Skeptic » eSkeptic » December 12, 2012

The Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine

THIS SUNDAY: watch Dr. Paul Zak for free online, broadcast live from Caltech

New Admission Policy and Prices

Please note there are important policy and pricing changes for this season of lectures at Caltech. Please review these changes now.

Dr. Paul Zak
The Moral Molecule:
The Source of Love & Prosperity

Sunday, December 16, 2012 at 2 pm
Baxter Lecture Hall

A revolution in the scientific study of good and evil, Dr. Paul Zak’s new book, The Moral Molecule, answers such questions as: Why do some people give freely while others are cold hearted? Why do some people cheat and steal while others you can trust with your life? Why are some husbands more faithful than others—and why do women tend to be more generous than men? Could the key to moral behavior lie with a single molecule? From the bucolic English countryside to the highlands of Papua New Guinea, from labs in Switzerland to his campus in Southern California, Dr. Zak recounts his extraordinary stories and sets out, for the first time, his revolutionary theory of moral behavior.

Order the book from Amazon

Watch the Live Broadcast
(Sun., Dec. 16th @ 2pm Pacific)

Followed by…

Dr. Jared Diamond

The World Until Yesterday:
What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?


SATURDAY, Jan. 5, 2013 at 2 pm
Beckman Auditorium

Mega-bestselling author of Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse, Dr. Jared Diamond surveys the differences between “traditional” societies and industrial or post-industrial societies, with an eye to the question: what can we learn from the former that can make the world we live in a better place for all of us?

Tickets: $10 Skeptics Society members/Caltech/JPL community; $15 everyone else. Tickets may be purchased in advance through the Caltech ticket office at 626-395-4652 or at the door. Ordering tickets ahead of time is strongly recommended. The Caltech ticket office asks that you do not leave a message. Instead call between 12:00 and 5:00 Monday through Friday.


In the flyer that went out in the mail announcing our Fall 2012 lecture series events at Caltech, this Jared Diamond lecture mistakenly read Sunday January 5. It should have read SATURDAY, January 5.

Read about the rest of
this season’s lectures


Kristine Duehl

Interview with Kristine Duehl

Have you ever paid much attention to the imagery depicted on children’s clothing, books and toys? After having a child of her own, it became obvious to our guest this week. In this episode of Skepticality, Derek interviews budding biologist Kristine Duehl, PhD (Biology), whose work focuses on flora and fauna and the biomes in which they live. Her goal is to educate parents and teachers, and to ensure that children are taught scientifically accurate information.


Get the Skepticality Podcast App
for Apple and Android Devices!
Skepticality (the Official Podcast App of Skeptic Magazine) is available in the App Store
Skepticality (the Official Podcast App of Skeptic Magazine) is available at Amazon for Android

Get the Skepticality App — the Official Podcast App of Skeptic Magazine and the Skeptics Society, so you can enjoy your science fix and engaging interviews on the go! Available for Android, iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Skepticality was the 2007 Parsec Award winner for Best “Speculative Fiction News” Podcast.



About this week’s eSkeptic

In an article entitled “Nontheism and Feminism: Why the Disconnect?” in the latest issue of Free Inquiry magazine, author and journalist Ophelia Benson targets Michael Shermer as the embodiment of misogyny. In this week’s eSkeptic, Michael Shermer publicly responds to Ophelia Benson.

Feminism Disconnected
A Response to Ophelia Benson
and a Caution on Tribalism in Secularism

by Michael Shermer

I In her article on “Nontheism and Feminism: Why the Disconnect?” in the latest issue of Free Inquiry magazine, the author and journalist Ophelia Benson writes that “atheism hasn’t always been very welcoming to women.” Why? Because, Benson believes: “The main stereotype in play, let’s face it, is that women are too stupid to do nontheism. Unbelieving in God is thinky work, and women don’t do thinky, because ‘that’s a guy thing.’”

Who in their wrong mind would believe such rubbish? According to Benson, me! Her evidence that I believe women are too stupid to do nontheism is a single 10-second sentence I uttered during a wide-ranging hour-long panel discussion on an Online talk-show called The Point, hosted by the Huffington Post chief science correspondent Cara Santa Maria, who invited me and two other men (Sean Carroll and Edward Falzon) to be on the panel to discuss atheism. In a Q&A that followed the main discussion, one viewer (a man) asked: “Why isn’t the gender split closer to 50/50 as it should be?” Benson then quotes me: “It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it; you know, it’s more of a guy thing” (at the 12 minute mark.

First of all, Benson shortened the quote. What I prefaced the above with is: “I think it probably really is 50/50.” Benson also left out my follow up comment moments later that at the 2012 TAM (The Amazing Meeting) conference of skeptics and atheists, there were more women speakers than men speakers. I misspoke slightly. According to D. J. Grothe, the TAM organizer, there were an equal number of men and women speakers (the roster on the web page is incorrect) until, ironically, Ophelia Benson herself dropped out. As for the sex ratio of attendees, there were 40% women in 2011 and 31% in 2012, the shift, Grothe speculated online, possibly due to some of these very same secular feminists irresponsibly blogging about how skeptic or atheist events were not safe for women.

In any case, please read my answer again. Where do I say or even imply that women are, in Benson’s characterization of what I said, “too stupid to do nontheism” or that “unbelieving in God is thinky work and women don’t do thinky?” Clearly that is not what I said, as punctuated by my preface that I believe the actual sex ratio is 50/50. And for the record I don’t believe for a moment that women are not smart enough to do nonbelief thinking, or any other type of cognition for that matter.

