Jan 30 2016

NECSS and Richard Dawkins

The Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism (NECSS) will hold its 8th conference this year in New York from May 12-15. While we are expecting a great conference this year, the opening of registration has been marked by a bit of controversy. Last week we announced that Richard Dawkins would be a featured speaker at the conference. However on Wednesday we withdrew our invitation to Professor Dawkins.

This was a difficult and complex decision that requires further explanation, in the name of transparency and open discussion. I don’t expect to resolve any controversies here, just to explain our thought process and answer some of the questions and speculations that have been circulating.

NECSS is run by the New York City Skeptics and the New England Skeptical Society, both non-profit organizations. NECSS has its own executive committee, consisting of members of both organizations. (Added clarification: those members are Michael Feldman, Steven Novella, Jamy Ian Swiss, Benny Pollak, and Jay Novella.) There has been much speculation about who is making the decisions for NECSS – it is this committee. I will just say that there were a range of opinions on this matter within the committee, and we came to the best decisions we could, given that range of opinions. When I refer to “we” in this article, I am not speaking for every individual on the committee, just the majority result.

NECSS is primarily about science and critical thinking with an emphasis on issues of interest to scientific skeptics. We pride ourselves on being an open and collegial conference. This has sometimes been challenging given the controversies that have strained the skeptical community.

Richard Dawkins has been a polarizing figure in the skeptical community for several years.  On the one hand, many people (myself included) greatly respect the work that Dawkins has done. He is a brilliant science communicator. His books have brought many people to rationalism. He is one of the few “rock stars” of our movement.

I also greatly respect and appreciate the fact that he is an outspoken public atheist. This is tremendously important, and serves to legitimize atheism for many. Dawkins has dedicated much of his career and effort to charitable endeavors, to make the world a better place.

All of this is why it has been very puzzling to many that his social media activity has often not reflected his reputation as a public intellectual. He has famously made tweets or blog comments that have come off as insensitive or worse. I will not dissect each instance here, which is well trammeled territory already.

Interestingly, Dawkins himself recently tweeted:

“I’m really as polite as my books. Twitter brevity forces you straight to the point, which can sound aggressive.”

In any case, the dichotomy between Dawkins the author and Dawkins the social-media maven has proven extremely polarizing within the rationalist movement. Even for an individual, one can find themselves admiring the former while regretting the latter.

For further background, over the last 5-6 years the skeptical movement has been rocked by intermittent controversy over sexism and racism in the movement. This is a complex topic I am not going to tackle or resolve here. Suffice it to say this controversy has caused many in the movement to form various camps, some championing free speech, others social justice. Others have tried to chart a course down the middle, while still others left the movement.

In the mix, unfortunately, there have been truly vile trolls who have made threats of violence and rape, serving mostly to radicalize the entire issue. Trolls and psychopaths are part of the new social media reality, a new reality to which we are all still adapting.

It is with this (granted very quickly summarized) background that the NECSS committee was faced with the decision of whether or not to invite Professor Dawkins to our conference. In the end we decided that we would be having a brilliant science communicator communicate about science. We felt we could do this without endorsing his controversial statements and positions on social media.

We had our reservations about the controversy this would create, but were prepared to defend this decision for the above reasons. Unfortunately, within a week of opening registration many of us became concerned that this might not be tenable.

Dawkins retweeted a video (called “Feminists Love Islamists”) depicting an Islamist and an angry feminist (who it turns out is a real person and not just a character) and essentially making the claim that these groups share an ideology. Dawkins tweeted:

“Obviously doesn’t apply to the vast majority of feminists, among whom I count myself. But the minority are pernicious.”

He included a link to the video. This, of course, set off another round of controversy over Dawkins’ social media activity and the attitudes they reflect.

The concern for some of us at NECSS was that by hosting Dawkins as a featured speaker we were making a statement we did not intend to make, a statement that could be interpreted as being unwelcoming and even hostile to many attendees. Since we had just opened registration this created an urgency, because we did not want to “bait and switch” our attendees if we would ultimately decide to reverse our decision to have him at the conference. We felt it was important to make a decision quickly.

To his credit, Dawkins removed his tweet in which he linked to the video. He did this prior to learning about our decision. Likewise, we made and executed our decision prior to learning that Dawkins deleted the tweet. I don’t know if this would have changed our decision. On the one hand removing the tweet is recognition that it was a mistake in the first place. On the other hand, it shows he is willing to admit error and make changes.

Richard Dawkins has responded to our action. You can read his full response here, in which he states:

I do not write this out of concern about my appearance or non-appearance at NECSS, but I wish there had been a friendly conversation before such unilateral action was taken. It is possible I could have allayed the committee members’ concerns, or, if not, at least we could have talked through their objections to my tweet. If our community is about anything, it is that reasoned discussion is the best way to work through disagreements.

and

I wish the NECSS every success at their conference. The science and skepticism community is too small and too important to let disagreements divide us and divert us from our mission of promoting a more critical and scientifically literate world.

Obviously there is much to debate and criticize in this entire process. I do want to acknowledge some of the points on both sides and address some of the feedback we have already received.

First, many have pointed out that if we had such reservations about Dawkins we should not have invited him in the first place. This is a fair point. I only have an explanation (given above) not an excuse. Sometimes the decision-making process fails. But keep in mind hindsight is 20-20 and it is easy to criticize from the sidelines.

Dawkins himself also raises the point that another option would have been to privately express our concerns to him. This was actually discussed as an option, as were other options. We were faced with a complex set of trade-offs and in the end did what we felt was best for attendees of our conference. But again this is an entirely fair point.

There have been many other points expressed that I do not think are fair. The issue here, for example, is not free speech. Dawkins is completely free to express himself and he has a massive audience and plenty of outlets. Far be it for our humble conference to have any effect on his free speech. That is simply framing the issue in the wrong way.

As an analogy, creationists often complain that firing professors who teach creationism is a violation of their free speech, while the real issue is about academic quality control. In our case, the issue is about our right to craft our own conference the way we wish.

People have a right to speech, but they don’t have a right to access a private venue for their speech. In fact, whom we invite or uninvite to our conference is the primary mechanism of our free speech. This was ultimately about the character of NECSS and the statement we wish to make (or not make) to our community. Obviously where one sets the threshold for not inviting, or uninviting, a guest is subjective and there is room for reasonable disagreement here.

Others have questioned whether or not we condemn all satire, with South Park being brought up as a frequent example. We are not against satire, but this video is no South Park. The video in question, in my opinion, was spiteful and childish and was merely hiding behind satire. That is a judgment call, but making that judgment does not condemn satire as a form.

Another frequent point is that we are against any criticism of feminism, as if it is a taboo topic. This is also not true. No topic should be taboo, and we favor open and vigorous discussion of all important issues. In fact, pointed criticism is good for the feminist movement – or for any movement. (This does not mean that NECSS is the proper venue for any particular topic.)

The point, rather, is that this video, and the discussion that surrounded it, was not constructive. It was hateful and divisive. Further (as Dawkins later acknowledged) the video targeted a woman who is allegedly already the target of threats and harassment.

Context here is important. The tweet and video did not occur in a vacuum.

I want to directly address Dawkins’ last statement:

“The science and skepticism community is too small and too important to let disagreements divide us and divert us from our mission of promoting a more critical and scientifically literate world.”

I completely agree. That is, ironically, the exact reason we were so disturbed by that video and Dawkins spreading of it. I do wish Dawkins would recognize (perhaps he does) his special place within our community and the power that position holds. When he retweets a link to a video, even with a caveat, that has a tremendous impact. It lends legitimacy to the video and the ideas expressed in it.

That is why Dawkins is so polarizing. In my opinion, someone in his position, with his eloquence, knowledge, and intellect, with his academic background should be doing everything he can to elevate the level of discussion. He has the ability to address legitimate criticisms of feminism, or atheism or skepticism, if he thinks he has them. He could be a force that is helping unite our very small and critically important rationalist movement.

Instead, I fear, he is helping to divide us, 140 characters at a time, and helping to lower the level of the discussion.

I do praise Dawkins for his polite and collegial response to our move to uninvite him from NECSS, and for deleting the tweet for the right reasons.

It is our sincere hope that the movement can grow and mature out of this experience, and our previous travails. This has been a learning experience. Thank you for your patience with these very difficult decisions.

275 responses so far

275 Responses to “NECSS and Richard Dawkins”

  1. WalterWon 30 Jan 2016 at 7:18 am

    I applaud you for taking the right course of action and revoking the invitation. One of the reasons I have withdrawn from the skeptic/atheism community is the level of harassment female members of that community have faced when they raised concerns about sexual harassment from other skeptics and atheists. I think you downplay the role Dawkins has played in enabling that harassment, which is why your initial invitation was so worrisome. Maybe if he had attended you would have had a chance to confront him about it, but it has been my experience that while skeptics are more than willing to challenge other groups about their failings, they are rarely willing to turn that same critical view on their own community.

    But in the end you did the right thing and took a stand which I know isn’t easy to take, given the blind loyalty of many of Dawkins’ followeres. If I were to make one correction to your blog post, while it is true Dawkins removed the initial video, he continued to attack the woman in question in following tweets, even though he did not know her.

  2. brive1987on 30 Jan 2016 at 7:32 am

    Thats pretty condescending stuff. To simply brand the video hateful is what? “begging the question”?

    In any case you have accepted that criticism for inviting a known controversial figure and then disinviting him for being …. controversial is fair.

    Maybe a simply “sorry” could have replaced your word salad.

    What a stuff up.

  3. theoon 30 Jan 2016 at 7:46 am

    Great explanation Steve. Entirely fair-minded. Brive1987 needs to look up the definition of condescending and begging the question.

  4. brive1987on 30 Jan 2016 at 7:52 am

    “Begging the Question is a fallacy in which the premises include the claim that the conclusion is true or (directly or indirectly) assume that the conclusion is true.”

    OK, Novella does admit the very basis of his criticism was a “judgement call” and “opinion”. Assumed truth.

    Such is the skeptical toolset used to justify a character assault on Dawkins. Bravo.

  5. theoon 30 Jan 2016 at 8:04 am

    Exactly. Not begging the question when someone says “in my opinion” and makes it clear it was a judgment call, not a ‘fact’ or logical conclusion from some undisputed premises.

    1. The bible is the true word of God because in the bible Jesus says what he says is he word of God.
    2. People and organizations opposed to free trade clearly don’t understand its logic. It’s self-evident that free trade is good for everyone. The progress being made by politicians and economists towards the unrestricted flow of goods between countries will result in great benefits to this country and to the whole world.
    3. Men need to get in touch with their feminine side, because it’s good for men to gain a better balance of their masculine and feminine selves.
    4. I started this process by getting you to look at your past life, because the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. That being true, the links in the chain of your history predict your future.

    Hopefully listing all those examples hasn’t come across as too condescending… 😉

  6. mumadaddon 30 Jan 2016 at 8:14 am

    Here’s the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ecJUqhm2g08

  7. Lukas Xavieron 30 Jan 2016 at 8:16 am

    …it shows he is willing to admit error and make changes.

    I doubt it. It’s not like he learned anything from the first twenty times he acted like an asshole. But hey, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he really got it this time. If so, we won’t be right back in this same situation again in a month or two.

    Anyone want to bet on that?

  8. RickKon 30 Jan 2016 at 8:21 am

    Thanks Steve. Neurological and SGU are my only view into NECSS. I appreciate the clear and open description of the event and the thought processes that went into this decision (and associated controversy). It is not “word salad” to those of us who aren’t plugged into the front lines of the intra-skepticism faction battles.

    All of the speakers worth listening to are “controversial” in some way. The delineation between acceptably controversial and unacceptably controversial is by no means a clearly defined line. There is nothing to apologize for if Dawkins just pushed himself past that line.

  9. metaburbiaon 30 Jan 2016 at 9:11 am

    ‘He has famously made tweets or blog comments that have come off as insensitive or worse. I will not dissect each instance here, which is well trammeled territory already’

    I do wish you would Steve, given that you’re making reference to this. I for one do not agree that any of his comments are ‘worse than insensitive’.

    As for context.

    Maryam Namazie was recently abused and hackled at a talk in Goldsmiths College, London, in a very threatening fashion by Islamists.

    Here’s coverage in The Independent:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/student/news/muslim-students-from-goldsmiths-university-s-islamic-society-heckle-and-aggressively-interrupt-a6760306.html

    These aggressive, threatening Islamists were subsequently supported by the Goldsmiths Feminist Society.

    Here is the statement of Goldsmiths’s FemSoc:

    http://goldfemsoc.tumblr.com/post/134396957048/goldsmiths-feminist-society-stands-in-solidarity

    Following this, and following the events in Cologne where there was a clear reluctance *BY SOME* to talk about the causes or even accept the contribution made by cultural differences between Germans and immigrants from Islamic countries, I would say that addressing the common cause made by *SOME* feminists with *SOME* Islamists through satire is a pretty mild way of talking about a rather serious issue.

    The irrational loathing by some for Dawkins, including by the odd person you’re very closely connected with, seems a more obvious cause of this decision than any real offence.

    Dawkins counts himself as a liberal feminist (as do I). Nothing he’s said or done contradicts that.

    And, no, the issue isn’t about freedom of speech. It’s about virtue-signalling, isn’t it.

  10. 107197on 30 Jan 2016 at 9:14 am

    I agree that freedom of speech is important (although also that it has limits). However, there is absolutely no guarantee that free speakers are free from the consequences of that speech. Dawkins spoke freely – as was (and is) his right. However, now he has to face consequences – that’s everyone else’s right (again, with limits). Thoughtful, responsible speech should be encouraged (but cannot be required – who’s the arbiter of what’s thoughtful or responsible?). IMHO.

  11. metaburbiaon 30 Jan 2016 at 9:31 am

    ‘However, now he has to face consequences’

    Does he indeed? For what? Satirising the common cause made by SOME feminists (as he said) with Islamism?

  12. crtopheron 30 Jan 2016 at 9:49 am

    Yep. Really was a bit of a word salad in my opinion. The short summary is ‘a lot of people just don’t like (actually hate) Dawkins around here so we don’t want him at our conference “. Fair enough. But please, stop with all the dancing and special pleading.

  13. Nitpickingon 30 Jan 2016 at 9:57 am

    Speaking as someone who also organizes nonprofit conferences (as you know), you were in a hard place. I don’t have an actual opinion on the decision itself–I’m not deeply-enough involved to feel privileged to make one. I can say that I’d be uncomfortable inviting Dawkins to one of my own events … and then I’d quite possibly do it, but have a discussion scheduled (with his knowledge) of “the responsibilities of public science communicators” or “courting controversy: destructive or valuable” or something. Again, not disagreeing with your decision, just ruminating.

  14. catplanet24on 30 Jan 2016 at 9:59 am

    Thanks for the explanation, Steve. That is what was sorely needed—not an excuse, not an argument—an explanation.

    I just wish skeptics would study the science of Psychology with the same fervor we study Physics and Biology.

    Deciding what is “offensive” is always a judgement call. Citizen A gets offended by Person 1, but can’t understand why anyone would be offended by Person 2; she knows her personally, and she’s a great human being! Are people “blind”?

    Similarly, Citizen B can’t see how anyone could NOT be offended by Person 2, “Isn’t it obvious???? Is Citizen A “stupid”??? Also likewise she actually agrees with Person 1, so she asks why Citizen A ascribes all these negative connotations to what Person 1 said. Isn’t she just looking to be offended?

    This happens ALL the time. It happens especially when speaking about politics and religion. Sadly, the Skeptics movement is not immune.

  15. Kestrelon 30 Jan 2016 at 10:01 am

    OK well I just watched that video, and… Jesus. Dawkins should really be better than that. What a shame.

    That said, the only point in the video that I agree with, and probably motivates much of Dawkins hostility toward feminism, is that one cannot criticise modern feminism or radical Islam without being labeled a misogynist or islamophobe, or racist, etc. So the critics respond with mockery and insults. Seems to be a self-perpetuating cycle.

    Dawkins got caught in the trap, and he can’t seem to claw his way out.

  16. Ivan Groznyon 30 Jan 2016 at 10:03 am

    http://www.breitbart.com/tech/2016/01/28/atheist-civil-war-angry-feminists-get-richard-dawkins-disinvited-from-skeptics-conference/
    A much better and less Orwellian explanation of the whole affair.

  17. Kestrelon 30 Jan 2016 at 10:03 am

    Also, as frustrating as this situation is (from all sides), I do want to say how much I appreciate that Steve’s left the comments open. This could *easily* become a shouting match, but NeuroLogica Blog’s readership is hopefully better than that.

  18. Oracon 30 Jan 2016 at 10:11 am

    Thats pretty condescending stuff. To simply brand the video hateful is what? “begging the question”?

    Have you actually watched the video? “Hateful” doesn’t even begin to describe it. It’s pure vile. In my opinion.

  19. metaburbiaon 30 Jan 2016 at 10:12 am

    Dawkins is NOT hostile towards feminism. Why is this lie being repeated? Feminism covers a huge variety of positions, always has. He counts himself, as he says, as a liberal feminist, a position that goes back to the 60s at least.

    His argument – as he pointed out – is with a *minority* who have made common cause with Islamists. That minority belong to other strands of feminism, particularly the highly vituperative 3rd-wave Tumblr feminists. That is *not* a position against feminism as feminism, against all feminists, against most feminists, or against women. It’s not abusive of people in those categories either. It *is* mocking of a minority, albeit a highly visible minority. It’s his mockery that caused the original rift with Steve’s erstwhile SGU colleague and which obviously stands behind this decision.

  20. luther1010on 30 Jan 2016 at 10:45 am

    The video critized femenism by comparing it to Islamists. The target is ideas. So at the end of day you are protecting ideas feelings. I see no substantive difference between this and mocking antivaxxers, climate change denialist, creationists ect..

    People who are most upset at satire tend to be the ones that are embarrassed that there is some truth is how they are being mocked.

  21. Skepticoon 30 Jan 2016 at 11:05 am

    brive1987:

    Thats pretty condescending stuff. To simply brand the video hateful is what? “begging the question”?

    No. As you point out, Begging the Question is an argument that includes a premise that the conclusion is true. Steven was not laying out an argument pre-se, he was simply making a claim (actually expressing an opinion), not stating a conclusion as part of an argument. You could argue that it was argument by assertion, but not begging the question.

    If you don’t agree then you have to accept that your opening “Thats pretty condescending stuff” was also begging the question.

  22. Ivan Groznyon 30 Jan 2016 at 11:12 am

    This episode shows that “rationalism” and “scepticism” are not so much about science as about ideology: Dawkins was mocking and criticizing in an equally “hateful” and “insensitive” manner Christians for years, yet this failed to arouse “sceptical” denunciations somehow.

    Particularly disturbing in this regard is Steve’ treating of Dawkins’ opinion about feminism as a “mistake” that has to be “corrected”, which really sounds like Stalinist “ideological mistakes” for which the perpetrator/heretic has to undergo a process of ritual “self-criticism”. When a departure from an ideological orthodoxy becomes an “objective mistake”, that’s a sure sign we are not in the realm of scientific discourse anymore, let alone “scientific scepticism”, but rather ideology.

  23. Steven Novellaon 30 Jan 2016 at 11:16 am

    Ivan – none of that is true. The issue is not what Dawkins is free to say. It is about the editorial focus and the atmosphere of our conference. We would not, for example, invite someone to NECSS to bash religion, because we are a science conference. That does not mean I don’t respect pointed criticism of religion. It’s just not the proper venue.

    Here the issue is the longstanding controversies surrounding women in the movement. This has been a rocky road, and many of us want to move forward in a thoughtful and constructive manner. I am not saying we are succeeding, just explaining our motives.

  24. Willyon 30 Jan 2016 at 11:44 am

    I am saddened and disappointed. I don’t have the background necessary to understand what has happened, nor to have an opinion yet, but it is a damn shame.

  25. RickKon 30 Jan 2016 at 11:48 am

    Disappointing that such a well-known word-surgeon like Dawkins, who cares very much for language and metaphor, would promote such a crude, blunt and un-clever video.

    Dawkins certainly does deserve criticism for his utter failure of intellectual quality control. And it is most unfortunate that the NECSS incident is giving this video so much undeserved airtime.

  26. topstepon 30 Jan 2016 at 11:57 am

    As someone who has been a huge fan of Dawkins for years, I too am baffled and concerned at his social media output. Despite his academic stature he seems unable to rise above purile, unfunny jabs at his prey. Humor and wit are not his strong suit. He is no Hitchens or Vidal.

    I wish he’d follow the model of someone like Steven Pinker, who uses his Twitter account to link to thought-provoking articles related to his field of interest.

    I guess he wants his legacy to be that he took on all comers and never shied away from a fight. But it reminds me of the old phrase: Never wrestle with a pig – you get muddy, plus the pig enjoys it.

  27. BBBlueon 30 Jan 2016 at 12:09 pm

    metaburbia – Many good points.

    “And, no, the issue isn’t about freedom of speech. It’s about virtue-signalling, isn’t it.”

    I agree and would add that in doing so, it is about controlling the speech of those in the skeptic community at large by establishing standards of conduct. Certainly, such organizations have an obligation to do just that and lead by example, so I don’t think seeking to self-police and control speech at some level is necessarily bad, but I think it is unfortunate that the committee chose to do so in this case at the expense of someone who was more than willing to have a rational discussion about the subject and admit they made a mistake in judgement. In my opinion, having that discussion in the open would have been more productive than what has transpired.

    Dawkins does seem a bit awkward on social media, but in general, I have found that the headlines about what he has said are far more inflammatory and unreasonable than what he has actually said, especially when given the chance to explain himself. It’s unfortunate that those involved on the side of skeptic organizations have a chip on their shoulder vis-à-vis sexual harassment and brutish behaviour towards women as it seems to have shifted them into a contrived PC mode on the subject of feminism.

  28. Bruceon 30 Jan 2016 at 12:16 pm

    That video is to satire as my three year old son’s scribblings are to art. The offensiveness doesn’t bother me, it is the lack of humour in it that disappoints more than anything. An intellectual powerhouse like Dawkins comes off as quite silly to me endorsing that.

    The only thing worse than telling a joke and no one laughing is telling a slightly risque joke and no one laughing.

  29. Steve Crosson 30 Jan 2016 at 12:32 pm

    I don’t think it is unfair to paraphrase Richard Dawkins’s statement (especially: “If our community is about anything, it is that reasoned discussion is the best way to work through disagreements.”) as “Get all the facts before reaching a decision” or, even more briefly, Think Before You Act. Reasonable advice for everyone, but I wish he would apply it to himself.

    I’ve read a number of his books and he has always been a hero, but lately it seems that the Rock Star treatment has affected his judgment. Much like Linus Pauling and others, he feels entitled (and qualified) to comment on areas out of his expertise. Even worse, he often makes snap judgments without much evidence and then doesn’t want to back down.

    It is always sad to suddenly realize that your heroes have all too human weaknesses. Especially since Dawkins considers himself a feminist, it is inexcusable for him to be oblivious to the effects of his many ill-considered statements. Some of the comments made on his various venues are absolutely toxic. His blatant misogyny (of which he is completely oblivious) is detrimental to the very cause he claims to believe in.

    His comments on “Elevatorgate” and “Dear Muslima” are just ludicrous. In essence, “As a rich white man, I’m in the best position to tell women what you really think and what should be important to you”.

    Speaking of the Rebecca Watson / Elevatorgate incident, no one is entitled to an opinion based solely on hearsay or viewing only the hacked-up “responses” to Rebecca’s original video. It is hard for me to comprehend how any honest, unbiased observer could object to her comments. She was polite, humorous, and (I felt) genuinely attempting to give good advice to nerds, geeks and guys in general.

    If you don’t believe me, then ask a few women to watch it and give you their opinion. Every woman I’ve spoken to has agreed with Rebecca’s main points, i.e. “Some women have good reason to be uncomfortable when approached in potentially unsafe places. Between that and just being tired after a long day, her point was simple — Don’t Do That. You’re very unlikely to succeed and you will just ruin your chances for the future.”

    Empathy, walk a mile, etc. You don’t get to tell someone else what should be important to them.

  30. metaburbiaon 30 Jan 2016 at 12:40 pm

    Steve (N):

    ‘It is about the editorial focus and the atmosphere of our conference.’

    And what is it about a single tweet that caused you to believe Dawkins would change the editorial focus?

    As for ‘atmosphere’, that’s well and truly poisoned isn’t it. And that had already happened as soon as you announced Dawkins would be speaking. Your ex-SGU colleague was particularly put-out.

  31. BurnOuton 30 Jan 2016 at 12:46 pm

    Really tough decision, I think you made the right call. I hope the conference goes well, I wish I could make it.

  32. Steven Novellaon 30 Jan 2016 at 1:05 pm

    meta – as I made clear above, this was not about a single tweet. It was in the context of a many-year controversy. This is unfortunate, because it was definitely a “final straw” type of effect, but then people focus on the last straw and claim it was an over-reaction. Also – please read the twitter discussion surrounding that tweet and the video to witch it linked. There is much more here than a single tweet.

  33. Ivan Groznyon 30 Jan 2016 at 1:05 pm

    I assume everybody here would be equally offended and supportive of the decision to banish Dawkins from the conference if he compared, say, the Tea Party Republicans to islamists…

  34. metaburbiaon 30 Jan 2016 at 1:10 pm

    Steve Cross I don’t want to rehash EG & RW but it wasn’t simply about her comments in the video (though the admonition to ‘all guys’ seemed a touch over the top to me); it was much more about the subsequent brouhaha – and if you’d like to consider a woman who disagrees with you about it, consider Stef McGraw who was abused by RW , who called her remarks ‘parroting of misogynist thought’.

    All been downhill since then of course. Blog networks spew fervid nonsense, accusations and defamation. Most people are revolted by it all.

    It’s in this context of ongoing obscenty-strewn strife – strife that Steve N indicates he’d like to move on from – that disinviting RW’s bête noire, after she’d made public her extreme displeasure at his invite in the first place, over a comment about the very wing of contemporary feminism RW seems to belong to, can’t be removed from the events of the past few years. It just can’t.

  35. Ivan Groznyon 30 Jan 2016 at 1:12 pm

    If it were not so sad, it would have been hilarious: banishing Dawkins from the meeting in order to protect “the atmosphere” of the conference (read, absolute conformism and ideological gleichschaltung) by an organization self-styled as espousing the virtues of “critical thinking”…

  36. metaburbiaon 30 Jan 2016 at 1:14 pm

    Steve N that seems a bit of a post-hoc rationalisation. Invite before the tweet, rescind invite after the tweet, but it wasn’t the tweet….

    And yes thanks, I’ve read all the conversation around it. More than anything else I *still* think the most important thing done was to call out the wing of contemporary feminism that makes common cause with violent Islamism, which Dawkins did in a remarkably gentle way given the circumstances.

  37. Pete Aon 30 Jan 2016 at 1:14 pm

    Dear Dr Novella,

    I have always appreciated your honest explanations of everything that you write about.

