The Civil War Within Skepticism

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The Civil War Within Skepticism

Postby Coito ergo sum » Thu Jul 05, 2012 12:42 pm

Over the last year, we've seen a number of Wars declared, generally involving a certain faction of the skeptic movement, led but not exclusively populated by, the Skepchicks.

There was the original action between feminists and Richard Dawkins: viewtopic.php?f=75&t=29115&hilit=watson+dawkins#p908362

They went after Brian Dunning of Skeptoid: viewtopic.php?f=75&t=30817&p=962781&hilit=skepchick+war+Krauss#p962654

They went after Lawrence Krauss: viewtopic.php?f=75&t=30198&hilit=skepchick+war+Krauss#p941768

There was the skirmish with Ann Althouse, wherein apparently inquiring after the basis of one's opinion is "attacking" him or her.... viewtopic.php?f=75&t=30484&hilit=elevatorgate#p951688

They went after DJ Grothe of JREF and TAM: viewtopic.php?f=75&t=37488&hilit=skepchick+war+another#p1192682

There was the latest one against Dr. Marty Klein -- viewtopic.php?f=75&t=37712&hilit=war+klein#p1201612

There were side skirmishes erupting everywhere - like the idea of "getting laid" at atheist conferences: viewtopic.php?f=38&t=29887&hilit=elevator+dawkins#p933270

PZ Myers and his followers seem to have sided with the Skepchick and feminist wing of the "skeptic/atheist" community, if there is such a thing.

On the Marty Klein thread, it was noted that prominent Youtuber Thunderf00t had joined Freethought Blogs and promptly after enunciating an unpopular (there) opinion on the issue of sexual harassment, he was banned. PZ Myers was apparently central to the banning.



The War within Skepticism/Atheism seems to have crystalized. There are factions who think free expression and freethought require the ability to express unpopular or distasteful opinions, including allegedly sexist ones, including those that advocate against sexual harassment policies (or particular ones). There are factions who think that certain areas are sacrosanct, and one of those areas is sexism, misogyny, and allegations of harassment. Thunderf00t embodies the former, and Skepchick/Myers embodies the latter.

Dovetailing with the overall freethought/freethinking/free expression issue, I think we have an issue of the status of women. The Skepchick/Myers faction appears to suggest that women must be protected from words in a way in which men are not so protected. They seem to think that a swinger card, or a late night coffee invite, given to a man may not be a big deal, but for a woman it is sexism and misogyny, and even sexual harassment.

These two issues seem to have developed, from the early rumpus about "Elevatorgate" a year ago when the leader of the Skepchicks was asked for coffee in a man's hotel room at 4am after a conference, all the way through a number of minor skirmishes throughout the year, and today we seem to have a entered a new phase. It seems to be a civil war within the movement, as prominent atheists/skeptics appear to be taking sides on these issues.

Dawkins and Thunderf00t seem to be squarely on the same side. Although Dawkins seemed to lay down his weapons after the Elevatorgate debacle. I hope he picks them up again.

Myers and Skepchick seem to have adopted the same position as well.

Each side has devotees and followers and adherents, and those that just simply agree with them on this issue. The rhetoric is shrill, angry and very often absolutist. The banning of Thunderf00t from Freethought Blogs is, to me, a disturbing trend. If he had engaged in vitriol or profanity, personal attacks, and such nonsense, I could perhaps agree with some sort of a warning first, and a banhammer later if he just wants to fling invective everywhere. But, that isn't what Thunderf00t did. He disagreed. If there was something in what Thunderf00t wrote that was considered impertinent or improper, surely a warning would have been helpful. "Here, Tf00t - you said this - and that is nasty. Stop it please, or we will have to take action under our rules." Instead, they moved straight to the banhammer, and gave no reason. The closest thing to a reason was that the Freethought Blogs denied banning for mere disagreement, but rather "conduct." But, no recitation was given of what that conduct was. And, to me, no fair reading of Thunderf00t's stuff could reveal it as anything other than vigorous debate.

