I don’t read Slate Magazine, any more than I read any left-leaning news or political site, such as Huffington Post. It takes a lot to get me over there to look at an article, in fact, I simply do not enjoy the writing style, or frankly giving them hits. Not long ago, my wife told me that there was an article by Rebecca Watson there, she had seen it go by on her Twitter feed. I immediately… did nothing, zero interest and frankly, knowing the site, it would certainly be more self-aggrandizing, back-patting nonsense. It turns out that it was exactly that, although, I will be honest, I have not and have no interest in going to read it myself. So how do I know? I see the reactions from online bloggers, of course!
What brought this whole thing up was an evaluation by Maria Maltseva. Originally I was just going to comment on her blog but when it started getting quite long, I decided to turn it into a post in it’s own right. Maria separated her blog post into two segments, the first dealing with the story behind Elevatorgate and the second on it’s impact on the atheist community, so I will keep the format and comment in a similar vein.
Elevatorgate: History and Impact
I’m not going to go into any real details on Elevatorgate, it’s nothing new, we’ve all talked it to death and if you’re really interested, you can go look at some of the things I’ve written before on it. However, it is important to note that Elevatorgate did not start the whole neo-feminist nonsense in the atheist movement, it went back farther than that, at least to the incident between Watson and Paula Kirby. Rebecca Watson and her cadre of feminists have been pounding the feminist drum for much longer than most people are aware. Most that I’ve talked to think that the invitation to coffee was the origin of the tale but I have really come to question whether the incident ever happened at all. In fact, Watson was at that convention talking about exactly that topic before the supposed Elevatorgate happened, she has been unwilling or unable to point out the person who supposedly propositioned her in a picture, taken just before she left the late-night gathering, from whom she claims her “sexualizer” came and no man has ever stepped forward to corroborate her story. In fact, the whole Elevatorgate incident is just a one-sided tale with no evidence whatsoever, which she immediately started using as support for her “men suck” campaign.
Now I can’t prove it never happened, but she hasn’t proved it did and we all know, the burden of proof rests solely on the person making the positive claim. Therefore, I am not accepting her claim that a man ever asked her out for coffee in an elevator at a skeptical conference in the middle of the night until she produces evidence, including being able to point out the specific man involved so her account can be validated.
So why is this important? Because, even though it wasn’t the beginning of the movement, it was certainly the coffee-invitation heard ’round the world. It was the spark that lit the fuse that eventually became the Atheism+ shitstorm. I think it was designed that way, at least as a rallying point for people to polarize around. She sought sympathy for her plight, feminists and feminst-sympathizers gathered around her and told her she was right about everything and created a base from which to strike.
It is also interesting to note that one of their first orders of business was to demand “harassment policies” from atheist and skeptical conventions, which had never, before or since, had incidents of reported harassment. While I have no problem with such policies, they are really just insurance against lawsuits for the convention itself, the idea that it actually solves any problems is absurd. If someone is going to harass another person, they aren’t going to pay attention to a bunch of rules buried in a book somewhere, they’re just going to do it. If the convention tosses them out, they’ll just go elsewhere, either to another skeptical conference or elsewhere. The idea that rules stop harassment is just silly, as silly as the idea that the lack of said rules somehow encourage harassment. The fact remains, harassment has never been a major problem at any skeptical convention and likely never will be. It’s just a number of very minor events that have been blown entirely out of proportion by a group of hyper-feminist women with an agenda.
Finally, I wanted to touch on the numbers game that the Skepchicks have been playing for years. Let’s be very clear about this, they are demanding a quota. It doesn’t matter to them how many women are actually interested in attending skeptical conferences, they want 50% of the audience members to have vaginas. Surly Amy has been selling that crappy “artwork” of hers for years to fund sending anything with breasts to TAM. They have been demanding that 50% of all speakers must be women, whether they deserve to be or not. After all, I’ve made the point before that, whether they like it or not, the overwhelming majority of best-selling atheist authors are men. The vast majority of top-rated speakers are men. If women don’t like that, instead of whining for equality via quota, maybe they ought to work harder being better writers and better speakers? Nah, that takes work!
How This Affects Atheism
Rebecca Watson writes:
I’m a skeptic. Not the kind that believes the 9/11 attacks were the product of a grand Jewish conspiracy—we hate those guys. “Stop stealing the word ‘skeptic,’ ” we tell them, but they don’t listen to us because they assume we’re just part of the grand Jewish conspiracy too.