A Secular Malleus Maleficarum

I would like to use this opportunity to address a larger issue at hand, starting with another important point that Benson also failed to mention, and that is Cara Santa Maria’s own comment that she made after reading the viewer question and before I answered: “In putting together this panel I had a hellova time finding a woman who would be willing to sit on the panel with me to discuss her atheism. Why is that?”

Yes, why is that? From a social scientist’s perspective (instead of a one-off comment on a TV show), I don’t know. The only way to find out is to conduct a scientific study through a carefully constructed survey instrument that is reliable and valid and administered to an adequate sample size controlled for intervening variables that could bias the results. Until such a study is made, all of us are just speculating. I asked Cara if she had given the matter any further thought, and this is what she wrote me in an email (12-09-12):

“In my search for panelists on the show, I did reach out to a couple of high-profile female atheists local to Los Angeles, but none were available to join. We did receive a video comment from AJ Johnson, the Director of Development at American Atheists.

I don’t know why there seem to be more men in secular circles than women, or whether there truly are more men than women who proudly bear the atheist label. I do find that I get a lot of feedback from readers/viewers commending me on my ‘bravery’ for speaking up as a female atheist. I’m not sure why I’m perceived as being any more brave than a man in doing so.

What I can say is whether it’s real or perceived, a gender bias does seem to exist in atheist/secular/human circles, but I’ve never known my friend and colleague Michael Shermer to contribute to this problem. He is, in my estimation, as pro-woman and pro-atheism as they come.” [This final comment was unsolicited and I considered redacting it, but just in case there remains any doubt in the matter….]

Part of the problem generated by such questions is that they force the mind into searching for plausible causes to that particular issue, and since the mind abhors a vacuum we concoct ad-hoc explanations on the fly, ignoring the possibility that such differences may be due to chance or some other reason. It also narrows the frame of the issue in a particular way that focuses the mind to think about that and not something else. For example, had Free Inquiry hosted a special issue on why socio-economic classes are not proportionally represented in the atheist movement, we would have heard a plethora of plausible explanations (e.g., rich people don’t like atheism because religion—at least the prosperity gospel type—reinforces their wealth as deserved; or poor people reject atheism because religion serves them well; or whatever). The point is that there is a built-in cognitive bias simply in asking the question, and we should be cognizant of how that narrows our thinking and frames our answers.

As well, we should all remind ourselves to be cautious of the confirmation bias, in which we look for and find confirming evidence for what we believe and ignore disconfirming evidence. This can lead to anything from the blatant misreading of quotes to full-on accusations of misthought or misbehavior. We must remember that we are all subject to the same cognitive biases as those whom we criticize in religious and paranormal cohorts, and keep in mind that in journalism, as in science and all rational inquiry, there is an ethic of going to the primary source, and especially giving the person in question the benefit of the doubt. In this case, a simple email asking what I meant would have cleared up any misunderstanding. (Skeptical Inquirer columnist Kenneth Krause did just that after reading Benson’s article, and that removed any doubt for him as to my position.)

As well, as in witch hunts of centuries past, we should be cautious of making charges against others because of the near impossibility of denial or explanation after the accusation. (Just read the comments about me in the forum section of Benson’s blog, where I’m called a “jackass,” a “damn fool,” and other descriptors that have become commonplace in the invectosphere. Is there anything I could say that would not confirm readers’ beliefs? Denial is what true witches (and bigots, racists, and misogynists) do. Many other examples abound. Harriet Hall, M.D., the SkepDoc columnist for Skeptic magazine (one of two women columnists of our three, I might add, the other being Karen Stollznow), who lived through and helped bring about the first-wave feminist movement, told me she “was vilified on Ophelia’s blog for not following a certain kind of feminist party line of how a feminist should act and think. And I was attacked there in a disturbingly irrational, nonskeptical way.” I asked her why she didn’t defend herself. She wrote in an email (12/08/12):

“I did not dare try to explain my thinking on Ophelia’s blog, because it was apparent from the tone of the comments that anything I might say would be misinterpreted and twisted to use against me. I have always been a feminist but I have my own style of feminism. And I have felt more oppressed by these sort of feminists than by men, and far less welcome in that strain of feminism than in the atheist or skeptical communities.”

In her article Benson mentions “implicit assumptions” in stereotypes. This refers to a body of research in cognitive psychology that shows how so many of our beliefs and attitudes are unconscious (Google “Implicit Association Test”). This is a fascinating and revealing line of inquiry, but what concerns me is how this research can become the perfect tool of the inquisitor, a chapter in a secular Malleus Maleficarum: Witches (alleged bigots, racists, and misogynists today) don’t even know that they’re witches (bigots, racists, misogynists) because it is subconscious. You may deny you’re a witch (bigot, racist, misogynist) because you don’t even know you are one. Once charged, twice accused, thrice convicted.

On Tribalism in Secularism

For all I know there may very well be stereotyping still going on in secular circles, but here I would like to challenge the assumption that a sex ratio other than 50/50 is evidence of misogyny. It isn’t. As Harriet Hall observed:

“I think it is unreasonable to expect that equal numbers of men and women will be attracted to every sphere of human endeavor. Science has shown that real differences exist. We should level the playing field and ensure there are no preventable obstacles, then let the chips fall where they may.”

