in the community. None.

    • Brian G.

      Would you prefer we refine it to “women are othered by certain segments of the atheist community”?

    • Sally Strange

      Would you prefer we refine it to “women are othered by certain segments of the atheist community”?

      I mean, it should be obvious that you don’t have to have 100% of any given community united against you in order for you to feel othered or alienated. But sure, we can spell it out and draw diagrams and such. Until we get tired of doing it over and over and over and over and over and over again.

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      One of the other things to clarify is whether Pitchguest is claiming only a small segment of the community is against women or whether he is saying only a small segment of the community is against only a small few particular women.

    • Sally Strange

      One of the other things to clarify is whether Pitchguest is claiming only a small segment of the community is against women or whether he is saying only a small segment of the community is against only a small few particular women.

      I will note that Pitchguest has still not explained how, even if this distinction between “THE COMMUNITY” and parts of the community is true, it is somehow insulting to him for women to talk about how they feel alienated and othered, either by parts or by the whole.

    • Sally Strange

      One of the other things to clarify is whether Pitchguest is claiming
      only a small segment of the community is against women or whether he is
      saying only a small segment of the community is against only a small few
      particular women.

      Regardless, it is still not true that there is ZERO evidence that women feel othered. Women are definitely feeling that, we know it because they report it, as I am doing now. Really, Dan, isn’t your back getting sore from all the back-bends?

    • Sally Strange

      Does Thunderf00t represent the entire atheist community?

      He doesn’t?

      Oh. Then I guess that portion of people he’s let “get away” is just within his particular circle.

      Err, what? Thunderf00t has the ability to correct a vicious slander about me that has been going for over a year now, but he won’t. He could have given me the ability to actually report that threat to the relevant authorities, as Vacula says we’re supposed to, but he chose not to. Thunderf00t is fairly well known in the atheist community. How respected is he? Well, some parts of the community have lost a lot of respect for him precisely because of this sort of anti-social behavior, while other parts of the community have embraced him because of it. As long as those latter parts are accepted rather than thoroughly repudiated, yes, I feel alienated.

      Why does everything have to be personal with you lot?

      “Us lot”? What are you even talking about? You talked about women feeling othered, I’m a woman, I’ve felt othered.

      Did I say you? Did I mention you specifically? I said I felt insulted with the notion, with the suggestion, that *women* (plural) in the atheist community is being othered.

      Right, and, as a woman who has experienced the phenomenon you claim is somehow insulting to you, I offered one concrete example of how that plays out. What’s the problem here?

      I don’t consider Thunderf00t’s private circle to constitute the entire atheist community (although a tiny portion of it) and frankly that you should use that against me, against the argument I was making, is pathetic.

      I don’t consider Tf00t’s fans, nor the Slymepit (where this lie has kept spreading), to be the entirety of the atheist community either. Yet they are PART of the atheist community. That makes me feel alienated from the atheist community. This is not overly complicated.

      There is no evidence that women are being othered in the community. None.

      I believe you are violating our blog host’s standards because you are essentially calling me a liar here.

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      “I believe you are violating our blog host’s standards because you are essentially calling me a liar here.”

      Indirectly maybe. Seems to me he is trying to make a tortured and unconvincing distinction between pockets of othering and The Community. Yes, Pitchguest, The Community does not explicitly Other women insofar as women are welcomed officially by all the major organizations, etc. But practices of significant subsets or significant numbers of individuals of the community matter too in defining what the community is. It’s troubling you don’t want to acknowledge ANY seriousness to this stuff because it does not cross some unspecified threshold that would constitute being representative of The Community Itself.

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      Or wait, Sally Strange, did you take the accusation of being a liar to be his saying “there is no evidence since your testimony about your situation is a lie as per Thunderf00t”? Because I took him to be saying Thunderf00t could be lying about you and yet your evidence is not enough to constitute enough to substantiate a claim about The Community rather than a marginal representation of community members.

    • Sally Strange

      There is no evidence that women are being othered in the community. None.

      The only way for this statement to be true is that I, and all the other women who report feeling similarly, are lying. Whether it applies to the whole community or specific subsets of it.

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      No, it’s also true if he doesn’t take “othering” to be just mistreatment of some women. It’s a difference in the word “othering”. He’s not claiming you or those other women are lying about what’s happening to you. He’s claiming that it does not amount to The Community’s being engaged in Othering.

      I don’t agree with his interpretation of what constitutes Othering, but he’s not saying you’re lying about the specific abuse you’re claiming.

    • Sally Strange

      The term “gaslighting” springs to mind for some reason.

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      “The term “gaslighting” springs to mind for some reason.”

      Who are you claiming is gaslighting you? I personally know nothing about your particular situation with Thunderf00t. I can’t comment on it at all.

      I am saying that there is a difference between saying “what you claim happened to you didn’t happen” and “what happened to you is not indicative of the community as a whole being against women as a whole”. Pitchguest, as far as I can see is making the latter claim, which does not mistrust your account of events but differs in belief about the scope of the problem. So I’m not sure why that’s gaslighting.

      What Pitchguest doesn’t seem to understand is that it is precisely the existence of people like him who are trying to minimize the problem that are exacerbating it and ultimately probably doing the most to make women like you feel like the community to to great of a proportion others women. It’s that they don’t take the individual mistreatment of a high enough proportion of the most prominent women to be worth denouncing unequivocally but they want to quibble with how serious it is. I can see how THAT is minimizing and offensive and the serious problem that is at the heart of all the controversies.

    • Sally Strange

      Sorry I wan’t clear. Pitchguest is gaslighting me.

      What Pitchguest doesn’t seem to understand is that it is precisely the existence of people like him who are trying to minimize the problem that are exacerbating it and ultimately probably doing the most to make women like you feel like the community to to great of a proportion others women. It’s that they don’t take the individual mistreatment of a high enough proportion of the most prominent women to be worth denouncing unequivocally but they want to quibble with how serious it is. I can see how THAT is minimizing and offensive and the serious problem that is at the heart of all the controversies.

      As you point out, Pitchguest’s own hyperskepticism towards my and other’s honest assessment of how the situation feels to them is, in itself, alienating. The fact that he is actually in the process of alienating me, while simultaneously insisting that there’s no evidence that “The Community” (according to his idiosyncratic reinterpretation of the word “community”) is alienating women, fits pretty neatly under the umbrella of gaslighting techniques.

    • ahermit

      It’s possible to be too charitable in one’s reading…

    • Pitchguest

      Dan’s got it.

    • Richard Sanderson

      It is laughable to hear one of FTB’s most ardent defenders and apologists moan like this, and yet, NEVER asks PZ, Ophelia or Zvan to address their slander.

    • cripdyke

      PG

      Are you honestly suggesting that women in the atheist community are being othered?

      Sally

      I feel othered by the persistent lie about that rape threat thing on Thunderf00t’s blog.

      PG

      Does Thunderf00t represent the entire atheist community?

      PG

      I said I felt insulted with the notion, with the suggestion, that *women* (plural) in the atheist community is being othered.

      PG

      There is no evidence that women are being othered in the community. None.

      Look, PG, I hate to push the civility pledge to its edges, but this is patent nonsense, to the point that if the writer is intelligent and competent an analysis, it suggests patent dishonesty.

      If one said women in the atheist community eat ice cream, you wouldn’t insist that every single woman in the atheist community eats ice cream for it to be true. Women – plural as you said, not comprehensive as you insist – have eaten ice cream while being members of the atheist community, and even if you interpret the statement in its most restrictive, we have eaten ice cream at atheist community events. It doesn’t matter that Richard Dawkins didn’t buy the friggin’ ice cream. Moreover, this is no one representative of the entire atheist community, so if that was the standard it would be impossible for for the statement to be true.

      But review the statement:

      women in the atheist community are being othered

      This is parallel to the ice cream example. Sally provides an example of one woman being othered while a member of the atheist community by one or more members of the atheist community. Many other women have testified that they have been othered in the atheist community. Therefore there is evidence that more than one woman has been othered while a member of the atheist community, by members of the atheist community.

      You can say that we shouldn’t spend resources on addressing this b/c the victims aren’t sufficiently numerous or the problem is too difficult to solve or women ain’t sh!t or whatever. But to say that there is no evidence is patent nonsense, and to twist the statement above into something entirely unrecognizable as the English language is dishonest.

      Unless, perhaps, there is a reason for a temporary or longer lasting incompetence with English, logic, or both.

      I leave it to you to classify the cause of the twisted nonsense you have written here.

    • https://twitter.com/Aneris23 Aneris

      I’m sorry to hear that. That sucks. He cheated a few times now. If you can’t even rely on factual statements and essentially have to double check everything, there is little point in watching his videos.

      However, PZ Myers and Co. do the very same all the time, and I didn’t see you protesting. And there, people usually can’t tell their side of the story at all. And you know, PZ or Benson can go against Jane-Joe Ordinary when the moon is in the wrong phase and it is guaranteed that the person’s google result will never recover from the blow. They are lucky when they just walk away as misogynist rape enabler holocaust denier. Their frequent and over the top allegations probably keep a whole FBI department busy.

      It goes without saying that one issue does not excuse the other.

    • Sally Strange

      Please provide one (1) example of “PZ Myers and Co.” (also define the “and Co.” part) ignoring a rape threat issued on one of their blogs, ignoring the rape threat target’s request for assistance in finding the origin of the threat, and ignoring the target’s request to use their unique access to commenter login information to stop the spread of a slanderous lie about the target.

      [Comment redacted because of Fincke's civility policy; suffice to say, I am not actually that interested in your response because I am confident that your claims have no credibility. But hey, if you really have something, go ahead and surprise me, and we can all go "ZOMG BOTH SIDES ARE JUST AS BAD", an attitude which solves precisely zero practical problems.]

    • swbarnes2

      Don’t beat around the bush. If you think that the basic humanity of women should be a topic of debate, then just type the words “the basic humanity of women should be a topic of debate.” or “It’s wrong that we closed off discussion of slavery in this country in the 1860′s”. Be specific, if you believe your arguments.

      Right now in El Salvator, a woman is dying because a bunch of men thought that the question “women: incubators or people” was a valid question, that required TWO WEEKS of careful consideration. You really want to argue that the “incubator” side deserves a hearing, in 2013?

      If it was your life, how many days would you feel would be appropriate to spend deciding whether or not it was right and just and fair for you to suffer and die, because we can’t place that proposition beyond consideration, right?

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      So what do you recommend? Shut down the legislatures and their unconscionably slow deliberations to create laws and impose justice through despotism?

    • 3lemenope

      Simply being aware of the concept of exigency means that you have access to a precautionary principle. If there is obvious harm occurring, and will likely to continue to occur due to inaction, of course a person can act first and consider later.

      They just shouldn’t be fooling themselves into thinking that by doing so they’re still having a dialogue.

      This is something that runs right through any discussion about discourse and civility: there are many, many things *that aren’t debate* that are perfectly legitimate activities for a person advocating for social change. Ridicule, ostracism, demogoguery, pathetic and ethotic arguments, force and violence, they all have their place in the grab-bag of tools for changing human society. I differ, for example, from Dr. Fincke above in that I think a person who believes in Nazism thereby relinquishes the presumption of respect in interactions. Nazism leads to harm pretty obviously, and a person can and should act against a person perpetuating such harm whether or not they have a profound understanding of exactly why Nazism leads to that harm; you can always do that *after* they are neutralized. You just can’t claim that understanding until the hard work of analysis is done.

      On the other matter, I don’t, personally, think it’s an urgent matter to debate the basic humanity of women. For the vast majority, that debate is fairly well settled. But neither I nor you nor anyone has the right to dictate which topics are closed. It might be irritating to you or me to have to revisit something that was thought by us to be settled, but if others do not think so we have no claim to force them to accept it’s settled status prior to the discussion.

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      “I differ, for example, from Dr. Fincke above in that I think a person who believes in Nazism thereby relinquishes the presumption of respect in interactions.”

