Showing posts with label Freethought Blogs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Freethought Blogs. Show all posts

Is PZ Myers a Demagogue an Opportunist or a Principled Man?

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[Michael Shermer responds. Edited further on 8/25/13] What do you do when someone pulls the pin and hands you a grenade? I'm dyin’ here, people. It’s like people trust me or something. So I've decided to say what I think. There is a great deal of infighting going on between atheists and has been for some time. I could provide a fairly long list of issues that have divided us along with a number of people who have been trashed on both sides. There is one common denominator to this divisiveness, PZ Myers. I'm not saying he is the cause of it all. He's not. He has, however, conferred a measure of authority and power to other atheist bloggers by giving them a large audience, who would never have gained such an audience on their own. Many of them are divisive too, following in his steps. As far as I can tell, you either love PZ Myers or you hate him. There doesn't seem to be any middle ground among most atheists who are aware of him. PZ Myers is a polarizing figure, hands down, no ifs ands or buts about it. He is divisive whether people think he's usually right or usually wrong. When PZ Myers declared he was leaving the skeptic movement in May of this year, professor Massimo Pigliucci even rhetorically asked, "should we care?" Now this is some real divisiveness, apparently cutting ties with the large and influential James Randi Educational Foundation and like-minded skeptics around the world. Who does he think he is? So I got to wondering about the characteristics of a polarizing person and did some searching online. This is what I found:

There Is a War Going On At Freethought Blogs! Are they Self-Destructing?

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Thunderf00T seems to have gone on a rampage. Ed Brayton wants to completely censor him from speaking at all atheist conventions. Natalie Reed subsequently blisters the atheist community. Atheistlogic even calls for a new atheist movement. There is a war going on! Natalie Reed writes:

Dan Barker Speaks Out Against Hate Directed at Women

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Surly Amy at Skepchick is collecting denunciations of hatred toward women in the atheist community. So far she's collected twelve of them from atheist leaders. One of the most recent ones is from Dan Barker, co-president of Freedom From Religion Foundation. I wholeheartedly agree with what Dan wrote, reproduced below. I would be extremely doubtful any atheist leader or leading blogger would not denounce this and embrace feminism. In fact, I don't think a woman-hater could be found among them, even prior to Elevatorgate.

Quote of the Day, by Dr. Taner Edis

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Sometimes it makes sense to speak of an "atheist movement" or the likes in the US, particularly in the context of efforts to increase social visibility and acceptance. But by and large, beyond such narrowly focused concerns, "atheists" are not a politically coherent group...I don't fully accept recent arguments like that by Greta Christina that "atheism demands social justice." Like it or not, people like Ayn Rand and her fandom are significant parts of the landscape of American atheism...To the extent that there is a "we" at all in the sense of "we atheists," we are a remarkably useless bunch in political terms. Link

Jerry Coyne Is Admirably Tryng to Deal With Christianity

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I find Dr. Coyne to be a refreshing alternative to Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers. They're all scientists but Coyne is actually trying to understand Christian theology and reach out across this great divide of ours. Victor Stenger and Michael Shermer do likewise. We need more scientists like them. Stenger and Shermer have both recommended my works. Now Coyne does too. He wrote:
I want to give two thumbs up to John Loftus’s book, Why I Became an Atheist. Despite its title, it’s far more than the story of Loftus’s journey from Christian minister to outspoken atheist. It’s really a thoughtful and well-documented dissection of religious arguments and theological claims. And there are two nice chapters on the “problem of suffering,” in which Loftus takes on and destroys the pathetic arguments offered by the faithful for why a good and powerful God allows gratuitous suffering. Link

Can PZ Myers Change His Ways? Should He?

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I've been critical of PZ Myers for five principled reasons: 1) he doesn't understand the mind of the believer, 2) he treats people who disagree as if they are morons, 3) he's a divisive force within the ranks of atheism, 4) he panders to the younger baser type atheist audience, and 5) he doesn't much value the contributions of people like me who deal with Christians on their own terms. I don't understand his motivations. He may like the power and the money that come from having a large audience. Or, it just may be his personality. He may be an ideologue by nature, an extremist, the type of person who can usually make a big difference. Can he change his ways? Should he? That's the question here. One thing is sure, more atheists are speaking out against him and his ways. John Draper, an important Canadian atheist blogger known as the Cobourg Atheist, recently said of him:

Dr. Andrea Weisberger, a Forgotten Atheist Scholar

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There has been a great deal of talk by secular women about the need to support women's issues. I endorse that goal most emphatically. Now there's an organization with a website called Secular Woman to help. I hope they try to include all secular women, not just those who demand preferential treatment to correct past injustices (believe it or not, many secular women disagree). And I hope they also focus on the larger issues that secular women deal with. Let me give you one such example as sort of a test case of what I mean. If this organization had been up and running then Professor Andrea Weisberger might still be engaged in atheist causes because of their support, perhaps still teaching in a university, still writing. Weisberger is on a short list of atheist scholars I admire the most. She introduced me to the problem of animal suffering that I have written so much about. Have you heard her story? You should.