The latest Thunderf00t video (above) is excellent. The communications highlighted in the video, from PZ Myers, really do not reflect well on him, and it really shows some disconcerting trends in what "freethought" is.

While I often get ridiculed for creating threads that involve the "Skepchicks" because folks say I'm "picking on the poor girl," I reject any such notion in advance. They are not "poor girls," they are grown women. They are advancing, aggressively, the above notions, and have powerful allies, including PZ Myers, with wide followings. They are gaining ground, and they have managed to create a civil war within freethought and skepticism, IMO. There are many in the community (for lack of a better term) that are on board with them, and if the various blogs and discussion forums on the interworldtubewebz follow the path of Myers' Pharyngula and Freethought Blogs, then, in my view, we will all lose something.

Freethinking, skepticism, and free and open debate on the internet, and on websites ostensibly dedicated to such things, is worth fighting for. That isn't to say that cites like Freethought Blogs aren't free to make rules that silence debate if they want to. However, the rest of us freethinkers would do well to point out the incongruity of such rules in relation to the word "freethought."
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Re: The Civil War Within Skepticism

Postby Coito ergo sum » Thu Jul 05, 2012 2:09 pm

Interesting video, pre fight, including TFoot and Myers....



Note -- towards the beginning of the video, a joke is bandied about as to whether Myers is right more often than his wife. Lots of belly laughing and "the cameras are rolling!" lines, and a quip about how "anything you say will be used against you..." -- clearly implying that Myers better watch what he says, because if he says he is right more often than his wife, there will be the "wrath of the woman scorned" to deal with.... overall a very sexist moment, and there is a woman in the mix there. Everyone seems to think they are perfectly entitled to make such oblique jokes.

Next, at around 2:50 someone shows up with drinks, and starts passing them out. He knocks over an empty glass. Right in front of the woman, at a conference, one of the men uses the phrase "clumsy fucks." Is the woman there entitled to her own boundaries? As we have been told is always the case? Why did PZ not chastise the man? Why did nobody report the "incident" to the conference organizers. They are still on-sight, albeit in the bar. The guy smoking didn't ask permission to smoke, and throughout the discussion, he keeps using the term "fuck", "fucking thing" and all that.

This is exactly what Thunderf00t was blogging about at Freethought Blogs. In the bar, a different set of norms applies. And, people do and say things other people might not like. Perhaps in this instance, the woman did not object to the term "fucks" being used in her presence. Another woman might, and nobody asked her permission ahead of time.

And, what if the woman did object. According to the policies the Skepchick/Myers wing seek to advance, if a woman objected to the use of the term "fucks", then all the men there would be obliged to stop using that term. Is that the community we want?
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Re: The Civil War Within Skepticism

Postby Coito ergo sum » Thu Jul 05, 2012 2:17 pm

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0TfvQgyUCM&feature=related[/youtube]
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Re: The Civil War Within Skepticism

Postby Coito ergo sum » Thu Jul 05, 2012 2:35 pm

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2DT1m0OYIY&feature=related[/youtube]
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Re: The Civil War Within Skepticism

Postby Śiva » Fri Jul 06, 2012 5:42 am

I'm an atheist and a skeptic and, frankly sir, I do not give a fuck in the slightest.

Which side does this place me on? :ask:
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Re: The Civil War Within Skepticism

Postby rasetsu » Fri Jul 06, 2012 5:53 am




"If it please the court, is there a point anywhere in our future?"
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Re: The Civil War Within Skepticism

Postby Clinton Huxley » Fri Jul 06, 2012 6:50 am

I'm with the Popular Front of Couldn't Give A Monkeys.
"I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled"

AND MERRY XMAS TO ONE AND All!

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Re: The Civil War Within Skepticism

Postby Hermit » Fri Jul 06, 2012 11:50 am

rasetsu wrote:"If it please the court, is there a point anywhere in our future?"
Yes. Two, actually. (a) Someone is wrong on the internet. (b) Someone is quite obsessed with this particular wrong.
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Re: The Civil War Within Skepticism

Postby Coito ergo sum » Fri Jul 06, 2012 12:11 pm

Actually, the point is that there is a very large schism in the atheist/skeptic community that has grown from the kernel of "Elevatorgate" and is now causing supposedly freethinking blogs like Freethought Blogs run by prominent atheists/skeptics like PZ Myers to ban people for mere expressions of opinion.