      What does this mean in tangible terms? Do they lose rights to due process legally? Can they be subject to torture? Surveillance without a warrant? Sentencing or the death penalty without trial? Can their neighbors smash in their windows?

      I can see there being strict policies that they don’t express racist views at work or school in any way whatsoever that would create a hostile and threatening environment for other students, but how far do we go in restricting their right to peaceable engagement ins school or employment.

      I can understand the Germans have good cause to outlaw various forms of Nazi expression, given their history and the uniquely horrific role Nazism played in their country and potential it has there. Can we afford to tolerate it more for as long as it is an extremely marginalized viewpoint? Or should we shut down websites for this one kind of hate group?

      And beyond the law, what does it mean to not respect the Nazi interpersonally? I think we can with respect choose not to be their friends, choose to boot them from our clubs if they’re going to spread poisonous ideas and be hostile, etc. I think we can level harsh moral charges at them that they’re hateful, destructive, selfish, disgusting, reckless, genocidal, sociopathic, psychopathic, a danger to have around children, tyrannically authoritarian, unacceptably racist, potentially or actually violent, etc., etc. We can refuse to talk to them, refuse to have them in safe spaces, refuse to let them be speakers at events. We can call their ideas evil, inhumane, and the monstrous defense of murder. We can be passionately angry with them. Look how agitated I got over Justin Vacula’s ideas in the video. You don’t think I’m in favor of expressing many times more outrage and incredulity to a Nazi?

      I think all of this can be conveyed without fundamentally disrespecting them as persons with moral agency, minds, consciences, human dignity, and theoretically the ability to change, no matter how rotten they may be. I don’t see what is added by going to the level of interpersonal denigration though.

    • 3lemenope

      I think the way such disrespect ought to shake out in practice is in how presumptions are handled. We normally presume that, absent other knowledge, our interlocutors in a conversation are arguing in good faith. We don’t (or at least shouldn’t) extend that same presumption when the person is apparently compromised by their beliefs-in-practice; we don’t usually assume that a declared racist is arguing in good faith when the discussion turns to race issues.

      In many ways that was what much of the community reaction to you deciding to have that public conversation with Mr. Vacula was about: are you showing him a respect he is not due, due to prior behavior perhaps indicating it is unlikely that the subject is being approached in good faith? Can a person lose their seat at the discussion table through bad arguing and/or bad acts?

    • swbarnes2

      No, it’s not just “irritating” to revisit “women: incubators or people?”. It’s LETHAL.

    • 3lemenope

      The alternative is to pretend it’s settled for people it isn’t, which may give us the warm fuzzies (“MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!”), but it comes at the price of letting the ideologies that drive misogyny fester and persist and grow socially unopposed.

    • http://westcoastatheist.wordpress.com/ Katie Graham

      No one is saying that basic equality should be up for debate. Quit framing it like that, it’s dishonest. The claim made is that feminism (or any progressive social justice issue) logically follows atheism. The counter-argument isn’t “feminism is bad,” it’s “since Atheism is only the lack of belief in gods, there is no logical connection leading from atheism to feminism.” There are religious feminists, you know.

    • http://twitter.com/AleisterHermit A Hermit

      No one is saying that basic equality should be up for debate.

      Actually the argument is being made right here in this thread that even basic human rights should be open to civil debate.

    • http://westcoastatheist.wordpress.com/ Katie Graham

      I’m not seeing that, so I can only imagine it’s something you’ve misread.

    • http://twitter.com/AleisterHermit A Hermit

      See the comments directly below…there’s a whole discussion about whether or not certain propositions, such as human rights, nazism, etc. should be considered settled or not.

    • Sally Strange

      Isn’t having a discussion wherein we ascertain the truth of the statement “women exist to serve men” a discussion wherein basic equality is up for debate? Am I missing something here?

    • http://westcoastatheist.wordpress.com/ Katie Graham

      We’re not ascertaining the truth of the statement, “women exist to serve men.” We’re ascertaining the truth of the statement, “atheism logically leads to the idea that women don’t exist to serve men.” Whether women exist to serve men is not the question. The question is “If a then b?”

    • ahermit

      If I see someone saying ‘atheism logically leads to the idea that woman
      should be equal to men’… then I find myself wanting to correct that. Atheism doesn’t logically lead to any such thing.

      This is a good example of privilege isn’t it? You and I and Dan can afford to treat the subject of women’s rights as an abstract conceptual exercise. Women who are experiencing sexist obstacles to their participation in the secular movement don’t have that luxury.

    • Edward Gemmer

      It’s not an “exercise.” Many people come to skepticism for the specific purpose of understanding these issues outside of religion. Simply telling someone they should just accept it is unsatisfactory and ultimately leads to people ignoring your issue entirely simply because they don’t understand it and you are too lazy to help them understand.

    • http://skepticink.com/notung Notung

      Well my points are more about atheism than women’s rights. It’s not really about women’s rights in particular – just that atheism doesn’t logically entail any normative values, or at least none that I can think of. Women’s rights are crucially important, but that is a separate issue to the question of what atheism does or does not logically entail.

    • ahermit

      So atheism doesn’t logically entail anything beyond a personal belief that no gods exist.

      Why bother talking about it at all then?

    • http://skepticink.com/notung Notung

      I said that atheism doesn’t entail any normative values, not that it doesn’t entail anything at all. And I don’t think atheism is just a personal belief – it could be a metaphysical proposition, etc.

    • http://westcoastatheist.wordpress.com/ Katie Graham

      That quote isn’t arguing against women’s rights, it’s arguing against the claim that “atheism logically leads to women’s rights.” You need to be able to differentiate the two. It’s not about “privilege” it’s about understanding the argument being made.

    • ahermit

      Yes Katie I understand that. But that’s just the point. Nitpicking semantic arguments aren’t of much value to people who are trying to change a culture which is holding them back.

    • http://skepticink.com/notung Notung

      I don’t consider it a semantic argument. It’s a question of what ethical propositions are entailed by ‘there is no god’, with real-world implications.

      Still, I accept that usually your ‘activist-on-the-ground’ isn’t going to gain much by worrying about philosophical issues like this. That doesn’t mean, however, that nobody should think about such things. If someone isn’t worried whether or not atheism logically entails women’s rights then perhaps they shouldn’t bother resolutely defending the position that atheism does entail any such thing.

    • ahermit

      It’s a question of what ethical propositions are entailed by ‘there is no god’, with real-world implications.

      Can you describe some of those ethical propositions with real world implications?

      Do you not think the rights of women and other groups marginalized by theistic religion might be included?

      I accept that usually your ‘activist-on-the-ground’ isn’t going to gain much by worrying about philosophical issues like this.

      They also don’t gain much by being scolded for not paying enough attention to them…or seeing their real world concerns dismissed as less important than abstract philosophical musings. Not saying you’re intending to do that but that can understandably be the impression given in a lot of these discussions. Sometimes we really do need to “shut up and listen…”

    • http://skepticink.com/notung Notung

      Can you describe some of those ethical propositions with real world implications?

      I don’t think any ethical propositions are entailed by atheism, so I can’t describe any.

      Do you not think the rights of women and other groups marginalized by theistic religion might be included?

      No, and that’s what I’ve been arguing in all of these comments. They’re not entailed by atheism. We should believe in women’s rights, but I don’t see how that belief is entailed by atheism. So far, nobody has shown this to be the case. Even if someone has a theistic reason to oppress women, the converse doesn’t automatically become true when we get rid of theism. That would be denying the antecedent, a classic fallacy (to put it crudely “if theism then misogyny, not theism, therefore not misogyny”), and if you make it bi-conditional then you end up begging the question.

      Not saying you’re intending to do that…

      I’m most definitely not.

      Not saying you’re intending to do that but that can understandably be the impression given in a lot of these discussions. Sometimes we really do need to “shut up and listen…”

      ‘Shut up and listen’ to who? I’ve been reading every comment on this thread. Many have been very helpful and interesting. However, none have fully persuaded me that atheism entails women’s rights (even though, as I keep stressing, I think that women’s rights are crucial and indispensable for a whole host of reasons). You may not be interested in that, and if you don’t want to think about it then that’s your prerogative. I’m not forcing you to. I do happen to be interested in these philosophical issues, and that’s why I’m talking about it, and replying to comments about it.

    • http://twitter.com/AleisterHermit A Hermit

      I don’t think any ethical propositions are entailed by atheism, so I can’t describe any.

      Then we’re back to atheism strictly meaning nothing more than not holding a belief in God(s). If there are no further implications of that belief what is there to talk about?

      We should believe in women’s rights, but I don’t see how that belief is entailed by atheism.

      But the question isn’t whether it is entailed or required or implicit in atheism but whether it is consistent with atheism, and whether it is more consistent with atheism than with theism.

      I do happen to be interested in these philosophical issues, and that’s why I’m talking about it, and replying to comments about it.

      And there is nothing wrong that in this context; the problem I see is that people pop into discussions about the practical, real world implications that Dan was talking about, inject exactly this kind of nit-picking semantic argument and then can’t understand why they get a less than civil reaction from the people who are trying to sort out those practical issues which are affecting their lived experience in this community.

      Vacula does exactly this in his conversation with Dan when he attacks Amanda Marcotte’s article for not being sufficiently rigorous. But she wasn’t writing an academic dissertation, she was writing a vernacular article. (He got it wrong in any case, but that’s another point…)

      It’s in that context that we need to shut up and listen. And it’s that context that ultimately is going to be important to the health of the atheist/skeptic movement.

    • http://skepticink.com/notung Notung

      Then we’re back to atheism strictly meaning nothing more than not holding a belief in God(s). If there are no further implications of that belief what is there to talk about?

      It could also be a metaphysical proposition, but yes, that’s what atheism means. The implications are that no proposition or belief may involve the existence of a god without contradiction.

      But the question isn’t whether it is entailed or required or implicit in atheism but whether it is consistent with atheism, and whether it is more consistent with atheism than with theism.

      I’ve stated that I do believe they are consistent. I’m saying that one does not logically entail another. For instance playing golf is consistent with women’s rights. But playing golf does not entail women’s rights. If you’re asking which worldview do women’s rights make more sense under; theism or atheism, the answer is that I don’t know. The exact flavour of theism might have an effect, but I think asking this about theism in general is too tricky. That isn’t what I’ve been discussing up to this point though.

    • Sally Strange

      If you’re asking which worldview do women’s rights make more sense under; theism or atheism, the answer is that I don’t know. The exact flavour of theism might have an effect, but I think asking this about theism in general is too tricky.

      Modify the question to Abrahamic theism. Do you still profess an inability to answer this question?

    • http://skepticink.com/notung Notung

      That’s too vague. I’ll provide an example. ‘Consistent’ (scare-quotes because I don’t see how one could be a consistent Biblical literalist!) Biblical literalism certainly would involve belief in the clearly misogynistic statements contained in the Bible. So I think women’s rights make a lot more sense under atheism than under that.

    • Sally Strange

      I don’t think any ethical propositions are entailed by atheism, so I can’t describe any.

      If you’re an atheist, and you’re being logically consistent, you must reject ethical propositions which are based on theistic assumptions. So. That actually means rejecting a LOT of commonly accepted ethical propositions.

    • 3lemenope

      Strictly speaking, it means rejecting a lot of justifications for commonly accepted ethical propositions, which is not the same thing at all. The propositions themselves can, and often are, justified by other means.

    • http://skepticink.com/notung Notung

      Well, let’s make it clear that what you say is only true if such ethical propositions (e.g. anti-women’s rights) can only be justified with theistic assumptions, i.e. they are inconsistent with atheism. If they’re inconsistent with atheism, then atheism logically entails their negation, which is what you’re trying to prove.

      So far I’ve not heard a successful argument for how anti-women’s rights are logically inconsistent with atheism.