    I now totally understand why my comments on your website are frequently misinterpreted. Many of us Brits have a deep passion for our work, and our ancestors instilled in us a hard-hitting style of presentation out of necessity, certainly not to cause deliberate offence, but for the sole purposes of changing things that were/are in dire need of being changed. The situation in our tiny group of islands (that are barely visible on a map of the globe) has always been hugely different from that of vast countries and continents.

    The misunderstandings, and the endless misquoting, of Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens across the globe are, I think, primarily the result of agenda-driven wilful ignorance combined with wilful obscurantism and hostility, rather than the result of easily and rightfully excusable benign misunderstandings.

    Professor Dawkins having his invitation to the NECSS withdrawn serves as a sobering reminder that I really need to stop commenting on NeuroLogica Blog and wasting any more of my time with discussions that are increasingly hijacked by the resident troll.

    Announcing the decision to reject Dawkins while freely accepting the resident troll on your blog is totally beyond my comprehension. I find it extremely difficult to swallow your blatantly obvious double standard.

    Notwithstanding, I sincerely thank you for your plethora of highly educational articles and I’m sending you my very best wishes for your future endeavours,
    Pete

  38. Lukas Xavieron 30 Jan 2016 at 1:35 pm

    Announcing the decision to reject Dawkins while freely accepting the resident troll on your blog is totally beyond my comprehension. I find it extremely difficult to swallow your blatantly obvious double standard.

    Using different standards in different circumstances isn’t a double standard. Now, if Steve were to ban Dawkins from posting comments here at the blog, or were to invite hardnose (I assume that who you mean) to speak at NECSS, then you’d have a point.

  39. Feboon 30 Jan 2016 at 1:52 pm

    The article that Ivan linked to is meant to be a defence of Dawkins, but the inclusion of Dawkins’ follow-up tweets on this matter only serve to reinforce that Steve and the other members of the NECSS executive committee made the correct decision. It also demonstrates (once again) that Dawkins seems to be incapable of learning from his mistakes.

  40. RickKon 30 Jan 2016 at 1:59 pm

    Pete A, not even close!

    In no way does ANYONE think hardnose speaks for Neurologica or has Neurologica supported hardnose’s message. Hardnose has never been invited as a guest blogger on Neurologica.

    Dawkins was dis-invited as a “featured speaker” at NECSS, he wasn’t banned from attending.

    I’m sure if Dawkins wishes to buy a ticket and attend NECSS he is more than welcome. But NECSS doesn’t want him speaking for them given his repeated failure to maintain a decent standard of discourse.

    I’m no more of a fan of hardnose than you are, but making completely invalid comparisons is not an intellectually honest way to deal with the troll or to grind your axe.

  41. RickKon 30 Jan 2016 at 2:04 pm

    Ivan said: “I assume everybody here would be equally offended and supportive of the decision to banish Dawkins from the conference if he compared, say, the Tea Party Republicans to islamists…”

    If it ended by making a joke out of raping Sarah Palin, then yes Ivan, we would be offended. Shame on you for thinking otherwise.

    Do you NOT find the video offensive – either for its message or for its complete lack of wit?

  42. lagaya1on 30 Jan 2016 at 2:12 pm

    That’s a shame. It only makes NECSS look bad and Dawkins look good. I wish you had shown a bit more backbone than that.

    Too many “feminists” these days are crying for protection from everything. As a woman it’s embarrassing to me. Although I may not agree with him on everything, Dawkins doesn’t threaten me at all. I can hear his opinion ad agree or not.

    As Thoreau said: Show me a man with a bone in his back that you can’t pass your hand through.

  43. Julie Brandonon 30 Jan 2016 at 2:20 pm

    Reading these comments, it strikes me that people are mixing up two things about Dawkins’ posts-

    + Being right vs. wrong about something
    + Being constructive vs. being a tactless arsehole

    As a person in a position of (albeit unelected nor self selected) authority, as he is, within the atheist and, slightly less so, the skeptical movement, we really need constructive discussion and input from him (whether he’s right or wrong) and I suggest that on this dimension he regularly, and problematically, falls far short of the mark, at least as far as a large percentage of atheists and skeptics are concerned, and that’s quite an unnecessary problem if we wish to have him represent us.

    Xxx

  44. Ztarron 30 Jan 2016 at 2:26 pm

    This is intellectually dishonest. This is exactly all the motivated reasoning that people use to get to the bottom of the cognitive dissonance pyramid. This response and the entire short-sighted, reactionary mess could be a sample in Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me).

    This is self rationalization. This is Olympic gold mental gymnastics of the finest quality. I could’ve written this response as a writing assignment on how an intelligent man would use self-rationalizations to reconcile this.

    I see through this and if it is transparent to me it is because Dr. Steve Novella was the one who taught me how to spot cognitive bias and self-rationalizations in others—especially in intelligent authority figures who are emotionally, socially, and economically invested in what they are defending.

    The crude video was a response to a segment of self-described feminists defending the rapists involved in the Cologne attacks, and defending them on the basis that they are refugees from Syrian conflict.

    But it doesn’t matter because I know that there is no hope here in convincing the board of even entertaining the notion that you are mistaken. What Would Carl Sagan Do is just something to sell on a T-shirt to naïve lovers of skepticism who believed you were genuine in the courageous idea of lighting candles instead of cursing the darkness.

  45. mumadaddon 30 Jan 2016 at 2:38 pm

    This is a bit of a quagmire, isn’t it? And it’s 100% political/ideological.

    I would say Dr. N was damned if he did, and damned if he didn’t; highly unfortunate. Not that it really matters, but I’d fall on the other side of the decision if it were up to me, and I saw nothing offensive in the video when I watched it (yesterday), but I then had no idea that the feminist caricature was a depiction of a real individual, which does change things significantly. Extreme ideology is a problem, whether it be religious or feminist, and I thought this was a fair enough satire of both Islamism and extreme feminism (don’t know if there’s a particular prefix I should add to feminism to make this point, because I could myself as a feminist).

  46. mumadaddon 30 Jan 2016 at 2:42 pm

    …sorry, obviously satire represents real individuals; what I should have said is ‘specific’.

  47. mumadaddon 30 Jan 2016 at 2:44 pm

    “because I could myself as a feminist” should read:

    because I count myself as a feminist…

  48. Ivan Groznyon 30 Jan 2016 at 2:49 pm

    RickK, I don’t find the video offensive for its content: it’s witty and true in my view, and at the very least represents a legitimate political criticism, whether you or I agree or disagree with it. As for the context, Dawkins removed the tweet once he was warned that the person depicted in the video was indeed exposed to threats of violence. But, that changed nothing apparently. The witch hunt continues. Even Steven who recognizes that the removal of the tweet by Dawkins kind of complicates the picture, says that this was just the proverbial last straw that broke the camel’s back, and that Dawkins was “making mistakes” for a long time.

  49. metaburbiaon 30 Jan 2016 at 3:19 pm

    ‘ I suggest that on this dimension he regularly, and problematically, falls far short of the mark’

    There’s that word again.

    So, give me an example of his falling far short of the/your mark?

  50. Steve Crosson 30 Jan 2016 at 3:20 pm

    metaburbia,

    I completely agree that the whole EG thing escalated to absurd levels — but it is tough to argue that it would have done so without Dawkins response in the first place, certainly not to the same level.

    Also, Dawkins’s stance of refusing to share any venue with RW demonstrates exactly how willing he is to tolerate opposing opinions and have a “reasoned discussion”.

    And I’m fully aware that some women disagree with RW’s opinion. There are also some women that believe everything Faux News says. That doesn’t mean either group’s position is defensible.

  51. David Twitchon 30 Jan 2016 at 3:28 pm

    This is the sentence for me where the article revealed the real problem:

    “The concern for some of us at NECSS was that by hosting Dawkins as a featured speaker we were making a statement we did not intend to make, a statement that could be interpreted as being unwelcoming and even hostile to many attendees.”

    Oh me on my, we certainly wouldn’t want any attendees to feel like they were in an “unwelcoming” and “hostile” environment, because one of the people giving a speech had sent out an insensitive personal tweet a week prior (and I agree Dawkins should do better).

    When the lunatic fringe right with their persecution complex rants about the imaginary “war on Christians”, we shake our heads at how delusional they are. That should be our same reaction to those who would feel they are entering a “hostile environment” because of Dawkins tweet.

  52. David Twitchon 30 Jan 2016 at 3:37 pm

    I just read through some of the comments and see that Dr. Novella clarified that this was not only about the single tweet. That doesn’t change my opinion on how bad the decision was, but it does change the context just a little.

  53. metaburbiaon 30 Jan 2016 at 4:08 pm

    @Steve Cross – again, this is not the best place or moment to rehash EG. But I’m wary of the ‘Neither-Nor’ criticism. The two aren’t comparable in intelligence, talent, contribution, reason or reasonableness, or indeed obnoxiousness. You’ll see where my sympathies lie.

    Thomas Donnelly makes a good point on FB during a discussion about motivated reasoning (he tried registering here but couldn’t for some reason).

    https://www.facebook.com/djgrothe/posts/10153824411135856?comment_id=10153824474925856

  54. lagaya1on 30 Jan 2016 at 4:09 pm

    “Je suis Richard”

  55. Willyon 30 Jan 2016 at 4:20 pm

    Does anyone know what the “real” woman portrayed in the video clip actually said?

  56. metaburbiaon 30 Jan 2016 at 4:31 pm

    @Willy – the real person who was the model for the caricature is here:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxY-5ISEHPg

    – she was doxxed and the story goes she was harassed and threatened. I don’t think police ever became involved.

    Point here is that the cartoon wasn’t *her*, but rather that her features were used as a model for a particular sort of feminist – a small minority, as Dawkins made clear. She’s so readily recognisable because of the hair & glasses she was a pretty convenient cipher for all feminists of a particular sort. And while her behaviour in that video is obnoxious I have no reason to believe she has ever made common cause with Islamists; but that wasn’t the claim of the video. The claim of the video, which is a true claim, is that SOME feminists have supported aggressive Islamists.

  57. mumadaddon 30 Jan 2016 at 4:36 pm

    Yeah, that’s obviously her.

  58. Willyon 30 Jan 2016 at 4:40 pm

    Metaburbia–I still don’t get the connection to the idea that she supports Islam, but she sure isn’t a good voice for any group. She makes Dawkins look like an angel.

  59. metaburbiaon 30 Jan 2016 at 4:46 pm

    @Willy – no, there’s no connection between her and Islamism as far as I know. She was just easy to caricature, and so a convenient depiction of a certain sort of feminist. Ones like the Goldsmiths FemSoc who supported aggressive Islamists who disrupted a lecture by an ex-Muslim feminist.

  60. Steve Crosson 30 Jan 2016 at 4:46 pm

    metaburbia,

    Clearly, this is not the best place to discuss EG from your perspective. But it is relevant because it is a perfect example of the issue at hand. EG would probably never have existed at all if Dawkins had not “initiated hostilities” by issuing a misogynistic, ill-informed opinion on something that was never any of his business.

  61. Halfdeadon 30 Jan 2016 at 4:48 pm

    “The claim of the video, which is a true claim, is that SOME feminists have supported aggressive Islamists.”

    Citation?

  62. metaburbiaon 30 Jan 2016 at 4:53 pm

    @Halfdead

    Already posted but:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/student/news/muslim-students-from-goldsmiths-university-s-islamic-society-heckle-and-aggressively-interrupt-a6760306.html

    and Goldsmith’s FemSoc:

    http://goldfemsoc.tumblr.com/post/134396957048/goldsmiths-feminist-society-stands-in-solidarity

  63. Ztarron 30 Jan 2016 at 5:00 pm

    Conferences are well within their purview to invite/uninvite at their decresion. But it disingenuous of an organisation centred around scepticism and rational thinking to uninvite a speaker based on the reasoning that some might find certain ideas offensive or unwelcoming.

    As Thomas tried to say here, if a progressive liberal scientist like Dawkins can be booted in the manner he was, imagine how unwelcome attendees who hold political beliefs further to the conservative right must feel.

    It is painfully obvious that the “right move” is to admit that the decision was wrong, mistakes were made, and that the pressure from certain outspoken groups/individuals connected to NECSS via personal and professional relationships contributed to hasty reaction to revoke the invitation instead of engaging in an open debate if ideas. If NECSS wants to promote scepticism and reason, then it should have the courage and intellectual integrity to admit they were wrong. We all adhere to these values when it’s easy, show us it can be done when it’s hard to.

    The whole thing is a bit Stannis and Renly fighting each other instead of turning their army against the Lannisters. The Joffreys of anti-science are passing themselves off as real Baratheons, and as a Stark up here in the north, I’m really getting tired of you southerner’s divisive politics clouding your judgement.

  64. Ztarron 30 Jan 2016 at 5:03 pm

    I guess my mobile dictionary, like my view on political discourse, is set to UK standards.

  65. mumadaddon 30 Jan 2016 at 5:11 pm

    Willy,

    I took the video to be a satire of the similarity of the fact that two apparently contradictory positions end up sounding the same due the their extreme nature.

    But, there’s another theme that’s not as apparent unless you’re already following this “debate” among the left (of which I’m part, I think…): There’s a regressive, cultural-relativist faction within the left-wing that won’t acknowledge the connection between the actions of Muslim extremists and their Islamic belief system (and, in case it’s not obvious, I don’t believe that all Muslims are extremists), and seeks to pin the blame squarely on western foreign policy. Any suggestion to the contrary is immediately labelled “Islamophobic” or “bigoted”, and the conversation shut down; others are scared away from broaching the topic as a result.

    A lot of these same people also espouse fairly extreme feminism, saying, for example, that the US is a ‘rape culture’. When questions arise regarding the subjugation of women under Islam, sharia law, the definitional impossibilty of rape within marriage, stoning for adultery etc., crop up, some of them will immediately resort to cries of bigotry rather than condemn these acts, which are obviously in violation of what they profess to believe in. So there’s a double standard, a ‘racism of low expectations’ that says we in the west deserve these freedoms and protections but when it happens to brown people it’s just their culture.

    Thus, some feminists are unwittingly aligning themselves with Islamists.

    By the way the ‘-ist’ suffix is important. This is way more complicated and nuanced than I can do justice to in any context, but if you want to get a flavour of the background, check out anything by Maajid Nawaz or Maryam Nawazi, e.g: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTd4-WXw2SM

  66. Halfdeadon 30 Jan 2016 at 5:12 pm

    Ok so… we have a tiny feminist society in a a tiny school in England who supported another tiny society in the same school. Probably people they are friends with. In response we get a video with a caricature of a woman thousands of miles away with no relationship to them, no ties to them, no relationship to them, other than that she is female. In a video suggesting she would like to be raped by islamist extremists..that is some shallow thinking there bub.

  67. mumadaddon 30 Jan 2016 at 5:23 pm

    Steve N’s explanation of this decision is extremely well put, as you’d expect, and I personally can’t fault the approach he’s taken to the situation. However, I wonder what would have happened if Dawkins had appeared as planned and the NESS had never even mentioned this video. I guess we’ll never know. What we appear to have now is a possibly unnecessary semi-scandal.

  68. Wilkoon 30 Jan 2016 at 5:25 pm

    I’m far more offended by Bill Nye. Fortunately Bill has changed his mind on GMOs, but he does still hold downright silly views on Nuclear Power. Nye also sits on the Union of Concerned Scientists, which sounds like a legitimate organization but it is almost a faith based organization for the promotion of the Organic Food.
    In either case, my taking offense to Nye or Dawkins does not merit a disinvitation of either gentlemen.

  69. metaburbiaon 30 Jan 2016 at 5:26 pm

    Sorry, Halfdead, you asked for a ‘citation’ and I gave you one. You wanted something else?

  70. ccbowerson 30 Jan 2016 at 5:56 pm

    “As Thomas tried to say here, if a progressive liberal scientist like Dawkins can be booted in the manner he was, imagine how unwelcome attendees who hold political beliefs further to the conservative right must feel.”

    This quote only makes sense if you are arguing that Dawkins was booted for how conservative his statements have been, but that is not the case, is it?

  71. ccbowerson 30 Jan 2016 at 6:07 pm

    “Announcing the decision to reject Dawkins while freely accepting the resident troll on your blog is totally beyond my comprehension. I find it extremely difficult to swallow your blatantly obvious double standard.”

    PeteA. The term double standard implies that two different standards are applied to the same situation for two different parties. Having a “laissez faire” approach to the comments section of his blog is a completely different situation from decisions regarding the speaking invites to a regional conference. Let me know when the ‘resident troll’ is announced as the replacement speaker for Dawkins at NECSS, or if Dawkins is banned from this comments section. I don’t think that I’m going out on a limb to say that neither will happen.

  72. Steve Crosson 30 Jan 2016 at 6:11 pm

    metaburbia’s “evidence” purporting to show that some feminists support aggressive Islamists is misleading at best. The so-called “aggressive Islamists” are only guilty of defending themselves against outright racism.

    In the example given, both the Islamists and the Feminists are objecting to being judged by stereotype. And if they are aggressive at all, it is only in attempting to defend what should be everyone’s basic human right i.e. to be judged solely on one’s individual merit rather than being automatically equated with the worst exemplars of any particular ethnic or religious or any other group.

    To give the most obvious example, there have been all too many Christian extremists and some have committed horrific acts, completely justified by the Bible (at least in their minds), but no one is running around suggesting that the Bible is just as bad as the Koran.

    Let’s not forget the Crusades, Spanish Inquisition, Northern Ireland or anything else committed by religious extremists of any variety or belief system. Stereotyping any entire group based on the actions of a few is a terrible idea. It is unfair, most likely inaccurate and prone to abuse. It is also a damn good recruiting tool for ISIS.

    As skeptics, we should be particularly sensitive to the problem of hasty generalization. We should be willing to analyze every problem and judge every individual based solely on evidence. Allowing our judgment to be affected by stereotypes or confirmation bias has never been a good way to learn the truth.

    And when Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris or Maryam Namazie or anyone else condemns an entire group based on the actions of a minority, then, as good skeptics, we should call them out.

  73. mumadaddon 30 Jan 2016 at 6:18 pm

    Steve Cross,

    Definition check — Muslim is not equal to Islamist: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamism

  74. metaburbiaon 30 Jan 2016 at 6:20 pm

    @ccbowers I think people are still trying to decide why Dawkins was booted. Steve’s piece here is one thing to consider but there are others.

    Clearly not for repeating poor, insalubrious jokes referring to rape – PZ Myers spoke at NECSS twice after promoting a YouTube video causally laughing at the idea of rape.

    There’s there’s Steve’s suggestion Dawkins is in the habit of making ‘worse than insensitive’ remarks…though as Steve has decided not to share any examples with us, still less demonstrate it’s a significant proportion of his tweeting, I’m not convinced. It’s often repeated by the Myers/Watson claques but that makes it less likely to be true, doesn’t it.

    What exactly was so terrible about the video Dawkins tweeted? He made the specific claim it was true of only a small proportion of feminists and that claim is, simply, factually correct.

    The single most convincing explanation to me is that it’s a continuation of the same tedious war between RD & the SJWs – specifically Watson, here, who has a personal and very particular gripe with Dawkins and a close connection to the SGU / NECSS folk.

  75. metaburbiaon 30 Jan 2016 at 6:24 pm

    @Steve Cross – oh come off it. You’re now claiming Maryam Namazie is a racist?

    >’Let’s not forget the Crusades’

    Yeah, ok, I won’t. 800 years ago that, wasn’t it.

  76. Steve Crosson 30 Jan 2016 at 6:27 pm

    mumadadd,

    Perhaps your experience is different than mine, but I’ve never encountered anyone who actually accepted any of the more extreme practices of Islam. I have heard some people make similar accusations of ‘racism of low expectations’, but never with any references to evidence, so as far as I can tell, I think your concern is a bit of a straw man.

    I think it is perfectly reasonable to be against (and appalled by) many of the tenets of fundamentalist Islam (and Christianity, for that matter), while, at the same time, being perfectly willing to acknowledge that much of the current unrest and violence has been exacerbated by actions that the West has taken.

  77. metaburbiaon 30 Jan 2016 at 6:30 pm

    @Steve Cross:

    Here’s the video of Maryam Namazie’s talk at Goldsmith’s

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=st8LbFutuGI

    you described this : ‘The so-called “aggressive Islamists” are only guilty of defending themselves against outright racism.’

    Care to take that back?

  78. Steve Crosson 30 Jan 2016 at 6:34 pm

    mumadadd,

    Apologies for any confusion regarding Muslim/Islamist. Donald Trump and almost all of the American Republic presidential contenders tend to conflate everything Islam related.

    My only real point is that any kind of stereotyping is probably counter-productive.

  79. lagaya1on 30 Jan 2016 at 6:37 pm

    Surely NCESS was aware of Dawkins controversial stands before they invited him. And if they had decided not to invite him because of them, I would say, fine. But the fact that he was invited and then uninvited smacks of some individual who got panties in a twist and made threats to blow up the internet about it. I can think of a few so-called-but-anything-but feminist bloggers and outrage addicts who would try to do just that.
    Shame on NECSS.

  80. ccbowerson 30 Jan 2016 at 6:38 pm

    “As skeptics, we should be particularly sensitive to the problem of hasty generalization.”

    I think that this is a key point. It is not enough that a statement is factually true, if it is misleading or unfair. Justifying an offensive statement with the caveat that it only applied to *some* of group X is already a red flag of a broad brush being used. Although it is most obvious with racial or ethnic groups (e.g., ‘they’re not all bad, but…’), this is a problem when making blanket statements about any large group of people. I have no issue with having these types of discussions, nor such a video being made, but don’t be surprise if you are uninvited as a guest speaker to a conference that does not want associate with that particular message.

  81. brive1987on 30 Jan 2016 at 6:44 pm

    Novella: – “and essentially making the claim that these groups share an ideology”

    You know who else pulls the “essentially” rabbit out of the Hat? Dr Richard Carrier (PhD) when he goes full rant.

    This one statement should have Steve hanging his head in shame .

    ……………………………….

    But then Novella goes on “we were making a statement we did not intend to make, a statement that could be interpreted as being unwelcoming and even hostile to many attendees”

    This is best “von Däniken” gambit I have seen for a while. Pull a nonsensical premise from thin air – and then build a case on it.

    ……………………………….

    Novella: “In fact, pointed criticism is good for the feminist movement – or for any movement. (This does not mean that NECSS is the proper venue for any particular topic.)”

    Wow – tell me what was Dawkins’s topic to be at NECSS? Feminism? No? Didn’t think so. So what was the relevance here? Were you nervous of out of session water cooler gossip? Like that’s going to be avoided now with your actions.

    ……………………………….

    Novella: ” The video in question, in my opinion, was spiteful and childish and was merely hiding behind satire. ”

    And here we have the actual gist of your decision. You didn’t personally like the video. All the Cologne and Goldsmith refs, the use of reverse privilege to shut down conversation – woosh over your head because the delivery didn’t meet your South Park threshold.

    ……………………………….

    I note that you invited PZ Myers to NECSS after he endorsed a song promoting the gang rape of Christians. http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/12/04/i-love-this-song/

    I also not that the crude satire, the Pope Song, by Minchin apparently flies over your good taste hurdle.

    ……………………………….

    Steve, you seriously dropped the ball on this one.

  82. brive1987on 30 Jan 2016 at 6:57 pm

    Julia Galef doesn’t like the video.

    She also says “But I’m not fine with the policy, “Posting spiteful, intellectually lazy videos is fine, unless they’re about radical feminism.”

    Clever person. Someone should nominate her for NECSS Committee Chair.

    https://www.facebook.com/julia.galef/posts/10102245846532342

  83. Steve Crosson 30 Jan 2016 at 7:00 pm

    metaburbia,

    I noticed you didn’t complain about the Northern Ireland example — which is a lot more recent than the Crusades. Not to mention the many other religious conflicts and “ethnic cleansings” all over the world still going on today.

    The point is that portraying any group as “other” simply based on a stereotypes or assumptions has been the basis for countless horrific acts since the beginning of history.

    And no, I’m not saying Maryam Namazie is a racist, but she (and Dawkins and Harris) do sometimes paint with a pretty broad brush. In the modern world of sound-bites and Twitter, nuance seems to be a thing of the past. Unfortunately, that lack of nuance seems to be the lifeblood of modern extremism.

    Regarding the “aggressive Islamists”, I’ve only seen clips so I’ll provisionally accept your judgment until I’ve had time to watch the whole thing. So, I apologize if I’m wrong.

    However, I still maintain that the aggressive stereotyping that all of us are guilty of from time to time (including me) is the cause of far more harm than good.

  84. mumadaddon 30 Jan 2016 at 7:04 pm

    Steve Cross,

    “I have heard some people make similar accusations of ‘racism of low expectations’, but never with any references to evidence”

    I think it’s safe to assume that you would endorse the ideal of equal rights for everyone, regardless of cultural or ethnic background, although it can get very messy in real life; you also want to protect cultural diversity, and this can sometimes conflict with the desire to ensure that everyone is afforded the same rights and protections — you want to grant minorities their own autonomy and not tell them what they should value. I get that entirely, as it’s basically what I think too.

    However — and it’s a big however — when you have a separate system for resolving cases of domestic abuse, divorce, rape etc. that systematically denies rights to women and children that would otherwise be afforded by the system that governs everyone else in the country, this is a major problem in my eyes.

    Sharia Law: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharia

    ‘Racism of low expectations’ means that it’s okay to let x group resolve its disputes outside the law, in a way that is consistent with their cultural values, even though we would not accept those values applied to ourselves. It’s not a question of evidence, but one of principle. As I said before, this is entirely a political/ideological conversation. You can make a judgement call on whether you’re willing to accept this double standard regardless of how prevalent it happens to be, and regardless of whether it even exists at all (though it does).

  85. Nitpickingon 30 Jan 2016 at 7:07 pm

    metaburbiaon, I don’t recall anyone saying that Dawkins is hostile to feminism. He’s just hostile to some feminists, not all of them weird extremist social relativists. He’s also (on social media) a tactless jackass.

    I’m sort of hoping that Steve and the rest of the Board learned from the mistake of inviting PZ Myers, a man I used to respect and am now disappointed and disgusted by. I am not involved in organizing NECSS but I’m sure the composition of the Board that runs it has changed since Myers’ last appearance, and I hope that the continuing members are learning from the past.

  86. Willyon 30 Jan 2016 at 7:25 pm

    mumadadd: I am responding to your post before reading those that follow it–I hope I don’t regret it. LOL :<) Anyway, I do understand (not comprehend) the odd position (IMHO) of those who defend Islam (yammering about "Islamophobia") yet claim to be "liberal" or "open-minded" or…whatever. To me, the best example of this odd "union" is the refusal of Brandeis U to let Ayaan Hirsi Ali speak. She is one incredibly brave and intelligent woman, one who has a deep understanding of what we face in Islamic extremism, yet she is branded as an Islamaphobe and isn't welcome to speak to those who are the "washed (sic) masses". I wish people would read her book "Heretic".