Perhaps unintentionally, Benson makes a strong case that something other than misogyny may be at work here, when she asks rhetorically if I would make the same argument about race. I would, yes, because I do not believe that the fact that the secular community does not contain the precise percentage of blacks, Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans as in the general population, means that all of us in the secular community are racists, explicitly or implicitly. A variance from perfect demographic symmetry does not necessarily correspond to racist attitudes. It just means that the world is not perfectly divided up according to population demographics, and people have different interests and causes. There is nothing inherently bigoted, racist, or misogynistic in the fact that the demographics of the secular community do not reflect those of the general population (in gender, in age and socio-economic class, or in height, weight, or any number of other variables for that matter), so short of some other evidence of bigotry, racism, and misogyny, there is no need to go in search of demons to exorcise.

Finally, there is a deeper problem here that I have observed over the past several years that I would like to address to the larger secular community, and that is the dangers of in-group fighting and inquisition purges of those who are not “pure” enough in their atheism, skepticism, or humanism. My partner and co-founder of the Skeptics Society and Skeptic magazine, Pat Linse, was involved in the first wave feminism of the 1960s, and she recalls the lamentable in-group bickering about who were the “true feminists,” and how this led to witch hunts and purges that splintered the movement and made it a less effective political force.

I suspect such purging comes with the territory of the sociology and psychology of social and political movements. Several years ago I gave the keynote address at a national atheist conference. After, my host informed me that there was much squabbling among board members about whether or not I should be allowed to speak because it was not clear if I was “atheist enough” for their members, and especially because I had called myself an agnostic in my book How We Believe. (I simply clarified the difference between the ontological question of God’s existence—for which I endorsed the agnostic position of Thomas Huxley when he coined the word in 1869 as meaning “unknowable”—and the belief question of God’s existence, for which I call myself an atheist.)

Given this tribal propensity in human nature to divide people into In-Group/Out-Group and Us v. Them cohorts, we would be wise to not let our various affiliated movements (skeptical, atheist, humanist) be rent asunder. As Ben Franklin admonished his fellow freedom fighters, “we must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” There is still very real discrimination to be combatted in our society, with gays and atheists as two of the last minority groups to be targeted. Recent polls show that we are in the midst of a transformation in social acceptance of gay marriage (with the Supreme Court about to take up the issue), and as I have been predicting for years, in a few decades people will look back at this time with the same shame that we do today in recalling the Black and White drinking fountains and restrooms of the 1950s (my other prediction—Christians will take credit for bringing about the gay marriage revolution by citing some Episcopalian ministers who spoke out in favor of it).

As for the sex ratio of secular organizations, when I got into the skeptical, atheist, and secular movements in the 1980s, the conferences and meetings were mostly populated by, as Carl Sagan once described it, grumpy old white guys complaining about irrationality in the world. (Although, he added, there is much to complain about!) Since that time many of us have worked diligently to bring the membership and attendance rolls more in balance, not only in terms of gender, but race and age as well. We’re not there yet, but much progress has been made. I give dozens of public talks a year all over the country, and in every one of them when I look out I see not an audience of grumpy old white guys; I see a plethora of women, minorities, and people of all ages (although everyone still likes to complain about irrationality in the world!)

So we should hang together in our fight against real discrimination, bigotry, racism, misogyny, and homophobia wherever we find it. But instead of looking for demons and finding the witch’s mark of Satan in secular inquisitions, let us note the advancements we have made and celebrate that our movement is making real moral progress in attenuating our inner demons and accentuating the better angels of our nature through science and reason. END



  1. Ant says:

    “… I believe the actual sex ratio is 50/50.”

    So, Michael, /why/ then did you say, “… it’s more of a guy thing”?


    • Jeff says:

      /Why/ did you pick that sentence out of all the sentences he wrote above? Do you have anything to say at all about the other stuff?

    • Estrogena says:

      Did you even read this article? “It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it . . .” He believes that the split is roughly equal, but that more men than women wish to be in the public eye. The answer to your question could not be any plainer.

      • ChichesterSpode says:

        Estrogena, your explanation makes sense, though it didn’t occur to me, so I’m not convinced it is all that plainly evident. I was wondering what Shermer meant by that, and it would have been helpful if he had commented on it, considering it’s really the only part of the quote that Benson could possibly have been objecting to. Since he didn’t comment on it, it does kind of stick out. I think Benson is on a witch hunt, and I don’t for an instant think that Shermer is out to oppress women.

        • Marcel Kincaid says:

          You’re making no sense; it’s a direct quote.

        • Hamsa says:

          So if, instead of”guy thing,” he had said “white thing,” and a black blogger simply mentioned it felt inappropriate to call it a “white thing,”…then the black guy is on a witch hunt? He’s a Nazi??? DOUBLE STANDARD.

      • Ant says:

        Yes, it could, actually.

        Sherman says he was responding to the viewer’s question, “Why isn’t the gender split closer to 50/50 as it should be?”

        Shermer says he said, “I think it probably really is 50/50.” But then he went on to say those other things that Ophelia quoted.

        Nowhere is it clear that he’s talking about different things — that the “it” in the question and his first comment refers to a different group than those that «want to get up and talk about it». And it’s especially not clear as he emphasises his latter comment about the approximately equal number of male and female speakers at TAM … given /that/, 50/50 split, why on Earth would he have any grounds to say, “it’s mostly a guy thing”?

        But even if that distinction were real, the “it’s mostly a guy thing” is still pretty patronising and belittles women. It’s not at all a thoughtful comment, especial from someone who prizes critical thinking. Shermer may not be a raving mysoginist, but he’s certainly casually sexist.