      (Necessary disclaimer – I believe 100% in women’s rights)

    • http://twitter.com/AleisterHermit A Hermit

      And I think anytime we’re quibbling about how much meaning or which meanings to attach to a term like “atheist movement” we are definitely involved in a semantic argument. Or an argument about semantics, if you prefer…

    • http://skepticink.com/notung Notung

      But I’m not quibbling about that. So that’s why I don’t believe that it’s a question of semantics

    • http://twitter.com/AleisterHermit A Hermit

      It’s the whole basis of Vacula’s argument (such as it is…)

    • http://skepticink.com/notung Notung

      Well you’ll have to take that up with him, but AFAIK he was arguing with a particular statement of Marcotte’s which does seem to claim that ‘women don’t exist to serve men’ logically follows from atheism…

    • http://twitter.com/AleisterHermit A Hermit

      I’m taking it up here because I thought this was a place to discuss the conversation between Vacula and Fincke…isn’t that what we’re doing?

      And yes, I just mentioned that article of Marcotte’s because Vacula’s treatment of it is a good example of this phenomenon of people treating a vernacular comment about a real world problem as if it were intended as an academic exercise. He chooses to narrowly focus on this pedantic semantic note instead of addressing the larger issue being discussed.

      It looks like a tactic used to dismiss and ignore those larger issues.

    • http://skepticink.com/notung Notung

      I am discussing the video, but I’m discussing a point made by Dan, not a point made by Justin (look at my original comment). Then, people disagreed with my comment (they’re very welcome to do so) and I’m defending it.

    • http://twitter.com/AleisterHermit A Hermit

      And I was responding to your comment:

      If I see someone saying ‘atheism logically leads to the idea that woman
      should be equal to men’… then I find myself wanting to correct that. Atheism doesn’t logically lead to any such thing.

      I’m simply making the observation that someone making that comment in a vernacular context and using atheism as shorthand for the atheist movement or for atheism in contrast to theism (as Marcotte was doing) is not going to appreciate being nitpicked (you use that description yourself) on semantics. If the commenter ignores the larger point being made in that article to focus on the nitpick, as Vacula does, it looks like being dismissive of that larger point.

      If you want to blog about the nitpicks that’s fine, but be aware that the picking of nits is not going to advance that broader, more relevant to real life, conversation.

    • http://skepticink.com/notung Notung

      But if it’s not a worthwhile question to argue about, then why are you arguing about it? Why not yourself ignore it in favour of the bigger picture, and let my nitpick stand? No, because SIWOTI – it’s the same for you as it is for me!

      And again, I don’t think it’s a pointless or merely semantic question. If people think atheism entails certain ethical propositions such as “we make our own morals” or “we ought to do what makes us feel good” then they might not want to identify as an atheist. That has political ramifications, and could possibly affect the rights of atheists (if they’re perceived to be an insignificant minority, politicians are less likely to pander to them). The best way around this is to make it clear that atheism entails no such things – they can keep whatever moral beliefs they hold (with the exception of anything that involves a god, if they value consistency!).

      If you think that’s implausible – only the other day I saw Independent columnist Owen Jones saying he wasn’t an atheist because he didn’t like Richard Dawkins (who had just criticised Mehdi Hasan for believing in winged horses). David Aaronovitch jumped in to do pretty much what I’m doing now (nitpicking)- saying atheism is just about the existence of god – it doesn’t entail that you respect Dawkins.

    • http://twitter.com/AleisterHermit A Hermit

      But if it’s not a worthwhile question to argue about, then why are you arguing about it?

      Because other people (like Vacula) keep insisting on making this the central issue; it’s used as a dodge to avoid dealing with the real issues.

      If people think atheism entails certain ethical propositions such as “we
      make our own morals” or “we ought to do what makes us feel good” then
      they might not want to identify as an atheist.

      I’m more worried about people who are not willing to identify as atheists (or skeptics, or secularists) because they see the kind of self-serving, arrogant, ignorant, childish nonsense being pushed by Vacula et al and want nothing to do with it all. If the message coming across is “don’t bring your other issues into the atheist movement because it’s only about not believing in God and we don’t do feminism, gay rights, anti-racism” then people who are concerned about those issues, and who should be our allies, aren’t going to be interested in working with us.

      saying atheism is just about the existence of god – it doesn’t entail that you respect Dawkins.

      I don’t care much about Dawkins either way. I was an atheist and a skeptic long before I ever heard of Richard Dawkins. I’m an atheist because I overcame my religious upbringing and all the baggage that went with it including the sexism and ethnocentricism. For someone like Vacula to come along and tell me that my rejection of those things is not compatible with atheism and that I should keep it out of his atheist movement kind of pisses me off.

      And I’m a straight white guy. Imagine how much more off-putting it is for someone who is on the other side of sexist or racist divisions.
      (edited to kerect spieling)

    • Sally Strange

      AFAIK he was arguing with a particular statement of Marcotte’s which does seem to claim that ‘women don’t exist to serve men’ logically follows from atheism…

      Did you even watch the video? Do you agree or disagree that teleological beliefs must be abandoned once one accepts that there are no gods?

    • http://skepticink.com/notung Notung

      I watched the video live – perhaps I should watch it again. However Justin is referring to his blog post IIRC, which is a reply to a statement by Marcotte.

      I disagree that teleological beliefs must be abandoned once one accepts that there are no gods. One could be an Aristotelian, for instance.

    • http://westcoastatheist.wordpress.com/ Katie Graham

      I’m not arguing semantics. I’m explaining how you are misrepresenting Justin Vacula’s argument and how you’re using the concept of “privilege” as a red-herring here.

      Arguing against the claim “feminism is the logical conclusion to atheism” is NOT the same as saying “women should serve men.”

    • ahermit

      I don’t think I’m misrepresenting anything. Vacula is absolutely making a semantic argument when he tries to make it all about the definition of atheism instead of about what;s happening in the atheist movement, which is what the rest of us are actually trying to have a conversation about.

      Arguing against the claim “feminism is the logical conclusion to atheism” is NOT the same as saying “women should serve men.”

      Where did I say anything like that?! I’ll thank you not to put words in my mouth…especially after accusing me of misrepresenting things… !o.O

    • http://westcoastatheist.wordpress.com/ Katie Graham

      You said, “You and I and Dan can afford to treat the subject of women’s rights as an abstract conceptual exercise. ”

      The point Justin was making wasn’t about the subject of women’s rights, but the logic behind the idea that atheism naturally leads to feminism. Instead of addressing the logic, you are addressing an argument about women’s rights that isn’t even what this is about.

    • ahermit

      Feminism isn’t about women’s rights?

      Seriously; Vacula’s whole schtick is to dodge the real world issues of women’s rights and sexism and harassment by running down a semantic rabbit hole. He’s trying to make those issues disappear by pretending they have nothing to do with atheism and that even talking about them is somehow illegitimate.

    • http://westcoastatheist.wordpress.com/ Katie Graham

      “Feminism isn’t about women’s rights?”

      Wut? No! Why is this hard for you??

      Atheism doesn’t lead to feminism as is claimed by Amanda Marcotte. Atheism can eliminate religiously based discrimination against women, but doesn’t say anything about discrimination itself. Atheism doesn’t “logically follow” anything but the rejection of belief in gods. THAT’S the argument.

    • ahermit

      Oh ffs; yes katie we all agree that In a strict, formal, semantic sense that may very well be true. But on the level of everyday life abandoning theistic religion carries a whole host of consequences; one has to completely re-think everything you though you knew about the world, including gender roles.

      So for someone like me who grew up in a religious household and came to unbelief through that kind of long process of re-thinking there definitely are logical consequences to my atheism. Not having divine rules to base morality on means you have to look at human interactions and base your behaviour and you ethics on those real world interactions. So for me atheism led to humanism which led to feminism.

      Remember, we’re not having these conversations because of some abstract, academic, philosophical interest in the semiotics of the word “atheism.” We’re talking about things like having harassment policies at conventions, about the language we use when talking to or about each other, about finding ways to make our movement more appealing to more people.

      The point is that atheism is st least compatible with feminism; and that both work as a reaction against repressive theistic ideas.

      If you and Justin want atheism to be nothing more than not believing in deities…full stop…then please do so. Just kindly stay out of the way of those of us who actually think that this may have some consequences in real life if that’s all you have to contribute to the conversation…

    • http://westcoastatheist.wordpress.com/ Katie Graham

      ” So for me atheism led to humanism which led to feminism.”

      That’s great. Go to a HUMANIST conference to talk about feminism, then. You’ve just admitted there’s a step between atheism and feminism. That’s all we’re saying.

      And please stop using the word “semantic.” That word does not mean what most people think it means.

      “The point is that atheism is st least compatible with feminism”

      No one is arguing against that (except the first few minutes of Justin’s debate, but I think he was nervous and didn’t understand the question). Compatible doesn’t mean necessary. The only thing atheism eliminates in regards to sexism are those things dictated specifically by religion. But sexism isn’t strictly religious. I can think of a few reasons off the top of my head that a sexist might use to continue being sexist. They aren’t good reasons, but the point is that they aren’t religious reasons.

    • ahermit

      That’s great. Go to a HUMANIST conference to talk about feminism, then.

      Are you saying feminists should shut up when they talk to atheists??

      Why can’t we talk about feminism in the context of an atheist gathering? What else should we shut up about? If atheism is just “no gods” then what else is there to talk about? Why have atheist conferences at all if that’s all there is to it?

      Issues like church/state separation and free speech aren’t any more of a logical consequence of atheism than feminism is. Shall we cut them from the atheist agenda, too? If we get rid of everything that isn’t a direct logical consequence with no steps in between from the agenda what’s left?

      I can think of a few reasons off the top of my head that a sexist might use to continue being sexist. They aren’t good reasons, but the point is that they aren’t religious reasons.

      So you can imagine other reasons. Good for you. That doesn’t make the religious reasoning go away. You seem to be suggesting we should just shut up and not argue against those religious reasons if others are possible. That can’t possibly be what you mean though, could it?

    • http://westcoastatheist.wordpress.com/ Katie Graham

      “Are you saying feminists should shut up when they talk to atheists?”

      Really? From which hole in your body did you pull that out? No wonder you don’t do logic well.

      “Why can’t we talk about feminism in the context of an atheist gathering?” Because maybe we want to talk about atheism, the lack of belief in gods, counter apologetics, philosophy, epistemology, atheist books, skepticism, you know, atheist things. Not just complaining about guys on elevators. Feminists are insisting the atheist movement take on their causes. It’s bullshit.

      “Issues like church/state separation and free speech aren’t any more of a logical consequence of atheism than feminism is.”
      Actually, church/state separation has more to do with our disbelief than any other social issue. Our right to exist and be treated as equals regardless of our non-belief is directly and exclusively an atheist issue.

    • ahermit

      No wonder you don’t do logic well.

      Cheap shot noted. In my experience usually a sign that one is losing the argument…

      Because maybe we want to talk about atheism, the lack of belief in gods, counter apologetics, philosophy, epistemology, atheist books, skepticism, you know, atheist things.

      One can do non-atheist counter-apologetics, philosophy and epistemology too. I seem to remember those very subjects being workshopped at the church conferences I used to go to. If we apply your strict dictionary atheist approach and exempt everything that requires one more step beyond simply not believing in gods I’m not sure how we could include any of that either.

      And I’ve seen a few skeptics objecting to the idea that atheism should be included as a subject at their conferences…there are theistic skeptics around too.

      Feminists are insisting the atheist movement take on their causes. It’s bullshit.

      Is it bullshit to talk about gay rights? Racism? If there are women or others who feel they are being treated poorly is it bullshit for them to speak up? People are insisting we talk about these things because they are issues affecting atheists. That should be enough.

      Our community doesn’t exist in some sanitized bubble, free from the problems that affect society at large. We can’t be afraid to face those issues when they crop up in our own house.

      Actually, church/state separation has more to do with our disbelief than any other social issue. Our right to exist and be treated as equals regardless of our non-belief is directly and exclusively an atheist
      issue.