Richard Dawkins thought it was important enough to comment last year, and since then the issue has ballooned.

If some of you don't give a fuck, then why would you comment in the thread? Is it your habit to go through all threads about which you have no fucks to give, and notify everyone of said dearth of fucks?
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Re: The Civil War Within Skepticism

Postby Pappa » Fri Jul 06, 2012 12:14 pm

Coito ergo sum wrote:Actually, the point is that there is a very large schism in the atheist/skeptic community that has grown from the kernel of "Elevatorgate" and is now causing supposedly freethinking blogs like Freethought Blogs run by prominent atheists/skeptics like PZ Myers to ban people for mere expressions of opinion.

Richard Dawkins thought it was important enough to comment last year, and since then the issue has ballooned.

If some of you don't give a fuck, then why would you comment in the thread? Is it your habit to go through all threads about which you have no fucks to give, and notify everyone of said dearth of fucks?


There are times when saying you couldn't give a fuck about a given topic is a relevant response. How else are the silent majority/minority to be counted?
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Re: The Civil War Within Skepticism

Postby Coito ergo sum » Fri Jul 06, 2012 12:19 pm

It's likely that most threads are not relevant to the interests of most people. The fact that this particular thread drew several people, immediately, to suggest that they don't give a fuck about it implies that there is something interesting about the topic. It implies to me that "I don't give a fuck" means more like -- "I wish the issue would just go away," not that it is a nonissue.

Plainly it is an issue. To suggest that it is a nonissue about which no fucks ought to be given, moreover, places one in the anti-Myers camp on this one. Because those opposing the PZ Myers stance are those, like ThunderfOOt, who believe that "sexual harassment" at atheist and skeptic events is a comparatively minor issue.
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Re: The Civil War Within Skepticism

Postby Hermit » Fri Jul 06, 2012 12:22 pm

Coito ergo sum wrote:...now causing supposedly freethinking blogs like Freethought Blogs run...
Ayup. Definitely someone wrong on the internet.
Coito ergo sum wrote:If some of you don't give a fuck, then why would you comment in the thread?
Coz. :razzle: Start whining when someone creates a whole quiver of threads on one single topic.
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Re: The Civil War Within Skepticism

Postby Clinton Huxley » Fri Jul 06, 2012 12:22 pm

I'd like to sit down and be counted! I'm indifferent and proud!
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I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled"

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Re: The Civil War Within Skepticism

Postby Coito ergo sum » Fri Jul 06, 2012 12:43 pm

Hermit wrote:
Coito ergo sum wrote:...now causing supposedly freethinking blogs like Freethought Blogs run...
Ayup. Definitely someone wrong on the internet.
Coito ergo sum wrote:If some of you don't give a fuck, then why would you comment in the thread?
Coz. :razzle: Start whining when someone creates a whole quiver of threads on one single topic.


There were arguably different topics originally. Elevatorgate was one topic, and the war against Brian Dunning was about something different, and the war against Lawrence Krauss something different. In the end, they appear to have merged underneath the overall issue of the civil war or schism within Skepticism as sides have been taken in the overall issue of sexism and sexual harassment.

That was the point of collecting the several other related threads into one, regarding the overall civil war, to discuss the overarching issues.

And, it's not just "something wrong on the internet" as this has implication in realspace. The Swingergate scandal occurred at a conference. Elevatorgate occurred at a conference. The issue of sexual harassment policies relate to realspace conferences. And, the idea of silencing people who are contributing to a freethinking discussion relates both to the internet, and the movement of skepticism in general.
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Re: The Civil War Within Skepticism

Postby Coito ergo sum » Fri Jul 06, 2012 12:46 pm

Clinton Huxley wrote:I'd like to sit down and be counted! I'm indifferent and proud!


Is it ignorance or apathy?

I don't know, and I don't care.
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