    I am still lacking the connection between feminism and support of Islamic 'rape", but I see that there are some links above that might help. I will check them out. So far, this whole thing is still incomprehensible to me. Anyway, I am in favor of the position followed by Obama. I agree that we do NOT want to blame all Muslims for the actions of a minority. Spreading hatred against Islam is foolish and counterproductive. OTOH, we should probably recognize that Islamic faith is not compatible with Western culture. Good grief–the Italians covered marble statues so as not to offend Rouhani!!!!!!!

    More broadly, I have always thought that Dawkins was too strident in his atheism (although I am every bit as atheist as he is) and thus somewhat harmful to the broader movement. He also seems (I am basing my opinion here on comments from this thread) to be a bit quick on the draw to post hasty, ill thought out Twitter comments and to stick his nose where it is not necessary nor smart. Nonetheless, unless I find info in further reading that changes my mind, I think NECSS made a big mistake in dis-inviting him. Seriously, what NECSS attendee really feels Dawkins is in any way a threat? WTF does it mean to be a free thinker????????

    To those on the NECSS board who disagreed with the majority, my kudos and my thanks. To everyone: if you are someone who posts to Twitter AND who is in the public eye–STOP it. Twitter is an ego feed and it is crap. Your random thoughts are not important.

  87. Clemanceon 30 Jan 2016 at 7:26 pm

    People are not perfect and they don’t fit into an ideal mold. For example, look at Bill Clinton. He was a philanderer who embarrassed himself and his family beyond imagination but he made a great president. Currently, Donald Trump is another example. He is politically incorrect to the point of cultivating undue hatred for himself, yet he knows how to cultivate billions of $. Purely antidotal but from what I’ve seen in humans, the greater the genius, sometimes the more disparate the personality and there is much that they just don’t get and never will.

    I am a feminist myself and I certainly have been sexually harassed, at university, at work and walking down the street. At times, I’ve been so appalled by it, when it was directed at me, that I thought the only acceptable punishment for the perpetrator was death, seriously. Isn’t that only human? Aren’t many men (and other male primates) by nature slightly aggressive toward women at times and aren’t we as women able to deal with it? Of course violence of any kind or touching that isn’t wanted is completely unacceptable and brings me back to my punishment by death stance.

    Now, I love Rebecca very much but when I read the extent of her anger at Dawkins’ asking her back to his hotel room, I was more shocked by her behavior. Had it of been me at her age, I would have gone back to his room, had the coffee and left an hour later. Perhaps he would have come onto her. So what? That really is normal and women are more than capable of dealing with it when it isn’t wanted. Besides, how often does one have the chance to be alone with a brilliant scientist of great note? I can only imagine the things she could have learned. Plus, she could have made a friend instead of what went down.

    I did not find the video offensive but I am not defending Dawkins’ tweets or anything that he says on twitter. I have not seen any of it but I don’t doubt that it’s true. But really, like I said, many people, myself included, have dissimilar traits going on in their brain simultaneously.

    I think uninviting Dawkins to the event was a mistake. Your conference is about science and science communication, no? What do his other attributes, negative or positive have to do with it? You know what I wonder? How many of your “executive committee” who made this decision are women? This really smells like a bunch of egotistical men who are afraid of ridicule saying, “wow, we are so great, we’re going to uninvite Richard Dawkins.” Lame.

  88. Willyon 30 Jan 2016 at 7:35 pm

    Clemance–It wasn’t Dawkins who asked her to his room–it was “just some guy”.

  89. lagaya1on 30 Jan 2016 at 7:42 pm

    Clemence- what Willy said.

    Other than that, I agree with you completely. Feminism seems to have morphed into “women who can’t stand up for themselves and must enlist a community to look after them”. It’s a strange brand of empowerment in my book.

  90. Willyon 30 Jan 2016 at 7:49 pm

    The EG thing reminds me of something that happened to me almost 20 years ago. I was traveling to Alabama on business. I LIVE to eat, so I was quite excited to find some good Southern BBQ (BBQ is one of the foods of the gods). When I got to the registration desk at the hotel, I asked the desk clerk, a young black man, where to find good BBQ. He remained professional, but instantly turned to ice. He declared “I don’t eat BBQ!” Thinking quickly (for once, I’m usually too slow in these situations), I responded with something like “Well, gee, Alabama is also close to the ocean, so how about a good seafood place?”

    I think the clerk realized he had made a bad assumption about my question, so he recommended a couple of seafood joints and pointed to a fellow employee who might recommend a BBQ place or two. I have always wondered if, had I not been quick on my feet (again–not common for me), the clerk would have remembered my query as a racist one. Sometimes I think that we identify too much as a member of a “group” and not enough as just fellow human beings. The chips on our shoulders predispose us to perceive bias when none is intended.

    To be a bit more blunt: don’t expect me to recognize or anticipate everything that rattles your cage. I’m struggling though this life just like you are and sometimes I get tired of walking on eggshells.

  91. mumadaddon 30 Jan 2016 at 7:54 pm

    Steve Cross,

    “Apologies for any confusion regarding Muslim/Islamist. ”

    No worries. This isn’t aimed at you, but the distinction between Muslims in general as people, the ideals of Islamism, and jihadism as a method to further this theocratic caliphate seem to be generally conflated by well meaning liberals.

  92. Steve Crosson 30 Jan 2016 at 8:01 pm

    Clemance,

    With all due respect, I’m going to repeat something I pointed out much earlier in the thread.

    Regarding the Rebecca Watson / Elevatorgate incident, no one is entitled to an opinion based solely on hearsay or viewing only the hacked-up “responses” to Rebecca’s original video. It is hard for me to comprehend how any honest, unbiased observer could object to her comments. She was polite, humorous, and (I felt) genuinely attempting to give good advice to nerds, geeks and guys in general.

    If you don’t believe me, then ask a few women to watch it and give you their opinion. Every woman I’ve spoken to has agreed with Rebecca’s main points, i.e. “Some women have good reason to be uncomfortable when approached in potentially unsafe places. Between that and just being tired after a long day, her point was simple — Don’t Do That. You’re very unlikely to succeed and you will just ruin your chances for the future.”

    The point is, most of the opinions I’ve seen on this subject are based on second-hand knowledge, including that of Dawkins when he started the “controversy” with an ill-advised and ill-informed comment.

  93. Clemanceon 30 Jan 2016 at 8:17 pm

    Steve Cross,

    I never saw Rebecca’s video. I read about the whole thing by doing a google search and obviously I did get second-hand knowledge that wasn’t correct. Thanks to you and the others for setting me straight.

  94. Willyon 30 Jan 2016 at 8:17 pm

    Steve Cross: I agree that Dawkins comment was ill-advised. He should have kept his mouth shut. Having said that, How do you know what the man in EG intended? How do you know he “didn’t succeed”? Is it even possible that he was earnest?

  95. mumadaddon 30 Jan 2016 at 8:21 pm

    Steve Cross,

    (Disclaimer: I watched RW’s video then completely disengaged. Also, I really like RW)

    Would it be okay if a woman in a lift invited you for a coffee in her hotel room when you were tired after a long day? If she were physically larger than you, would it make a difference? Would that be sexist? Is it ever okay for anyone to hit on anyone else?

    If something becomes sexist purely by virtue of the fact that the person on the receiving end is female and the person dishing it out is male, I say bullshit.

    e.g. that cricketer who hit on a female presenter who was interviewing him. Would it have been sexist if it were a female sports star hitting on a male presenter? Unprofessional: check; crass: check; dick move: check. Sexist? Yes, maybe he feels it’s okay to behave like that because he’s sexist, but maybe he’s just a dick.

  96. mumadaddon 30 Jan 2016 at 8:24 pm

    Sorry, that was unclear — rephrase:

    e.g. that cricketer who hit on a female presenter who was interviewing him. Would it have been sexist if it were a female sports star hitting on a male presenter? Unprofessional: check; crass: check; dick move: check. Sexist…? Maybe he feels it’s okay to behave like that because he’s sexist, but maybe he’s just a dick. You would need a lot more information to be able to ascribe his behaviour to sexism.

  97. brive1987on 30 Jan 2016 at 8:25 pm

    Clemance

    Re EG

    Always go to the primary sources. Bottom line is that RW drew a broad brush stroke at CFI when she equated reasonable criticism from women as equivilant to internet hate. She did that by belittling an audience member from the podium. Thats what really kick started the whole show – which quickly developed multiple layers.

    The original video was a small spark.

    …………….

    04 June 2011. Dublin Session held
    https://web.archive.org/web/20140216093842/http://www.atheist.ie/program-for-world-atheist-convention/

    20 June 2011. Watson: Youtube video
    http://youtu.be/uKHwduG1Frk

    22 June 2011. McGraw writes her piece
    https://web.archive.org/web/20110718210333/http://www.unifreethought.com/2011/06/fursdays-wif-stef-32.html

    Some time around here Stclairose makes her video which is now marked private – it highlights the habit of feminists to manufacture issues

    25 or 26 June 2011. Watson calls out McGraw at CFI Student Leadership Conference
    https://youtu.be/aqzE16UsNW4

    29 June 2011. Watson: discusses her calling out of McGraw
    http://skepchick.org/2011/06/on-naming-names-at-the-cfi-student-leadership-conference/

    01 July 2011. ERV: Bad form Rebecca Watson
    http://scienceblogs.com/erv/2011/07/01/bad-form-rebecca-watson/

    02 July 2011. PZ: post (with Dawkins ‘Dear Muslima’ also July 02)
    https://web.archive.org/web/20110706211146/http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/07/always_name_names.php?

  98. mumadaddon 30 Jan 2016 at 8:26 pm

    Steve Cross,

    I see I’ve unfairly maligned you there — you never mentioned sexism.

    Sorry, consider my last comment retracted.

  99. mumadaddon 30 Jan 2016 at 8:45 pm

    Willy,

    “I asked the desk clerk, a young black man, where to find good BBQ.”

    My god, man — you’re obsessed!

    —-

    Swedish police probe ‘cover-up of migrant sex assaults’: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-35285086

    This particularly:

    ‘Stockholm police were warned not to give descriptions of the perpetrators lest they were accused of being racist’: http://ww****.spectator.c*.uk/2016/01/its-not-only-germany-that-covers-up-mass-sex-attacks-by-migrant-men-swedens-record-is-shameful/

    These are examples of political correctness getting in the way of the facts. The men who perpetrated the coordinated groping, thieving and raping in Cologne on NYE were brown and from Muslim countries. That’s a fact. And the mainstream media was reluctant to cover it, as though reporting that a bunch of brown people perpetrated a crime is equivalent to labeling all brown people as innately criminal.

    “This is nothing to do with migrants — this happens in Birmingham every Saturday night….”

    http://ww*****.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/29/labour-mp-jess-phillips-defends-remarks-about-cologne-sex-attacks

    (I trashed the links so my comment wouldn’t get moderated, but I’m sure you will find a workaround)

  100. Belgarathon 30 Jan 2016 at 9:07 pm

    Steve,

    I am wondering, did the executive committee receive any communication from any of the conference speakers or conference panel members indicating that they would withdraw from the conference if Dawkins did attend?

    Also, I just want to point out something that’s missed in this. The other person in the video is actually a parody of an internet youtube personality called ‘Dawah Man’ I’ve seen many criticizing the video on the grounds that it attacked a specific woman only. That’s not true (I don’t think you did this, just thought I’d mention it for your awareness)

    With respect to the NECSS decision, I disagree with it, but I can understand it. It sounds like the decision sort if ‘tipped’ over into the uninvite. I still tip slightly into the invite..

  101. mumadaddon 30 Jan 2016 at 9:15 pm

    Belgarath,

    I was wondering whether the Islamist was an actual person, though I really wasn’t bothered if it was. Extreme feminism is something I can identify with taken to, well…an extreme; Islamism is an extreme form of something that was stupid in the first place.

  102. mumadaddon 30 Jan 2016 at 9:51 pm

    Dawah Man: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCUa8EF7oH0

    Is it safe to say this guy’s a f*cking idiot?

  103. lagaya1on 30 Jan 2016 at 10:41 pm

    We’ve been told for years that scientific people are thick-skinned enough to hear dissenting opinions. Is that not true? I have admired SGU and company for many years, now. This is really disappointing. I think you have been manipulated into this very bad decision.

  104. mumadaddon 30 Jan 2016 at 10:50 pm

    I feel for Steve right now. Impeccably and implacably stay out of political infighting: turn your blog comments section into Pharyngula. Sorry, Steve.

  105. Nitpickingon 30 Jan 2016 at 11:17 pm

    lagaya1, Dawkins doesn’t actually have a dissenting opinion. He’s not anti-feminist, and isn’t even being as condemnatory as you are. He did something foolish that made people not like him. Being unlikeable is not dissent.

  106. Steve Crosson 30 Jan 2016 at 11:44 pm

    Willy: “To be a bit more blunt, don’t expect me to recognize or anticipate everything that rattles your cage. I’m struggling though this life just like you are and sometimes I get tired of walking on eggshells.”

    I sympathize with this attitude and I suspect that almost everyone does to a certain extent. But the thing is, I think the reason that so many of us feel uncomfortable in the first place is that we don’t actually WANT to be rude or offend someone unnecessarily. Most of us have enough empathy to realize that any interpersonal relationship is likely to be more pleasant and productive if both sides are polite and honest with each other.

    With that in mind, I think it is extremely helpful to try to be aware of and respect (if at all possible) the other side’s sensibilities. Not because it is Politically Correct, but because it is USEFUL. Whether it is the opposite sex, friends, neighbors, family or complete strangers, any interaction is more likely to be successful (i.e. mutually beneficial) if each side understands the other’s motivation.

    As I have already said, I took Rebecca’s original comments in that spirit — intended as good advice to guys who don’t have a good idea how their actions MIGHT be perceived. Based on information available, I have no idea what elevator Guy’s intentions were, but it really doesn’t matter. If I had to guess, I would say he was probably scared to death and just barely able to work up enough courage to approach a “girl”. And, terrified of rejection — which, in my experience, most guys are most of the time.

    But that is all the more reason to welcome rather than reject Rebecca’s comments. Simply being aware that there is a high probability of a women feeling “not the time or the place” in that situation might be enough to avoid an unpleasant (for all) rejection.

    After 30 plus years of marriage, I’m safely beyond all this drama, but if there is one thing I have learned, both sexes would benefit enormously from better and HONEST communication on both sides.

  107. lagaya1on 31 Jan 2016 at 12:03 am

    I wonder if the person who started this is enjoying the drama or is horrified by it. All depends on the who, i guess.

  108. BillyJoe7on 31 Jan 2016 at 12:05 am

    “I asked the desk clerk, a young black man, where to find good BBQ”

    🙂

    It actually took me a while to understand the “joke”, but it reminded me of something that happened to me a couple of years ago. A family from Sudan moved temporarily into the house opposite ours and we became quite friendly over the ensuing months before they moved on. One day I was in conversation with the mother and she looked me in the eye and asked inquisitively “what do we smell like?”. She saw my pain and smiled but badgered on with “what about when we sweat?” Then I remembered catching up to her husband on his morning run and I decided that an honest inquiry deserved and honest reply, so I replied “um…sort of musky”. She laughed and said, “do you know what you smell like to us…sour”. And I replied, “$#!+, I’d rather smell musky than sour”, and we both burst out laughing.

    Note to Richard Dawkins: I’d imagine this would NOT have played out similarly on Twitter!
    Advice to Richard Dawkins: Cncel your Twitter account or use it to link to well thought out commentary.

    But shame on NCESS inviting and then dis-inviting Richard Dawkins based on his link to stupid video finding a connection between two extremist idiots.
    There really is no excuse – or explanation – it was just a stupid decision.

    And I agree wholeheartedly with Rebecca Watson’s original video. The person who confronted her in the lift had been present at the meeting she had just come from, and he had not exchanged a single word with her at that meeting, yet felt free to invite her back to his room. He treated her as a sex object instead of a person. Don’t do that! That’s the message she gave and rightly so. Some people who claim to be feminists just do not understand.

  109. Gabor Hraskoon 31 Jan 2016 at 1:48 am

    There seems to be a lot of people her knowing that Steve and his colleagues were absolutely wrong on their decision. Another large set of people arguing that the decision was absolutely good. And there is a small minority acknowledging that the World is full of complex situations, where there is no clear right or wrong answer, where someone (especially a real skeptic) will hesitate, will change his mind, will suspend decision making if possible, or will finally make a decision (as in this case) and accepts that it is controversial. He does not want to argue that the decision was absolutely correct, but explains their hesitation, their arguments and asks for understanding. I appreciate Steve for this approach.

    If one does not agree that this is a complex situation, where it is not possible to make a “scientific”, “rational” absolute decision on right or wrong, he will of course see it differently and will not understand the hesitation.

  110. deancameronon 31 Jan 2016 at 2:35 am

    A movement, based on critical thinking and rationality has been destroyed by idiots.

    We could have done great things.

  111. Lukas Xavieron 31 Jan 2016 at 4:47 am

    Blanket comment relating to EG:

    If you can’t be bothered to do your homework, you don’t get to have an opinion.

  112. BillyJoe7on 31 Jan 2016 at 5:26 am

    Gabor,

    Well at least you’ve found a way to feel superior to both. 😀
    (Doesn’t make you right though)

  113. metaburbiaon 31 Jan 2016 at 5:45 am

    Steve Cross:

    ‘I noticed you didn’t complain about the Northern Ireland example — which is a lot more recent than the Crusades’

    I think some of our difference is caused by you being in the US, me in the UK. I skipped your inclusion of NI because it doesn’t fit as an analogy. The conflict depended on the two communities being identified by their historic religious association but the conflict wasn’t religious. There were no religious doctrines or precepts involved in the conflict at all. The IRA was Marxist.

    Also, Islamism – as opposed to Islam – is a political, fundamentalist excrescence.

    Also, you may think Maryam Namazie is wrong but she sees there is a problem with *some* feminists who ally with Islamists, and says RD should speak at NECSS.

    https://twitter.com/MaryamNamazie/status/693719116331520000

  114. BillyJoe7on 31 Jan 2016 at 7:06 am

    If this is a complex situation:

    NCESS invites RD.
    RD posts a link to a stupid video depicting supposed similarities between two extremist idiots.
    NCESS cancels the invite to RD.

    I’d like to see what a simple situation looks like.

  115. CKavaon 31 Jan 2016 at 8:46 am

    I am from the UK, I’m strongly critical of the regressive left, generally don’t agree with RW, and I am aware of the Goldsmith’s ‘unholy alliance’ context but I still agree with Steve that the video is crass and childish. It might well be satire but it makes sweeping generalisations: it doesn’t say ‘some’ feminists, like Dawkins’ tweet, it refers to ‘feminists’, presents it as a harmful ideology and concludes with the caricatured feminist (a clearly identifiable person) agreeing to be raped by the caricatured Islamist. It’s hateful and it’s intended to be so. Dawkin’s isn’t responsible for the content, but he is responsible for endorsing it.

    Furthermore, for those laying the blame at RW’s feet, note that Steve explicitly set out who made the decision. From a quick google it looks to me like that there are probably around 13 committee members, none of whom are RW. That makes it rather unlikely that the decision was motivated primarily by her reaction. Steve’s own reply makes it clear that he has mixed feelings about the whole thing. Certainly, he is bound to be influenced by Rebecca’s views after having such a long-lasting relationship, but if you are following Steve’s blog you should know he is unlikely to just fall into line with a friend’s opinion because it is deemed politically correct to do so. He deserves more credit.

    As to the people who are commenting on things like elevatorgate or the events at Goldsmith without bothering to look into the matter. Come on! It’s ridiculous on a skeptical blog to see people display such low standard of evidence and critical analysis. If you are going to take the time to post your opinion on a topic it is only reasonable to spend a little time actually finding out about the topic first.

    I wouldn’t have disinvited Dawkins either but I follow Steve’s reasoning and ultimately it is a judgment call.

  116. Steven Novellaon 31 Jan 2016 at 8:58 am

    I added a clarification about who the Exec committee members are. Other than our normal engagement with the community, there was no outside input on this decision.

  117. metaburbiaon 31 Jan 2016 at 9:36 am

    CKava, you say: ‘or the events at Goldsmith without bothering to look into the matter’

    So, I’ve looked into the matter closely. IMO it’s a clear example of the FemSoc at Goldsmith’s siding with aggressive, intolerant Islamists who tried to disrupt Namazie ‘s talk.

    The Independent (and as you’re from the UK you’ll know its general political position):

    http://www.independent.co.uk/student/news/muslim-students-from-goldsmiths-university-s-islamic-society-heckle-and-aggressively-interrupt-a6760306.html

    The Goldsmiths FemSoc condemned the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society for inviting Namazie to talk. Do we agree? Do you think mine is an accurate summary? Is this what happened?

    This is an example of (some) feminists siding with the effort by aggressive Islamists to silence a female atheist.

    The cartoon isn’t intended to be a reasoned contribution to debate. It’s a provocative satire that in the view of Dawkins satirises, and through satire condemns, something than absolutely needs to be condemned. We needn’t bother with its artistic merit or compare it unfavourably to Swift, say; that’s a completely different issue to its role as satire.

    Dawkins, in tweeting it, has explicitly stated he is a feminist and that the satire didn’t apply to most feminists but to *some*, a small minority. That is simply a statement of fact. It does. It applies to those feminists who ally themselves with fundamentalists Islamists. These people do exist. Look at the Goldsmiths FemSoc statement. Look at Maryam Namazie’s statement.

    We all know of the poisonous drama that’s been playing out for years. To give a free pass to the activities of poisonous blog network claques because there may be some underlying issue to do with sexism or harassment that needs to be addressed is unreasonable; not all and any behaviour can be excused because of an assertion of good intention.

    My opinion is that this affair is explained by LBJ’s memorable remark that it’s better to have the bastards inside the tent pissing out than outside pissing in. And it’s the only explanation I can see for the SGU giving houseroom to someone who has promoted intemperate and unhinged attacks on so many.

  118. hardnoseon 31 Jan 2016 at 9:58 am

    “I also greatly respect and appreciate the fact that he is an outspoken public atheist. This is tremendously important, and serves to legitimize atheism for many. Dawkins has dedicated much of his career and effort to charitable endeavors, to make the world a better place.”

    Steve N has finally admitted he loves atheism! And this statement implies that atheism makes the world a better place.

    Many atheists believe that wars are often caused by religion. No, wars are often caused by ideology. Marxist Communism, which is officially atheist, has caused as much violence as any religion.

  119. ccbowerson 31 Jan 2016 at 10:10 am

    “But shame on NCESS inviting and then dis-inviting Richard Dawkins based on his link to stupid video finding a connection between two extremist idiots. There really is no excuse – or explanation – it was just a stupid decision.”

    “A stupid decision?” You actually mention two decisions: invite and dis-invite. Which one is the stupid one?

    I guess I’m not surprised at the backlash from this, but it is not a matter of just one video, right? There certainly has been a past history here, and it is clear that the decision to invite him was done with some reservations. They decided, on balance, that his potential contribution to the conference could outweigh the reservations that some had about his invitation. Given this, posting this video was enough to withdraw his invitation given the already-present reservations about his invitation.

    It is easy to think a mistake was made, but what is that mistake exactly? Yes, I’m sure that it would have been better to never invite him in the first place, but they changed their mind based upon the posting of a particular video, given a particular history. They changed their minds based upon subsequent behavior.

    The people who run this conference (of which I attend annually) don’t want to be associated with the level of hostility and decisiveness contained in the video. A lot of people (here and elsewhere) have commented that the decision is “wrong.” I’m not sure what this means, as it is not a question of right and wrong. Everyone is free to start their own conference and invite (or not) him to that.

    I saw Dawkins last year when he came to a conference very close to where I live. It was good. I will be at NECSS this year, as I have for several years, and Dawkins’s presence (or not) would not have swayed my decision to go one bit. I wonder how many of the most vocal commenters have ever been to NECSS, or were planning to this year? I do wonder how this will affect attendance or turnout this year and in the future. It cuts both ways I’m sure, but it was a risk either way for NECSS, and they decided what they though was best for the conference and organizations.

  120. CKavaon 31 Jan 2016 at 10:23 am

    “The Goldsmiths FemSoc condemned the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society for inviting Namazie to talk. Do we agree? Do you think mine is an accurate summary? Is this what happened?”
    Yes, yes, and yes.

    “This is an example of (some) feminists siding with the effort by aggressive Islamists to silence a female atheist.”
    Yes.

    “The cartoon isn’t intended to be a reasoned contribution to debate. It’s a provocative satire that in the view of Dawkins satirises, and through satire condemns, something than absolutely needs to be condemned. We needn’t bother with its artistic merit or compare it unfavourably to Swift, say; that’s a completely different issue to its role as satire.”
    I disagree. We can be critical of satire. Satire can be racist, in bad taste, poorly argued, etc. etc. Something being satire doesn’t make it immune from criticism.

    “Dawkins, in tweeting it, has explicitly stated he is a feminist and that the satire didn’t apply to most feminists but to *some*, a small minority. That is simply a statement of fact. It does. It applies to those feminists who ally themselves with fundamentalists Islamists. These people do exist. Look at the Goldsmiths FemSoc statement. Look at Maryam Namazie’s statement.”
    Sure. But there are plenty better ways for a public intellectual of Dawkins’ standing to make such arguments than promoting that video. The video is nuance free and Dawkins’ decision to endorse it shouldn’t be criticism free. I don’t agree with Goldsmith’s Feminist society anymore than Dawkins but I wouldn’t post such a crappy video to my timeline or twitter, not because I fear the ire, but because the video is nuance free and hateful.

    “We all know of the poisonous drama that’s been playing out for years. To give a free pass to the activities of poisonous blog network claques because there may be some underlying issue to do with sexism or harassment that needs to be addressed is unreasonable; not all and any behaviour can be excused because of an assertion of good intention.”
    I am not advocating giving them a free pass, nor do I think Steve or NECSS is. I’m no fan of the ideologues at FreeThoughtBlogs and beyond. But generally I think Steve and the SGU do a good job of staying out of the fray, although I do think, at times, that they should call BS when it’s deserved. Such as when PZ posts a public, anonymous rape charge against Michael Shermer and then a number of ‘skeptical’ bloggers declare it be wrong to not accept the charge without further evidence. I get that this kind of thing is the context surrounding this decision, but I also follow Steve’s logic in his post. Ultimately, it’s a judgement call and based on discussions and arguments on both sides the committee choice to rescind their invitation. That’s ok. You can disagree and you can, and should, hold them accountable for other decisions e.g. inviting PZ. But it’s wrong to suggest there is no reasonable alternative view here.

    “My opinion is that this affair is explained by LBJ’s memorable remark that it’s better to have the bastards inside the tent pissing out than outside pissing in. And it’s the only explanation I can see for the SGU giving houseroom to someone who has promoted intemperate and unhinged attacks on so many.”
    Sorry I don’t know LBJ? Also, I don’t know who you are obliquely referring to about the SGU giving house-room to? Rebecca? If so, she’s not there anymore.