      Nonsense. Church and state separation was conceived to protect those whose religious beliefs were in the minority for state imposed religious participation. That protects all kinds of theistic beliefs, not just atheism, so i is not exclusively an atheist issue. As with feminism I can think of all kinds of non-atheist arguments for and against the idea of secularism.

      The right to be treated as equals regardless of belief is no more or less a logical consequence of a narrowly defined atheism than the right to be treated equally regardless of gender.

      (edited to ficks speling airors)

    • http://westcoastatheist.wordpress.com/ Katie Graham

      “‘No wonder you don’t do logic well.’

      Cheap shot noted. In my experience usually a sign that one is losing the argument…”

      Instead of addressing your original issue of you putting words in my mouth by saying, “Are you saying feminists should shut up when they talk to atheists,” you hone in on my quip. Usually a sign you got nothin’ on me.

      “. If we apply your strict dictionary atheist approach and exempt everything that requires one more step beyond simply not believing in gods I’m not sure how we could include any of that either.”

      You don’t need another step. Those things directly involve talking about the existence of god or knowledge of god. Feminism is a by-product (if that) and pretty much requires that a person already hold progressive opinions. If you can’t tell me atheism necessarily leads to veganism, environmentalism, or being a member of the Democratic Party without already holding liberal positions, then you can’t make the case for feminism. It’s like any other cause. Same goes for eugenics. People can give the same “one more step” approach to say atheist justifies anything. Atheists have been arguing against that idea for years, but now they’re saying it necessitates feminism and therefore, feminism should be the focus of our movement.

      “Is it bullshit to talk about gay rights? Racism?” No, but those aren’t the focus of atheist conferences. There are actually some really great gay rights and anti-racist events that focus solely on those issues. No one is accusing the atheist movement of being full of racists and homophobes.

      ” If there are women or others who feel they are being treated poorly is it bullshit for them to speak up?”

      No, please speak up. But don’t speak for every woman. Don’t say irresponsible shit like, “Women shouldn’t feel safe at atheist conferences” because of a tiny minority of people who have had shitty experiences (many that can’t even be verified, such as monopod guy).

    • ahermit

      Instead of addressing your original issue of you putting words in my mouth

      I didn’t put words in your mouth; I asked you a question about the implications of what you were saying.

      People can give the same “one more step” approach to say atheist
      justifies anything. Atheists have been arguing against that idea for
      years, but now they’re saying it necessitates feminism and therefore,
      feminism should be the focus of our movement.

      I think you’re grossly exagerating the situation here. I don’t see anyone saying that feminism should be the focus of our movement; just that it needs to be part of the conversation.

      No, but those aren’t the focus of atheist conferences. There are
      actually some really great gay rights and anti-racist events that focus
      solely on those issues.

      I look forward to seeing you writing about the need to put a stop to those dogmatic anti-racists who organized the Black Atheists Conference…http://newsone.com/526545/black-atheists-gather-at-conference-in-washington-d-c/

      The fact is we do talk about those issues, Katie, and we, thankfully, don’t see the kind of nasty pushback against them that we see when the topic is gender. Why is that?

      Why aren’t you and Vacula demanding that the Blcak Atheists disband and stop talking about racism, since it can’t be logically derived directly from a strict definition of atheism without intermediate steps?

      No one is accusing the atheist movement of being
      full of racists and homophobes.

      And it would be another exaggeration to say that anyone is accusing the atheist movement of being “full of” misogynists.But it’s awfully naive to think that the problems with sexism that we do see in our community can just be ignored.

      If we had people writing articles for Stormfront constantly attacking non-white atheists, calling them racist names and telling us we mustn’t talk about race issues because they aren’t a direct, immediate logical consequence of the strict dictionary definition of atheist would you be talking their side?

      Don’t say irresponsible shit like, “Women shouldn’t feel safe at atheist conferences”

      If we tell women they can’t expect to taken seriously when something does happen why would they feel safe? Women who have experienced sexism and harassment either within our movement or outside of it shouldn’t be told to shut up when they ask for assurances that there is a policy in place and that any incidents that do happen will be taken seriously.

      because of a tiny minority of people who have had shitty experiences…

      How many people have to have such experiences before we take positive steps to deal with it? Personally, I’ve never had my car stolen. But I still lock the damn thing…

      As for monopod man I understand there were already complaints about him following people around after being asked to leave them alone at that conference; and he had a reputation for being a problem at previous conferences; people had good reasons to be suspicious of him.

    • http://westcoastatheist.wordpress.com/ Katie Graham

      My statement in no way implied that feminists should shut up when speaking to atheists. Get real. Be honest or this discussion is over. I won’t sit here and defend myself from things I didn’t even fucking say.

    • ahermit

      So what’s the point of telling me I have to go to a Humanist conference to talk about feminism? Can we have feminist talks at atheist conferences or not?

    • cripdyke

      They aren’t a logical consequence, however.

      There can be no god, but nonetheless exist other reasons why church & state are merged – for instance, democracy. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? What, specifically, is the airtight logical chain that leads from

      “I, personally, do not believe a god exists,”

      to

      “You, as a group, are not entitled to pass legislation that you support, merely because you support on the basis of your belief about gods that is different than mine.”

      Where is the logical chain from,
      “I, personally, do not believe a god exists,”

      to

      “I, personally, am entitled to equal treatment under law.”

      Do you really, really have no clue how Vacula’s “not logically entailed” bit is not only without foundation, but entirely disingenuous?

    • http://westcoastatheist.wordpress.com/ Katie Graham

      The entitlement to equal treatment of the law is independent of atheism. We have that right regardless of what we believe.

      Our ability to exercise those rights as non-believers is directly related to how the state legislates.

      You don’t go from non-belief in gods to equality, you go from “I am entitled to equal treatment under the law” to “Not believing in god does not forfeit that right.”

    • cripdyke

      Yes!

      And thus atheism does not entail equal treatment under the law. In fact, atheism is almost entirely irrelevant to the argument – as proven by the fact that this issue of equality under the law regardless of religious belief or opinion had been hashed and rehashed many times around the world by believers both before Diagoras and during the long period between Aristotle and the US & French revolutions. But Vacula doesn’t protest that “Atheism + Equal treatment philosophies” are combined in order to generate content at conferences and in atheist spaces online…UNLESS it’s “Atheism + Equal treatment philosophies specific to gender”.

      This is true even though more widespread and more thorough gender liberation would result in women activists being more effective in challenging myths and in any number of other benefits directly related to atheism – not least being that a large number of atheists would be directly and positively impacted.

      Since you now concede that Vacula’s argument precludes use of atheist conference/online space to argue for equal treatment, will you equally condemn those who use such space to advocate for equal treatment regardless of context or target audience?

    • http://westcoastatheist.wordpress.com/ Katie Graham

      “You seem to be suggesting we should just shut up and not argue against those religious reasons if others are possible.” Nope. Feel free to discuss abortion rights, gender roles outlined by religious dogma or sexual ethics, but stop insisting we use atheist conference time to talk about how one should or shouldn’t flirt with a woman, whether Barbie is bad, what to do about the horrors or high-heels and fashion mags, etc.

    • ahermit

      Feel free to discuss abortion rights, gender roles outlined by religious dogma or sexual ethics,

      Why stop at religious dogma? Why not address gender roles as they are being played out in our own community? Or are we somehow exempt from criticism?

      And if we’re allowed to talk about sexual ethics (thank you so much for giving us permission! o.O ) surely that has to include questions about sexism and harassment in our own back yard, doesn’t it?

      stop insisting we use atheist conference time to talk about how one should or shouldn’t flirt with a woman, whether Barbie is bad, what to do about the horrors or high-heels and fashion mags, etc.

      Well that’s a colossal straw man, isn’t it? Who is demanding anything like that?

      And even if they were, who are you to dictate what can and can’t be talked about at a conference? If there’s an audience interested in the subject who are you to tell them they can’t have time to talk about it?

    • http://westcoastatheist.wordpress.com/ Katie Graham

      “Why not address gender roles as they are being played out in our own community? ”

      Why should that be a focus? Why can’t atheists want to talk about atheism without people getting their panties in a bunch because someone’s favorite social justice cause isn’t getting enough air time?

      “surely that has to include questions about sexism and harassment in our own back yard, doesn’t it?”

      Sure, but people like Rebecca Watson want to dictate those ethics for other people, insisting that men shouldn’t pick up women in certain ways and women who enjoy that kind of attention are “misogyny 101.” We can talk about how to develop a secular sexual ethic, like Greta Christina does, but these feminists are trying to dictate what ethic we all form.

      “Well that’s a colossal straw man, isn’t it? Who is demanding anything like that?” Feminist atheists who don’t like that girl toys are marketed for girls, for example. You know who I’m talking about. How the hell is the color pink an atheist issue? Seriously.

      “If there’s an audience interested in the subject who are you to tell them they can’t have time to talk about it?”

      If that audience is going to say that some of their beliefs and ideas are not up for debate, then they don’t get to call themselves skeptics and insist that the skeptic community adopt their dogma.

      The skeptic/atheist community is now a battleground for feminists and MRAs and it’s ridiculous. They’ve hijacked our movement and they condescendingly insist that it’s okay because it’s what women want. They’re trying to speak for all women and those that don’t agree are labelled gender-traitor MRA’s and misogynists. Wake up.

    • ahermit

      Why should that be a focus? Why can’t atheists want to talk about
      atheism without people getting their panties in a bunch because
      someone’s favorite social justice cause isn’t getting enough air time?

      If you don’t want to talk about it don’t talk about it. Why should anyone get their panties in a bunch because other people do want to talk about it? When I see people raising legitimate concerns about sexism and harassment I think we should talk about it, not tell them to shut up, make mocking photoshops of them, call them names like “cunt and bitch”, minimize and dismiss their concerns and jump up and down shouting that “atheism just means not believing in god we can’t talk about feminism here!!1!!!1!”

      If that audience is going to say that some of their beliefs and ideas are not up for debate, then they don’t get to call themselves skeptics and insist that the skeptic community adopt their dogma.

      If we want to be an inclusive community then we can’t be wasting time debating whether or not women/blacks/Jews. Gays/transsexuals deserve to be treated with respect.

      There’s dogma coming the other way, it seems to me; this insistence that topics like feminism are off the table and can’t be discussed in our community;

      (partial posted by accident…edited to finish the thought)

      I’m seeing an inconsistency here, by the way, A few comments back you were insisting that no topic should ever be off the table; now you’re telling me that feminism should be off the table. Which is it?

      Sure, but people like Rebecca Watson want to dictate those ethics for other people, insisting that men shouldn’t pick up women in certain ways…

      Another exaggeration. Watson is asking to be treated with respect, that’s all. “Guys, don’t do that” was a bit of sensible advice, that’s all.

      And even if you disagree with her doesn’t she have a right to talk about it? People saying stuff you disagree with isn’t “dictating” to you…

      If that audience is going to say that some of their beliefs and ideas are not up for debate…

      But that’s what YOU are saying! If an atheist has an interest is gender roles and how they are reinforced in our society and in our community why shouldn’t they write about the marketing of toys to children as part of that larger discussion? If YOU aren’t interested ignore it. Don’t tell them they shouldn’t talk about it.

      they don’t get to call themselves skeptics and insist that the skeptic community adopt their dogma.

      They are raising questions you don’t want to talk about and you are telling them they should shut up about it. Who is being dogmatic here?

      The skeptic/atheist community is now a battleground for feminists and MRAs and it’s ridiculous…|

      It is ridiculous. The hatemongering, woo peddling MRA’s are being given far too much credit.

      They’re trying to speak for all women and those that don’t agree are labelled gender-traitor MRA’s and misogynists. Wake up.

      No Katie, you need to wake up. Those feminists are speaking up for women who have actually experienced harassment and sexism.