        • ChichesterSpode says:

          To be fair, Ant, “it’s more of a guy thing” is at least as patronizing to men as it is to women. It suggests that men simply can’t help it, whatever “it” is. On the other hand, it was a throwaway add-on to an off-the-cuff comment, so it’s probably not worth psychoanalyzing (or worth Benson’s attention). If anything, “it’s more of a guy thing” was a silly answer, because the original question was essentially, “Why is it more of a guy thing?” Judging by his article above, I’d say Shermer meant that he didn’t really know why “it’s more of a guy thing.” And that strikes me as a perfectly reasonable answer.

          • Hamsa says:

            It depends on the positive or negative nature of the attributes themselves…regardless of whom they are being ascribed to.

        • Spock says:

          It seems like you’re over-analyzing what he said. I don’t think he meant “using your thinking abilities” is only a guy thing, but rather the abundance of men are doing it. People don’t always mean what you think they mean by their words, and they don’t always realize you might see it differently. It’s how he speaks colloquially. To assume it is “casual sexism” is even a little much.

        • Henry says:

          Shermer’s comments were off-the-cuff, so yes they could have been more precise, but it was very clear to me that the “it” in “it’s mostly a guy thing” referred to being outspoken, not to being an atheist or being intelligent. Shermer needed to throw in a few more caveats when he blah blah blahed his way into broad generalizations about male atheists being more analytical and female atheists having a better feel for the purpose of atheism — it made him sound sexist — but, again, it was off-the-cuff.

          • Raymond says:

            If I can throw a wrench into this. I considered what he said by itself, ‘a guy thing’ I’m 62 and most girlfriends and 2 wives were never as interested in the more intellectually stimulating discussions of politics, science found in say Scientific American as much as I was, but it’s not to say they couldn’t engage in it, they just were more interested in fashion, shoes, hair dressing visits, kids(I know, sounds like we’re in the earlier times in this century, but these topics were specifically common to most of the women I knew, my first wife was an RN, and really liked daytime TV ‘stories’ way more than more brainy topics). These women were not of low IQs, but some of or most of what attracted them could be categorised as ‘girl’ things, but really humans are not monoliths, and being interested in more traditionally divided interests, as ‘guy things’, or ‘girl things’ doesn’t necessarily exclude either gender, and I think Shermer’s last bit of what he said was unimportant compared to the front part of his comments and to cherry pick that and attack it doesn’t seem fair, as I don’t see Shermer as ever showing he is less considering of women than men. On the fly comments will be different from carefully written articles and using a line such as that. As Michael said OB should have contacted him and cleared up his meaning first than to quote mine him and etch it into an article, that may bias folks against him, since he can’t unring that bell that OB rung. Then PZ apparently was unable to accept Michale perfectly reasonable explanation, just makes me think that crowd carries hammers around always on the look out for nails to pound, would that be the ‘confirmation bias’ Michael spoke of? Rebecca Watson and Ophelia have been for months on certain topics(we all know what I mean), but once you get the message you hang up the phone, right? But OB and RW won’t allow you to hang up.

        • Ant says:

          To all of the above: Yes, it was an off-the-cuff remark, but it was careless and thoughtless. That this type of remark reveals ingrained views about stereotypical gender roles is, I think, Ophelia’s point. It is the same kind of everyday casual sexism that affronts many women (most of them not outspoken feminist witches).


          • bismarket says:

            Oh dear, this makes us all look so sad & geeky. That’s more likely to put anyone off, IMO than any throw-away comment Michael may have said. Do we really want to be known as the type of people who have nothing better to do that analyze the minutia of stuff like this?

        • Ali Radicali says:

          The distinction to be made (which admittedly might’ve been addressed a little better in the article), is between numbers of nonbelievers and numbers of professed nonbelievers/active participants in the community. I’m pretty sure shermer meant to say that he thought the actual gender split amongst atheists is roughly 50/50, and that conference attendance, public speaking etc. all reflect a sample from this population that is slightly biased towards men. For which shermer’s off-the-cuff explanation is that going to conventions and conferences or seeking out debate on this subject are “guy things”. Now of course you can turn that into some sort of attack on womenhood, but I think that if you relax and actually look at your personal experiences, you’ll probably agree that men are generally a bit more combative and outspoken about their beliefs, and also a bit more prone to let their (lack of) belief turn intoa hobby of sorts.

          That’s not to say there aren’t women who like to argue and debate, that’s not to say there aren’t female atheists that care passionately about atheism, but I think such differences in psychology could explain the (small) differences in conference attendance, etc.

    • Cephus says:

      Clearly you didn’t read what he actually said. He said that he thinks that the number of atheists is 50/50 male/female, but that the number of people who are willing to stand up, be vocal, go on interviews, etc. tends to be more male oriented. That’s not sexist, that’s just reality. No one is stopping women from standing up, writing books, going on the talk-show circuit, etc., there simply are less women than men willing to do so.

      How is this the fault of men? How is this sexist?

      • MaryP says:

        How is this men’s fault? How is this sexist. Maybe because women who speak out get harassed or receive rape threats. Although not only occurring in the atheist/skeptical world it is very definitely happening here.

        • CommanderTuvok says:

          “Maybe because women who speak out get harassed or receive rape threats.”

          But fewer women get involved in the first place, so they would not be harassed or receive rape threats, as you put it. So, you are barking up the wrong tree to begin with.