I Went To Church Today

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Today my wife and I attended a Unitarian Universalist church and we loved it. I am tired of people on both sides of the fence trying to pigeon hole me, trying to ostracize those who differ, trying to make people take sides on the most minute of details. While I differ with this Unitarian church group on issues concerning faith and spirituality I'll take their acceptance and desire for dialogue any day over the PZ Myers types. I'm out. Fuck them. Fuck them all, that is, until they become human beings who think of the rest of us as human beings.

On the Stupidity and Divisiveness of PZ Myers and His Cadre of Followers

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I won't link to what PZ said because he already makes over $3000 per month on Freethought Blogs alone. But let's see what he has to say about something our own Cathy Cooper wrote. Writing about the Christian killer James Holmes, PZ opined:

Quote of the Day, by Thunderf00t *Sigh*

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After telling us of the recent developments at The Amazing Meeting (TAM), Thunderf00t says:
I can’t but help feel the skepchick-types REALLY needed something to be offended about, and they defiantly need to be the victims of something! There clearly wasn’t any sexual harassment at TAM, without even a single instance of someone being asked for coffee in an elevator. Then of course TAM had a sexual harassment policy in place. Really what is left for the skepchick-types to get hysterical about? Well, by a T-shirt saying they are “not a skepchick” of course- oh the horror… the horror.

Remember, if you oppose the T-shirt harassment policy at future conferences then you must be a bigoted, rape enabling, misogynistic radical woman hating MRA and you will get called an asshole before getting blocked for being a ‘troll’! --Link.
This skepchick type of insanity must stop, and I say this as one who wholeheartedly endorses feminism. To criticize the skepchick types is becoming equivalent to being "a bigoted, rape enabling, misogynistic radical woman hating MRA." I oppose this cookie-cutter straight-jacketed mentality and I call on all reasonable feminists to condemn it. Kudos to Dr. Harriet Hall for wearing the T-Shirt! She is my hero. She took a stand.

PZ Myers Apologizes!

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Yep, that's right, although it isn't exactly what some people had demanded. Below is PZ's video response to Thunderf00t explaining why he was kicked off Freethought Blogs. Then Thunderf00t responded. I think this whole episode is over. People can make up their own minds about it. But it illustrates something very important about what people do when we are emotionally engaged. As far as I know, no one is exempt. These two videos are proof positive that when someone is seen opposing what someone else holds dear, "the critical thinking portion of their brain effectively shuts down," as Kel quipped earlier.

The Top Ten Things I Stand Against

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I'm best known for the things I stand against. This is by design. I am a contrarian, a gadfly. I'm not going to mention all of the kinds of things that democratic loving civilized people are against, like first degree murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, rape, child molesting, child pornography, slavery, corporate greed and the ensuing poverty of lower classes, religious and secular militant governments and gangs, Naziism, obstruction of justice, perjury, con artist scams, and so on, since that list is long. I do however, stand against some things that are controversial.

Thunderf00t Isn't Happy With PZ Myers At All

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See below:

A Primer On How To Silence One's Opponents

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The answer: Shout them down. It's the most effective way. You've been there. In a room of people who all agree against you, one big guy stands up with a passionate speech and makes you feel as if to continue disagreeing is to be rude. We've all been there. But this didn't change our minds, did it? We just sat in silence fearing to buck the consensus because we might be socially ostracized. This is called bullying. That tactic is the one Freethought Bloggers and commenters have used against religion and is now being used against anyone who disagrees with their consensus, the one basically set by PZ Myers. This doesn't change minds either. One of the hallmarks of skeptical groups is that we embrace reason and science. So I have an important question. How is silencing one's opponents in this manner being reasonable? It's a reasonable question. Don't shout it down FtBlgers or you just proved my point, that this is what many of you do. I think the growing backlash against Freethought Blogs is that most of them refuse to reason with those who disagree, and that's not anything I want to be a part of at all, even if they ostracize me. Compared to this I am a voice of reason that the various skeptical communities need. There are many others like me. [Freethought Blogs]