      As for the labels, I really haven’t seen the “gender traitor” one being used much, except as a complaint from the opponents of feminists; I see some comments being labelled as “misogynistic” but that’s not the same as calling a person a misogynist, and a number of the people driving this “debate” are, in fact, MRA’s.

      For example, when your friend Justin writes for a AVfM I think it’s legitimate to ask him about associating with people who say things like this:

      I find you, as a feminist, to be a loathsome, vile piece of human garbage. I find you so pernicious and repugnant that the idea of fucking your shit up gives me an erection..

      If he was posting stuff at Stormfront I’d have the same kind of questions.

    • http://westcoastatheist.wordpress.com/ Katie Graham

      We’re not saying don’t talk about it. We’re saying don’t make broad statements about the atheist movement being unsafe based on anecdotal evidence. We’re saying the focus of atheist conferences shouldn’t be trying to marry it to feminism. We’re saying that some feminist claims ought to be up to the same speculation any other ideology should be.

    • http://westcoastatheist.wordpress.com/ Katie Graham

      “If we want to be an inclusive community then we can’t be wasting time debating whether or not women/blacks/Jews. Gays/transsexuals deserve to be treated with respect.”

      OH MY FUCKING NO GOD. NO ONE IS SAYING PEOPLE SHOULDN’T BE TREATED WITH RESPECT. STOP FUCKING SAYIN THAT!!

    • http://westcoastatheist.wordpress.com/ Katie Graham

      “And even if you disagree with her doesn’t she have a right to talk about it?” Can’t she talk about it without calling people who disagree with her misogynists?

    • http://westcoastatheist.wordpress.com/ Katie Graham

      “There’s dogma coming the other way, it seems to me; this insistence that topics like feminism are off the table and can’t be discussed in our community;”

      “Can’t be discussed” and “shouldn’t be the focus” are two different things. Also, when they are discussed and people come to the conclusion that feminists are wrong about some things, the feminists get pissed off and say it’s misogyny in action.

    • ahermit

      “Can’t be discussed” and “shouldn’t be the focus” are two different things.

      Talking about the problem isn’t making it “the focus” of the whole movement either…

      when they are discussed and people come to the conclusion that
      feminists are wrong about some things, the feminists get pissed off and
      say it’s misogyny in action.

      Some of them do. And sometimes they might actually be right…sometimes they might be wrong. Does that mean we have to stop talking about it?

      When people insist that you’re wrong about something do you just shut up?

    • http://westcoastatheist.wordpress.com/ Katie Graham

      ” If YOU aren’t interested ignore it. Don’t tell them they shouldn’t talk about it.” They don’t just talk about it, but they expect people to come to the same conclusions they have and want to “drum out” those that don’t, labeling them as misogynists or sexists.

    • ahermit

      They don’t just talk about it, but they expect people to come to the
      same conclusions they have and want to “drum out” those that don’t,
      labeling them as misogynists or sexists.

      You know what? I’m calling bullshit on this. Arguments getting labeled misogyinistic or sexist is not the same as labeling people misogynists.

      And to the extent that some people actually are behaving like misogynists (calling women “cunts” and bitches” etc) they deserve to be called on it. Not because of an argument they are making but because of their behaviour.

      Go read some AVFM articles and tell me they aren’t misogynistic…

    • http://westcoastatheist.wordpress.com/ Katie Graham

      “No Katie, you need to wake up. Those feminists are speaking up for women who have actually experienced harassment and sexism.”

      Check your privilege. They aren’t speaking for me.

    • ahermit

      They don’t have to be speaking for you Katie. They are speaking for themselves, about their experiences. Should I ignore them? Assume they are lying? Tell them they are over-reacting?

      It’s actually not all about you…

    • http://westcoastatheist.wordpress.com/ Katie Graham

      “As for the labels, I really haven’t seen the “gender traitor” one being used much” Then you haven’t been around enough.

    • http://westcoastatheist.wordpress.com/ Katie Graham

      Justin can and has answered for the article that AVFM published. Why don’t you talk to him about it. Go on his show! He’d be happy to have an open discussion with you about it. He can be found on Facebook, twitter, or SkepticInk.

    • ahermit

      I’ve seen his weak explanations, he;s not being honest. He said quite clearly in a comment on the slymepit that he was writing an article for AVfM.

      He also ran there to do a podcast immediately after WiSCFI

      If he was running to a racist site like Stormfront to whine about black atheists would you be as sympathetic to him? That’s exactly how his behaviour looks to me.

    • spicyhippoplankton

      I think that your vision might be a bit too narrow. There are many behaviours, values, and perceptions with a less explicit connection that are also rooted in, and certainly endorsed by, religion. Though there may also be other explanations for these behaviours etc. doesn’t mean it is irrelevant in an atheist conference. Actually, all of that aside, the fact that some of these problematic behaviours occur at atheist conferences automatically qualifies it as a relevant discussion at atheist conferences.

    • ahermit

      …the fact that some of these problematic behaviours occur at atheist
      conferences automatically qualifies it as a relevant discussion at
      atheist conferences.

      Exactly…

    • Pitchguest

      Yes, disputing the argument that atheism logically leads to the idea that women should be equal to men is treating the subject of women’s rights as an “abstract conceptual exercise.”

      Going for oolon mk.2?

    • http://twitter.com/Eristae Eristae

      I’m going to be honest: this mentality peeves me a great deal. Why? Because for most people insist that “atheism has nothing to do with women’s rights; atheism is ONLY about not believing in god” or something on a similar vein, what they really mean is “atheism is about what I want it to be about, and I don’t want it to be about feminism.” These people will, for example, insist that atheists should all fight for separation of church and state, for free speech, for the right of atheists to hold political office, for laws barring discrimination against atheists, blah blah blah, even though all of these things are a great deal more than “not believing in God.” The real difference between the two is that the speaker wants to deal with issues that impact atheists as atheists, but not deal with issues that impact others. Some guy wants to be able to openly be an atheist and not be harassed for it. Atheist rangers unite! Some women wants to be openly a woman and not be harassed? Stop talking about it in atheist spaces and go somewhere else! It’s infuriating. If one is not allowed to act for women in atheist spaces because atheism is only about not believing, then one cannot be allowed to act for atheists because atheism is only about not believing.

    • http://lippard.blogspot.com/ Jim Lippard

      This disagreement seems to me to be semantic–”atheism” as a logical proposition, which does, in fact, just mean lack of or disbelief in gods, vs. “atheism” as a socio-cultural movement. BTW, I think your last sentence applies very much to those who argue that atheism has no burden of proof because it is mere lack of belief in gods–lacking a belief is not holding a position at all, and doesn’t justify activism of any kind. IMHO, the mere position of atheism has to be, at minimum to justify anything as a consequence, an assertion that there are (likely) no gods.

    • http://twitter.com/Eristae Eristae

      “This disagreement seems to me to be semantic–”atheism” as a logical proposition, which does, in fact, just mean lack of or disbelief in gods, vs. “atheism” as a socio-cultural movement.”

      I think that’s exactly what’s happening, but I’ll add something to it: I think that, in addition to semantics, the problem is people conflating the two when it pleases them and separating them when it doesn’t. It’s moving the goalposts; atheism can be a socio-cultural movement when *I* want it to be, but it is merely a lack of belief when *you* want it to be a socio-cultural movement. And it is a socio-cultural movement to a really good chunk of publicly visible atheists; there’s a reason that Richard Dawkins talks about atheism and not simply humanism or some such thing. To people like him, the distinction between religious and not religious is meaningful. To these people, atheism isn’t JUST a vacuous lack of belief.

    • Pitchguest

      Here we go again.

      Don’t you think it’s ironic that your complaint is what you think other people think atheism as a label should constitute, while telling other people what you think atheism as a label should constitute? No? Okay. Just checking.

      Do atheists insist that other atheists should fight for seperation of church and state? Maybe. But the fight for seperation of church and state is called secularism, not atheism, and secularism has little to do with atheism. Even theists can be secularists. Seems only you assume it’s black and white.

      Free speech, human rights, that’s humanism. Right for atheists to hold political office, that’s civil rights. They are not connected to atheism in any way.

      Who’s in charge of those stupid claims you make? This “be openly a woman and not be harassed” has exclusively to do with the atheist community, or is it society in general? Which society? Western, Middle-Eastern? Please stop building up strawmen and making it all about you. Please stop speaking for all women as though you’re their spokesperson.

      People leave religious households, filled with abuse and discontent, to get away from dogma, and that’s what atheism is. No ideology, no dogma, no creed, no tenets to adhere to; it’s a blank slate. Just an absence of belief. That’s it. But then you want to make it more than that and suddenly you don’t cast off your shackles that held you at bay, you just put on a different set of shackles where you must conform to a different set of ideals. Atheism+ sounds more like a cult than a “safe place.” If you ever visit the official A+ forum, you get to know exactly what they want from you: obedience.

      And woe to those that don’t join the new movement. Why, if you don’t care for the A+ label you’re a sexist misogynist, a rape-enabler and a rape-apologist, with leading questions like, “Don’t you care that women are being harassed?!” You can’t win. Paint the opposition as terrible as you can, get divided in teams and sooner or later you’ll have a mass suicide. (That last one is a joke, by the way.)

      No thanks.

    • http://twitter.com/Eristae Eristae

      You aren’t addressing anything that I said. At all. I’ll try this again.

      The only thing I’m claiming is that once someone opens the door to allow atheism to be more than just a lack of belief in one area (examples I gave: free speech, anti-discrimination laws, etc), then they cannot grab onto “but it’s just a lack of belief!” excuse in regards to some other area. I’m saying that it irritates me immensely when people do so. If you aren’t doing this, then it doesn’t apply to you. If you think that atheism can’t be about things like either free speech or feminism, then your views aren’t dealt with within my post.

      I’m not complaining that “other people think atheism as a label of constitute, while telling other people what [I] think atheism as a label should constitute,” I’m complaining that people insist that atheism can’t be “a label of constitute” while telling other people what they think atheism as a label should constitute. Either atheism is a “label of constitute” or it isn’t; one doesn’t get to randomly decide that what one likes is included in atheism and what one isn’t interested in is not.

    • Verbose Stoic

      I think you’ve confusing the definition of atheist and what an atheist movement should do, and then moving on to saying that if an atheist movement does more than simply act according to the definition of “atheist” it is doing more than it ought by that definition. But an atheist movement, by definition, would be a movement that would protect the rights and interests of atheists, and presumably because those rights and interests are not being protected by the system as it stands. So, if you look at why an atheist movement would work for a separation of Church and State, we can see that it seems to be directly related to those rights and interests: if Church and State are intertwined, then atheists would be forced to act as if they had a religion or even practice one, which violates their rights. And it should be clear how fighting to end discrimination against atheists affects atheists as atheists.

      But that doesn’t mean that it is clear how fighting for social justice issues is something that follows from protecting the rights and interests of atheists as atheists. Which wouldn’t make them unworthy to work for, but would raise questions as to whether an atheist movement should focus on them in and of themselves or whether it should only focus on them to the extent that it directly affects the rights and interests of atheists as atheists.

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      Pitchguest, please refrain from calling people or their positions stupid, you know the house rules.

    • Brian G.

      I’m not attracted to the A+ movement and don’t participate, and I haven’t been labeled any of those things by anyone.

    • http://skepticink.com/notung Notung

      I think you might be confusing claims about what atheism entails with prescriptive notions of what atheists ought to do. When I claim that atheism doesn’t entail women’s rights, I am not saying that atheists can’t fight for women’s rights. In fact, the complete opposite is true.

      The political and ethical philosophies giving rise to the belief that women should be equal with men can be built on top of atheism – since atheism itself says nothing about it then there is no potential conflict.

      As an illustration, suppose you’re a member of a golf club in which women have to wait for the men to go first ‘so that they don’t slow them down’. Now, nobody reasonable/of sound morals would say that’s ok. So the women (and men of course) would be right to complain and protest this ridiculous rule. However – if someone then claimed that ‘playing golf logically leads to the idea that women and men should be equal’ then many of those people would say ‘hang on – that’s clearly untrue’.