  121. Steve Crosson 31 Jan 2016 at 10:52 am

    Metaburbia,

    If you think NI is NOT a good analogy, then you haven’t been paying attention. My point has consistently been the same — indiscriminately condemning entire groups of people based on the actions of a minority IS WRONG.

    By definition, the label is inaccurate if it only applies to part of the group. It makes no difference whatsoever if ostensibly religious disagreement has anything at all to do with religion. Religious identification has often been a convenient label for the “other” group over conflicts that are really political or economic.

    Perhaps, as you say, my American perspective is different. I’m embarrassed to be surrounded by a sizable percentage of idiots who loudly agree with buffoons like Donald Trump making blanket statements about immigrants, Muslims, Syrians, etc.

    I’m as opposed to Islamists (or fundamentalist Christians) as anyone, but I have a real problem with all the (rather unskeptical) hasty generalization that I see. And that is the real problem I have with Dawkins’s repeated “Ready, Fire, Aim” comments. They lack all nuance and he frequently has to backtrack.

    I have no doubt that Dawkins is smart enough to realize “not all Muslims”, etc. but, unfortunately, the vast majority of the voting public in America (and almost everywhere else as far as I can tell) is all too willing to settle for convenient stereotypes. Which is exactly why “thought leaders” absolutely MUST be held to a higher standard.

    As skeptics, we should realize the importance of making decisions based on facts rather than assumptions. But when we know that a sizable percentage of people are always going to “take the easy way out”, then it is critical that the “easiest” information to get is also the most accurate.

    The alternative is to simply proceed as we have for thousands of years. Most people will continue to make decisions based solely on fear and ignorance. The unscrupulous will be able to more easily manipulate the masses and there will likely be a lot more conflict and misery.

  122. Ivan Groznyon 31 Jan 2016 at 11:04 am

    This is one of the reasons why Hitch’ premature death was such a tragedy: I am trying to imagine his reaction to this outrage…Would not be pleasant…

  123. metaburbiaon 31 Jan 2016 at 11:56 am

    @Steve Cross:

    >’If you think NI is NOT a good analogy, then you haven’t been paying attention’

    No, I have, and I think I know quite a bit more about NI than you: as I said, I skipped it because it didn’t seem a suitable analogy when I was talking about Islamists and you, a bit desperately, brought up *The Crusades*. The NI conflict wasn’t fuelled by religious ideology.

    But who has ‘indiscriminately condemned entire groups’? Who are you arguing with? Not me, not Dawkins.

  124. lagaya1on 31 Jan 2016 at 11:58 am

    I didn’t mention RW until now, but I thought of her immediately, as did some other posters apparently.
    This certainly sounds like her. Not just her poor judgment to embarrass some guy over nothing in an elevator, but also her boycott of at least one TAM because they wouldn’t bend to her demands to make the conference “safe for women”… maybe by not allowing men near elevators? So yeah, this sounds like her.

    Steve says she’s not on the committee. But as they say, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. And whether on the committee or not, she’s plenty squeaky. And plenty polarizing. And seems to love being that way.

    She’s polarizing enough, that if ever invited to speak at NCESS in the future, I hope they have the good sense to uninvite her right away.

  125. BBBlueon 31 Jan 2016 at 12:14 pm

    Ivan Gronzy – Hit the nail on the head. I often find myself asking “What would Hitch do?” as the PC police gain influence. When I hear people call Dawkins an Islamophobe, I sorely miss the defense I know Hitch would mount on behalf of his friend.

  126. Steve Crosson 31 Jan 2016 at 12:33 pm

    metaburbia,

    You’d have a better change convincing me that you were paying attention if you would bother to read and understand my whole comment. As I said:

    It makes no difference whatsoever if ostensibly religious disagreement has anything at all to do with religion. Religious identification has often been a convenient label for the “other” group over conflicts that are really political or economic.

    For that matter, I didn’t even say the Crusades were primarily religiously motivated. Hardly anything is.

    Nor did I say that Dawkins condemned an entire group:

    I have no doubt that Dawkins is smart enough to realize “not all Muslims”, etc. but, unfortunately, the vast majority of the voting public in America (and almost everywhere else as far as I can tell) is all too willing to settle for convenient stereotypes. Which is exactly why “thought leaders” absolutely MUST be held to a higher standard.

    When Dawkins repeatedly tweets “pithy” black&white comments or retweets links to similarly un-nuanced (and often offensive) videos, well then, he is not part of the solution — he is part of the problem.

  127. Steve Crosson 31 Jan 2016 at 12:39 pm

    grrr….

    “better CHANCE”

    damn autocorrect

  128. metaburbiaon 31 Jan 2016 at 1:33 pm

    @Steve Cross you have written:

    >’metaburbia’s “evidence” purporting to show that some feminists support aggressive Islamists is misleading at best’

    But then you’ve accepted my description of the events.

    You’ve written:

    ‘>The so-called “aggressive Islamists” are only guilty of defending themselves against outright racism.;

    But then denied you were calling Namazie a racist.

    You’ve written:

    >’Let’s not forget the Crusades, Spanish Inquisition, Northern Ireland or anything else committed by religious extremists of any variety or belief system.’

    But then claimed you weren’t calling NI a religious conflict.

    I don’t see much point in carrying on a conversation.

    I’ve made my view clear. Dawkins did nothing wrong; in fact he drew attention to a serious problem while not tarring all feminists, amongst whom he counts himself, with the same brush. The denial of this problem that’s going on right now, on FreethoughtBlogs – in direct denial of the facts and of Namazie’s own tweeted concern – underlines the need to challenge the blinkered complacency of the Regressive Left.

    Steve N’s repetition of the accusation that Dawkins ‘has famously made tweets or blog comments that have come off as insensitive or worse’ is a common trope on Skepchick, FreethoughtBlogs, the writing of Adam Lee, and just about nowhere else. The convenient decision not to give us any examples suggests this was just hit-and-run swipe. Dawkins is often brief, as Twitter demands, and questioning, but has always expanded his comments when challenged, and shown he is nothing like ‘worse than insensitive’.

    Steve N, the SGU – close associates of someone who has a highly publicised, personal gripe with Dawkins – and the NECSS have said that some people may not attend if Dawkins were present; well, many more may not attend if he’s not. In the end, nobody can stop the NECSS embracing a miserable crowd of self-righteous hysterics – and I hope anyone still going manages to rescue something interesting from the conference.

  129. mumadaddon 31 Jan 2016 at 1:53 pm

    Right or wrong, this bit of satire doesn’t appear to have been very effective at communicating a serious point to the commenters here, and rather has divided people along lines that were there already anyway.

  130. BillyJoe7on 31 Jan 2016 at 3:48 pm

    ccbowers,

    Are you asking me to believe that the NECSS’ invitation to RD was a margin call? 13 members: 7 for, 6 against perhaps? And they could think of no one else to invite who wasn’t a margin call? And that RD was such a margin call that a link to a single video was enough to switch the call?

    If that is the case the NECSS were stupid to invite RD in the first place (he was bound to write something they didn’t like between the invitation and the conference), and even stupider to rescind the invitation on the basis of a link to a single video especially with the qualification he made.

    The only edifying thing I’ve sen in this whole affair is RD’s gracious letter of response.
    For the NECSS it is simply a mess of their own making.

  131. Steve Crosson 31 Jan 2016 at 3:50 pm

    metaburbia,

    I hate to tell you this, but the world is not as black&white as you seem to believe. I did say ’metaburbia’s “evidence” purporting to show that some feminists support aggressive Islamists is misleading at best’ and I still stand by what I said.

    You seem to believe that some feminists support the ideals and goals of radical Islam, but the evidence that YOU presented showed only that the feminist group in question supported the rights of all people to be judged solely as individuals and to not be persecuted as a minority. That is a rather important distinction and I think it is fair to characterize your comments as misleading, just as the video in question is inflammatory and misleading.

    And I did not unconditionally accept your description of the events; certainly not your opinion of the underlying motivations. I merely said that I was willing to provisionally accept your opinion that the disruptive protestors in question may have held more extreme religious views than I was previously aware. So what? Free speech cuts both ways. I’m sure the protestors in question felt both persecuted and entitled to complain. And I agree! That does NOT mean I agree with their beliefs and goals, or even their particular methods.

    I also believe that Maryam Namazie has every right to her own opinions and that the GFS was wrong to oppose her speech. In my opinion, that is no different than Islam objecting to blasphemy or depictions of the prophet. In other words, while I can appreciate the GFS’s stated goal, I can disagree with their PC method of trying to achieve it.

    As a skeptic, I believe that the best and only path to agreement (or common ground, peace, whatever) is free and open discussion. But “arguments by sound bite” always seem to over simplify complex topics and cause emotional responses which are often unjustified.

    And that is the problem that some of us have with Dawkins’s unfortunate tendency to over-simplify. Now, a lot of people are convinced that at least some feminists are completely in support of the worst excesses of Islam when the evidence seems to suggest that they were only asking for everyone to be treated fairly and judged as individuals.

    FWIW, when I said ’Let’s not forget the Crusades, Spanish Inquisition, Northern Ireland or anything else committed by religious extremists of any variety or belief system.’ I thought the ‘or belief system’ would make it clear that I was using ‘religious’ in the small ‘r’ sense to mean fervent. Sorry it was unclear.

    I should probably have also used a non-religious example but I couldn’t immediately think of any. I actually believe that most conflicts are primarily economic or political, but Religion sure does make a convenient tool that the “powers that be” can use to characterize or control the situation for their own ends.

    Which is exactly the reason that my point all along has been the same. We need to avoid “otherism” at all costs. When we make simplistic judgments about what the “other” group believes or indeed, who is a member of the “other” group, then we can cause all sorts of problems.

  132. CKavaon 31 Jan 2016 at 5:07 pm

    “And I did not unconditionally accept your description of the events; certainly not your opinion of the underlying motivations. I merely said that I was willing to provisionally accept your opinion that the disruptive protestors in question may have held more extreme religious views than I was previously aware. So what? Free speech cuts both ways. I’m sure the protestors in question felt both persecuted and entitled to complain. And I agree! That does NOT mean I agree with their beliefs and goals, or even their particular methods.”

    The problem is you are positing a false equivalence. What does saying ‘free speech cuts both ways’ mean in this context? A speaker invited by the humanist society talking about sexism in Islam had her talk aggressively disrupted by Goldsmith’s Islamic society because they didn’t agree with the content. How is defending their right to disrupt a talk defending free speech? Do you think all talks should be disrupted aggressively if you don’t like the content? Feeling ‘persecuted’ doesn’t really seem like a useful criteria to judge things on since pretty much everyone can claim to feel persecuted when someone is criticising something they like. For instance, would you apply the same logic if Christian fundamentalists shouted down a speaker for the LGBT society because they were talking about the importance of sexual freedom?

    The feminist society’s reaction reflected an unthinking, automatic assumption that anyone crying persecution must be a) correct and b) is an ally against bigoted discrimination. They were wrong, for the exact same reasons you were when you initially assumed that the Islamic society’s complaints were justified and the speaker was a racist. You didn’t look into the context you just assumed there was discrimination because it fitted your ideological position.

    Criticising sexism and other prejudice, regardless of whether it is religiously motivated, is not ‘other-ism’. But you are right that we need to avoid making simplistic judgements. That’s why people should look into topics and context before declaring a position.

    And just to note, the above is all stated by someone who agrees that the video Dawkin’s tweeted was in poor taste and shouldn’t be endorsed by someone of Dawkin’s standing.

  133. Steve Crosson 31 Jan 2016 at 7:00 pm

    Ckava,

    I agree with much of what you have said, but I think you are mischaracterizing my position. For starters, the statement by the GFS was two days before the event so they couldn’t have known the extent of the harassment. There is nothing in the statement to indicate anything other than a desire to avoid “a climate of hatred”. There is certainly nothing that can be construed as support for radical Islam.

    And perhaps it was unintentional, but metaburbia’s posting of the news account of the speech, including disruptions, followed later by the GFS statement of support (even though it was made prior to the speech), tends to give the impression that the GFS supported everything. As I said earlier, I think that is misleading.

    Regarding the disruption, as I said earlier, “That does NOT mean I agree with … their particular methods.” Perhaps I should have immediately elaborated further, but I thought I made it clear a few paragraphs later when I said “I believe that the best and only path to agreement (or common ground, peace, whatever) is free and open discussion”. My definition of free and open does NOT include noisy disruption and harassment.

    But this is where it gets more complicated. I don’t think the GFS was necessarily wrong in making an “automatic assumption that anyone crying persecution must be a) correct” (I do think they were naive if they expected “an ally against bigoted discrimination”). In general, I don’t think it is unreasonable at all for any Muslim (or woman or black or Mexican or any other minority) to feel persecuted in the western world. But, just to repeat, that does NOT mean any and all responses are justified.

    I’m 100% in favor of criticizing sexism and all other forms of prejudice — as long as we do it accurately. My problem with “other-ism” is simple — as a species, all of us tend to fear and distrust the “others”. Often this results in misunderstanding, unnecessary disagreement and even war.

    When we have idiotic presidential candidates in my own country equating terrorists and Muslims, then we have made a bad problem even worse. And we make even moderate Muslims feel justifiable persecuted, not to mention boosting ISIS recruitment.

    And when Dawkins equates feminism with radical Islam, there will be some people that will believe exactly that — in spite of any disclaimers. And feminism gets set back at least a little bit because a self-important, misogynistic (whether he realizes it or not) asshole does not understand nuance.

  134. ccbowerson 31 Jan 2016 at 10:26 pm

    “Are you asking me to believe that the NECSS’ invitation to RD was a margin call? 13 members: 7 for, 6 against perhaps? And they could think of no one else to invite who wasn’t a margin call? And that RD was such a margin call that a link to a single video was enough to switch the call?”

    You don’t have to believe any particular thing. I don’t think the specific numbers matter that much, but let’s not make it just about number of votes. Even if I use your vote analogy (if that is how they even do this). I’m sure some who ‘voted’ yes had reservations, and some who vote no had mixed feelings about it.

    Also, it is not quite right to imply that they could have invited another person who could have been a more consensus ‘vote.’ It is not simply a matter of who gets the most votes yes (i.e., least polarizing), there are few other guests on the same level as Dawkins in terms of impact and popularity. All guests come with their pros and cons, and some who originally wanted him at the conference could have rationalized that he learned from his previous controversies (and enough time had passed), so they invited him given his reputation and popularity as an important intellectual figure in skepticism.

    If he were a lesser known person, I am sure they would not have invited him in the first place. In retrospect they should have never invited him to begin with if the video was going to reverse that decision, but I’m not going to judge such decisions. He posted the tweet to the video;they did not. It seems obvious only after the video/tweet was posted, with 20/20 hindsight as we say over here.

    It just doesn’t seem that big of a deal to me. So NECSS doesn’t want Dawkins at the conference for his continued divisiveness? I’m sure he’ll be fine.

  135. brive1987on 31 Jan 2016 at 11:16 pm

    Woke with a SNORT –

    Steve, are you skeptical that feminists sided with the Goldsmith ISOC AFTER the talk?

    Really?

    Here is some post talk edification for you.

    https://www.facebook.com/lgbtqgold/posts/635682619906781?comment_id=635781789896864&reply_comment_id=635844613223915

  136. brive1987on 31 Jan 2016 at 11:46 pm

    Lets just make the obvious, obvious.

    NECSS didn’t simply cut Dawkins to preserve their rarified tone and focus.

    No, they make a point of utterly dissasociating themselves from his opinion, called it hate speech and then tied his expulsion to this so called unacceptable behaviour.

    NECSS did this without discussion or even a heads up to their GUEST.
    They did it in such a way as to inflict maximum reputational damage.
    And they did it to a popular leader of the wider A/S movement.

    Bad form StephenN and associates.

  137. steve12on 01 Feb 2016 at 12:27 am

    This pains me as I really look up to RD. And will continue to for most things

    I can accept RD’s twitter mis-steps if he’s even handed. I’m not on twitter, so these are honest questions (which can be read rhetorically but are not).

    Does RD ever twitter comment on harassment of Muslims by non-Muslims?
    Does RD acknowledge the role of the West in creating radical Islam in his tweets?
    Does RD ever acknowledge the difficulties women face outside of Islam?

    If the answers to these questions are ‘yes’ – and with some comparable frequency to his tweet that are critical of Islam and feminism – then I think the invitation should not have been revoked. Islam and feminism MUST be criticized as everything else, including Islamophobia and misogyny.

    However if the answer is ‘no’ to these questions, and RD simply adds “but not all of them” to the end of criticisms only pointed at Islam and feminism, then he’s flirting with bigotry, frankly. And the conference organizers have every right to refuse him (though extending the invitation was clearly a mistake in the first place in this case.)

    Bottom line: the context of RD’s overall criticism is critical here.

  138. petrucioon 01 Feb 2016 at 1:02 am

    I’m sorry you must go through this Steve, you are stepping on eggs, and no matter what you say, people are going to hate you for it.

    But *sigh*, this is a huge clusterfuck from the regressive left. And you are letting them dilute everything you took so long to build.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1bI7S0LCos

  139. halincohon 01 Feb 2016 at 1:17 am

    As always, your humbleness, your humanity, and your eloquence matches your intelligence. Thank you

  140. brive1987on 01 Feb 2016 at 2:44 am

    Steve12 – are we talking 1, 3 or 5 year rolling averages here?

    Dawkins was pretty Christian focused until, I guess, Islamists started shooting up cartoonists and cafe goers with only muted criticism from the intersectionally confused regressive left.

    His interest in SJWs (apart from the navel gazing criticism born of EG) dates from the savage and unfounded attacks he incurred in 2013.

    http://www.michaelnugent.com/2013/11/26/richard-dawkins-nuanced-memoir-and-the-unjust-personal-smears-against-him/

    The problem for SJWs is that RDs does not tolerate fools lightly.

  141. CKavaon 01 Feb 2016 at 2:48 am

    Steve Cross>

    I don’t want to get lost in minutiae but I think it’s worth noting that Goldsmith’s Feminist Society did not only express their support before the event, they reiterated their support independently after the event was completed. This included posting up the Islamic society’s message about being persecuted on their social media sites along with their message of support, and deleting/removing any links to the video of the event/critical comments. So it wasn’t that they were unaware of what happened.

    “My definition of free and open does NOT include noisy disruption and harassment.”
    I think at times you are arguing for incongruous positions. You seem to be saying that it’s right to challenge prejudice and sexism, but also have heavily implied that at Golsmiths highlighting such problems in Islamism was provocative, stereotyping, and as you initially suggested… racist. Even when the person doing so, Maryam Namazie, is an Iranian secularist who has spent her entire career campaigning for human rights and arguing against persecution. Why it is reasonable that such a woman be the focus of the Feminist societies ire, rather than the Islamic society for disrupting a talk about blasphemy, is beyond me. I understand their intentions, but it reflects an unthinking political correctness that deserves criticism.

    I can see from your comments that you are reacting largely based of the poisonous ideological environment being promoted in the US (by the likes of Trump) and I can sympathise with that. But, the US political and social environment shouldn’t determine how everyone in the world expresses themselves. And refusing to endorse prejudice and stereotypes does not mean that we must avoid discussing the real problems that exist in certain strands of Islam or in certain Muslim communities. Making unwarranted generalisations, about all Muslims being potential terrorists for example, is completely unjustified and deserves harsh criticism for the bigotry that it is. But highlighting the problem with women’s rights in hardline or fundamentalist interpretations of Islam, which hold sway in a number of Muslim countries, shouldn’t be a taboo topic. As Sam Harris has also pointed out, saying that criticising Islam will promote ISIS volunteers also highlights something of a problem, as it implies that moderate Muslims can easily be swayed into violent extremism. This seems an unfair portrayal of moderate Muslims who are presumably no more likely than moderate Christians to join a violent death cult because of criticism of their beliefs.

    Still… I agree with you that Dawkins’ online statements often lack nuance and lend fodder to those who vilify ALL Muslims/Feminists. So I agree that he should be criticised for that and that the decision to disinvite him from the conference was a valid judgement call (although not one I would have taken). But I would ask you to highlight some examples of critiques of feminism or Islam that you think are reasonable in tone? I ask this because it seems more productive to point to good examples of nuanced criticism, as it helps to avoid the implication that all criticism should be treated as problematic. Do you have any examples you would recommend?

    P.S. I think that Western liberals have a hard time believing that religion actually has any real impact on the world, hence your comments that all conflicts are primarily economic or political. That’s simply not the case though, economics and politics are certainly omnipresent factors, but religious ideologies can also be the primary motivations behind conflicts and persecution. Religious belief is relevant and important throughout most of the non-Western world and has been an important driving force throughout history. I say this as someone who has spent around 10 years in academia studying religious cognition and recently focusing on rituals capacity for generating group bonding and fostering intergroup conflict.

  142. brive1987on 01 Feb 2016 at 3:05 am

    You really shouldn’t engage with Dawkins if you aren’t prepared to work through the angles. Most of his tweets are challenges to think – only a fool would treat them as papal bulls.

    Critics get a kick rage-following him, choosing to interprete these 144 character challenges as division, thereby incurring exquisite offence.

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2016/01/31/i-cant-take-no-more/#comments

    Other critics are too beige, too easily led or simply too cowardly to work through sometimes uncomfortable topics. But I guess this is not the place for that conversation.

    And then you have the critics motivated by revenge ……

  143. SteveAon 01 Feb 2016 at 7:28 am

    A bad call IMO. And, thereafter, badly handled.

    At the very least they should have discussed the issue with Dawkins first (out of politeness if nothing else).

    A joint statement from NECSS and Dawkins would have been the way to go.

    I call the Wrath of Randy down on your heads….

  144. metaburbiaon 01 Feb 2016 at 8:19 am

    Steve N:

    >’various camps, some championing free speech, others social justice’

    I cannot tell you how much I despise this statement. Social Justice *requires* free speech to anyone who hasn’t drunk the Kool-Aid of the Regressive Left’s pocket totalitarians

  145. steve12on 01 Feb 2016 at 9:25 am

    Brive:

    “Steve12 – are we talking 1, 3 or 5 year rolling averages here?
    Dawkins was pretty Christian focused until, I guess, Islamists started shooting up cartoonists and cafe goers with only muted criticism from the intersectionally confused regressive left.”

    The point is that criticizing Muslims but not the West’s role in creating Islamism or criticizing the tiny percentage of extreme feminists but not the much bigger and systemic problem of sexism in society evinces the possibility of am ugly bias.

    “His interest in SJWs (apart from the navel gazing criticism born of EG) dates from the savage and unfounded attacks he incurred in 2013.
    http://www.michaelnugent.com/2013/11/26/richard-dawkins-nuanced-memoir-and-the-unjust-personal-smears-against-him/

    The problem for SJWs is that RDs does not tolerate fools lightly.”

    Unfair things have been said about RD, there is no doubt of that, usually from the extreme left. However it is not exculpatory of my point above (if true), and unfortunately I don’t have the time to scrub his Twitter.

  146. ca1879on 01 Feb 2016 at 9:26 am

    Bad call Stephen, for all of the many reasons discussed above. No process, no generosity, no loyalty and damn poor manners.

  147. steve12on 01 Feb 2016 at 9:42 am

    Just as a general note after reading the comments above…

    Logically speaking, the nonsense spewed by a few extremists on the left (mostly college kids) cannot be used to invalidate any given social ill. Those social ills are real or not, and those kids’ bad acts are independent of that reality.

    it would seem reading above that some of our new commenters may be unaware of this.

  148. RCon 01 Feb 2016 at 11:14 am

    I like Dawkins generally, but his adoption of social media is an absolute disaster.

    When you read his books and essays, it’s clear that he puts a ton of thought into things, and considers language carefully. When you read his tweets and facebook, it’s clear he’s reacting off the cuff, not doing his research, and putting himself in a position where he feels he needs to double down and defend himself.

    His tweets/facebook posts are often overly broad, and because of that incorrect, and the environment this faces is overly hostile.

    Hitches got nasty at times, but he kept things on point, and kept things germane to the issue – Dawkins doesn’t anymore.

  149. Pugg Fugglyon 01 Feb 2016 at 11:49 am

    It wasn’t until I got through a good chunk of the comments that I had any idea there was any difference between “Islamist” and “Muslim.” In fact I assumed the former was a disparaging way to refer to the latter and struck me as a red flag much in the way of “Darwinist” or “SJW.”

    Was I the only one?

    That said, good article, would read again

  150. lagaya1on 01 Feb 2016 at 12:10 pm

    You know, by doing this Dawkins will likely be an even bigger presence at NECSS, don’t you? very divisive move in a movement that needs to pull itself together.

  151. lagaya1on 01 Feb 2016 at 1:07 pm

    I would like to add though, that on the other hand as a woman, I’m glad that my delicate feelings were so well protected from someone’s damaging ideas. My princess ears should not have to hear any such nonsense. I’ll let others decide for me if it’s right or wrong, preferably a committee of men.

  152. steve12on 01 Feb 2016 at 1:29 pm

    “I would like to add though, that on the other hand as a woman, I’m glad that my delicate feelings were so well protected from someone’s damaging ideas.”

    The NESS has a right to decide whom they want representing their views. I think they all know that adults can consume whatever they want in the way of opinion. The invite should never have been offered in the first place if RD was skating on thin ice with them prior to the video.

    But let’s face it: there’s a dark undercurrent within skeptic and atheist circles of misogyny and scapegoating. Just look at the reaction to EG. If someone looks at that whole incident in totality and is more appalled by RW’s over-sensitivity than the REACTION to that sensitivity, then I just don’t know what to say.

    I want RD to decry those odious factions, not continually flirt with them.

  153. PabloHoneyon 01 Feb 2016 at 1:54 pm

    Steve’s right that they are in no way infringing on Dawkins’ right to free speech. He has every right to say whatever he wants and NECSS has a right to uninvite him from the conference if they feel he doesn’t fit the atmosphere they’re trying to create.

    However that last bit ought not to be just brushed off.
    Steve referred to NECSS as a “humble” conference, but within the context of the skeptical movement, it’s a pretty damn big and important one. Are they trying to create a safe harbor atmosphere in which a particular subset of the attendees can be protected from offense? Obviously the view that Dawkins is a poisonous presence is far from unanimous.
    Of all venues, a skeptical conference ought to be chomping at the bit to have any and all controversial views on the table for open discussion.

    It’s been rightly pointed out that other divisive figures have presented at NECSS before (e.g. PZ Myers and Rebecca Watson). This move by NECSS makes it look like they’re taking sides and putting all of their chips in with the side that’s offended and therefore feels it’s immune to criticism. Ironically, that’s the whole point of the video Dawkins tweeted, however distasteful – NECSS is criticizing Dawkins for criticizing feminists and Islamists for feeling they’re immune to criticism!
    It’s almost a pristine example of regressive leftism.