          “Although not only occurring in the atheist/skeptical world it is very definitely happening here.”

          That doesn’t make sense. What is happening here, exactly? There is no harassment of women here, only calling out.

          • MaryP says:

            Sorry, if you say that harassment and rape threats are not happening in the atheist community you are sadly mistaken or willfully ignorant. Take your pick.

        • Astrokid.NJ says:

          It all comes down to the same issue feminists have been grappling with since the 60s. Why are men on top? in every goddamn field other than child bearing, child rearing, the best of men will always outcompete the best of women.

          Answers have been proferred decades ago, but feminists cant stomach it. Baumeister talked about male motivation and male risk taking to build his status.. throught our history.. coz without such a status, he has no innate value. Women didnt have this problems.. coz they had innate value.. sexual value. How many women here are willing to marry a “lowly” garbage disposal man out of “love”? Watson? McReight? or any of you? None..

          Darwinian Philosopher Helena Cronin gave a decent explanation using the 4Ts: tastes, talents, temperament and statistical tails.

          Your best rebuttal of the explanations? “Rape Threats.. thats why”.
          And you go ahead with your feminist social re-engineering.
          Even after 50+ years of feminism giving a massive leg up to women, there’s hardly any woman thats moved civilization forward..through great scientific progress.. hardly any female Nobel Prize winners in science, innovators like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, or any great art.. or even great standup comedians.. or even a chess grandmaster (judith polgar.. only one in top 100). And feminists die in jealousy.
          Accept it ladies.. Camille Paglia was right.. “If civilization was left to women, we would still be living in grass huts”. LOL

          The thing is.. most of us men are comfortable with the fact that its only a tiny fraction of humanity that moves humanity forward.. or even rises to the higher levels of humanity maintenance.. and the rest of us just maintain it by doing the best we can.
          Feminists arent. So.. where does this end? How many more decades will you whine?

          • MaryP says:

            So threatening people is not trying to make them shut up and not stopping women from participating as a spokesperson where they open themselves up to more threats? Also what kind of mentoring is there? Do men tend to chose other men to mentor – even if this is informal. Yes I had male mentors but it was harder for me to find these mentors and I often heard the same complaint from female friends. Most of my male classmates found it way easier. Studies have found that where the hiring committee is blinded as to the sex of the applicant hire many more women. So why are women whining?

          • Astrokid.NJ says:

            You have no ability to answer any points I made, about the failure of feminism.
            On and on you go in circles with the same old pathetic “rape threats”. i.e your victimhood. Here.. let typhonblue (a woman) help you understand your victimhood.

            V-Leaks 2.0: Women in Groups–Wonderful or Warlords?
            The Basics: Victim Cred and Agency

            To illustrate feminine emotional domininance I’ll be using a gaming analogy. Many people have experience with status bars that indicate, for example, the level of health or magical energy a game avatar.

            Lets imagine each woman has two such status bars. The first is ‘perceived agency’, the second is ‘victim cred’. As the first increases, the second decreases. And as the first decreases the second increases.

            Women are socialized to see their potency in terms of their ability to command-control others into doing stuff for them. The less agency they are seen as having, the more victim cred they have and the more ability they have to shame others into doing something for them. (This is also why women’s beauty efforts and social graces function to ape the behavior of juveniles. Children are helpless, looking and behaving like a child evokes that.)

            Posturing for women then becomes about trying to increase your victimhood cred while increasing perception of your opponent’s agency, specifically her ability to hurt you. This is why women are all about appearing, on the surface, to be conciliatory and caring while weeping silently into their hankies over any perceived slight.

            Women deal damage by taking away other women’s victim cred and inflating their own.

          • MaryP says:

            And you seem incapable or unwilling to see what I am talking about.

          • Astrokid.NJ says:

            So how did Marie Curie work her ass off and get two Nobel Prizes.. something only 4 people have done so far? And all this way before 2nd wave feminism? what about her rape threats?
            Even Google’s first female engineer Marissa Meyer.. who declared herself not a feminist.. is not complaining about it. Its you losers who do it to cover up your failures.. never the successful ones.

        • Mitch says:

          So your implying that outspoken male atheist don’t get threatening letters or that women are just not brave enough to handle threatening letters?

          Or maybe your implying that a rape threat letter to a woman is worse than a whatever threat letter to a man?

          Who is the sexist now?
          (see what i did there, just about anything with the word woman or man can be twisted)

        • KaFe says:

          Let me start my comment with saying I am a woman and an atheist. I also considered myself a feminist for a long time but I usually, now, prefer not to be associated with the movement. Why? because of comments like this. There are no outspoken women out there because of rape threats? Seriously? First of all it implies that women are so weak and scared that they can be threatened into not thinking or not having an opinion- which for me is much more sexist than anything else I read here. Second of all This kind of thinking is, in my opinion, extremely harmful for women, you are creating an absurd excuse. There are and were women in society who achieved more than many men, I personally know many women like this, not mentioning women like Madam Sklodowska-Curie. Instead of complaining for sexism constantly and focusing our energy on analyzing `silly` comments we , women, should put our energy into something useful and then maybe it will stop `being a guy thing`… And Just to finish up…as I said I am a woman and an atheist and I did not feel offended by the comment at all…If anything, it saddens me that maybe it might be true…

    • Liam says:

      I’ve watched the video and Michael’s response to the female atheist interviewer as why she had so much trouble getting female atheists to come on the show, not to women not being atheists. The questions we should ask is:

      1. Is that true?
      2. If so, why is it true?

    • alandeon2 says:

      I would think that what he might have meant by “its more of a guy thing” was that guys seem to be more vocal in the skeptic community.