      The purpose of this illustration is to show that by claiming that atheism (or golf) doesn’t entail women’s rights, women’s rights still apply within atheist circles/conferences.

      Perhaps some people do claim what you’re claiming they claim. If so, they’re dead wrong.

      [I'm not saying golf and atheism are perfectly analogous. Clearly atheism has an impact on our moral views that golf does not. Nevertheless, I think it helps make my point here.]

    • Sally Strange

      It’s the inconsistency that’s damning. Atheism doesn’t logically lead to activism for church-state separation either.

      Why aren’t you and Justin Vacula out there shouting about that?

    • http://skepticink.com/notung Notung

      I don’t recall seeing anyone say that (not on a blog I read at least). Could you please point me towards a comment that says “atheism logically leads to activism for church-state separation”?

      I’d dearly like to correct them.

    • Sally Strange

      Well, nobody actually said that atheism logically leads to feminism either. In the discussion, Vacula concentrates on attempting (and failing) to refute Amanda Marcotte’s argument, which was not that atheism logically leads to feminism, but that atheism logically leads to abandoning the teleological belief that women were created by someone or something to serve men. Vacula’s conflation of the teleological argument with the “logically leads to” argument is dishonest, and that’s part of the reason he comes off poorly in this video.

    • http://skepticink.com/notung Notung

      Perhaps ‘women exist to serve men’ (which is the way Marcotte actually put it) can be interpreted teleologically, but it isn’t explicitly teleological. Perhaps she could have been clearer, and perhaps Justin could have been more charitable in his interpretation.

      I kind of know what she means, and if meant teleologically then she’s right (so long as the teleology we’re thinking of must involve a god – not all teleologies do…)

      Still, regardless of whether he has done something wrong, I think Justin should be defended in at least one way: Many have painted his objection to this as if he thinks that women do exist to serve men! It is clear that at worst he was uncharitable or perhaps wrong (although I don’t think he is wrong here). He certainly wasn’t suggesting that women exist to serve men!

    • Brian G.

      Unless I missed it in the video, I never heard him make a clear statement that he thinks the claim “women exist to serve men” is wrong and that there are no good arguments to back it up. Thing is, even if he did, that claim is about as extreme and patriarchal as you can get, and doesn’t preclude him thinking a whole range of negative things about women besides that, and given his behavior I’m pretty sure he does.

    • http://skepticink.com/notung Notung

      I just think he needs a better internal PR department. It would help him avoid comments like that.

    • Brian G.

      And I think you’re giving him far too much credit.

    • http://skepticink.com/notung Notung

      I should also add that you seem to be missing my point of contention. I didn’t write a blog post taking Marcotte to task- I just let it slide. Dan made a comment in the video that one shouldn’t ‘emphasise’ these things on their blogs. I was disagreeing with that point. Then people started arguing with me about my view that atheism doesn’t logically entail positions like anti-racism etc and I felt compelled to defend what to me seems like an obvious truth.

    • Sally Strange

      Well, if you’re just concerned with abstract logic, Vacula’s inconsistent approach here should bother you. Atheism “logically leads to” nothing except atheism, and the rejection of uniquely theistic claims. Vacula, in the video, uses this as an excuse to claim that the atheist movement should not concern itself with feminism. If he were consistently applying this argument to political stances besides feminism, he should be yelling at atheists for engaging in church-state separation activism as well. But he’s not.

    • http://skepticink.com/notung Notung

      Well you’re sort of right there, and I often catch myself thinking “why are American Atheists worrying about secularism?! Atheism doesn’t mean secularism!” When I consider it further, I think that it makes sense when you take into account that their mission is to fight for the rights of atheists qua atheists, and a good way of doing that is secularism. Still, they don’t represent atheists who don’t believe in secularism. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing (I don’t admire non-secularists), but it’s worth thinking about.

      Feminism is a little trickier. I don’t think atheist groups qua atheist groups should fight ‘for feminism’, since it seems like a separate (but still important) issue. However, a commitment to a reasonable feminist set of ethics is essential for any good organisation, not just an atheist one. An analogy I like using is the Wagner Society. The Wagner Society isn’t about feminism, and it would seem rather odd for it to go on feminist crusades. But if someone said “I’ve noticed that all your speakers are men. We should make an effort to no longer exclude women”, that wouldn’t be out of place because it’s an important internal issue, and good for the ethical health of the organisation. If someone wants to fight for feminism, then that’s great, in their capacity as feminists. But I don’t think it makes much sense for them to petition the group to double up as a atheist-feminist or a Wagnerian-feminist group, unless that’s what the group was set up to do.

      In short, you can be an atheist and a Wagnerite and a feminist. You don’t have to insist every organisation you belong to becomes an atheist, Wagner-loving feminist organisation to do so.

    • Brian G.

      Notung, I hope it’s not uncivil of me to say this, but your verbose kvetching about what atheists should and shouldn’t be doing and what atheism does and doesn’t logically entail kinda sounds…well, annoying and paternalistic. Many of us are perfectly aware that when we link atheism and feminism, or atheism and gay rights, that one does not “logically entail” the other. It just happens that a lot (not all, but a lot) of our prejudices are supported by religion and not having that anymore seems to free people to be more accepting and liberal. I think the liberal slant that most atheists have is no secret.

      Thing is, when gay atheists like me, or female atheists like Sally, for example, see the pedantic insistence that atheism means one UND ONLY VON thing, that insistence makes us feel excluded for no good reason. While it may be true, it’s not even what we really mean, and yet it’s brought up over and over again and thrown in our faces.

    • http://skepticink.com/notung Notung

      I’ll try and rise above saying ‘back at you’ on your initial jab.

      If you’re perfectly aware that atheism doesn’t logically entail such-and-such, then obviously my comments aren’t aimed at you. I really don’t see the problem. I agree that dropping faith can free you up for more progressive beliefs. I’ve not claimed otherwise.

      Well I’m sorry that you feel that me giving my opinion on what atheism logically entails in response to people disagreeing with me excludes you. I can assure you that’s not my intention, and I find it puzzling, especially as you say you agree that what I’m saying is true!

      Come, let us reason together.

    • Brian G.

      Notung, let me give you a hypothetical example.

      An organizer of an atheist group and a gay member are talking.
      Org: So you think we should set up a booth at the Pride festival? Why is that?
      Member: Well, while religion isn’t the sole reason for bigotry and hatred against gay people, most of it is. Atheists don’t typically hold those kinds of views and I think the LGBT community and the atheist community can share common goals.
      Org: That’s not a bad idea.

      And then a third person comes in and goes “but atheism doesn’t logically entail gay rights!!!!!!” and spends hours talking about how you can be a gay rights advocate and you can be an atheist but they can never ever be related. If you don’t see how that can be alienating then obviously you’ve never been on the receiving end of that.

    • http://skepticink.com/notung Notung

      No, I agree that might be alienating.

      It’s as if someone says “let’s take a stand for women’s equality within the movement, or as it relates to religion” and then someone comes along and says “atheism doesn’t logically entail women’s rights”. That would be odd, and irrelevant.

      [I cut and pasted that example from one of my comments. You're making points I myself have made already in this thread.]

    • Brian G.

      Then apparently I’m missing what your point is here. You feel the need to correct people if they make a statement like “atheism logically entails feminism”, but then say you know that constantly protesting such statements is annoying and alienating. Which is it, because I’m honestly confused by your position.

    • http://skepticink.com/notung Notung

      Fair enough. The confusion comes because (I think) you’re mixing up two things. ‘Annoying and alienating’ applies when someone brings up the logical entailment question in response to something when it’s not actually relevant. For instance, in the example you gave above.

      Where I think it is acceptable to discuss the logical entailment question is when that question is relevant For instance, when someone brings it up to claim that atheism logically entails feminism.

    • http://www.groverbeachbum.blogspot.com/ Neil

      That would be a bit silly, unless it happened to be a group of atheists were also social traditionalists in every way but religion.

      That’s why it doesn’t really happen that way.

      What DOES happen, is not only do some people want to be inclusive, they also want to shift focus not only onto other issues, but to have political dogmas attached to those positions on other issues, and to gatekeep the whole community.

    • Sally Strange

      If you’re perfectly aware that atheism doesn’t logically entail such-and-such, then obviously my comments aren’t aimed at you.

      Vacula consistently behaves as if he is offering some grand revelation when he says that atheism doesn’t “logically lead to” feminism; as far as I can tell, it’s his invention, not a reflection of reality. Yet he continues to aim this quibbling, semantic argument at feminists, and not at any other subgroups of atheist activists–precisely at those moments when the action on the ground requires some commitment to women’s rights to advance the movement.

    • http://www.groverbeachbum.blogspot.com/ Neil

      The problem with this, is that most of the “dictionary atheist” stuff only comes up, because a lot of lazy, self-righteous people, keep insisting that Atheism MUST be more, and that if you do not identify with all the “more”, down to the last letter, you should be shamed, mocked, and excluded from the “community.” I’m not saying this is what you do, personally, but it is the last two years’ strategy of some pro”social justice” bloggers, it’s complete BS, and so they have people who feel obliged to correct them.

      Maybe if some people quit trying to redefine atheism in their own image, it wouldn’t be an issue.

  • Laurence

    I just listen to the whole thing and it really seems like Justin is just determined not to get it. If I were someone who was wavering on whether or not to have a conversation with him about this subject, this video would help me make the decision not to.

  • spicyhippoplankton

    If Justin doesn’t feel unsafe when he receives threats then why should these women who receive threats feel unsafe? Wow. I hope Justin doesn’t practice as a therapist like he came across in this debate. Good job Dan.

    • Edward Gemmer

      Well, that got a little chilly at the end but I think what Justin was trying to show is that some “threat” may be legitimate or illegitimate. For example, on twitter some person “threatened” to back my balls in. I did not feel threatened – it was an internet troll. Do the recipients of these threats actually take them as threats? I can get behind efforts to end rape threats, but sometimes I skeptical as to how real these threats are.

      For example, recently Greta Christina called Justin Vacula one of the “main anti-feminist harassers.” This gave me a lot of pause. To my knowledge, Vacula is not threatening anyone with anything. If he is one of the main harassers, then they view him as just as bad as someone who makes rape threats, which makes no sense at all unless you conclude that the rape threats aren’t really serious and no one is taking them seriously. In sum, if the women who are targeted by these “threats” don’t take them seriously, why should I or anyone else?

    • spicyhippoplankton

      I am not sure how Justin being persistently dismissive and displaying a lack of empathy showed anything other than stubbornness to the point of appearing ridiculous. I personally feel very uncomfortable with telling others how they should feel or not feel. (In fact, I have no idea what it must be like to feel threatened with rape). There may be different levels of threat (received in different mediums); they are all bad.

      I don’t think harass and threat are necessarily the same thing.

      I am not sure what you mean when you say that you are skeptical as to how real the threats are. Are you speaking to the intent of the person making the threats or do you mean you don’t think they are receiving them at all? I don’t doubt women receive these threats. The problem is certainly real.

    • Edward Gemmer

      I’m just saying there is clearly a difference between someone saying something with the intent to hurt your feelings (ex. “you deserve to be raped” or “you are too ugly to rape” or something like that, and a real rape threat with the intent to strike fear, ex. (“I know where you live and you had better lock your doors tonight”). Neither are acceptable, but there is a significant difference between the two, as one is annoying and hurtful and the other potentially criminal.

    • spicyhippoplankton

      And I’m saying that it’s more complicated than that. Many women have been raped and assaulted. The threat is very real. Any mention of rape could be perceived as a threat, especially to a group of people that are vulnerable and at real risk.

    • David Jones

      If the threat is serious it should be reported to the police. If the police don’t take any action that fact should be publicised..