    I’m going to continue to support the SGU and affiliated organizations as I have for many years, because up until now they’ve remained neutral in these situations and not allowed open inquiry to be stifled. I’m sure it felt like a lose/lose pressure cooker situation to the board members and they felt they had to take a side – there are people who will be upset and boycott if Dawkins attends and vice versa – flip a coin. I hope they’re getting the message from at least some of their supporters (and not just “Dawkins fanboys” as Rebecca Watson puts it) that open inquiry *must* win if skepticism means anything!

    It’s not necessary to take a side – invite Dawkins, PZ, Watson, Michael Nugent, etc. and throw them in the ring. Put mud or KY in the ring and I’ll pay double next year!

  154. metaburbiaon 01 Feb 2016 at 2:59 pm

    >Just look at the reaction to EG

    Well the very first reaction was Stef McGraw’s, for which she got abused by Watson

  155. steve12on 01 Feb 2016 at 3:15 pm

    Metaburbia:

    “Well the very first reaction was Stef McGraw’s, for which she got abused by Watson”

    OK, maybe she was. Did she threaten to have her raped and killed? No. She said she was recapitulating misogynist thought in a lecture. Same thing, right?

    No comparison.

    As I said: there’s a faction of the skeptic / atheist communities engaging in misogyny and scapegoating in the name of free expression. That these people are more appalled by insignificant radical feminists than they are by the systematic edifice of sexism and misogyny is telling.

    And a bit silly

  156. steve12on 01 Feb 2016 at 3:19 pm

    And let me clarify – I’m not defending RW’s actions or thoughts. I think she has a point on some things, but I think she is also oversensitive on several issues. I also think she was wrong about McGraw.

    But to compare that to the almost reflexive misogyny I read in atheist / skeptic circles regularly is absurd.

  157. metaburbiaon 01 Feb 2016 at 3:46 pm

    >’That these people are more appalled by insignificant radical feminists than they are by the systematic edifice of sexism and misogyny ‘

    Oh this won’t wash. The people who tweeted threats of physical harm at Watson aren’t representative of everyone who is appalled at her antics – there are loonies on the Internet, who’d have thought it; and those bored by her antics aren’t mysteriously signing up to champion sexism or misogyny.

    It’s so difficult to get away from EG isn’t it. It’s talismanic. It’s at the root of the Watson/Dawkins spat that is itself the ultimate cause of this no-platforming. But let’s try.

  158. brive1987on 01 Feb 2016 at 3:52 pm

    Steve12

    Dawkins is perfectly within his rights to examine the role of religion in shaping the murderous actions of those who identify as oppressed. He doen’t need to go down the social and historical rabbit hole of examining the basis for that identification. Interesting as that may be. In any case black armband view of history is not the consensous approach.

    The world is full of disadvantaged people who refrain from the indiscriminate use of bombs and guns.

    Similarly he is Justified critiquing the mental straight jackets imposed on wider society by the ideologically righteous. Be they moslem or rad-feminist. And alas, the righteous are not confined to Uni students.

  159. metaburbiaon 01 Feb 2016 at 3:59 pm

    Muchael Nugent’s post on the topic. He does visit the Watson question briefly but it’s a longish piece.

    http://www.michaelnugent.com/2016/02/01/necss-reconsider-dawkins-decision/

  160. brive1987on 01 Feb 2016 at 4:17 pm

    Interesting. There appears to be a converging view amongst moderate A/S thinkers that NECSS made a big mistake.

    http://www.michaelnugent.com/2016/02/01/necss-reconsider-dawkins-decision/#more-13260

    http://quillette.com/2016/02/01/the-disinviting-of-dawkins/

  161. brive1987on 01 Feb 2016 at 4:17 pm

    Whoops.

  162. steve12on 01 Feb 2016 at 4:20 pm

    Brive:

    “Dawkins is perfectly within his rights to examine the role of religion in shaping the murderous actions of those who identify as oppressed. He doen’t need to go down the social and historical rabbit hole of examining the basis for that identification. Interesting as that may be. In any case black armband view of history is not the consensous approach.”

    Straw man.

    Examining radical Islam outside the context of the last few hundred years of the West’s relationship to the ME makes for a pointless endeavor. It’s flirting with scapegoating because it puts all the blame on those people while washing the West clean. It’s not a “black armband” view; it’s including causal agents to current effects.

    “The world is full of disadvantaged people who refrain from the indiscriminate use of bombs and guns.”

    And this falsifies the West’s influence in this case how? Did all of those places have large amounts of capital pumped into them, but only to a tiny minority? Were all of them disenfranchised bu foreign powers? Were all of them invaded and completely destabilized repeatedly? The notion that the most proximal cause of radical Islam is the Koran and NOT the West using the ME as playground for oil and proxy wars is irrational. At best. At the least they’re BOTH causal, no?

    But scapegoating is not fun when YOUR culture has to take some responsibility!

    Of course, the religion plays a huge part. But let’s look at those other places you speak of, shall we?When have the politically disempowered EVER gotten violent in the name of some movement? Other than China, Russia, Cambodia, Korea, Vietnam, Israel, and almost all of Central and South America I can’t think of a place! Must be something special about Islam!

    “Similarly he is Justified critiquing the mental straight jackets imposed on wider society by the ideologically righteous. Be they moslem or rad-feminist. And alas, the righteous are not confined to Uni students.”

    Your movement’s not self righteous at all – I can see that…

    Of course he does. But if people are selectively outraged, especially when examining closely related concepts, I wonder about the formation of said selection bias. Why is that not fair for ME to ask?

    I

  163. Steve Crosson 01 Feb 2016 at 4:20 pm

    CKava,

    I genuinely appreciate your thoughtful responses to my comments. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve done a terrible job explaining my point. I get too emotional and too rude, and for that I apologize. And I’m profoundly embarrassed to admit that I should have done some more research before making some knee-jerk responses. Specifically in regard to the GFS statement of support, I should have looked more closely. However, it still appears to me (and please correct me if I’m wrong) that the GFS seems to only be supporting their perceived “fellow victims of oppression” rather than endorsing the tenants of Islam. And that is something quite different than what the video implies.

    In any event, I never intended to give the impression that I was against legitimate criticism of anyone — quite the opposite in fact. My concern has always been that all too often, the target of criticism is perceived as being a much larger group than it really is. This happens on both sides of the issue, e.g. too many Americans equate Muslims with Terrorism and (probably as a result) too many Muslims believe that all Americans hate all Muslims. Sadly, this same attitude seems to be increasing in other parts of the world. As a direct result (IMHO), more Muslims justifiably feel ostracized or even physically threatened and some go on to join ISIS or commit atrocities. This isn’t just speculation on my part. I work with a lot of Muslims and many have said how it is getting increasingly scary to simply continue to live in America.

    Nor do I think it is complete coincidence that more incidents like the Paris attacks, Boston Marathon bombing and San Bernadino attacks have happened in the last few years. I’ve mentioned before that, as a species, humans are often suspicious or even afraid of outsiders or “other” groups. If we put larger and larger numbers of people into the “other” category through casual stereotyping, then we shouldn’t be surprised when that larger “other” group suddenly realizes that “we” are now their “other” group and, unsurprisingly, they begin to mistrust and fear us in return. In essence, when we believe lazy stereotypes, we tend to assume that more people share the characteristics of our real enemies than the evidence supports, but acting as if that assumption were true could easily create new enemies that did not exist before.

    I don’t think there is a good answer to this dilemma. I think the closest we can probably come is to constantly be aware of the problem and go out of our way to make it clear that criticism of some Muslim practices (or any other topic of debate) is NOT the same as disagreeing with all Muslims about everything. That is my only (slight) criticism of Maryam Namazie. I actually admire and respect her. I believe she has every right and actually should publicly question many of the tenants of Islam. But, in her talks that I have seen (and I have not seen them all), I have never seen her say it explicitly, but it is easy to get the impression that she is criticizing all Muslims . For example, she will legitimately point out many of the problems with the Koran without explaining that not all Muslims follow the passages literally or believe that they should be universally applied.

    The Christian Bible also has a lot of reprehensible content, and while a few extreme sects claim to believe and practice most or all of it, I think it is fair to say that the majority of self-professed Christians are perfectly willing to ignore the bad parts. I believe that most Muslims feel the same way about the bad parts of the Koran, but very few critics seem willing to acknowledge that as far as I can tell.

    Finally, I’m sure you’re right that religion does indeed play a major role in many conflicts, especially from the viewpoint of the rank-and-file. However, the cynic in me still suspects that at least some of the upper echelons use it simply as a tool to achieve their own ends — the quest for power alone seems to be adequate motivation for some.

  164. steve12on 01 Feb 2016 at 4:29 pm

    Metaburbia

    “Oh this won’t wash. The people who tweeted threats of physical harm at Watson aren’t representative of everyone who is appalled at her antics – there are loonies on the Internet, who’d have thought it; and those bored by her antics aren’t mysteriously signing up to champion sexism or misogyny.”

    Who said they were representative? They’re extant – that’s a problem enough. Is RW representative? Then why get so upset about her in the first place? Indeed – THAT doesn’t wash then, right?

    I can’t read about EG w/o endless streams of cunt, bitch, whore, rape, etc. There are more than a couple of loons. And they hvae a whole MRA-ish army that won’t threaten rape, but don’t think it’s so awful that it happens. Just some loons is all.

    The REAL transgression isn’t what happens to women, it’s that someone somewhere might not approve of their Manthoughts (TM) at all times.

    “It’s so difficult to get away from EG isn’t it. It’s talismanic. It’s at the root of the Watson/Dawkins spat that is itself the ultimate cause of this no-platforming. But let’s try.”

    Not me. I’ve seen what it has spawned, and I feel it needs to be dealt with.

  165. brive1987on 01 Feb 2016 at 5:03 pm

    Steve12:

    “Examining radical Islam outside the context of the last few hundred years of the West’s relationship to the ME makes for a pointless endeavor. It’s flirting with scapegoating because it puts all the blame on those people while washing the West clean. It’s not a “black armband” view; it’s including causal agents to current effects.”

    Depends on the focus of your examination. A historian will want to explore origins. Someone apportioning “blame” will need to separate action/outcome from intent. Good luck with that. Which is why historians try not to be social commentators.

    Dawkins is a religious commentator.

    He makes the point that certain religious ideologies are inimical to western values derived from the enlightenment – and notes they channel their anger (be it justified ir nit) using expressions of terror and murder pointedly aimed at destabilising liberal culture. A significant deviation from previous conflicts bounded by nationalistic goals.

    I sense a tendency amongst some of the rusted on commentators here to remove a lot of agency and ethical responsibility from the ‘less privilaged’ intersectional group.

  166. Steve Crosson 01 Feb 2016 at 5:11 pm

    steve12,

    “The REAL transgression isn’t what happens to women, it’s that someone somewhere might not approve of their Manthoughts (TM) at all times.”

    Indeed! How could anyone look at both sides of the issue and reach the conclusion that the response was proportional? Even if you believe that RW was completely in the wrong, the response was insane — by orders of magnitude.

    This reminds me very much of something Dawkins pointed out about religious believers. He suspected that the reason so many get extremely defensive when their beliefs are questioned is that they are too terrified to admit their own doubts to themselves.

    I think the same is probably true about the over-the-top responses to RW. It’s tough to admit to yourself that you have been a clueless misogynist your whole life. Much easier to blame the woman for not recognizing your obvious charm.

  167. Ivan Groznyon 01 Feb 2016 at 5:36 pm

    “Examining radical Islam outside the context of the last few hundred years of the West’s relationship to the ME makes for a pointless endeavor. It’s flirting with scapegoating because it puts all the blame on those people while washing the West clean.”

    Exactly, it with-washes Communism and Nazism and their decisive contribution in formulating the tenets of Islamist ideology. Hasan al Banna, the founder of Muslim Brotherhood admired Hitler and Mussolini, and took over the entire organizational structure from Mussolini’s black shirts. Sayid Qutb, the main ideological source of al Quaeda and ISIS was a Lenininst, who merged the terrorist doctrines of revolutionary Communism with a novel interpretation of Quran. AL Mwduwdi, the famous leader of Jamal al Islamia in Pakistan was also dreaming about the global Islamic caliphate and considered Islam to be ideology, not religion. Suicidal terrorism was also imported, but not from the West but rather from Japan. The first suicidal terrorist attack in the Middle East was performed in 1967 by a Japanese radical leftist organization cooperating with a predominantly secular PLO at that time. Gadaffi was speaking at the time contemptuously about the cowardice of Arabs who were incapable of performing themselves similar heroic feats. Eliminationist anti-Semitism, so prevalent in the Arab world nowadays was brought to the Middle East first by the Christian Arabs studying in Europe and then decisively transplanted by the Nazi propaganda before and during the II World War. Read Jeffrey Herf’s and especially Mathias Kuntzell’s book about this. Nothing to do with Western colonialism.

    Islamism as such does not have anything to do with “Western colonialism”, but has much to do with the influence of Western totalitarian ideas (and practices as well – look at ISIS executions – right from the play-book of Italian Red Brigades or German Baader Meinhoff ).

  168. steve12on 01 Feb 2016 at 6:04 pm

    Brive:

    “Depends on the focus of your examination. A historian will want to explore origins. Someone apportioning “blame” will need to separate action/outcome from intent. Good luck with that. Which is why historians try not to be social commentators.”

    So RD isn’t assessing cause when he looks at the bad acts of Islamists? Please. It’s all about cause! The cause, he (et al.) say, is the religion. And that is true, in part.

    But if you ignore the rest of the major causal factors, you’re opinion becomes worthless.

    “He makes the point that certain religious ideologies are inimical to western values derived from the enlightenment”

    All 3 of the big 3 religions are ” inimical to western values”.

  169. steve12on 01 Feb 2016 at 6:06 pm

    “Islamism as such does not have anything to do with “Western colonialism””

    I’m just having trouble figuring out if this is just dumb, OR the dumbest thing ever?

    Very conflicted here….

  170. brive1987on 01 Feb 2016 at 7:08 pm

    Steve12 – Parisian cafes are currently safe from Jewish zealots. But YMMV.

    RD is accessing cause for the manner in which anger is expressed. I’ll assume he accepts the world is full of injustice (of which a portion can be assigned to the west) and that this injustice makes some people feel oppressed and bitter.

  171. Willyon 01 Feb 2016 at 7:30 pm

    steve12: I am a Yhuge atheists (couldn’t resist the “Donald” slam) and I agree that all 3 Abrahamic religions are inimical to western values. At the same time, I would argue that, by and large, Christianity has been largely neutered and poses no serious threat to the West. By and large, this is true for Judaism as well, though it seems that some “right-wing” Israelis pose a threat to the Middle East, though not even close to the threat posed by radical Muslims.

    As for “Western colonialism”, it would be foolish to ignore our meddling in the Middle East as having no effect, but I’m not so sure that this problem of radical Muslims wouldn’t have happened to a large degree anyway. Read “The Looming Towers” by Lawrence Wright and “Infidel” by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Pardon my bluntness, but those people are just plain nuts. Labeling Mr. Hirsi as an “Islamaphobe” is truly to have gone far off the rails. Same thing with Maryam Nawazi. Especially from now on, when anyone uses a term including “phobe”, my skeptical ear will be alerted.

    As for the Richard Dawkins issue, the reading I have done has shocked me with regard to the “turmoil” beneath the apparent calm. I will do more research, but to claim the skeptical movement is somehow infested with anti-feminists strikes me to be absurd. People are people and we ain’t all perfect. That includes those who worry about “—phobes”. What does it even mean to make TAM “safe for women”???? I don’t know the precise details of what happened in Elevator Gate, but why is Rebecca’s word gospel for some and why is the guy assumed by some to be automatically guilty? Maybe he was earnest and well intended. Is that even possible? As I posted earlier–I am tired of being expected to understand what anyone else’s “big concerns” or irrational fears are. I try to be civil and polite to EVERYONE I meet and If I cross some imaginary barrier–like asking where to find a good BBQ joint–I am sincere. I am not some hateful stereotyping racist. If I speak to a woman in public, I am not trying to hit on her. Just yesterday, I commented to a woman in the grocery store how nice the tomatoes looked (they were great big. gnarly looking heirloom types rarely seen in a grocery store). I immediately followed that with “my wife and I will enjoy a great BLT tomorrow”. I seriously suggest we all stop being part of some put-upon minority and friggin’ just be human beings.

  172. Ivan Groznyon 01 Feb 2016 at 8:29 pm

    “I’m just having trouble figuring out if this is just dumb, OR the dumbest thing ever”

    it’s neither, it’s just that you are an uneducated leftist fanatic who apparently had never read a word about the origins of Islamism as an ideology, and thinks that his cultural Marxist “anti-colonial” bullshit explains anything.

    willy,
    exactly, how did “Western colonialism” cause eliminationist anti-Semitism, or suicidal terrorism, or beheading of people, or stoning to death, or death penalty for apostasy?

  173. Steve Crosson 01 Feb 2016 at 8:37 pm

    Willy: “At the same time, I would argue that, by and large, Christianity has been largely neutered and poses no serious threat to the West”

    I hope you’re right, but at the moment I’m nervously awaiting the results of today’s Iowa Caucuses (USA presidential candidate selection) in which the Christian Evangelicals are expected to have a large influence. These people want to turn back the clock a hundred years.

    Admittedly, they have no (current) plans to bomb our own people (except for blacks, Mexicans, Gays and probably a few other groups whom they don’t regard as people). However, they don’t seem to have any problem with bombing the rest of the world.

  174. Steve Crosson 01 Feb 2016 at 8:47 pm

    Ivan,

    Straw Man alert. I haven’t heard steve12 or anyone else say that Western Colonialism is the sole cause of the current situation. But, come on … there are a LOT of things the West has done that have made a bad situation much worse. For starters, if we hadn’t pissed them off so much, they wouldn’t bother to focus their rage on the West until AFTER they had subdued/conquered their more immediate neighbors.

  175. Willyon 01 Feb 2016 at 8:50 pm

    Ivan G: “exactly, how did “Western colonialism” cause eliminationist anti-Semitism, or suicidal terrorism, or beheading of people, or stoning to death, or death penalty for apostasy?”

    I didn’t say any of those things, did I? Do you have reading comprehension problems? There are classes to help you.

  176. steve12on 01 Feb 2016 at 11:05 pm

    “Steve12 – Parisian cafes are currently safe from Jewish zealots. But YMMV.”

    You’re right. Muslims are just BAD. Their book is WORSE. Real explanative shit going on here.

    Let’s look at the competing causes, shall we?

    A. Stuff written in the Koran is shittier than what’s in the Bible. And not by a little bit. The Koran is soooooo much worse than the book that gives instructions and indications for genocide, the killing one’s family, human sacrifice, etc. that it explains why some of Islam is relatively (to Christians and Jews) backward and violent.

    OR

    B. For the past 200 years, the region has not been allowed to progress with the rest of us into the modern world because the West has manipulated it. After the Fun that Was Colonialism (FTWC!), we propped up dictators, killed elected leaders, and supported regimes that allowed us access to oil. Then, for the Coupe de grace, we invade and destabilize the entire region, killing 100,000s of people. And I’m not even touching Israel / Palestine. Forget it – I don’t even need it.

    Anyone who says A is the whole problem and B is negligible has got to be fucking kidding me. To prattle on and on and on about A and say B doesn’t really matter much evinces some sort of emotional / idealogical position.

    “RD is accessing cause for the manner in which anger is expressed. I’ll assume he accepts the world is full of injustice (of which a portion can be assigned to the west) and that this injustice makes some people feel oppressed and bitter.”

    OK, sure.

  177. steve12on 01 Feb 2016 at 11:08 pm

    Cleaner version, as the last one is “awaiting moderation”

    “Steve12 – Parisian cafes are currently safe from Jewish zealots. But YMMV.”

    You’re right. Muslims are just BAD. Their book is WORSE. Real explanative stuff going on here.
    Let’s look at the competing causes, shall we?

    A. Stuff written in the Koran is worse than what’s in the Bible. And not by a little bit. The Koran is soooooo much worse than the book that gives instructions and indications for genocide, the killing one’s family, human sacrifice, etc. that it explains why some of Islam is relatively (to Christians and Jews) backward and violent.

    OR

    B. For the past 200 years, the region has not been allowed to progress with the rest of us into the modern world because the West has manipulated it. After the Fun that Was Colonialism (FTWC!), we propped up dictators, killed elected leaders, and supported regimes that allowed us access to oil. Then, for the Coupe de grace, we invade and destabilize the entire region, killing 100,000s of people. And I’m not even touching Israel / Palestine. Forget it – I don’t even need it.

    Anyone who says A is the whole problem and B is negligible has got to be kidding me. To prattle on and on and on about A and say B doesn’t really matter much evinces some sort of emotional / idealogical position.

    “RD is accessing cause for the manner in which anger is expressed. I’ll assume he accepts the world is full of injustice (of which a portion can be assigned to the west) and that this injustice makes some people feel oppressed and bitter.”

    OK, sure.

  178. steve12on 01 Feb 2016 at 11:35 pm

    “steve12: I am a Yhuge atheists (couldn’t resist the “Donald” slam)….”

    Ha! points…

    “…and I agree that all 3 Abrahamic religions are inimical to western values. At the same time, I would argue that, by and large, Christianity has been largely neutered and poses no serious threat to the West. By and large, this is true for Judaism as well, though it seems that some “right-wing” Israelis pose a threat to the Middle East, though not even close to the threat posed by radical Muslims.
    As for “Western colonialism”, it would be foolish to ignore our meddling in the Middle East as having no effect, but I’m not so sure that this problem of radical Muslims wouldn’t have happened to a large degree anyway. “Read “The Looming Towers” by Lawrence Wright and “Infidel” by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Pardon my bluntness, but those people are just plain nuts. ”

    Thanks for the reading tip – haven’t read

    See my comment above at 11:08. All three have absurd things in their texts. Two went forward into the modern world, one did not. Many of them are nuts, I agree. But I think that the proximal cause is more recent history than ancient texts. I’d be shocked if they didn’t turn out this way considering that barred entry into the modern world.

    “Labeling Mr. Hirsi as an “Islamaphobe” is truly to have gone far off the rails. Same thing with Maryam Nawazi. Especially from now on, when anyone uses a term including “phobe”, my skeptical ear will be alerted.”

    I didn’t say this. I’m not that familiar with Hirsi. Nawazi has said that there are no moderate Muslims. I find that odious.

    “As for the Richard Dawkins issue, the reading I have done has shocked me with regard to the “turmoil” beneath the apparent calm. I will do more research, but to claim the skeptical movement is somehow infested with anti-feminists strikes me to be absurd.”

    I didn’t say infested exactly. But the Phil Mason, Devon Tracy wing of the party is real, and needs to be countered.

    “People are people and we ain’t all perfect. That includes those who worry about “—phobes”. What does it even mean to make TAM “safe for women”???? I don’t know the precise details of what happened in Elevator Gate, but why is Rebecca’s word gospel for some and why is the guy assumed by some to be automatically guilty?”

    As I’ve said I’m not sure I agree with RW – but I think the reaction was much more insane.

    “Maybe he was earnest and well intended. ”

    If you watch the original video, even she thinks he was. I don’t think anyone thinks this poor guy was other than well intended.

    “Is that even possible? As I posted earlier–I am tired of being expected to understand what anyone else’s “big concerns” or irrational fears are. I try to be civil and polite to EVERYONE I meet and If I cross some imaginary barrier–like asking where to find a good BBQ joint–I am sincere. I am not some hateful stereotyping racist. If I speak to a woman in public, I am not trying to hit on her.”

    It can be tough. Being in academia for a long time, there’s a huge problem with kids wanting to squelch all kinds of legitimate speech so that they’re not uncomfortable. It’s gotten insane, and at some point people should be able to discuss things. On the other hand, I don’t want to be intentionally hurtful either. Except when I do, I guess…

    “Just yesterday, I commented to a woman in the grocery store how nice the tomatoes looked (they were great big. gnarly looking heirloom types rarely seen in a grocery store). I immediately followed that with “my wife and I will enjoy a great BLT tomorrow”. I seriously suggest we all stop being part of some put-upon minority and friggin’ just be human beings.”

    Ha – that’s funny! Yeah, at some point we do need to cut each other a little slack. It’s perspective that can get lost in these types of discussions

  179. steve12on 01 Feb 2016 at 11:40 pm

    “Straw Man alert. I haven’t heard steve12 or anyone else say that Western Colonialism is the sole cause of the current situation. ”

    Exactly – thanks Steve.

    Just to clarify, my original point was that it’s much more complicated than a single cause. If someone keeps going back to a single cause, it evinces a certain bias.

  180. brive1987on 02 Feb 2016 at 2:08 am

    Steve12

    So, criticism of religious inspired Islamic mass murder requires us to assume direct responsibility – and then self flagellate. What indicative proportion of the guilt would you recommend? 70% 10% 100% ?

    Btw, thank you for exposing me to this point of view.

  181. Mr Qwertyon 02 Feb 2016 at 3:37 am

    brive1987
    “So, criticism of religious inspired Islamic mass murder requires us to assume direct responsibility – and then self flagellate. What indicative proportion of the guilt would you recommend? 70% 10% 100% ?

    Btw, thank you for exposing me to this point of view.”

    Ignoring the straw man which is the first paragraph, I’ll just point you to:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1953_Iranian_coup_d%27%C3%A9tat – while fairly unknown in the west, these are significant contributors to the radical islam rebound and have strong influence on anti-western sentiment in that part of the world.

    As for the whole video (thanks mumadadd for sharing the link) – just watched it to see what this is all kerfuffle is about – seriously? It’s shallow, uncool and just offensive for the purpose of being offensive. It really surprises me that a prominent intellectual (especially the one whos work I greatly respect) would involve himself with something like that. Dragging the discussion to that level cannot be helpful in any way or form.

  182. BillyJoe7on 02 Feb 2016 at 5:43 am

    For some perspective, the following link shows the results of a survey by the Pew Research Centre on the attitudes of Muslims around the world:

    http://www.pewforum.org/2013/04/30/the-worlds-muslims-religion-politics-society-overview/

  183. BillyJoe7on 02 Feb 2016 at 5:57 am

    And for some perspective on RW:

    If the first thing you say to a woman you have never met or spoken to before is “do you want to come to my room”, then you are not treating her as a fellow human being. That is what RW objected to…and she was pretty damn polite about it in that original video.
    Since that original video, however, the whole thing has been an increasingly bad mess.

  184. steve12on 02 Feb 2016 at 9:16 am

    Brive:

    “So, criticism of religious inspired Islamic mass murder requires us to assume direct responsibility – and then self flagellate. What indicative proportion of the guilt would you recommend? 70% 10% 100% ?”

    Not so much straw man as outright lie.

    Anyone who’s smart enough to be literate couldn’t possibly take that away from comment unless their being purposefully duplicitous.

    Exposing views indeed.

  185. steve12on 02 Feb 2016 at 9:19 am

    I want to make clear that I’m not ascribing this view to RW – I don’t know the content of his twitter.

    But people who become unhinged at the notion that geopolitics are at least as responsible as the texts of the Koran for Islamism evince a tendency toward bigotry OR a complete ignorance of history.