Unfortunately, she misunderstands what a skeptic is. It’s not a label, it’s not something you can simply apply to yourself and have it mean anything. It’s an outlook. 9/11 truthers are no more skeptics than Obama birthers. Skepticism requires examining claims, applying evidence and critical thinking, in an attempt to come up with the actual truth, not just the comfortable belief that so many people seem enamored with.
I can tell you one thing, Rebecca Watson is no skeptic. Oh sure, she might be skeptical of some subjects, like religion, but there is a difference between someone who is skeptical and someone who is a skeptic. Even the religious can be skeptical of many ideas. A skeptic is skeptical of all ideas. It is bloody obvious that Rebecca Watson and her ilk are not remotely skeptical of ideas like feminism. Sorry, thanks for playing.
Then she goes on to say:
No, I’m the kind of skeptic who enjoys exposés of psychics and homeopaths and other charlatans who fool the public either through self-delusion or for fun and profit.
It is here that I find myself in disagreement with Maria Maltseva, who finds the idea of attacking people’s heartfelt beliefs somewhat distasteful, as she says here:
Watson continues by saying that she’s the type of skeptic who, among other things, enjoys exposing the self-deluded. But seriously, what’s enjoyable about that? Does her statement not express unnecessary glee at the embarrassment and shortcomings of others? I hold no contempt for such people because self-delusion is not an intentional act. Occasionally, it’s an act of necessary self-preservation. While I commend her goals of exposing charlatans and quacks who knowingly profit from lying to others, I cannot bring myself to hate people who are merely deluded, misguided, or simply not intelligent enough to tell fact from fiction.
Intentional or not, ignorance is ignorance even if it is self imposed. We do not send children to school and feel bad about it because we’re removing their ignorance. Ignorance is not a virtue, no matter what emotional feelings you might attach to it. Now most of us go through life being ignorant of a great many things. I, for instance, have no knowledge of brain surgery and honestly, my lack of knowledge will never impact my life. I have no need to know such things. However, if I was a brain surgeon and had that same ignorance, that would be an issue. It would absolutely be appropriate for people to either attempt to teach me the facts about brain surgery (education) or to stop me from practicing brain surgery, lest I kill someone. Ignorance, where it impacts your life or the lives of those around you, is not a virtue, no matter what rationalizations you might place upon it. There is no good reason for harming others, mentally, emotionally or physically, because you’re too terrified to deal with reality. One just has to look at the Religious Horror Show to see the absurdity of that proposition.
I think one of the biggest and most problematic concepts in the feminist thought process today is the Schrodinger’s Rapist idea. It is, beyond a doubt, just a stupid idea, one that anyone with a few working brain cells and a moment’s evaluation, ought to recognize is irrational on it’s very face, yet most neo-feminists embrace it as if it were fact. They have generated a worldview, based largely on the concept that all men are out to get them. Anyone who points out that this concept is absurd on it’s face gets attacked and called a misogynist. These women place such an emotional weight on the idea of Schrodinger’s Rapist, should we not attempt to educate them and show them how ridiculous an idea it really is?
Or should their self-imposed ignorance, even if it is an act of self-preservation, be enough to allow them to run roughshod over all objections? No thanks, I don’t buy into that load of bull at all.
While it’s clear that the Atheism+ movement is largely dead, pulling the dirt in on itself, there are some important lessons that we all need to learn from this so that it never happens again.
- We need to understand that just because a claim is made, that claim needs to be backed up and rationally evaluated. Rebecca Watson was the girl who cried “Schrodinger’s Rapist”. I don’t buy any controvertial or questionable claims from anyone, neither should anyone else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a feminist who makes them or Richard Dawkins, I’ve been openly critical of things Dawkins has said, everyone ought to be the same.
- We cannot be afraid to challenge claims and ideas, even if they come from within the atheist community. We need to do away with our intense love for the cults of personality that have sprung up in the atheist community, from PZ Myers to Richard Dawkins to Rebecca Watson. It shouldn’t matter who says a thing, it should only matter what is said and the value that thing deserves, based on critical evaluation, logic and objective evidence.
- And finally, we must all strive to be skeptics of all things, not just skeptical of some things. This is the biggest problem, one that I find repeatedly virtually everywhere I look. People who can be critical of religion and religious claims, who can demand evidence, who can apply logic when it comes to theistic belief, who then turn around and toss it all out the window when it comes to social issues or politics, etc. You cannot embrace those skeptical values for one thing, then ignore them when you find something you’re emotionally invested in. Either they are valuable or they are not. You decide.