    • spicyhippoplankton

      In my past work I was a street based outreach worker. I now work as a therapist. I have worked with many victims who do not report for many reasons. Not reporting is not a reason to dismiss. Regardless, it is wrong to place blame on the victim.

    • Richard Sanderson

      For example, recently Greta Christina called Justin Vacula one of the
      “main anti-feminist harassers.” This gave me a lot of pause. To my
      knowledge, Vacula is not threatening anyone with anything.

      It is all part of creating a “threat narrative”. While some people in the movement have recieved actual threats, the tactic is to interprete all criticism in the same category as threats.

      Justin has certainly never threatened anybody, but you will find some of those who call Justin names and try to slur his character, are still chums with some who DID threaten somebody.

    • https://twitter.com/Aneris23 Aneris

      Rebecca Watson abused admin powers, went against Stef McGraw (no sense of proportion), called for a Richard Dawkins’ boycott, made plenty of patronizing remarks about other women (such as that they don’t see sexism, because she didn’t until she was over 20 and so on). Added to that she is a female atheist, in a world of sexist religionists and deeply religious people where atheist alone is a big issue. There is no shortage of “enemies”. Add the internet, and trolls and all that. And then people desperately want to make us believe that all the negativity she gets is about misogyny in the community? And that harassment and threats she personally receives somehow magically extends to all people who happen to be female?

      I am very sure she gets a lot abuse, which is very very sad. I know no one who condones this in any way. Yet, her story is rather specific. I’m not buying that a random woman (attending a conference) is remotely in the same situation.

    • Brian G.

      ….wow.

    • spicyhippoplankton

      That is quite the rant! Just wondering how it is relevant to what I have written.

    • ool0n

      You’d think this a parody of the “Everything is Rebecca Watson’s fault!!11!” meme … Unfortunately not :-/

    • https://twitter.com/Aneris23 Aneris

      Compare “Everything is Rebecca Watson’s fault!!11!” (ool0n) versus “her story is rather specific” (me) and from that to “it’s her fault” it is yet another large leap.

    • Brian G.

      “Her story is rather specific” is far from all that you said.

    • spicyhippoplankton

      In addition to “her story is rather specific” you also said:

      “Rebecca Watson abused admin powers, went against Stef McGraw (no sense of proportion), called for a Richard Dawkins’ boycott, made plenty of patronizing remarks about other women (such as that they don’t see sexism, because she didn’t until she was over 20 and so on). Added to that she is a female atheist, in a world of sexist religionists and deeply religious people where atheist alone is a big issue. There is no shortage of “enemies”. Add the internet, and trolls and all that. And then people desperately want to make us believe that all the negativity she gets is about misogyny in the community? And that harassment and threats she personally receives somehow magically extends to all people who happen to be female?”

      Seems to me that the sentiment of the message is largely about placing blame on Rebecca Watson while being dismissive of the other people who voiced concerns.

    • ool0n

      Your reply to a point about *women* getting threats and Justin being able to take them not being relevant is consumed by your desire to make it all Rebecca Watson’s fault. Cue deranged rant about all of RW’s “crimes. Point… Missed!

    • https://twitter.com/Aneris23 Aneris

      About half the running time of the video comes back to Rebecca Watson in one form or the other…

      0:39min, Justin mentions Watson in context of Ron Lindsay, and they go from there.

      0:44min, Fincke brings Watson up in context of intersectionality and discuss from there.

      0:51min, Elevatorgate time! Prominently Watson, where Fincke makes the (good) point that it is indeed creepy to be trapped in an elevator and approached, where it is generalized.

      1:07min, they are discussing threats and “feeling safe”, in general, and Rebecca Watson is brought up yet again.

    • ool0n

      You have Watson derangement syndrome really bad… How about trying to ignore her and avoid any place that mentions her for a few months and let it go?

    • https://twitter.com/Aneris23 Aneris

      I am commenting on Watson, as she was obviously a topic here. Otherwise, I don’t really discuss her. What you say is wrong.

    • ool0n

      Topic is in the title… The people mentioned in passing are anecdotes not the subject matter. Many in the “rifts” would do well to remember that “guys don’t do that” etc etc demonstrates a point. The person behind it can be ignored unless you have an issue with them personally.

    • spicyhippoplankton

      “and they go from there.”
      “and discuss from there.”
      “where it is generalized.”
      ” “feeling safe”, in general”

      I think that it might be more useful to pay attention to these parts rather than getting hung up on the *Rebecca Watson* part.

    • https://twitter.com/Aneris23 Aneris

      Then we are back to square one. She is a bad example to illustrate the points, since her case is specific. Like what I wrote above. /rolleyes

      Your complaint is misplaced in either way. The discutants brought her up like 12 times in half of the video’s total running time. How come that it is not allowed to then comment on that she is a bad example? Because the examples don’t make her look good? I’m soo sorry about it.

    • spicyhippoplankton

      My suggestion was to focus on the content. Becoming fixated on Watson (for example, by counting how many times you hear her name mentioned in the video) could lead someone to lose sight of the larger message.

    • https://twitter.com/Aneris23 Aneris

      I’d very much love to see the movment pull together and for example go against the Purity Movement. I hate it with passion. It is right in the bullseye of atheism, skepticism and feminism. Apparently not important. We rather discuss controversial “microaggression” instead.

      Maybe you don’t mean that general, but a bit closer to home. Maybe the issue that women might feel unwelcome in the community. A very good topic. We would discuss internet culture, work our ways through trolling, perhaps examine what science and academia has to say about community structures. Not happening, either. We get “matter of fact” claims, lot of meta drivel but nothing of substance. What happened to facts and critical thinking?

      Maybe you want it more concrete, more actionable. Where we look into privileges of elderly, white men who are in charge and what they actually do that keeps women away. We would examine the different figures and how their attitudes contribute to the problem. Certainly, we would focus our attention onto the one known case where an elderly, white, privileged opinion leader in our community – a kind of patriarchal, bearded father figure – actively wanted to keep a woman away.

      By the current narrative that guy would be the most hated anti-feminist, right? Well, that man is PZ Myers. Wait, what? Indeed. He used his prominence to bully Abbie Smith out. Abbie Smith is a scientist, too, that researches on HIV. Humanitarian cause, woman, scientist. Instant win. What happened? She called Watson out on her horseshit and her stepdaddy Myers didn’t like it. Maybe you want to look into Ellen Beth Wachs’ story. Or Paula Kirby. Or the countless others that don’t belong to the bully clique that tries to control the narrative.

      What about more recent issues. Like doxxing. The last case, kudos to Ophelia Benson and Stephanie Zvan, also targeted a woman. Women totally feel safe when there is harsh retalitation whenever their contributions don’t go into the “intended” direction. Not. In that case the doxxed person was even active in an organisational capacitiy. A real female actitivst, instead of slacktivist like most of us. What did she do? She commented on Benson’s blog.

      Instead of either adopting clear cut rules what kinds of comments she wants to see, or by downright blocking her (which would be at least somewhat honest), she decided to arbitrarily let comments through, block others and then use whatever was visble to spin off her own story. Benson does it randomly, Zvan does it with cold calculation. Perhaps, while we are it with internet culture, trolls, feeling safe, or freedom of speech and all these topics, we discuss these things rationally?

      Now you have various perspectives and angles from really general, to more specific to concrete examples. I am posting this as we can hardly assess the general situation when the basic facts aren’t even on the table and suppressed by certain parties all the time.

    • spicyhippoplankton

      What are you on about now? Amazing how you set up that
      narrative so that it goes from the “really general” to… PZ &co (the “specific and concrete”) and then suggest that we need to discuss these specifics (i.e. PZ &co) in order to get to the actual topic. Another option would be to consider how your “specific and concrete” examples are just a
      distraction from the topic. It again seems to come back to your dislike for particular individuals. Justin appears
      to have made the same mistake which is why Dan came out on top in this debate.

  • Laurence

    I watched the video and cannot come to any other conclusion than that Justin made himself look pretty terrible here. He came across as cold and uncaring concerning women being harassed or not.

  • http://lippard.blogspot.com/ Jim Lippard

    Those who think that the nonexistence of God has absolutely no logical consequences for morality should read pp. 114-118 of J.L. Mackie’s _The Miracle of Theism_ (or ch. 10 of his _Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong_). Mackie’s not the last word on the subject, of course, but it’s a reasonable and often-defended position.

    • http://skepticink.com/notung Notung

      Does he? I read it a few months ago and I’m sure that would have been a red flag to me – I don’t remember that! (I might be wrong – my memory is terrible and my copy is over the other side of the world so I can’t check.) I do remember him deriving much of it from ‘there are no objective values’, but I would also deny that ‘there are no objective values’ logically follows from atheism.

      Excellent book though – probably my favourite atheist book.

      Edit: Also, ‘no logical consequences for morality’ wouldn’t be my claim. I can think of one right off the bat – one logical consequence of atheism is that morality cannot involve the existence of a god (on pain of contradiction)!

    • http://lippard.blogspot.com/ Jim Lippard

      Yes, Mackie argues that the metaphysical “queerness” of objective moral properties would be something that could be more easily made sense of given theism than atheism (where he thinks it can’t be made sense of).

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      Yes, and I think Mackie’s wrong about that.

    • http://skepticink.com/notung Notung

      Right. But that’s different from saying ‘such-and-such a value follows from atheism’. I do agree that there are things that are more easily made sense of given what you believe about the existence of god. Human suffering, for instance. Perhaps women’s rights too, although I think that suggestion is rather uncharitable to theists.

  • http://twitter.com/Eristae Eristae

    I don’t suppose anyone knows if there’s going to be a transcript of this, or maybe a text-based summary? I can’t listen to the thing.

    • Sally Strange

      I’m going to start an A+ scribe project to transcribe this later. If, of course, I can get Dan Fincke’s and Justin Vacula’s permission. What say you, sirs?

    • http://skepticink.com/justinvacula/ Justin Vacula

      Sure.

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      I’ll put this here too, yes, I just want to confirm the transcript and offer Justin the chance to do the same first.

  • peicurmudgeon

    I very much agree with Dan’s position that the naturalistic position leads logically to rejecting those positions that are rooted only in religious belief. His initial example, and the beginning of the debate on gender equality is, in my opinion accurate. I felt that Justin agreed with the position as far as racism and homophobia are concerned, but essentially denied the same consideration to women. He even admitted that he couldn’t come up with arguments that weren’t ‘bad’ to support sexism from a naturalist perspective.

    Since this began, I have talked to women about being at conferences where men have approached them inappropriately. These are just the professional conferences, not in any way related to atheism. It happens at conferences, at work, at bars, on the street – everywhere.

    My daughter is a geophysicist and as an undergrad, she attended a session on how to deal with the comments, advances, and general sexism of the men. I have no idea if the men attended session on how to behave around women. As Dan kept pushing, this stuff happens everywhere and so the likelihood of it happening at an atheist conference is high. Even if there hasn’t been any specific instances, every workplace or conference needs to have rules of non-acceptable behaviour spelled out.

    I cannot understand how anyone cannot see that without complete wilful blindness.

  • Thelma Louise

    Thank you so much for the link. Great job with this debate I look forward to seeing more.

  • Brian G.

    I finally am getting around to watching the actual debate. I thought you did a great job so far Dan (I’m about halfway through), and I think you caught Justin in a particularly annoying hypocrisy in his argument. In the beginning he said that if there were atheist feminists who wanted to start atheist feminism groups, they should do that separate from “mainstream atheism”, I guess we’d call it. Then, later, he starts attacking Atheism+ for…doing just that!

  • http://skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

    Dan – I was so going to liveblog this, but ended up missing most of the live stream because of an unfortunately timed cluster of tornadoes. Finally got the chance to listen to the entire discussion this afternoon after clearing away the storm damage from last night. It went pretty much as I’d expect a conversation on applied ethics to go, given your respective backgrounds. That said, I appreciate your willingness to engage, and don’t see that you’ve done any harm to your reputation or causes thereby.