    That said, of coure the religious beliefs themselves are partly to blame. Of course, never any different.

  186. RCon 02 Feb 2016 at 9:57 am

    “Christianity has been largely neutered and poses no serious threat to the West. ”

    This is nonsense in my experience – it’s Christianity that is trying to push evolution out of schools. Its christians that are trying to pass laws to prevent gay marriage, etc. It’s christians that are killing gays in the US. Its christians that are blowing up abortion clinics, killing doctors, etc. Christians are a huge, violent threat to people in the US.

  187. luther1010on 02 Feb 2016 at 10:03 am

    Dr. Novella just curios. You know that Richard Dawkins was a victim of child molestation. Do you think its appropriate to mock his no-platorming by comparing it to child rape? Do you think its appropriate for one on your NECSS speakers and business partners at science base medicine to do this? Is mocking a victim of child rape not offensive enough to get dis-invited?

  188. Steve Crosson 02 Feb 2016 at 10:04 am

    brive1987: “So, criticism of religious inspired Islamic mass murder requires us to assume direct responsibility – and then self flagellate. What indicative proportion of the guilt would you recommend? 70% 10% 100% ?”

    WTF! No … Just NO! Learn what a Straw Man is people!!!

    I didn’t make the decisions about anything the West has done in the ME and I certainly didn’t vote for any of the short-sighted fools that did. And I absolutely condemn anyone who thinks it is acceptable to harm innocent bystanders in a misguided attempt to punish/frighten the actual perpetrators.

    Assigning responsibility/blame is pointless anyway. In every conflict, each side is going to believe that the other side is more responsible — and from their own perspective, they’re probably right. But if they can’t get past that, then they’ll be fighting forever.

    Purely for practical reasons, you’d have to be a blithering idiot to not recognize the many mistakes that the West has made in the Middle East. At the very minimum, trying to put out a forest fire with gasoline should teach you to not make the same mistakes in the future.

    “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”

  189. metaburbiaon 02 Feb 2016 at 10:18 am

    I do wonder how it is that people who wish to put significant blame on the West for the Asharite/Mutazelite disagreement that I read as being the *real* cause of the intellectual and cultural decline of Muslim countries aren’t baffled that the Islamists don’t go after Turkey bigtime in revenge for the Ottoman empire.

    I guess the ‘Evils of the West 101’ course doesn’t actually cover much history, Islamic philosophy, or even colonialism outside of Western colonialism.

  190. lagaya1on 02 Feb 2016 at 10:25 am

    If being inoffensive is the criterion, I guess we can count on the South Park guys never being invited, now. Or just about anyone else interesting.

  191. Steve Crosson 02 Feb 2016 at 10:31 am

    metaburbia: “I do wonder how it is that people who wish to put significant blame on the West for the Asharite/Mutazelite disagreement that I read as being the *real* cause of the intellectual and cultural decline of Muslim countries aren’t baffled that the Islamists don’t go after Turkey bigtime in revenge for the Ottoman empire.”

    Umm … not seeing your point here. If the Islamists themselves apparently don’t see Turkey as a significant cause of the current environment, then what??? Did they draw our name out of a hat as the enemy du jour?

  192. Willyon 02 Feb 2016 at 10:52 am

    steve12: My apologies–only the first part of my post was directed at you and no hostility was intended–the rest were just general comments.

  193. Willyon 02 Feb 2016 at 11:00 am

    RC–I suppose it depends on what the definition of “serious threat” is. LOL

    My point of comparison is with the threat to us posed by radical Muslims, not to mention the oppression exerted by them on their own societies. I surely agree with you that Christianity in our country poses threats and these threats must be dealt with

  194. Willyon 02 Feb 2016 at 11:26 am

    One more thought. Some posts herein seem to “blame” Dr. Novella for the NECSS decision. I’d like to point out that 1) we don’t have any idea how Dr. Novella voted on this issue and 2) NeuroLogica is not NECSS. I was disappointed to see at least one person vow to quit NeuroLogica over this flap. Good grief, we can disagree and still talk to one another.

    Thanks, Dr. Novella, for all of the tireless work you do in support of rational thought. There are too few folks like you.

  195. steve12on 02 Feb 2016 at 11:27 am

    Metaburbia

    “I do wonder how it is that people who wish to put significant blame on the West for the Asharite/Mutazelite disagreement that I read as being the *real* cause of the intellectual and cultural decline of Muslim countries aren’t baffled that the Islamists don’t go after Turkey bigtime in revenge for the Ottoman empire.”

    No one said Western meddling was the sole reason. You may repeat it all you like though.

    The internal factors are of course important. But how can you maintain that what I laid out above did not effect the development of the ME and therfor Islam?

    How can a culture more in a more civilizing direction when that culture is repeatedly stifled from without?

    “I guess the ‘Evils of the West 101’ course doesn’t actually cover much history, Islamic philosophy, or even colonialism outside of Western colonialism.”

    Here’s the real story. You have a whole philosophy to defend, I don’t . I think Western contributions (especially science) are the among the most important to humanity, but I can ALSO criticize the West when appropriate

    You want to scapegoat, but reality is getting in the way. The notion that continually having your family killed by outsiders, continually being occupied, and continually being politically manipulated from without does not play much of a part in the rise to violent movements (in whatever name) is just too dumb to entertain, frankly.

  196. steve12on 02 Feb 2016 at 11:28 am

    Willy:

    “My apologies–only the first part of my post was directed at you and no hostility was intended–the rest were just general comments.”

    None necessary! I think you make a lot of good points.

  197. CKavaon 02 Feb 2016 at 11:42 am

    @Steve Cross

    Thank you for the kind words. And I also apologise for any overly harsh comments. I think we probably agree on a lot of things, but discussing the details of areas of disagreement can still be worthwhile.

    “I think the same is probably true about the over-the-top responses to RW. It’s tough to admit to yourself that you have been a clueless misogynist your whole life. Much easier to blame the woman for not recognizing your obvious charm.”
    Is it not possible to just disagree with RW AND not be a clueless misogynist?

    “Umm … not seeing your point here. If the Islamists themselves apparently don’t see Turkey as a significant cause of the current environment, then what??? Did they draw our name out of a hat as the enemy du jour?”
    The Islamists in question are primarily engaged with the killing of other Muslims. They promote an anti-Western message because it helps to draw recruits, and certainly they hate the West, but day-in and day-out the victims of Islamist movements are Muslims not Westerners. If their motivation is primarily to attack the US/the West and protect Muslims from imperialism then it is odd that the VAST majority of their targets being members of other Muslim sects and minorities. Similarly, if you look at ISIS’ propaganda you will quickly see there is also a rather prominent strident anti-Iranian message. But that’s nothing to do with the US/the West and hence is rarely discussed.

    In regards Turkey the point is that if you are going to claim that any analysis of the ME that ignores the colonial meddling of the past 200 years is meaningless then you should display a keen interest in the Ottoman Empire and its impact on the region but generally the people making such statements display no such interest. When people on the left (where I also find myself) mention colonialism in the ME they are typically only really interested in discussing the ‘West’, primarily the US, and painting all activities in the region as being fallout from the West/the US’ nefarious actions in the region. So it’s not a historically nuanced position that such people are promoting; it’s a lazy (but very trendy) monocausal perspective that ascribes the West as the source of all evil in the world but ultimately denies the agency or any non-‘West related’ motivations to people living outside the West.

    In regards Turkey and modern Islamism it was, until recently, providing indirect support for ISIS by attacking Kurdish forces and refusing to lend any military aid or let volunteer Kurdish fighters cross its borders. Until it was repeatedly provoked by ISIS and took military action. It is now a target and has suffered many more terrorist attacks from ISIS than the US. So it isn’t quite the irrelevance you suggest.

    @steve12
    “Examining radical Islam outside the context of the last few hundred years of the West’s relationship to the ME makes for a pointless endeavor. It’s flirting with scapegoating because it puts all the blame on those people while washing the West clean. It’s not a “black armband” view; it’s including causal agents to current effects.”
    “Just to clarify, my original point was that it’s much more complicated than a single cause. If someone keeps going back to a single cause, it evinces a certain bias.”
    Your comments do not evidence much interest in exploring multifaceted causes, rather you seem to be ascribing practically all responsibility for modern Islamic extremism to ‘Western’ meddling. You are correct that people shouldn’t exclude the actions of Western powers in any analysis of modern geopolitics in the ME but it is equally problematic when people present the ME as if it is a ‘playground’ for Western powers and ignore the agency, complex history, and indigenous regional conflicts of the countries in the ME. Implying that all modern conflicts in the ME and Islamic extremist movements are ultimately a product of the actions of Western countries does just that. Similarly it seems to be a rather shallow, not to mention false, dichotomy to say either the cause of Islamic extremism is A) verses in the koran or B) Western meddling in the ME. Both of those are monocausal oversimplifications, and I can’t actually identify anyone in the comments that has focused on the koran as the primary causal factor except you and Steve Cross.

    “And this falsifies the West’s influence in this case how? Did all of those places have large amounts of capital pumped into them, but only to a tiny minority? Were all of them disenfranchised bu foreign powers? Were all of them invaded and completely destabilized repeatedly? The notion that the most proximal cause of radical Islam is the Koran and NOT the West using the ME as playground for oil and proxy wars is irrational. At best. At the least they’re BOTH causal, no?”
    This is almost a gish gallop of ME geopolitics analysis. Addressing all of the assumptions and false conclusions would take far too much time compared to the amount of effort it takes to produce this kind of popular rhetoric but just for starters:
    – Yes a lot of countries have large amounts of countries have capital controlled by an elite minority, that is almost a defining characteristic of the modern era, it is not something unique to countries in the ME. A significant role for foreign capital is also an inevitable factor for developing economies as they are operating in a global world with existing powerful markets.
    – Yes a lot of countries have been repeatedly invaded and destabilised by Western countries in the past 200 years. 200 years covers a lot of history. It includes WWI and WWII, the cold war, the fall of the Ottoman Empire… there are even examples in that time period were countries that were led by totalitarian fascists were invaded, nuked, and occupied by Western nations and have since morphed into democracies with some of the most powerful world economies. This is not intended as an argument for why invasions are a good thing for a country, it’s just to highlight that the outcomes of conflicts, and interventions by Western powers, are not as predictable as you imply.
    – In terms of disenfranchisement how empowered do you regard the populations to be under (the non-Western) regimes of Saddam and the Taliban? What about Syria? How empowered are its population under Assad?

    None of the above means that exploitation, the brutalities of colonialism, or Western support for oppressive regimes are not real issues. It’s just that they aren’t the only issue or the only causal factor in the region. You pay lip service to there being multiple factors, but the only factor your posts discuss is the ‘West’. It’s almost like you view the ME as a monolithic static entity that has done nothing for 200 years except react to Western imperialism. That’s nonsense of course but it’s a depressingly popular analysis on the left these days.

    @Willy:
    “I am tired of being expected to understand what anyone else’s “big concerns” or irrational fears are. I try to be civil and polite to EVERYONE I meet and If I cross some imaginary barrier–like asking where to find a good BBQ joint–I am sincere. I am not some hateful stereotyping racist.”
    Here, here.

  198. Willyon 02 Feb 2016 at 12:24 pm

    steve12 (and everyone else) Please do read “Infidel” and “The Looming Towers”. Both are rational looks at the nature of Islam and especially its current fanaticism. Ms. Hirsi Ali is as brave a human being as exists.

    I am not very familiar with Maryam Namaze (I just read one Wiki article), but I can understand her point about “no moderate Muslims”, which I suspect shouldn’t be taken to mean there are no moderate Middle Easterners. It isn’t as extreme a position as it sounds and it is more nuanced than it sounds when taken as an isolated sentence.

    For a domestic comparison, one might say that there are no moderate Republicans… An exaggeration also, but a succinct way to make a point.

  199. steve12on 02 Feb 2016 at 12:40 pm

    “but I can understand her point about “no moderate Muslims”, which I suspect shouldn’t be taken to mean there are no moderate Middle Easterners. ”

    But here’s where I have trouble. If we tell the world’s 2+BILLION Muslims that none of them are moderates, then what? What does it mean practically.

    Must they recant en masse? If not, aren’t they all complicit in terror?

    And if we are to (rightly) defend ourselves from violence, aren’t they all Fair Game? Can we round them up? Have an inquisition?

    What do we do if we are to except that Islam must be extinguished (not the people, the religion), as it seems many are calling for?

  200. steve12on 02 Feb 2016 at 1:03 pm

    CKava:

    “Your comments do not evidence much interest in exploring multifaceted causes, rather you seem to be ascribing practically all responsibility for modern Islamic extremism to ‘Western’ meddling. ”

    Wow. I guess you missed me saying these things?:

    1. Islam and feminism MUST be criticized as everything else
    2. Of course, the religion plays a huge part.
    3. Just to clarify, my original point was that it’s much more complicated than a single cause.
    4. …of coure the religious beliefs themselves are partly to blame

    Since problems with the religion are not in dispute by either side I have not commented on it as much, but I think I’ve been quite clear.

    “Implying that all modern conflicts in the ME and Islamic extremist movements are ultimately a product of the actions of Western countries does just that. ”

    Very true. And good for me since I DID NOT DO THAT. Reading my posts and the ones that I replied to would be extremely helpful in seeing this.

    I’m not going on with rest of your comments in an itemized way, they are all Men O’ Straw built upon the mistake of interpreting the frequency of my mentioning of Western culpability here (a function of what’s in dispute vs. what is not) as representative of my views of the proportion of causation, which is silly.

    There is another absurdity in your argument wherein you say that I’m being facile in my commentary on causation. This is, of course, silly because any – *ANY* – commentary delving into this issue on a comment page suffers from this flaw and thus it is absurd to point it out in regard to any particular comment. We all know this. Well, not you I guess.

    Moreover, what was in dispute was whether Western influence on the ME exacerbated Islamism, so I simplified things for the point of argument. I would think that that was clear.

  201. Willyon 02 Feb 2016 at 1:27 pm

    Steve12: I hear you and somewhere above explicitly said something similar. “Infidel” is a good place to start to understand why Hirsi Ali and Namazi say such things. Again, I think the sentence is likely taken out of a broader context. “No moderate Muslims” is a foolish position for a country to take, but to have individuals speaking out about the dangers inherent in radical Islam is fine in my book. Hirsi Ali lives under threat of death. Even many “moderate” Muslims feel she deserves to die since apostasy (she rejected Islam and is an atheist) is a grave sin. Many “moderate” Muslims agree that suicide bombing is at least sometimes appropriate. Islam and fundamentalist Christianity are very similar and very primitive, Fortunately, even fundy Xtians (unwittingly) ignore parts of the Bible these days, Muslims can’t and don’t ignore parts of the Koran.

    Hirsi Ali also wrote “Heretic”, which is good, but I think “Infidel” is a better place to start as it traces her entire life in places like Somalia, Kenya, and Saudi Arabia, then on to immigrant camps in Holland and, ultimately, the US. “Looming Towers” traces the rise of radical Islam in the Arab world up to Bin Laden and 9/11.

    It is a shame that the Middle East is so important because of oil. Lacking oil, we could just let them stew in their own fervor until they achieve their own Enlightenment.

  202. Steve Crosson 02 Feb 2016 at 1:36 pm

    CKava,

    Once again, I find myself agreeing with most of what you say.

    “Is it not possible to just disagree with RW AND not be a clueless misogynist?”
    Obviously, a little hyperbolic on my part, but specifically intended to be taken in the context of Dawkins’s comment about insecurity in one’s own position. I don’t think it is unreasonable to assume that the more insecure individuals would tend to react more harshly.

    Regarding the whole topic of Western “responsibility”, I don’t think I (or steve12 or anyone else) has tried to make the case that the West bears sole responsibility. Nevertheless, it’s tough to argue that we haven’t been a significant contributor — especially since people generally seem to remember (and react to) the most recent events the most vividly.

    While it’s certainly true that most of the violence is Muslim on Muslim, “hatred of the West” wouldn’t be such a useful recruiting tool if we hadn’t already committed acts that had such a huge emotional impact. I doubt it is much of an exaggeration to say that virtually all of the residents of the region have been directly (often negatively) affected by actions that are “perceived” to be the result of Western policies.

    Whether those perceptions are accurate or even fair is almost irrelevant. It doesn’t really matter who is “responsible” and who is “justified” after the fact. Well it does, but unless we can ignore emotion when we analyze “cause and effect”, we’re not very likely to reach accurate conclusions. Of course, I’m only talking about the people performing the analysis. I don’t think it is at all unreasonable to suppose that a person whose whole family was killed by “collateral damage” from an errant bomb would probably be more likely to become a suicide bomber or willing ISIS recruit.

  203. steve12on 02 Feb 2016 at 1:46 pm

    Willy:

    This is where Hirsi Ali’s call for reformation is needed. There’s no getting around that the attitudes in some polling are disturbing.

    Part of that reformation is that it is made clear that is western freedom of expression and thought is non-negotiable in Western countries (and hopefully in all countries at some point). This is an idea that can spread into Islam. If a person from wherever wants to move to the US (I’ll speak for my own country) they MUST follow the laws and allow others their views, end of story full stop. Our rights and civilization are not up for debate; they’re axiomatic. Adjust or leave. Causes are irrelevant here. Most Muslims in the US have adopted this stance

    Maybe I’m an optimist, but I think when regressiveness meets enlightenment, the latter wins in time.

    E.g., looking at Mulsim Americans we don’t see what the polling above showed:

    http://www.people-press.org/2011/08/30/muslim-americans-no-signs-of-growth-in-alienation-or-support-for-extremism/

  204. MikeBon 02 Feb 2016 at 1:46 pm

    Given the number of comments, this is less than two-cents-worth, but here it is:

    It’s fucked up that Dawkins was so tackily “uninvited.”

    I’m so sick of PC bullshit.

  205. Steve Crosson 02 Feb 2016 at 1:56 pm

    steve12: “But here’s where I have trouble. If we tell the world’s 2+BILLION Muslims that none of them are moderates, then what? What does it mean practically.”

    Exactly. You might as well say there are no moderate Christians — because … the Bible.

    Besides, I KNOW moderate Muslims. Although, many of them are becoming less moderate the more they are treated with fear and suspicion.

    This is the point I’ve tried to make throughout the entire thread. We are literally creating more enemies by stereotyping huge numbers of people as “guilty until proven innocent”.

    There is really only one proven method of fighting fear and ignorance (and religion). All over the world, improvements in education and standard of living seem to gradually (but inevitably) cause people to lose the desire for conflict and religion in general.

  206. Steve Crosson 02 Feb 2016 at 2:04 pm

    steve12,

    Interesting link, which I noticed after my most recent comment. Encouraging, but over 4 years old. I wonder if it has changed since the recent anti-Muslim hysteria promulgated by the Rethuglican presidential candidates.

    I hope not, but more than one of my Muslim friends is starting to get nervous.

  207. steve12on 02 Feb 2016 at 2:09 pm

    Steve C:

    Couldn’t agree more. Any time you tell people that they’re “others” they become more insular and are more amenable to movement-ish nonsense against their accusers. One need simply look at any in-group / out-group work in psychology to have their common sense validated here.

    We absolutely cannot accommodate any abridgement of our secular rights and freedoms, but we do not need to scapegoat and pre-judge others in said defense.

  208. steve12on 02 Feb 2016 at 2:13 pm

    “I wonder if it has changed since the recent anti-Muslim hysteria promulgated by the Rethuglican presidential candidates.”

    Yeah – i was wondering the same thing, but don’t have time to pursue

  209. DrNickon 02 Feb 2016 at 4:23 pm

    Dr. Novella, while I’m a big fan of your blog and you personally, as well as being an SGU member, after reading all of the comments here, and some of the other linked blog posts on this issue, I have to say that I think you dropped the ball on this one.

    While I agree that the decision on whether to invite RD in the first place was entirely at the discretion of the NECSS organizing committee, once the invitation was issued it was wrong to rescind it on this basis, and particularly wrong to do so unilaterally and with no consultation with RD himself.

    Also, as someone who is relatively new to the skeptic movement I was not aware of the whole EG scandal, and frankly my opinion of both RW and RD has been lowered as a result of reading about it. This type of petty in-fighting gets us nowhere as a movement, and only serves to provide ammunition for our opponents to criticize atheists and skeptics without having to engage with any of our actual arguments.

  210. Willyon 02 Feb 2016 at 4:38 pm

    steve12: Mucho thanks for the link to the Pew article. I regret having posted on this topic as I do, and did, understand that it is more complex and nuanced than can be fit into this thread, especially given that I am not particularly clever with words. I am not a “Muslims are all evil” person. It’d a great topic to discuss over a few beers. LOL

    Going back a bit to the post about the tomatoes, I guess I’m just lucky the lady I made the BLT comment to wasn’t a rabid vegan.

  211. CKavaon 02 Feb 2016 at 9:10 pm

    @steve12

    No I didn’t miss the comments you highlighted that’s why I said: “You pay lip service to there being multiple factors, but the only factor your posts discuss is the ‘West’.” As you yourself succinctly summarised: “If someone keeps going back to a single cause, it evinces a certain bias.”

    If I wrote a series of posts that said there are problems with lots of scientific theories and then went on to only discuss the problems I see with evolutionary theory it would be reasonable to conclude I have an anti-evolution agenda, regardless of my initial statement. What you see as redressing an imbalance, I see as contributing to the partisan rhetoric that surrounds the issue of Islamic extremism. The solution to a problematic oversimplification of an issue is rarely to present an alternative problematic oversimplification. And to be clear, I’m not asking you to provide a laborious historical analysis in every blog post, I’m just challenging the tendency in your responses to present ‘the West’ as the primary cause of Islamic extremism. Apparently, you don’t believe this anyway… so great!

    And on that issue, simply declaring that all of the criticisms of your position are strawmen is not a particularly compelling counter argument, I mean aren’t those you are arguing against also saying that you are also strawman-ing their positions? With all the strawmen around it might be worth considering whether some of the arguments being presented are actually flimsy, straw-filled positions.

    Maybe you don’t overemphasise the role of the West in ME history in actuality but if so your comments here do not reflect your intended position very well; because that is essentially all you have discussed in any depth and you have done so while repeatedly presenting the ME as if it is a monolithic entity devoid of any agency or relevant history aside from its (negative) interactions with the West.

    “Nawazi has said that there are no moderate Muslims.”
    Where? I tried to find the source of this and I can’t find it. When I did a search some of the hits I got included the following which seem to suggest you are misrepresenting her position:

    On Twitter-
    Maryam Namazie
    Islam not moderate but Muslims can and are.

    On her blog-
    In the fashionable tale of victimhood cultivated by Islamic Society leaders and their Student Union allies, there is a deeply patronising view of Muslim students as a single, homogeneous body with one regressive mindset. But this is completely false.

    On Twitter-
    Maryam Namazie
    No moderate Islamism but believers can believe in a million ways. Many in my family Muslims who hate Islamists.

    It sounds to me like she is clearly saying many Muslims are moderate but Islamic doctrine, and in particular Islamism, is not. Whether you agree or disagree with this analysis, its rather different from your summary of ‘there are no moderate Muslims’.

  212. BillyJoe7on 02 Feb 2016 at 10:39 pm

    CKava,

    You are conflating two people:
    Maryam Namazie
    Maajid Nawaz

  213. CKavaon 02 Feb 2016 at 10:57 pm

    I don’t think so.

    I know Maajid Nawaz, but I assumed steve12 was referring to Namazie based on the context of the discussion and the following exchange:

    “Labeling Mr. Hirsi as an “Islamaphobe” is truly to have gone far off the rails. Same thing with Maryam Nawazi. Especially from now on, when anyone uses a term including “phobe”, my skeptical ear will be alerted.”
    I didn’t say this. I’m not that familiar with Hirsi. Nawazi has said that there are no moderate Muslims. I find that odious.

    Namazie’s name is misspelt by Willy and steve12 but helpfully her first name is mentioned.

  214. PabloHoneyon 03 Feb 2016 at 12:46 am

    The Atheist movement is rightfully pushing for open criticism of Islamism;
    The Skeptic movement is understandably sensitive to criticism of feminism;

    The video bridges the two –> worlds collide.

  215. steve12on 03 Feb 2016 at 9:28 am

    CKava

    I’m trying to be nice here, but it’s like you read my comments after ingesting Peyote or something. I don’t know how to respond to someone who refuses to read what I’ve said.

    IF you can’t understand why, in a discussion, people are going to talk more about what IS in dispute that what IS NOT in dispute – what can one say? To try and compare the frequency of mentions here, in this debate by me, to the frequency in RD’s twitter makes no sense.

    Reread 02 Feb 2016 at 1:03 pm more carefully. Respond to that if you somehow still don’t agree.

    I already spelled this out for you in detail but for whatever reason you didn’t bother responding:
    02 Feb 2016 at 1:03 pm

    I meant Maryam Namazie (I spelled incorrectl at least once abovey above – my mistake)

    Start watching at 21:50
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcY2BP1R8aU

    22:37 “There are no moderates”

  216. steve12on 03 Feb 2016 at 9:34 am

    CKava:

    Forgot this one:
    “And on that issue, simply declaring that all of the criticisms of your position are strawmen is not a particularly compelling counter argument,”

    Turns out it is a quite compelling argument when it’s true.

    You guys keep saying that I only count Western meddling as causal in creating Islamism despite my specifically saying that this is not true and making multiple comments to that effect.

    I have EVEN compiled some of the comments together in lists for one-stop-shopping, yet you et al. continue to deny it. Your very last post continue on with this utter nonsense.

    What is that if not a straw man?

  217. steve12on 03 Feb 2016 at 10:11 am

    Willy – ditto. It’s sort of a lot to tackle in a comment section, but still good discussing it with you

    I’ll be laughing think about that story next time I’m in the produce section….

  218. avillarrealpouwon 03 Feb 2016 at 10:24 am

    This discussion is lacking a huge issue: there are at least two feminist movements. The first, of which I am almost sure most NECSS members and I are part of, comes directly from the dictionary definition of feminism: equality for women.

    But the second, which Dawkins has attacked frequently in recent years, is a whole different animal. I do not want to explain it here, because I do not think this is the place to do so, but in my opinion NECSS has rushed to back it with a complete lack of understanding, converting NECSS in a battleground for it.

    NECSS must get out of this war. I am confident that NECSS is trying its best to not have discriminatory practices inside its organization, and that should be the extent to which it gets into this whole mess.

    If NECSS takes a stand in denouncing Richard Dawkins’ anti-radical-feminism it must also step into denouncing the false rape accusations (and much more) of women like the one in the video, alias Big Red, and the tone with which she has colored her message, which make the Islamist vs. Feminist video pale by comparison. This is an endless rat hole. NECSS can only end up wounded in this battle that belongs elsewhere.

    NECSS must not become the Morality Police of the skeptical movement. It has no power over the warring parties, it has no substantial threads tying its ultimate purpose to either faction, it has not researched the subjects of anti-feminism and radical feminism.