      NOT that there are more of them but simply that we tend to be more vocal. Its the same with the Theist debaters. Have we really seen too many Theists who are women?? So why is the Atheist community being made to feel that we are somehow doing something wrong?

      On a side note, it appears to me that those vocal female Atheist/skeptics also seem predominantly Feminist with a capital “F” which might push away other female Atheist/skeptics that would consider getting more involved but might not want to be associated with those “Feminist 1st” Atheists who speak at Atheist/skeptic conferences but always seem to talk about their Feminism rather than what the conference seemed to have been set up to discuss. I can only speak for myself but it adds a bit of a deterrence to people who might consider attending but don’t really need to hear about a topic different than they attended the event for.

      I bet we can all quickly come up with at least 5 names of those I speak of, can’t we?

  2. Daniel Waddell says:

    Unfortunately you are not the only one that has been slandered by Ophelia Benson and her friends at Free from thought blogs and skepchick. Richard Dawkins, Abbie Smith, Russell Blackford, Sam Harris, Al Stefanelli, Paula Kirby, D.J. Grothe, John Loftus,Penn Jillette, Stef McGraw, Michael Payton and many others have also have been slandered too. The only way I see this to ending is for you to be getting together with these people and calling out these idiots for what they are.

    • coutHelloWorld says:

      I agree in calling out their irrational thought patterns in general, but not the people specifically, unless they actually deserve a direct call out. A call out just feeds their egos and makes them seem more credible with their groupies.

      What I mean is, for example, bloggers whose expertise consists of solely of blogging, vlogging and going to conferences (that dishonest, wannabe scientist elevator gate chick comes to mind) do not deserve a direct call out, especially from someone like Shermer. As Dawkins told William Lane Craig, “that would look great on your CV, not so much on mine”.

      • Lukas says:

        interesting thought….i wonder if it is possible to “blackball” them….like, dont go to confrences they speak at and refuse to publish them in magazines….at least until they apologize….it seems like they have made enough enemies to safely be marginalized and forgotten…..

        • Raymond says:

          The major problem with that is that that is exactly what they suggest doing to those atheists who to them aren’t pure enough for their atheist plus gig. Read Thunderf00t’s account of Atheism + and his spot on critique of RCarrier’s article where he actually reflects a you’re either with us or against us attitude and if you’re not with us, you should be ignored, marginalised, etc.
          It’s really getting out of hand when folks start threatening to decline going to conventions or meetings if so and so is going to speak, or even just be there blah, blah, blah. We are(I’m presuming I can include myself)after all supposed to be Freethinking logical and reasoning people, right? Not emotionally charged errant un-informed opinionated creaturdish religioturds.

      • Marcel Kincaid says:

        Rebecca Watson et. al. certainly do “deserve” a direct call out. To not do so because of a concern that it will stroke their egos isn’t rational.

  3. FlyingFree333 says:

    When will these conferences stop inviting know-nothing bloggers to speak? The problem is giving attention seeking, opinionated, drama queens (and kings) soap boxes to rant from and unnecessary feeding of their already overblown and unjustified egos. Being a blogger does NOT make anyone an expert on anything! Conferences should stick to inviting real experts and professionals with real experience and real credentials as speakers and leave the bloggers to do their small minded ranting on their blogs where the rest of us can ignore them as they deserve.

  4. Richard Dworkins says:

    I agree. Narcissistic personalities would of course claim to be skeptical of everything, that is, everything else but themselves. Thus they assume their thoughts must be correct and perfect. When confronted with skepticism about such thoughts they cannot respond coherently because they see criticism as a personal attack. Thus they have difficulty in remaining calm, listening to and refuting such, but tend to respond with emotional rhetoric.

    From their point of view, You are attacking them, they are the victim. Any disagreement is victim blaming.

    They dine on attention. Deprive them of it.

  5. B Hero says:

    Thank you for writing this article. I sincerely fear that the likes of Becky and Ophelia have been caught up in cult-like mentality. Like Scientologists, they are victims and should be given sympathy. We can help cold members by giving them love but not giving them money

  6. B Hero says:

    (Cult members not cold members, curse you, Siri!)

  7. B Hero says:

    The character assassination of dissenting voices is in intense. In, we hear a 24-year old skeptical prodigy talking about his experiences with Ophie, which more than resemble yours.

    • Renee Hendricks says:

      And the thing is, Justin only barely touches the tip of the iceberg on that particular witch hunt.

  8. B Hero says:

    This is what worries me about Melody Hensley and Rhys Morgan’s brand of feminism:

    Witch (bigot, racist, misogynist)

    + rape apologist
    + incest supporter

    This is a matter of grave concern, one which I have been attempting to bring to the fore for some time.

  9. Sally says:

    How is “Doing the intellectual work is a guy thing” supposed to be different from “women aren’t thinky”? Maybe I’m being girly, I mean dumb, but I don’t get it.

    • Jeff says:

      Sally (can I call you Social Justice Sally?) says: “How is “Doing the intellectual work is a guy thing” supposed to be different from “women aren’t thinky”? Maybe I’m being girly, I mean dumb, but I don’t get it.”