My Response to Hank Fox, the Blue Collar Atheist

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Now I wouldn't generally single out a guy who doesn't claim to be an academic, but since fellow FTBlger Daniel Fincke linked to what Hank wrote on his Facebook page, claiming Hank "answers" me (rather than saying he "responded" to me), I thought that by engaging Hank I would also be engaging Daniel, who is part of the bullying crowd there. I have engaged Daniel on more than one occasion where I have come away thinking to myself he needs a basic course in critical thinking. Oh, not very often of course, since he writes some really good stuff I recommend. It only comes out when defending the herd at FTB. This is why David Eller argues a true freethinker is someone unattached to a community because a community will influence what we think. Daniel has dehumanized (or even worse, demonized) me because of these disagreements. Well then, let's just see what this demon has to say in response and see if Daniel still thinks Hank "answers" me. ;-)

American Atheists Want People to Have Sex At Their Conferences

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Dave Silverman, president of American Atheists, said: "I want people to have sex at our conferences." Now there's a marketing strategy! Don't miss the next one, okay? Anyone want to hook up there? ;-)

I don't think I've ever heard an organizer of a national insurance conference saying this, or even a national trucker's conference. Surely this statement is a by-product of the pressure coming from the hyper-anti-sexist crowd, something required in order not appear to be against sex itself. Extreme pressure requires extreme statements like these. This alone shows us the extreme nature of the pressure coming from the hyper-anti-sexist crowd.

Perhaps Ed Brayton and PZ Myers Should Both Apologize

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It's not like I am threatening their jobs, or calling for their resignation from an atheist organization, or saying I won't speak at the same events they do, or refusing to buy any of their books or anything (wait, they didn't write any). But that's what we have seen from a few Freethought Bloggers, including a defense of Greg Laden who actually physically threatened Justin Griffith. You should see what they're saying about me now. They don't even realize that by talking about irrelevancies and/or personally attacking me it does not answer my arguments, which are backed up by a lot of women feminists here, there, and everywhere, who just wanted a chance to speak up, having been frustrated by FtB so far. There is an utter lack of respect for disagreement and a nastiness that goes with it at FtB that disheartens me very much. I wish the more reasonable voices at FtB would teach them a thing or two about critical thinking, but I hope in vain. Many of them don't even understand a simple argument. But these are the kinds of people being attracted by the bloggers there, especially by PZ Myers and Ed Brayton. The buck stops with them. They have created this environment and they owe the rest of us an apology. I don't expect one though, but they should. It's okay to move into the future with welcomed new policies at FtB. But before that they should both apologize to us all.

Ed Brayton, PZ Myers, and Freethought Bloggers, Listen to Me

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I know you have a herd mentality and have a strong tendency not to listen to outsiders, especially "apostates" who have "left the fold" like me. But you must if you want to restore your credibility and be a positive force for skepticism in the world. We are allies in our desire to change the socio-religious landscape, not enemies. For those who don't know, Greg Laden, the obnoxious Ph.D. from Harvard, was just kicked off FtB for good reason [Harvard must be so proud--not!]. So also was Thunderf00t. I've written about Thunderf00t before. He set a record by lasting less than two weeks at Freethought Blogs! Ed, PZ, if you had just listened to me you would not be in this mess. Let me explain.

Quote of the Day, by Thunderf00t of Freethought Blogs

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I personally see ‘freethoughtblogs’ as unrepresentative of the wider rationalist community in:

1) The disproportionate amount of attention it gives to sexism compared to other issues.

2) The way that those who disagree on the matter of sexism are attacked with a disproportionate amount of strawmen, invective and branding (misogynist, MRA, etc etc). This is a behavior more in line with bullying than free thought.

.. and this puts FTB on a trajectory to be more of a fringe group that is intolerant of non-conformity, than a haven for free thought. An ill wind that really doesn’t blow anyone any good. Link.

Perhaps I've Been Going About It All Wrong ;-)

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I have purposely tried not to criticize other atheists so as not to offend them in hopes they would recommend my work. Well, as I reported earlier, some important atheists aren't doing it even though I've avoided criticizing them. I know I get the attention of Christian scholars when I critique their work, just as I respectfully did with professor John F. Haught, who in turn responded to my review of his book, "God and the New Atheism." The two following music videos don't convey exactly how I feel, but they express just a little of my feelings as I consider what to do differently, if anything. I suspect a change of some kind brewing. Brewing, that's a good word. Time for a beer. ;-)