    You and I are, as millions of people around the world, just plain blokes who want the best world possible for our kids. We are trying to the best of our abilities to take our personal decisions with fairness and compassion, including those decisions concerning equality between sexes. We are real feminists and real humanists. Lets not become cannon fodder in this vicious war.

    And lets not have a panic attack when we see that one side has slightly nasty figures like Dawkins, while completely ignoring the true magnitude and destructiveness of the worst on each side.

  219. Willyon 03 Feb 2016 at 10:51 am

    Steve12: It occurs to me that it’s possible she was a rabid vegan, but kept her mouth shut. Maybe any day now a You Tube video will crop up advising meatists to not make such horrid comments in the produce section.

    Thanks for your thoughts and comments.

  220. Willyon 03 Feb 2016 at 10:52 am

    er, not meatists, but vegophobes.

  221. CKavaon 03 Feb 2016 at 1:22 pm

    @steve12
    – On your comments & multi-causal factors

    I do read what you write, but I wonder do you?

    Again I refer you to this comment made by you: “If someone keeps going back to a single cause, it evinces a certain bias.”

    Also, here is a useful definition of lip service: “support for someone or something that is expressed by someone in words but that is not shown in that person’s actions”.

    So now let me clarify:

    1. I AM NOT arguing that you do not make reference/pay lip service to multi-causal explanations.
    2. I AM arguing that your comments have presented ‘the West’ as the single most important causal factor in Islamic extremism and as such “evince a certain bias”.

    Remember your A and B summary of competing causes? The Koran (dismissed) vs. “For the past 200 years, the region has not been allowed to progress with the rest of us into the modern world because the West has manipulated it. After the Fun that Was Colonialism (FTWC!), we propped up dictators, killed elected leaders, and supported regimes that allowed us access to oil. Then, for the Coupe de grace, we invade and destabilize the entire region, killing 100,000s of people. And I’m not even touching Israel / Palestine. Forget it – I don’t even need it.”

    My original comment was primarily in response to the false monocausal dichotomy you set up and the above synopsis which is reflective of your repeated point that the West’s role in creating/promoting Islamic extremism is overlooked and is much more relevant than religious or other historical factors. When challenged on this you immediately switch to claiming that isn’t your argument, but I would recommend that you follow your own advice and re-read your comments to see whether that is a reasonable interpretation of what you have written.

    If your intention is to argue that the actions of Western powers are just one contributing factor amongst several others and that extremism in the ME is strongly influenced by religious ideology and historical events that have little to do with ‘the West’, then you are right we do agree but I would contend that if that is the case then your earlier posts are rather poorly worded.

    -On Namazie & ‘No Moderates’
    No need to apologise about spelling, I wouldn’t have mentioned it except for Billy Joel’s comment, it was clear from the context who was meant. Thanks for the link to the video and the time stamp BUT…
    in the video, she is discussing Islamists. This is not the same thing as saying there are no moderate Muslims. Most Muslims are not Islamists…

  222. mumadaddon 03 Feb 2016 at 3:58 pm

    I’ve been plugged into this topic pretty avidly for a few months now, largely because I got into a couple of podcasts (Godless Spellchecker & Waking Up with Sam Harris) that devote a lot of play time to it; I’m working through the back catalogue of episodes and watching related talks/debates etc. on YouTube. My position gets buffeted around a fair bit by new arguments and evidence, but never away from the conclusion that Islamic extremism is a problem of religious ideology. I’ll try to explain why.

    Clearly Islamism and Jihadism are not exclusively caused by religious beliefs – the beliefs have been around for quite a while and these problems have not (at least to the same extent). The thing about religious beliefs is they tend to change pretty slowly, so it’s easy enough to look back 20 years/100 years and see what was happening with followers of the religion then and where there are differences, and point to differences in external factors such as socio-economic conditions, occupations, whatever, as the variable. So something other than the core religious doctrine has changed, and we now find ourselves where we are.

    Religious beliefs don’t operate in a vacuum; no beliefs do. However, when the Southern Baptists picket army funerals for allowing gays (“god hates fags”) into service, or a Christian blows up an abortion clinic, do we have a problem making a direct link between their religious beliefs and their actions? They are able to provide direct scriptural support for their beliefs, and they cite this as the reason for their actions; and we believe them. Do we need to spell out explicitly that even though this is a problem with beliefs, we don’t mean to say that all Christians are homophobes or terrorists? Do we need to point out that there are lots of other cultural, historical and economic factors that contributed to getting these people to where they are? E.g. Blame the legal system for failing to address the teaching of creationism in schools? I don’t think we do. We can acknowledge all of these other factors, and tackle them as the problems they are, but ultimately we would say that these are problems caused by what the perpetrators believe.

    I despise monotheistic religion in general (I haven’t had much exposure to polytheistic or pantheistic religions, otherwise I might well despise them too); I think it’s the biggest mistake humanity has made in its history. The world is rife with people committing stupid and harmful acts because of stupid and harmful beliefs they harbour, and different sets of stupid beliefs inspire different stupid acts. E.g. Islam has no position on stem cell research, because they believe a soul enters the body at around 120 days; for Christians it’s at the moment of conception. Hence if Christians blow up a stem cell research lab, say they did it because these embryos have human souls and the researchers are committing murder, you can say they did x because they believed y religious doctrine; if a Muslim does the same thing and cites their religious beliefs, you can safely say they were mistaken and it’s not the fault of their religion. Islamists are doing a damn good job of making a direct connection from scripture to action, and they are telling us that their actions are religiously inspired. Why don’t we believe them?

    I suppose what I’m really getting at is that there is an obvious connection between what people believe and what they do, and what is religion if not a set of (all encompassing) beliefs? How do you convince an atheist to blow himself up in a café? Or a Christian who believes he’ll spend eternity in god’s torture dungeon if he kills another human? A lot of the left’s commentary on this topic seems unable to take people at their word about what they believe – we can’t believe that they really believe that, so we scrabble around to find something else on which to pin the blame.

    I do agree that the west has contributed, though its actions, to certain specific problems with Islamic extremism. E.g. overthrowing a regime in Iraq and then withdrawing, destabilising the region and creating an environment in which extremist movements could flourish. Bombing civilians creates resentment and makes us a target. That’s fine and I don’t deny the connection, but I see far wider problems with extremist Islamic ideology, beyond the Islamism/Jihadism that represents a direct threat to us in the west, and I can’t see much of a connection between these wider issues and our meddling. Look at the huge problems with human rights abuses in Muslim majority countries across the world: stoning for adultery, death for apostasy, prison or death — or even compulsory sex changes (Iran) — for homosexuality, FGM. And these problems aren’t confined to the middle east: Boko Haram, al-Shabab etc. How did western meddling contribute to the fatwar put on Salman Rushdie, the riots when Danish cartoonists published pictures of Mohammed? I don’t hesitate in the slightest to pin this on people believing, sincerely, a really stupid set of ideas about reality and our place in it.

    I think I may have gone a bit ranty… Again I want to stress that I don’t think that all Muslims believe exactly the same things or want the same things. Of course there are moderate Muslims. Religions are subject to different schools of interpretation and emphasis, followers are able to cherry pick the parts they like and discard other parts, and again, they don’t operate in a vacuum: there are environments in which literal interpretations can flourish and those in which they will be tempered by other cultural values. But there are also differences between religious texts and how well they lend themselves to interpretation; imagine Christianity without the new testament. Most rank and file Christians in the west now have probably not read most of the bible, and are actually not really aware of a lot of the vile, murderous rubbish within it; they have liberal, democratic values and are able to find the bits of the bible that fall into line with these values – this is aided by the fact that the bible is a pretty long and boring book, which puts a lot of people off actually sitting and reading it cover to cover. The Quran is a much more concise affair — and there are some nice bits in it — but there is no second book about god coming down to earth as a hippy and telling everyone to love thy neighbour and be good to rescue the overall tone of barbarism, so the act of interpreting the Quaran to fit liberal values is more difficult (not impossible though).

    This is all a bit muddled I know, and I don’t profess to know what the best route forwards is to tackle any of these issues, but I can’t see how denying the link between belief and action is a sensible strategy. Ideas need to come under open and honest criticism in order for them to be modified.

  223. Willyon 03 Feb 2016 at 4:17 pm

    mumadadd–Ranty or no, thanks for the thoughts.

  224. Steve Crosson 03 Feb 2016 at 4:32 pm

    Ckava,

    I think you are being unfair to steve12. As far as I can tell, most, or even all of his comments have been in direct response to blatant straw man arguments claiming that he (steve12) was arguing that the West was solely responsible for Muslim extremism, generally coupled with the none too subtle implication that Western policies and actions have had little or no impact. What else would you expect him to focus his reply on other than the fact that, YES, the West has done some pretty nasty stuff, which could be expected to upset any rational person.

    What I find so annoying about this is that most of his attackers (not necessarily you) seem to use this denial of Western influence in order to justify their own indiscriminate Islamophobia. Well, regardless of anyone’s opinion of the actual underlying causes of radical Islam, it is beyond doubt that the West has done a lot to really annoy them. Witness the Paris attacks, San Bernadino shootings, Boston Marathon bombing — not to mention 9/11.

    Of course history is important — no one is denying that. But the most recent events (especially within our own lifetime) have, by far, the greatest emotional impact. To deny that is to be incredibly naive.

    I’m not a fan of Islam or Christianity or any faith-based belief system. Believing ANYTHING without evidence is silly, and all too often, dangerous. But there are huge spectrums of belief — from essentially benign to extremely dangerous. Too many people (and I’m including Dawkins, at least in his ill-advised twitter comments) seem willing to ignore that.

    Historical context is important — but so is psychology. As steve12 also mentioned, there is a lot of research on in-group vs. out-group interactions, and it is pretty clear that even essentially arbitrary distinctions can still be the cause of great strife or even violence. When we unfairly stereotype, we cause unjustified fear and conflict. Rather than demonize ALL of the Muslims in the world, it would be smarter to judge each individual fairly and make common cause with those who share our values.

  225. mumadaddon 03 Feb 2016 at 4:44 pm

    “As steve12 also mentioned, there is a lot of research on in-group vs. out-group interactions, and it is pretty clear that even essentially arbitrary distinctions can still be the cause of great strife or even violence.”

    I totally agree with this, but I think the religious beliefs themselves, and the degree to which they are believed, are the important variables. After all, ingroup/outgroup psychology is universal, not really a variable at all.

  226. mumadaddon 03 Feb 2016 at 4:57 pm

    In group / out group is one of the psychological foundations of religion. All those shared superstitions and rituals…

  227. Terry Hewitton 03 Feb 2016 at 7:25 pm

    I know this doesn’t add anything new to a lengthy conversation, but here’s my two bits:

    1. The video clip was pretty raw, biting satire – but it was satire. Satire often offends. It often makes one cringe. Generally those who are offended by specific satire do not find it funny. You do need to be careful in re-posting offensive, cringeworthy satire. I was not offended but I did cringe.

    2. Even with his stated proviso, Dawkins should know that for a person in his position, and with his history in the skeptic community, that posting offensive, cringeworthy satire (particularly on the topic of feminism) will elicit a response, and not necessarily a favorable one.

    3. Dawkins would have been a fabulous guest speaker at NECSS, and I was seriously thinking of attending for the first time, specifically because he was going to be there. His re-posting offensive, cringeworthy satire should not have resulted in him being dis-invited and sets a poor precedent. I now won’t be attending. Too much drama for me.

  228. Steve Crosson 03 Feb 2016 at 7:26 pm

    Mumadadd,

    Good comments, all of which I pretty much agree with. There is no question that beliefs (and belief systems) are important and they have a huge effect on our actions. I just get nervous when people “assume” that they understand someone else’s beliefs.

    Of the major religions of which I am aware, there is no doubt in my mind that Islam is the most potentially dangerous. Not surprising really. Everything evolves and the most successful things spread the farthest and reproduce the most rapidly. Religious leaders (and all good leaders really) notice what works and then incorporate proven practices into their methodology. Islamic leaders seem to have been particularly good at figuring out what works well to spread the ideology and IMHO, get more power for themselves.

    They also seem to have been in the right place at the right time. Let’s face it — the Koran seems to work spectacularly well as a playbook for railing against/fighting with the infidels. They fine-tuned the “in-group vs. out-group” dynamic long before the psychologists even put a name on it. Didn’t invent it obviously — lots of “us vs. them” in the Bible. In any event, they’ve been surrounded by infidels for a long time, and appear to thrived, at least partially as a result of that.

    The thing is, people’s beliefs are strongly affected by their environment — partially physical environment, but especially social group and interactions. Physically, people with a roof over their head and food in the stomach have historically been much less likely to fall into the “nothing left to live for” category. Obviously, there are exceptions, but I find it interesting that the Boston Marathon bombers and even the San Bernadino shooters weren’t trying to commit suicide in their initial attacks.

    But the psychology seems to be the most important component in someone’s belief system. This is where the “us vs. them” dynamic really comes into play. When surrounded by like-minded individuals, almost everyone tends to believe similar things. In particular, “your” group is good (and safe) and the “other” group is something to be distrusted and possibly feared or hated.

    I don’t think it is a coincidence that in America (and to a certain extent, the rest of the world as well) that the so-called “home-grown Islamic terrorists” are a relatively recent phenomenon. Remember, none of the 9/11 attackers were living in America.

    Most of the terrorist incidents we have had are like Timothy McVeigh, who was indeed an “out-group member”, but only when compared to mainstream America. Also, until recently, most Muslims living in America have been treated pretty much the same as any other immigrant group — not perfect unfortunately, but not too bad either.

    Sadly, that appears to be changing. It is getting more and more difficult for Muslim friends and acquaintance to NOT feel like they are an unwelcome and feared “out-group”. Coupled with a growing world-wide anti-Muslim hysteria and fueled by easily accessible Internet propaganda, it shouldn’t be surprising when more people feel the urge to join ISIS or commit other violent acts.

    There is lots of evidence to suggest that BEST possible defense against Islamic terrorism is a good, strong working relationship with the Muslim community (most of whom want peace as much as anyone else), but too many people are actively destroying that relationship by overzealous scapegoating of the entire Muslim community.

    As I said earlier, I do think that Islam may be a little better at manipulating its adherents, but it is hardly the only one that is capable of misuse. Word for word, the Bible is pretty close to the Koran as far as containing all sorts of evil BS that can be twisted to “support” almost anything imaginable. And lets not forget the Crusades, Spanish Inquisition, Salem witch trials, Westboro Baptist Church, South African Anti-Gay laws … the list goes on and on. Bottom line, Christianity has been just as badly misused as Islam has been.

    We got past most of the excesses of Christianity, and I’m hopeful we can get past most of the excesses of Islam. But stereotyping an entire religion will make the job harder, not easier. All we will accomplish is to unify a bunch of smaller out-groups into one much larger (and more powerful) out-group.

  229. Willyon 03 Feb 2016 at 7:33 pm

    Jeezus!!! I can’t help myself! After sticking my foot DEEPLY into my mouth (or, as a fellow I worked with would put it: “I really drug my dick in the dirt on that one’) to defend Ayaan Hirsi Ali (whom I have enormous, enormous respect for) and Maryam Namazie (whom I hadn’t heard of but who sounds admirable also–turns out she apparently DIDN’T say there were “no moderate Muslims”), I still must respond to Steve Cross.

    Steve, the San Bernardino killings were because “we” pissed off Muslims??? Really ??? Last I heard, the people who were killed had thrown the “happy expecting couple” a baby shower. Last I knew, the Boston Bombers were welcomed to our shores and given financial support. I’m not sure what “we” did to PO Boko Haram, but it seems to me that your “PO’ed” excuse gives cover to angry abortion clinic bombers and murderers too. What did Japan do to deserve having two of their citizen’s throats slit? What did the two victims do???

    I agree 100% that condemning an entire group of any religion, nationality, culture, or whatever is foolish and counterproductive, not to mention flat out incorrect, but I’d suggest the statements in your latest post equal, if not exceed, the way I dragged my dick in the dirt.

    A quick summary of all those suffering retribution from poorly treated Muslim victims:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Islamist_terrorist_attacks

    Gee, so many of those killings are tough to trace to “Western colonialism”.

    I cannot recommend “Infidel” and “The Looming Tower” enough. Sorry for misspelling Namazie (and it was a misspelling, not a typo)

  230. Steve Crosson 03 Feb 2016 at 8:09 pm

    Willy,

    Not sure which post you are replying to, but it doesn’t matter. I never intended to give the impression that any terrorist act is justified. On the other hand, we HAVE poked the bear an awful lot and shouldn’t be surprised when he get pissed.

    Please research both the Boston bombers and SB couple. There is evidence that the older brother was radicalized over seas and then indoctrinated his brother. Also, the SB wife seems to have been openly radical before she immigrated (if you looked in the right place).

    I know we were nice to both of them individually, but all the more reason to ask the question. WHY did they do what they did?

    I can’t understand why so many people seem to feel that the West hasn’t done anything to upset anyone. Seriously???? If any other country arbitrarily installed a (brutal dictatorial) Governor in one of our states (causing the people to eventually rebel) , where they fought proxy wars where the deaths were almost exclusively American, where they armed Arizona because Texas was getting uppity, then changed their mind and threw the whole country into civil war — all the while “collateral damaging” countless friends, neighbors and relatives with “supporting” air strikes, then, you don’t think anyone would get just a little upset? Really???

    I’ve never said the West was the only cause, but lets be honest. We’ve made some pretty dumb moves.

    BTW, I read The Looming Towers when it first came out — probably time for a re-read. Infidel is now on my list. Thanks.

  231. Steve Crosson 03 Feb 2016 at 8:26 pm

    Willy,

    Meant to put this in the last comment.

    “Why attack Western interests for no reason?”

    That’s the important question. Seems like they have plenty of “legitimate” targets close at hand and it would be much smarter to consolidate gains before opening up a new front in the “war on infidels”?

  232. Willyon 03 Feb 2016 at 8:59 pm

    Steve Cross: I have never said the “West” hasn’t done anything to upset Muslims–or virtually all of the rest of the world, for that matter. I’m no going to go back through this entire thread to verify this statement, but I doubt that anyone herein has said “the West hasn’t done anything”. If someone has said that, they are are an idiot–point blank. I don’t know that I’d agree that we’ve made many “dumb” moves, strictly speaking, given the Zeitgeist of the times we made our “moves”, but I absolutely agree that many around the world have a legitimate beef with us. I view the war in Iraq as a big mistake–one made by two administrations in very opposite ways.

    As to why “they” acted the way they did–it goes to fervent belief. IMHO, fervent Christians are now “rightly” condemned, precisely because we have neutered Christianity. I cannot remember a single time on this blog reading someone defend Christian “radicalism” or, really even mainstream Christianity (aside from Christians themselves). but condemn–no, just say something harsh about–a foreign culture and the condemnations ring loudly. For reasons that escape me, there seems to be a segment of our society that is willing to give a pass to many cultures that are inimical to Western beliefs because of “diversity”. I LOVE diversity, especially when it comes to food (LOL); count me in when a good shawarma, hummus, or fesenjan is on the menu. I despise diversity if it means we have to accept the beliefs of all cultures as equally good. The West, for all of its mistakes, has done more to promote equality, good government, and science than any other culture in the world.

    I’m still not clued in on the “feminists defending Islam” thing that started this whole thing, but, WTF! Hirsi Ali and (I think) Namazie are precisely all about the mistreatment of women in the Muslim world. Hirsi Ali was given a “circumcision” by her GRANDMOTHER and her parents were powerless to deal with it (circumcision is a Somali Muslim thing–not universally Muslim). In her late teen years, her father came home to tell her he had found her a husband and that she would marry the guy–it was already arranged and a done deal. And, what is with the veils??? I look with scorn upon Hasidic Jews in their goofy curls and black costumes (or yarmulke), Muslims with their veils and “raisins” on their foreheads, Mennonites and Amish with their rejection of technology, and Mormons with their stupid magic underwear.

    Sorry for venting and thank you for your calm response above. What struck me about The Looming Tower is the role of Qtub and his dislike of the US for what he say when he visited here many decades ago. I do think the VERY UNWISE Western demarcation of artificial Middle East borders and the creation of Israel definitely contributed to Muslim unrest–creating “strong men” (whom we were foolish to depose), but I also think Muslim culture is inherently lousy AT PRESENT. There is not a democracy in sight in the Middle East, save Israel.

    You will appreciate “Infidel”, I am sure.

    Have a nice night–really! :<<)

  233. Steve Crosson 03 Feb 2016 at 9:33 pm

    Willy,

    I think we are pretty much on the same page. Islam does make me nervous and it frankly shocks me how many people seem to be “willing” to live within its narrow bounds. I suspect most have never really been exposed to alternatives. But I don’t see any way to expose them to those alternatives unless we can maintain normalized relations with the portion of Muslims that seem to be able to “live and let live”.

    If given half a chance, I think most people, especially younger ones, openly prefer freedom. My main concern has always been the same, i.e. “Don’t give them an easy way to demonize the west”. I think it is obvious that the mullahs or Imams or whatever are terrified of Western influence primarily because it is so attractive to (especially) the youth and their leaders are afraid of losing control.

    The thing is, it is much harder to hate someone who has never done anything bad to you personally. I feel like our American (Republican) presidential candidates play directly into the Islamists hands when they speak the way they do. Even if an individual has never been directly impacted by the West at all and would have no real reason to fear or hate the West, they still will be affected by statements such as “The West hates ALL Muslims — they will never allow you to have what they have”.

    Obviously, we have to defend ourselves and we should criticize evil beliefs wherever we find them, but we also need to make it absolutely clear that we will provide safe haven and WELCOME everyone who is willing to respect our beliefs and be willing to live within the constraints of democratically determined laws.

  234. CKavaon 04 Feb 2016 at 1:12 am

    @Steve Cross

    The thing is there are normalized relations with lots of Muslim countries, or countries with large Muslim populations. The Western powers tend to get on fine with countries like Indonesia, India, Turkey, Bangladesh, and so on. It’s extremely misleading to extrapolate from Islamists in the ME to the worldwide Muslim population because they are very different things. This is partly why I object to steven12’s portrayal of the ME as a homogenous bloc of anti-Western Islamists created primarily by Western exploitation. That is a trendy narrative on the left these days but it is divorced from the complex reality of the ME and ultimately promotes an ethnocentric perspective wherein all events in the world are ultimately focused on ‘us’: ‘the (big bad) West’.

    Furthermore, as you say, most Muslims in the world have not had anything bad done to them personally by ‘the West’. They are in fact much more likely to have bad things done to them by extremists from other Islamic sects or theocratic regimes. Hence, most conflicts in most Muslim countries do not involve Western powers but long standing sectarian or regional divides.

    But as far as the broader negative impact of the poisonous stereotyping being promoted in the US, (primarily by Republican presidential candidates) and elsewhere across Europe by right wing politicians. Sure, I completely agree. I study religious cognition, intergroup discrimination, and group psychology . You are right that anti-Muslim narratives feed into extremist narratives and promote an us vs. them mentality and that ‘we’ should make efforts to avoid supporting such polarisation. That will not be achieved however by uncritically parroting all of the Islamist accusations against the West as if they are established facts. It is important to acknowledge the culpability of Western nations historically and in the contemporary era, yes. But in doing so, it is also important not to just promote misleading anti-Western screeds as if they are established facts.

  235. rasmuron 04 Feb 2016 at 2:58 am

    I believe that what you did was right, although, in hindsight, it may have been better not to have invited him in the first place. The a/s movement should be concerned about the message it sends to the public, and Dawkins is not helping with his obnoxious tweets, and the SJWs are not helping with their hateful,, demanding rageblogging. We should try to do some good for humanity and be better than this. I’m sick of all of it.

    PS: Keep up the good work.

  236. Steve Crosson 04 Feb 2016 at 9:21 am

    CKava,

    I think our own personal views seem to be extremely similar. Maybe I (and perhaps you as well) have been a bit too quick to recognize subtexts that were not intended. I freely admit to being very concerned about the potential issues with Islamophobia and it’s possible I have sometimes assumed it existed where it did not.

    In any event, the thing I object to most of all is the tendency that many of us have to over-simplify the world and make decisions based on generalizations and lazy stereotypes. Which, believe it or not, brings us back to the original topic of the thread.

    It appears to me that Dawkins is guilty of over-simplification in far too many of his tweets. I find that inexcusable for an intellectual that should know better.

    It’s been years and I can’t recall if Dawkins originated the concepts, but he has written about the concept of cultural beliefs as being a type of “mind virus” or meme. Of course, at the time he was referring specifically to religious belief. His point was simple. If you are constantly exposed to the cultural assumption that one particular religious belief system is “true”, then is very difficult to accept alternative viewpoints or even to examine them with an open mind.

    Dawkins used the word “meme” intentionally. As a species, humans tend to prefer the comfort and security (however false) of simple, clear cut answers. People don’t like uncertainty. Consequently, successful (widespread) “memes” are often “simple” answers to what might otherwise be complex (and potentially frightening) questions. As you might expect, things like “God exists” and “There is life after death in heaven” are pretty popular. In spite of the fact that there is literally no evidence that either is true, many, many people would never even consider questioning either one. After a lifetime of cultural exposure, some things become “facts” rather than questions.

    Of course, it is not always “big” questions. Look at the popularity of the many “Meme Generators” on the Internet. And of course, there are countless, incorrect “old wives tales” about any imaginable topic. The point is, “conventional wisdom” is often wrong, but many people never bother to question what they perceive as a widely believed “fact”.

    Which brings us (finally) back to my concerns about Richard Dawkins. He has earned a position of respect and trust, and, deservedly in my opinion, he has great influence within the skeptic community. But, as is often said, with great power comes great responsibility. And I don’t think Dawkins is using his power responsibly.

    Nothing exists in a vacuum, but when he casually retweets a “meme” with no regard or apparent awareness of the big picture, he often sends a message that he didn’t intend and may not even agree with. There is also the question of the meme itself. By their nature, memes (and tweets) tend to oversimplify. But, as I said, many people prefer simple answers and there is actually research that shows they only remember the main point and forget the nuance anyway. 

    When RD equates feminism and radical Islam, regardless of how many disclaimers he puts on the original comment or later clarifications, there will be some people that only remember the “big point”. And, since he has a huge influence, it might be a LOT of people. I wish he would apply his critical thinking skills to himself and think before he tweets. His books demonstrate that he is certainly capable of reasoned analysis — he just needs to do it all the time.

  237. steve12on 04 Feb 2016 at 9:49 am

    Ckava:

    I stopped here:

    >I do read what you write, but I wonder do you?
    >Again I refer you to this comment made by you: “If someone keeps going back to a single cause, it >evinces a certain bias.”
    >Also, here is a useful definition of lip service: “support for someone or something that is expressed by >someone in words but that is not shown in that person’s actions”.

    Really??? Really??? Do you speak English?

    Are you going to even respond to my post re: this point? Or just pretend I did not address it?