      Another person bound and determined to be the victim. He didn’t just say “intellectual work”, did he? He just mentioned a bunch of things that he observed women not stepping up to do, despite the opportunities.

      You also fail to mention that whole “benefit of the doubt” thing. But why would you when you have your conclusion already worked out? You only need to find the facts to fit them.

      • Sally says:

        Sure, you *can* call me Social Justice Sally, but I don’t see why you’d think it was anything but an indication of your bias. I asked about a note in the article that Shermer talked as though it was obvious and now I have a nickname?

        Doing intellectual work versus intellectually active is a real distinction? I mean, one with meaning? If straws are all you’ve got to grasp at…I guess.

        Thanks for making me feel a whole lot less dumb though.

        • badrescher says:

          YES, there is a distinction – a very real one. And it’s explainable.

          Speaking in front of an audience at conferences is VERY different from conducting research and even from teaching. There are dozens upon dozens of factors that determine the likelihood that someone will want to engage in such an activity. ONE of those factors is a desire for attention, praise, or power.

          *On average* men tend to be more narcissistic than women (although that gap is closing quickly; narcissism is rising in both genders, but faster in women than men).

          And let me head off any suggestions now that I am saying that all speakers are narcissistic; I’m not saying that AT ALL. What I am saying is that there are many factors which might lead to more men than women seeking a stage in this community, but I’m really just apply one of the EXACT arguments that Shermer made in the article to this more specific question.

          • Sally says:

            No, I’m still confused. Which of those is “doing intellectual work” and which is “being intellectually active” and why aren’t they both both?

          • Bad Boy Scientist says:

            @Sally (and others)

            I guess the sad part of is this for me is:

            Sexism not only exists it thrives and it has been driven underground (only boobs like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck would openly express their bias against women). There are countless subtle ways that groups are opposing equality for women (and other groups) – many times with a dishonest veneer of trying to help women.

            But we’re not fighting sexism by attacking Dr Mike (especially since this attack is, face it, dishonest – picking excerpts to criticize is what the opponents of Feminism do.) We are dividing ourselves and giving ammunition to the real enemies of equality. We are falling right into their trap.

            And attacking the attackers isn’t mending fences, either. If a woman suspects the worst in men – ask yourself “Why is she so suspicious?” Why doesn’t she just take a man’s word that he mean no ill-will toward her?

            Maybe the problem is that the enemies of equality have learned a new trick – pretend to be a supporter but sabotage from within. Take bigoted action but claim that it is for the best of the ‘target group’. It is easy for someone to slip in a subtle message and claim it was all a mistake… we need to look beyond one sentence or one speech – we need to look their body of work.

            Can anyone claim that Dr Mike’s life’s work has been injurious to women?

        • NOT says:

          Sally, you are determined to be mad about this despite any explanation. So, go forth and prosper with that.

    • Skeptic says:

      Yeah – your being dumb.

      “I think it probably really is 50/50.”
      “It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it; you know, it’s more of a guy thing”

      In his example, he was saying that men are more apt to go out on the stage more than women, regardless of other things.

      Benson had the opportunity to go on stage, she chose not to, due to some threats she received. Instead she writes snippy blog posts instead of being in the front lines.

      Yeah – that sounds really intelligent.

      • Arty Morty says:

        “your being dumb”

        Ha! Your adoribel.

        • Raymond says:

          Ha Ha Can it possibly be they mean to say ‘your being is dumb’?Or the space between your and being is dumb?And yes must be ador-ibel.:-)

      • Sally says:

        Sure, he mentions wanting to go on stage. That’s its own kind of ahistorical weirdness.

        He also mentions being intellectually active. That doesn’t have to be done on a stage. It just requires being “thinky”. How is that different from what Benson said?

        • Marcel Kincaid says:

          You’re right Sally (Strange?), it’s exactly what Ophelia said and Dr. Shermer really is a sexist pig. Now you can be happy and go rally with your fellow FtB cultists against all the evil misogynists in the athest community.

          In other words, you’re too stupid and dishonest to bother with.

          • Sally Strange says:

            Nope, not me. Not Sally Strange. Apparently there’s a length requirement for these comments? How odd. Anyway.

      • josh says:

        Correction: At least as far as I’m aware, Benson did not receive threats. She received a sincere warning from someone whose paranoia had fed off hers and become more magnified. She in turn interpreted this incorrectly as a veiled threat. No lessons were learned.

      • Numbersixxx says:

        This is an example of “threats” she received:
        She is a pathetic internet warrior and a failure in real life.

    • Greg says:

      Not being intellectually active, is not the same as not being intellectual – for example, due to social phobia I could not do any of the activities mentioned, but that does not mean that I am ‘not thinky’. It does, however, mean that I am about as far from ‘intellectually active’ (in the way Michael Shermer used the phrase) as you can get!

      There are a plethora of possible reasons for why this might be the case, whether they are social, or to do with the differing body chemistry for each sex which don’t involve sexism. I tried to list some, but I guess my comment is too long as apparently it appeared ‘spammy’.

      Considering the weight of the accusation surely the benefit of the doubt should be given and/or clarifications sought before branding someone as sexist? Of course, presumably people who actually are sexist wouldn’t care about being called it!

      • Sally says:

        I don’t see how one can be intellectual if one isn’t intellectually active. Is it possible to think without thinking? Engage with weighty issues without engaging? I don’t see it, but even so, Benson covered this. She also talked about the stereotype that women are passive as part of this thinky problem.