    Quick question, if you don’t mind. After that extended discussion, what would you say are the most significant two or three specific issues upon which you two continue to disagree? I’m hoping to expand only on those.

  • Brian G.

    “Elevator Guy was SHAMED! Ya know, if he existed”.

    Remember everyone: the feelings of an unidentified and possibly fictional man are more important than an actual woman feeling safe.

    • Verbose Stoic

      EG was shamed for sexualizing her when it is reasonable to argue that all he did was make an awkward and ill-timed approach. Just because you may have reason to feel a certain way does not justify you going off and reading in motivations that aren’t necessarily present and shaming someone based on your impression of their subjective states. If you are going to shame someone, as was said above, you had better have really, really good evidence that they think what you think they think.

    • Brian G.

      You completely missed the point of my comment so you could do exactly what Justin was doing: ignore what an actual woman, a human being, was saying about how she was made to feel uncomfortable by someone else’s actions to come up with reasons to excuse that person’s behavior.

    • Verbose Stoic

      EDIT: Deleted the first paragraph, and I thought it a bit harsh.

      We can debate whether or not there was really shaming involved, but that isn’t really something I want to get into. I was focusing on what you said about using discussion of his feelings to minimize or ignore hers.

      I do not ignore what she was feeling. You might have wanted to find out what I thought about that topic specifically before jumping to that conclusion. I think that it was not unreasonable for her to feel unsafe in that situation … but challenge, as I said, the classification of it being “sexualization”; she doesn’t have the evidence to make that sort of statement.

      Just because she was right to feel uncomfortable in that situation does not give her carte blanche to invent motivations for the person that are not in evidence. What would be the problem with considering that the feelings of all parties involved should be given consideration?

    • Brian G.

      Actually, my point did challenge him being shamed. How does one publicly shame someone that to this day has not been identified? And again, even if he was shamed by RW talking about what happened, his feelings don’t override the importance of the message which is that men have a part to play in making women feel safe at conferences.

      As Damion said above, asking someone you’ve never spoken to, nor have a rapport with, to come back to your hotel room is creepy and most likely sexual in nature. And finally, I think she has far more evidence to claim what was happening in her own personal experience than we do now.

      She didn’t “invent motivations” behind his behavior that I’m aware of, and I’ve been keeping up with this since it originally happened. His motivations, in fact, are largely irrelevant to the point; if his motivations were malevolent, that’s already covered by harassment policies and criminal laws, and if his motivations were intended to be harmless then her statement of “guys, don’t do what he did because it can make women uncomfortable” is not an unreasonable request.

    • Verbose Stoic

      As I said, she claimed he “sexualized” her, meaning that he treated her only as a sexua object and not as a person. THAT’S what she has very limited evidence for, and where she goes over the line. Not terribly badly, but when McGraw took her to task over that classification her response to that was worse and started the main kerfuffle. The other parts of it are things that I have already said I agree with.

    • Shuni Varga

      “THAT’S what she has very limited evidence for”

      How can that be? Do you accuse her of making it up?

      He ignored her stated intention and wishes to go to bed to rest in favor of his own. He put his needs before hers without her consent. That qualifies as (probably sexual) objectification.

    • Verbose Stoic

      No, I’m not accusing her of making it up. But your whole statement of “putting his needs before hers” is your — and her — interpretation, and all he did was ask if she wanted to do something other than go to sleep, she said no, and he by her own statement took that rejection gracefully. From that, you can’t get inside his head and see if he was treating her as an object or if he was treating her as a person but just made a really bad call on the approach. The fact that he took it gracefully is counter-evidence to his not thinking of her as a person and only as a recepticle to satisfy his needs. Ultimately, the whole problem here is assuming that you know what is going on inside someone else’s head based on limited evidence and back-dated reasoning (ie “Well, if he heard this he should have concluded this which would have meant this which means this”). That’s very difficult to actually pull off.

    • Shuni Varga

      “But your whole statement of “putting his needs before hers” is your — and her — interpretation”

      I’m having real trouble with that. How can this be interpretation? She said she

      -was tired and wanted to go to bed and

      -didn’t like being hit on on conferences.

      He ignored that (either actively or passively) and did it anyway, in the worst place possible. How is any of that open to interpretation?

      He objectively put his needs before hers.

      Intent is not required for this, maybe that’s the reason for the confusion.

      ” From that, you can’t get inside his head and see if he was treating her
      as an object or if he was treating her as a person but just made a
      really bad call on the approach.”

      But the inside of his head is not needed for the concept of objectification. Are you sure you understand the term as it’s used?

      The difference between a person and an object is persons have interests. Those interests can be ignored or denied or put aside and that’s called objectification. Now Kant had something to say about that (Second Formulation of the CI).

      I really think you do not understand what Rebecca Watson meant.

      ” The fact that he took it gracefully is counter-evidence to his not
      thinking of her as a person and only as a recepticle to satisfy his
      needs.”

      No. I’ll try with an analogy (not a lawyer):
      Taking 5$ out of someone’s wallet against their will is theft, right?
      Stealing 5 Million$ from someone’s bank account against their will is theft too, right?

      But those cases are not equal.

      You saying he did not objectify her because accepted her no sounds to me like saying taking 5$ out of someone’s wallet doesn’t count as theft because they didn’t steal 5 Million.

      The objectification happened when he asked her. His response to her response is completely irrelevant for that.

    • http://twitter.com/AleisterHermit A Hermit

      Where do you see her “inventing motivations” for him?

    • Verbose Stoic

      I apologize for that phrasing; I meant that more generally and not as a direct comment about Watson herself. That being said, I do think that claiming that he “sexualized” her relies on assuming motivations that she has insufficient evidence to demonstrate; ultimately, she assumes that he didn’t consider her to be a person when the strongest evidence suggests that he likely did (particularly, his taking the rejection fairly well, by her own admission).

    • Brian G.

      He also wasn’t “shamed” unless you consider “shaming” to be someone asking you not to do something. I don’t.

    • http://skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      When your very first words to someone with whom you’ve never previously conversed (much less flirted) are to invite them back to your hotel room, you’ve gone well beyond awkward. When you have cornered them in a metal box at 4am, such an approach goes well beyond ill-timed.

    • Verbose Stoic

      You are presuming that the invitation was to have sex as opposed to exactly what he said it was: to get coffee. That’s one reason why it can be said to be awkward: if that exact same phrasing was used but instead of “my room” it was “the cafe before the next day’s presentations”, it certainly wouldn’t have had that implication, but still would have annoyed Watson (as it would have still been an approach). And you may argue that it goes beyond being ill-timed, but I call it ill-timed because it was at a time and place where she might reasonably have felt threatened, and so was definitely in the wrong place at the wrong time … but there is absolutely no reason to think that there was any intention to make her feel unsafe or threatened, which is why I prefer my phrasing.

    • jjramsey

      “You are presuming that the invitation was to have sex as opposed to exactly what he said it was: to get coffee”

      But it’s common knowledge that asking someone for “coffee” in one’s room or home (as opposed to, say, a local diner) is a thinly veiled request for sex.

      What I would agree with you on is that Watson doesn’t have a good way to gauge EG’s mental state, e.g, whether he’s objectifying her. She was quite within reason, though, to point out how his actions came across as creepy, no matter how well-intentioned they may have been.

    • Verbose Stoic

      I agree with that. That was the point of my calling it awkward and ill-timed, which somehow was taken as trying to say that she was not within reason to feel that it was a bit creepy when in fact it is expressing the precise opposite.

    • Edward Gemmer

      Can we please stop the madness? Some very intelligent, suave, sophisticated people have the initials EG and I’ve heard they do not care for this mystery Starbucks man to dominate the conversation with his awkward attempts to see someone’s vagina. Think of those EGs! They do exist, I promise!

    • http://skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      Look, if you want to believe that was really about coffee, that’s fine. There is no way I can persuade you otherwise.

      Incidentally, if someone invites you up to see their etchings, don’t go. It’s not what you think.

  • sezit

    Dan, thank you for this extensive exploration of Justin’s stance on sexism in atheism.. I had been keeping an open mind as to his honesty of interaction (even though I thought he was totally wrong on his point of view). After seeing your conversation, I must conclude that he is not interacting in good faith. He keeps saying he is skeptical, acting as if sexism in the atheist community should require extraordinary evidence. He dismisses personal reports as hearsay. He has it backwards. Sexism is so pervasive in the culture at large that suspecting no sexism in atheist groups is an extraordinary claim. Beyond that, dismissing sexism as an issue gains our movement……… what? Ummm, nothing. He is disingenuous. He has done good things, but I can’t trust him, I don’t respect him, and I don’t believe him.
    I think you can let him go as a person in good standing.

  • Sally Strange

    I have finished the transcription.

    One thing I can say for certain: I would never, ever, ever report a incident of sexual harassment to Justin Vacula. Ever. I would also never, ever discuss my own personal experiences with harassment and sexual assault with him one on one. (I’ve certainly talked about it in public before, it’s not like it’s a secret, but one-one one? No.)

    No doubt that Vacula will think that my conclusion is an overreaction. And that’s precisely why he comes off as a person who can absolutely NOT be trusted to handle reports of sexual harassment in a fair and compassionate manner. Which is why I’m now doubly glad that the SCA listened to the petition to prevent him from assuming a leadership position in that organization.

    Dan Fincke, I won’t post the transcript unless I get your permission. Do I have it?

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      I should probably say this here, not just in the e-mail to you. Yes, pending my chance to verify its accuracy and Justin’s chance to do the same.

  • Hemisphere

    On the subject of your point about how Atheism may logically lead to increased support for feminist goals:

    You suggest that this is because it leads you to reject arguments that men are superior to women that come from a religious basis (e.g. because some passage in the bible says so). This, as you said, reduces the number of arguments that men>women in that ‘pool’, thus relatively strengthening the position of either men=women or women>men. However, this does not logically follow. It rests on the assumption that by being religious you are convinced by men>women arguments that stem from a religious basis (such as scripture). Since many people interpret different parts of scripture in different ways, it simply does not follow. You can easily go from being religious to being an atheist without having the ‘pool’ of men>women arguments that you find convincing change whatsoever. The actual number of arguments that exist for one side or another is irrelevant, it’s the quality of the arguments that matters. Hence why chucking out a bunch of arguments can hypothetically have no impact on the strength of either side.

    Obviously for some people a switch from theism to atheism can remove the arguments that they find convincing and lead them to a different view, but it’s not going to hold true for everyone.

    Plus the idea that atheism leads to any particular conclusion (other than arguments that rely on invoking the existence of god/s are incorrect) is dubious. A lack of belief in god/s does not imply a lack of belief in anything else. It does not imply a lack of belief in magic, elves, randomness etc., any of which could cause a belief that men>women. Atheism does not even imply that the individual favours naturalism and science. It’s a very stand-alone label and I’ve met many atheists who dislike science and support homoeopathy. Whilst you might argue that naturalism will lead to atheism, there is no reason to think the reverse is* true. Your argument hinged on atheism resulting in naturalism, and naturalism resulting in men=women.

    Hopefully I haven’t misunderstood what you said, the conversation was very unstructured and hectic so I’ll admit that I could have failed to grasp the entirety of your argument.

    • http://westcoastatheist.wordpress.com/ Katie Graham

      Thank you for this. This is much more eloquent than what I was saying in my comments, but reflects exactly my thoughts.

    • Sally Strange

      Your argument hinged on atheism resulting in naturalism, and naturalism resulting in men=women.

      No, I believe the argument is that atheism is the conclusion of applied naturalism, as is the observation that men and women have no significant differences beyond plumbing and statistical variations in upper body strength and size.

  • Chris Ho-Stuart

    I have been hoping to see I transcript of this… any word as to whether Sally Strange has permission to make her transcript available?

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      I told her I would give her permission after she sent it to me for Justin and me to look it over but she hasn’t sent it to me yet.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X