    Let’s try again:

    1.THE DISCUSSION TURNED TO CAUSATION FOR ISLAMISM HERE

    2. WE ALL AGREE THAT THERE ARE PROBLEMS IN THE RELIGION

    3. I DID NOT TALK ABOUT 2 AS MUCH AS 1 BECAUSE OF SAID AGREEMENT

    4. WHEN IS SAID THE ABOVE QUOTE:
    “If someone keeps going back to a single cause, it >evinces a certain bias.”

    I WAS TALKING ABOUT RD’S TWITTER, NOT THE DISCUSSION HERE.

    ***///THAT CONTEXT MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE\\\***
    ***///THAT CONTEXT MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE\\\***
    ***///THAT CONTEXT MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE\\\***

    To wit, CKava: did you know that Twitter is NOT a forum where people talk about oversimplified causes of Islamism? I know – I was shocked too!!!!!!

    I’m sure you’ll have more Peyote after you read this and it will evaporate form your mind

  238. steve12on 04 Feb 2016 at 9:50 am

    I’m fine with disagreements. Prefer them, actually

    But when people twist my words around to what amounts to a lie, I get a little angry….

    Does it show much? 🙂

  239. steve12on 04 Feb 2016 at 9:57 am

    CKava (lying again):

    ” This is partly why I object to steven12’s portrayal of the ME as a homogenous bloc of anti-Western Islamists created primarily by Western exploitatio”

    I just start reading the other comments when I read this…

    When did I say this? This forum is insufficient to discuss EACH AND EVERY ME COUNTRY SEPERATELY. I don’t see you doing this either.

    You have poor arguments and therefor have to re-create your opponents argument to give yourself the “feeling” that you’re “winning”, whatever that means in a discussion such as this.

  240. Steve Crosson 04 Feb 2016 at 11:25 am

    Steve12,

    Don’t sugar coat it … Say what you really mean!! 😉 😉 😉

    Just kidding. I admit, I’ve also been very surprised at CKava’s interpretation of your comments.

    I think all of us have an unfortunate tendency to view the world through the window of our own preconceptions. It is probably the hardest thing to overcome as a skeptic.

    Speaking of dead horses, that is why I find RD’s inability to recognize his own prejudices so unforgivable. He has undeniable power to reinforce (and even create) other people’s opinions, whether or not they are accurate.

  241. Willyon 04 Feb 2016 at 2:20 pm

    steve12 and Steve Cross. Thanks a lot for trading thoughts–mumadadd, too!

    DrNick–I kind of in the same boat as you–a bit shocked to see this underbelly exposed; an underbelly that is surprising. I did scratch into the EG thing some and I come away most disappointed in RW, who seems to not tolerate criticism well. Compare Dawkins’ graceful response to being “uninvited” to RW’s rant (linked here:)

    “Well, I quit SGU and now NECSS has announced that the first conference they’ve planned since my exit will feature Richard Dawkins as the keynote. In conclusion, the skeptic/atheist sphere is an embarrassing shitshow and the organizations will continue polishing Richard Dawkins’ knob until he dies, at which point he will be sainted and his image will be put on candles and prayed to in times when logic is needed.”

    As for the fact that some atheists are apparently also goof-balls, well, how else could it be? I mean, I’m German, and Germans have done some damned fine things, then, there’s Hitler, Goering, and the like. The Brits have Churchill, Darwin, Newton, Hume, etc. and Jack the ripper.

    To close on a positive note, Cara Santa Maria has been an outstanding addition to the SGU. Well informed, obviously well educated and well read, and insightful with a good sense of humor. None of this little flap affects my attitude towards SGU or skepticism and rational thought at large. Keep fighting the good fight!

  242. Willyon 04 Feb 2016 at 2:22 pm

    er, linked here: http://www.michaelnugent.com/2016/02/01/necss-reconsider-dawkins-decision/#more-13260

    One day I will make a post with no errors and no omissions.

    One day I will make a post with no errors and no omissions.

    One day I will make a post with no errors and no omissions.

    One day I will make a post with no errors and no omissions.
    ……

  243. Steve Crosson 04 Feb 2016 at 4:38 pm

    Willy,

    With all due respect, “scratching into the EG thing” is apparently NOT the same thing as viewing her original video with an open mind, and then (and only then) judging the reaction.

    Her original video was polite, humorous and (I believe) genuinely intended as good advice. There was literally NO good reason for Dawkins’s dismissive response.

    Obviously, her responses made it clear that she “doesn’t suffer fools gladly” or, if you prefer, doesn’t handle criticism well. Neither does Dawkins. The whole incident escalated beyond all reason, but it’s unlikely anyone would have even noticed it to begin with if Dawkins hadn’t used his “bully pulpit” to ridicule her.

    Whether you or anyone else thinks her original point was legitimate, I know lots of women that agree whole heartedly. And really, men shouldn’t get a vote anyway. They have no way of actually “knowing” what it is like to be a woman. Everyone is different, but when a lot of women complain about the same thing, then I believe them.

    I know I’ll be dismissed as a SJW, but the evidence couln’t be more clear on the Internet — when women demand the same rights that men take for granted they often get obscenely vilified.

    Regarding Michael Nugent, I’ve read a lot of his stuff, and while it mostly appears to be level-headed and reasonable, he has an unfortunate tendency to play to his audience — which has a depressingly high number of outspoken MRA types as well as lots of Dawkins groupies.

    In the comments section of the link you posted, I even noticed someone quoting me — and completely missing the point. He quoted my comments (to you I think) where I said that I felt most people don’t want to intentionally upset others. My point was that it is important to listen to and try to understand the other side’s point of view as much as possible because it makes interactions go more productively.

    Which is exactly the opposite of what he thought I was saying, i.e. that people should be sheltered from uncomfortable views. Many people are also accusing the NECSS of the same thing, which I don’t think is the case at all. Dawkins is able to espouse his views as easily as almost anything in the world, especially among the skeptical community. The problem is, Dawkins is a blatant misogynist (whether he knows it or not) as well as a not very subtle Islamophobe. It is BECAUSE Dawkins views are already well known that the NECSS did not want to give the impression that they were endorsing those views.

  244. Steve Crosson 04 Feb 2016 at 5:02 pm

    Willy,

    Regarding Dawkins and criticism: you’re right that his response to the un-invite was graceful. Almost all of his long form writing is similarly thoughtful and polite.

    The problem appears to be solely with Twitter. There have been quite a few instances in which RD has been called out after tweeting something without thinking. His SOP is to double down and get defensive and do anything to justify his actions. He seems to be incapable of admitting a mistake.

    Even the current example is bad. He did remove the offending tweet when he was informed that the woman depicted in the video was a real person. But, not long after that, he then decided that, real or not, she was a horrible person and deserving of ridicule. Of course, he did put in a standard “disclaimer” about violent threats, but many of his MRA fanboys consider rape and murder threats to be justifiable “ridicule”. This point has been brought to his attention many times but he refuses to acknowledge any responsibility.

  245. Willyon 04 Feb 2016 at 7:27 pm

    Steve Cross: I agree 100% that Dawkins’ response to RW’s initial videdo post was crass and unnecessary. He should have kept his keyboard sheathed. I have viewed her video and I lump her “advice” from it in the same category as I do the response to my question about where to find good BBQ, or what I would have thought had my innocent comments of “tomatoes” (nice double entendre if taken wrong) would have been responded to by a comment that speaking to a lady in the produce section–horrors, a lady I didn’t even KNOW!!!–was somehow inappropriate. Would it be best if I never spoke to a woman I didn’t know? Only after 10 PM? 1 AM?

    I don’t know Nugent (someone above provided the link) and didn’t link to him for any reason other than to show a source for Watson’s foolish rant.

    Well above, I noted that Dawkins can be too strident for my tastes–and that comment was made completely unaware of his existence on Twitter (which, like Facebook, I studiously avoid).

    I stand by my position–Dawkins was gracious in the face of a direct slap (no double down in this particular case), Watson was an a** in her response to the Dawkins invite (did she really need to label the entire atheist/skeptic movement as “shitshow”?), precisely because (imo) she is on the lookout for offences and is in tune with mal-intended “micro-aggressions, like my BBQ query.

    Not sure what a MRA fanboy is. I doubt very much that Dawkins supports rape or murder threats and I don’t blame him for the opinions of others any more than I think less of woman because of Watson’s rant. The woman mocked in the video deserved ridicule. Really, “F**kface”, repeated 20 times or thereabouts?

    I despise Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and the like, but I can understand their appeal to well meaning folk who are sick and tied of being treated like Neanderthal heathens looking to oppress any minority in sight.

  246. Steve Crosson 04 Feb 2016 at 8:03 pm

    Willy,

    Fair enough. As I have often said, nothing is completely black or white. Dawkins still does a lot of good in science communication. It’s just disappointing to find out your heroes are human.

    I agree that everyone would probably be better off if RW could dial it down a little. Still, when I look at the volume of abuse that women regularly receive compared to men, I can understand how they can get frustrated.

    FWI, MRA is a Men’s Rights Activist. Sounds innocuous, but many of the tweets that RD “blesses” by re-tweeting them come from rather notorious and disgusting people when you look at the source. I doubt RD even realizes it, but his well-deserved reputation is being appropriated by others.

  247. Steve Crosson 04 Feb 2016 at 8:10 pm

    Willy,

    Sorry, meant FYI (For Your Information) instead of FWI

  248. Willyon 04 Feb 2016 at 8:42 pm

    LOL I’ve never heard of a MRA. ANOTHER group to avoid. LOL again!

    I also stand my my statement that folks in the public eye ought not use Twitter. Yet again LOL, but true, IMO.

    Thanks again for the exchanges and I agree 100%, nothing is black and white, er, well, except black and white…

  249. mumadaddon 09 Feb 2016 at 10:13 am

    Test.

  250. CKavaon 10 Feb 2016 at 6:00 pm

    Well that was a nice break!

    steve12
    “Really??? Really??? Do you speak English?
    Are you going to even respond to my post re: this point? Or just pretend I did not address it?”

    @steve12
    I speak English and I understand the argument you are making. If you read more than the first paragraph of my post you will see why I disagree with your interpretation.

    From your replies thus far it seems your idea of discussion is: 1. Make sweeping generalisations in service of your preferred position, 2. Refuse to acknowledge any contradictions or problematic inferences from statements you make, 3. react condescendingly to anyone who disagrees with your position, and 4. produce a CAPITALISED rant because someone refuses to accept your interpretation.

    I understand that you were directing your critique to RDs tweets. My point is the same logic also applies to your comments here. You repeatedly framed extremism in the ME as being primarily caused by the West (see my last post to see the quotes where I got this impression). Now you contend that such arguments do not represent your real position. Fair enough, maybe you do have a nuanced and balanced view of extremism in the ME. If so it was not well reflected in the short summary you provided or the false monocausal dichotomy that followed it.

    The video you provided of Namazie appears to demonstrate that you conflated statements that ‘there are no moderate Islamists’ with ‘there are no moderate Muslims’. But maybe I’m being unfair; please feel free to explain how what you posted does not actually suggest what it seems to…

  251. steve12on 10 Feb 2016 at 10:31 pm

    CKava:

    I think you’re fibbing a bit re: your language. Obviously English is your 2nd language, and considering this I feel it’s unfair to engage you in this debate in my native tongue.

    To wit:
    “I understand that you were directing your critique to RDs tweets. My point is the same logic also applies to your comments here. ”

    If this discussion was in whatever your L1 was, I’m sure you would blush with embarrassment at how absurd this point is!

    The notion that one’s twitter feed (which has no constraints on subject matter) and a targeted discussion about a particular subject (with it’s respective topical constraints) are equivalent for the purposes of scrutinizing the proportion of content is absurd!

    Lost in translation for you, I know. But trust me: it makes no sense.

    I don’t like when people purposely misrepresent me.

  252. CKavaon 11 Feb 2016 at 7:54 pm

    “I don’t like when people purposely misrepresent me.”

    You must have severe self loathing issues then.

    It seems pointless to continue as any statement you make magically means whatever it needs to in order to support your current argument. So I’ll bid you adieu.

    I did notice though that you had no comment about your conflating of Muslims and Islamists. Whatever the case, at least I know it can’t be indicative of any error on your part.

    That’s just not possible.

  253. noswonkyon 12 Feb 2016 at 6:39 am

    Can someone point me to an SGU episode which is critical of feminists?

  254. Willyon 12 Feb 2016 at 9:50 pm

    noswonky: I don’t think there are any episodes of the SGU that are critical of feminists, nor of women. IMO, the SGU rogues bend over backwards to not be “anti-woman”. This whole topic just escapes me completely with regard to some mysterious anti-woman “thing” in the skeptical movement and I have now filed Rebecca Watson (of the “shitshow”) on the same shelf as I had already filed Bill Maher. The shelf is labelled “ignore always”.

  255. BillyJoe7on 12 Feb 2016 at 11:58 pm

    I remember RW from my JREF days. She was fine. And her original video of what has become known as EG was spot on. But it was all downhill from there for pretty well everyone involved. RD was insensitive and RW overreacted and both are still sticking to the mud they stuck themselves in.

  256. mumadaddon 13 Feb 2016 at 11:21 am

    Steve Cross,

    “There is lots of evidence to suggest that BEST possible defense against Islamic terrorism is a good, strong working relationship with the Muslim community”

    Can you direct me to some? Just in case it comes across as though I’m suggesting it’s not there — I’m sincerely not. Just interested.

  257. Steve Crosson 13 Feb 2016 at 2:33 pm

    mumadadd,

    Good question. Right off the top of my head, I really can’t point to anything specific. I’ll look around.

    I have heard many military and security leaders (including President Obama) make the same claim, so I don’t think it is an unreasonable position. In fact, human nature being what it is, I really think it is impossible to deny.

    On the other hand, there is good evidence to support the viewpoint that a bad relationship is very likely to cause problems. The Stanford prison experiment is a notorious example of just how far people will go towards hating and mistreating an arbitrarily defined group of “others”. Fear and mistrust tends to breed more fear and mistrust — on both sides. It shouldn’t be surprising when some percentage of any marginalized group decides to “strike back at their oppressors”.

    Conversely, if all or most of a social structure is content with their environment and treatment, they tend to not want anyone else to “rock the boat”. If for no other reason than fear of reprisals, contented people are more likely to report suspicious activity before it is too late.

    As I said, I think it is human nature and the evidence is all around us. Certainly in “melting pot” America, we’ve had our own share of problems with “other-ism” over the years. At various times in history, the Irish, Chinese, Japanese, Poles, Catholics, Mormons, certainly Blacks and almost every imaginable ethnic or religious group has been marginalized. Obviously, we still have a long way to go, but it seems pretty clear that as we become more fully integrated and equal, extremism tends to decline.

    Before anyone points out “Black Lives Matter” or the White Extremists in Oregon, I’ll simply say that both of those actually prove the point. America still has far too many areas where Blacks are marginalized or even literally “ghettoized” and it is not surprising that each side mistrusts the other. The White Extremists are a perfect example of fighting against a media-fueled caricature of “the Enemy”. White, “God-fearin” Christians are, BY FAR, the most powerful group in America but unscrupulous “leaders” have convinced too many of them that they are a persecuted minority. It’s not surprising that some of them have adopted extreme tactics. Perception matters, and too many people that perceive themselves (legitimately or not) as the underdog will start to act like it.

  258. Willyon 13 Feb 2016 at 3:48 pm

    I have to agree that we would be foolish to alienate all Muslims and Muslim nations. We must work with Muslim nations in the Middle East to defeat the extremists. OTOH, I see Islam generally as pretty much incompatible with Western civilization. Until Islam is neutered as Christianity has been, it will continue to pose a threat to world order and peace. Perhaps eliminating oil as a significant source of the world’s energy could hasten the decline of malevolent Islamic influences.

    I recently met a Brazilian engineer who had lived in Saudi Arabia for several years. He was very rational and not in the least “Islamophobic”. He explained several things he had observed, including the fact that Saudis tend to view themselves as superior (see A H Ali and “Infidel” for corroboration) and “above” actual work. They think of themselves only as bosses. He made it plain that, in his opinion, Saudi society would fail to function if it weren’t for imported labor.

    Almost a century ago, Churchill made some rather sober comments about Islamic culture.

  259. mumadaddon 13 Feb 2016 at 6:34 pm

    Steve Cross,

    TBH I would love see the kind of research implied by your (penultimate) comment. I agree with the conclusion totally. Just seems like common sense.

    I really think you’re being led by your (impeccably nice, and shared by me) intentions in what you say though. Will come back this tomorrow and explain why.

  260. Willyon 15 Feb 2016 at 10:55 am

    Sam Harris’ most recent podcast has some commentary relevant to this thread. The particular podcast is titled “ask me anything #3”. I’d say NECSS is widely perceived to have made a major blunder.

  261. SteveAon 15 Feb 2016 at 11:36 am

    I would have thought the news would have trickled out by now, but in case anyone doesn’t know, the NECSS has withdrawn their dis-invite.

  262. steve12on 15 Feb 2016 at 12:00 pm

    CKava

    **“I don’t like when people purposely misrepresent me.”
    You must have severe self loathing issues then. **

    I never misrepresented your words – how ridiculous.

    “It seems pointless to continue as any statement you make magically means whatever it needs to in order to support your current argument. So I’ll bid you adieu.”

    How funny. It’s clear that you misrepresented my points and refused to acknowledge the distinction between assessing the proportion of commentary on (A) a Twitter feed versus (B) a subject-specific discussion.

    No magic CKava. Simply a point you cannot refute and are continually dodging for reasons that are a mystery to me.

    “I did notice though that you had no comment about your conflating of Muslims and Islamists. Whatever the case, at least I know it can’t be indicative of any error on your part.
    That’s just not possible.”

    How childish and silly to say that the problem stems from my being unable to admit fault when you refuse to address my words! Please…

    And frankly, I was not going to expand on a conversation with someone who prefers to assign my assertions to me rather than simply read what I have written.

    You seem like a reasonable guy most of the time, CKava, which makes all this obfuscation and dodging that much more bizarre.

  263. mumadaddon 15 Feb 2016 at 12:33 pm

    “I would have thought the news would have trickled out by now, but in case anyone doesn’t know, the NECSS has withdrawn their dis-invite.”

    Seriously? May be a moot point as Dawks has had a stroke.

  264. mumadaddon 15 Feb 2016 at 1:05 pm

    This is a tricky topic and I find myself quite conflicted about it. I definitely don’t want to foster divisions between groups of people, and, to use a really clear cut example, divisions along racial lines are clearly artificial; race is (mostly) ‘skin deep’ and not a causal factor for any particular behaviour on its own. One can’t reasonably say that FGM is more prominent in some parts of Africa than it is in Europe because of some racial difference, and it’s therefore reasonable to view Europeans of African descent with suspicion.

    Ideas are a whole different ball game though. I start from the position that liberal values are objectively better than any others (if we agree that we want people to be happy), and that human rights are universal. So while I’m all for pluralism, I don’t believe that this plurality should be ever allowed to extend to a point where it can violate someone’s inalienable human rights; “your right to swing your fists stops at my face”.

    So any time I hear anyone, or any group, try to justify breaches of these rights, I think they absolutely need to be challenged. Sometimes it’s Christians using their religion, sometimes it’s Muslims, sometimes it’s racists or homophobes etc. In every case I would challenge both the values of these people and the beliefs they use to justify them.

    Religions are collections of beliefs about reality, our place in it, our “purpose”, and how we should live (though obviously this is not all they are), and from these beliefs stem values. When you have person A, who believes that we were created by a deity with very human motivations, who is watching us in life and will judge us when we die against a set of instructions he left in a book, and person B who believes that we’re the product of unguided natural forces and that our actions should be weighed against their consequences to those around us, in both cases the values are directly linked to beliefs, and I think you really have a very meaningful division. Ideas can be divisive, particularly when they have the totally unconstrained scope of a religion.

    I think it’s not only okay, but imperative to challenge people on points of belief, ideology and values. Islamic beliefs and values have been dragged into the spotlight by the actions of some extremist minorities, and while I don’t want to see a large percentage of the population become alienated, I think this is a positive thing. There can’t be any hope of making positive changes — improving quality of life for the minorities within the minority, such as gays, atheists, women etc. — without an open discussion, and I don’t want to turn my back on those people for fear of offending cultural sensitivities.

    However…when most of the people who share a particular set of beliefs also happen to be largely from recently immigrated descent, and brown, I can see how challenging the beliefs can become perceived as an attack on their identity. And there are, no doubt, people out there who are demonising all Muslims as though what is believed by an extremist minority is believed by all, though it is important to recognise fair and open criticism of stupid beliefs and the values that stem from them and not conflate that with ‘Islamophobia’, or demonising anyone who happens to use the same label for part of their own self-identity.

  265. mumadaddon 15 Feb 2016 at 1:07 pm

    Forgot to close a tag — sorry.

    —-

    This is a tricky topic and I find myself quite conflicted about it. I definitely don’t want to foster divisions between groups of people, and, to use a really clear cut example, divisions along racial lines are clearly artificial; race is (mostly) ‘skin deep’ and not a causal factor for any particular behaviour on its own. One can’t reasonably say that FGM is more prominent in some parts of Africa than it is in Europe because of some racial difference, and it’s therefore reasonable to view Europeans of African descent with suspicion.

    Ideas are a whole different ball game though. I start from the position that liberal values are objectively better than any others (if we agree that we want people to be happy), and that human rights are universal. So while I’m all for pluralism, I don’t believe that this plurality should be ever allowed to extend to a point where it can violate someone’s inalienable human rights; “your right to swing your fists stops at my face”.

    So any time I hear anyone, or any group, try to justify breaches of these rights, I think they absolutely need to be challenged. Sometimes it’s Christians using their religion, sometimes it’s Muslims, sometimes it’s racists or homophobes etc. In every case I would challenge both the values of these people and the beliefs they use to justify them.

    Religions are collections of beliefs about reality, our place in it, our “purpose”, and how we should live (though obviously this is not all they are), and from these beliefs stem values. When you have person A, who believes that we were created by a deity with very human motivations, who is watching us in life and will judge us when we die against a set of instructions he left in a book, and person B who believes that we’re the product of unguided natural forces and that our actions should be weighed against their consequences to those around us, in both cases the values are directly linked to beliefs, and I think you really have a very meaningful division. Ideas can be divisive, particularly when they have the totally unconstrained scope of a religion.

    I think it’s not only okay, but imperative to challenge people on points of belief, ideology and values. Islamic beliefs and values have been dragged into the spotlight by the actions of some extremist minorities, and while I don’t want to see a large percentage of the population become alienated, I think this is a positive thing. There can’t be any hope of making positive changes — improving quality of life for the minorities within the minority, such as gays, atheists, women etc. — without an open discussion, and I don’t want to turn my back on those people for fear of offending cultural sensitivities.

    However…when most of the people who share a particular set of beliefs also happen to be largely from recently immigrated descent, and brown, I can see how challenging the beliefs can become perceived as an attack on their identity. And there are, no doubt, people out there who are demonising all Muslims as though what is believed by an extremist minority is believed by all, though it is important to recognise fair and open criticism of stupid beliefs and the values that stem from them and not conflate that with ‘Islamophobia’, or demonising anyone who happens to use the same label for part of their own self-identity.

  266. Willyon 15 Feb 2016 at 1:54 pm

    Kudos to NECSS, mucho kudos!!!, for reinviting Dr. Dawkins. It’s been an interesting and educational experience for us all (even lil old me) and NECSS was very courageous to extend the invite again. KUDOS!!!

  267. SteveAon 15 Feb 2016 at 2:38 pm

    Mummadad: “Seriously? May be a moot point as Dawks has had a stroke”

    Apparently the NCESS contacted him a few days before the stroke. The disinvite had been quite upsetting, then came the re-invite, then came the stroke.

  268. SteveAon 15 Feb 2016 at 4:39 pm

    Willy: “Kudos to NECSS, mucho kudos!!!”

    It’s a good outcome, the best that could be hoped for, but it is a little like the mugger handing back the wallet…

  269. Willyon 15 Feb 2016 at 4:47 pm

    SteveA

    Hey, we all make mistakes–I may have even made one once. I am proud of NECSS for recognizing and admitting theirs. I wish I could be at NECSS to hear the discussion they plan for this topic. I think we have gone over the edge with respect to taking offense and I hope this incident may lead toward a tolerance for opinions and a recignition that “micro” aggressions are often just that–micro and unintended. Offense is all to often ONLY in the mind of the beholder.

    We are going through yhuge (thanks, Trump–LOL) cultural changes that don’t just happen over night. We are doing remarkably well, imho, and it seems actually harmful to keep pointing out any “violation” of things that fall short of some “perfection”.

  270. Willyon 15 Feb 2016 at 8:31 pm

    Jeez–my post is typo central

    recOgnition

    tOO

  271. CKavaon 15 Feb 2016 at 8:47 pm

    @steve 12
    “I never misrepresented your words – how ridiculous.”
    – I was referring to your tendency to reinterpret what you wrote.

    “You seem like a reasonable guy most of the time, CKava, which makes all this obfuscation and dodging that much more bizarre.”
    – You too, it seems we will just have to agree to disagree.

    Re: NECSS’ reinvitation

    TBH I think NECSS’ reinvitation just adds even more messiness to the situation. Even without the stroke, I don’t think Dawkins would have been willing to attend; who is to say he wouldn’t be disinvited again in the interim? I know that’s unlikely but then again the panel’s decisions have been rather erratic thus far. Withdrawing and reinstating invitations comes across badly, I wonder if Steve will post another blog to address what changed the reasoning of the panel, but I doubt it.

    I still have little sympathy for Dawkins’ decision to retweet the video but I equally think the NECSS has handled the whole thing disastrously, particularly with the decision to make a public statement before initiating any direct contact with an invited speaker. Will be interested to hear more details about the new ‘panel discussion’ though.

  272. Clemanceon 15 Feb 2016 at 11:27 pm

    brive1987, Thanks for setting up all the links for me. I only found them today. I have to figure out how to get notifications for this blog. I’ve only been through half of them but maybe I’ll have more to say when I’m finished. Thanks again.

  273. Clemanceon 15 Feb 2016 at 11:55 pm

    Wow. Did you all hear Dawkins’ update on his stroke? He talks about how upset he’d been over being disinvited by his “own people.” Then he borders on the edge of putting the blame for the stroke on the NECSS’ executive committee. He said he had the stroke the very same day that they re-invited him. It seems quite ridiculous that they would invite, disinvite and then re-invite him like a bunch of childish schoolgirls that can’t make up their minds. I think they should have left it alone in the first place after inviting him. It seems to me the conference has nothing to do with RD’s personal views on anything (period). If I were in Dawkins’ shoes, I’d never have been upset in the first place. It was so obvious how ridiculous they were being.

  274. Clemanceon 15 Feb 2016 at 11:57 pm

    I forgot to post the link to Dawkins’ update on his stroke:

    https://richarddawkins.net/2016/02/an-update-on-richards-condition-in-his-own-words/

  275. steve12on 16 Feb 2016 at 4:32 pm

    CKava

    “– You too, it seems we will just have to agree to disagree.”

    No worries – Fair enough!

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