        But if you want Benson to be charitable, why doesn’t that apply to Shermer suggesting that Benson wrote her article out of a feminist tribalism?

        • Deriamis says:

          “I don’t see how one can be intellectual if one isn’t intellectually active. Is it possible to think without thinking?”

          Is it possible to suspect without being suspicious? Perhaps you don’t realize that you’ve committed amphiboly here.

          Being intellectually active is not the same thing as having intellectual activity. He was clearly talking about being out in public at intellectual gatherings, so I understood “intellectually active” to mean (in context) to mean someone who takes part in social gatherings of intellectual people. I wasn’t there, but I give Michael the benefit of the doubt when he explains what he says.

          It’s your choice to see a relatively innocuous and somewhat inept shorthand comment as the “startling revelation” of private misogynistic thinking if you really want to. I choose to believe Michael was put on the spot and thought up something that didn’t work out so well, and that people who have a chip on their shoulder are talking more about how they feel rather than the facts of the situation.

        • Greg says:

          Michael Shermer clearly explained what he meant by intellectually active in the sentence leading up to the words ‘intellectually active’. To go back to my previous post:

          I am not intellectually active in the sense that Michael Shermer used it. I like to think I am intellectual, but for reasons unrelated (except through convoluted references to my history) am essentially incapable of – say – giving a lecture, appearing on a tv talk show – hell I even find it hard to debate in comments on the internet nowadays. My social phobia currently cripples me to the point where I shut down in any kind of social situation… but it does NOT stop me from engaging with topics intellectually.

          Indeed, from a personal point of view it’s largely intellectual activities that get me through the day. I don’t say that in some bizarre look for sympathy on the internet (what exactly would be the point of that!), but rather to try to stress that intellectual activity is important to me, and yet I readily agree that I am not ‘intellectually active’ in the way Michael Shermer is talking about.

          I’ve no way of knowing whether it is deliberate or not, but you are totally misrepresenting him. If it is not deliberate, then can I suggest you reread the quote without attaching any baggage you might have to the words ‘intellectually active’, but rather reading them as being a summation of the rest of the quote before it. That’s all it was. Does the quote sound as bad to you without the words ‘who’s intellectually active’? It’s just there’s is little to know difference in the meaning of the sentence without those words there.

          Frankly, I thought the quote was rather innocuous – there was nothing judgemental in it whatsoever. Distilled down, he basically just said that in general men and women have different priorities.

          As for your final paragraph – there’s no comparison between the two. One is defending himself, the other is throwing around accusations.

          • Greg says:

            Ugh – please excuse the typos in the previous post. I do (for example) know that ‘no’ is spelt ‘no’ and not ‘know’! I need an edit function! :)

        • NOT says:

          Sally, you are being dishonest and simply going to bat for Benson. There is a prolific comment writer over at FTB with the handle Sally. Just saying. You guys are known for reflexively defending each other despite clear indications of being incorrect.

          Even out of context what Shermer said was…

          “who’s intellectually active about it”

          So, even in the worst case scenario, he is stating that more men than women think about issues related to skepticism/atheism. It could be that he is implying that women are just as intellectual and intellectual active, but might choose to employ these faculties elsewhere. This is entirely reasonable and non-sexist thing to say. It may be true. Now, putting this correct quote into full context makes your side look even more silly.

          People are disagreeing with you because you are wrong.

        • NOT says:

          I meant in my last comment to point out that the…

          “about it”

          is important, since you are splitting linguistic hairs. He is clearly not making any claim against the general capabilities of women.

    • Arty Morty says:

      This this this.

      That’s the main point of Ophelia Benson’s piece, and I don’t see it being addressed at all. Not in Shermer’s post; not in any of the comments so far.

      “The only way to find out [why there may be fewer women in atheism] is to conduct a scientific study through a carefully constructed survey instrument that is reliable and valid and administered to an adequate sample size controlled for intervening variables that could bias the results. Until such a study is made, all of us are just speculating.”

      So it’s perfectly ok for you to speculate that it’s “a guy thing” without any carefully-constructed studies to back you up, but it’s a problem when feminists raise the possibility that maybe it isn’t? Until carefully-constructed studies are done to prove otherwise, we should all just rest on our stereotypes; is that it?

      I have a speculation of my own: perhaps you’re so comfortable with the status quo–and so averse to challenges to it–because you’ve benefited greatly from your position within it.

      Typical libertarian…

      • Arty Morty says:

        Note that my “This This This” remark is in reference to Sally’s original comment, which reads:

        How is “Doing the intellectual work is a guy thing” supposed to be different from “women aren’t thinky”? Maybe I’m being girly, I mean dumb, but I don’t get it.

        • Greg says:

          The point is that he didn’t say “Doing the intellectual work is a guy thing”.

          He said something completely different.

      • Marcel Kincaid says:

        “This this this.”

        Dishonest dishonest dishonest.

        Dense dense dense.

        “Typical libertarian…”

        Ooh ooh ooh.

    • Marcel Kincaid says:

      ‘”How is “Doing the intellectual work is a guy thing”’

      He didn’t say that.

      ‘Maybe I’m being girly, I mean dumb, but I don’t get it.’

      What you’re being is intellectually dishonest. And stupid too. That you’re female is beside the point (other than how it motivates your ideology).

  10. Mark Neil says:

    I think part of the problem is with a failure to acknowledge the behavior as what it is. Repeatedly through your article you discuss “real discrimination, bigotry, racism, misogyny, and homophobia”… why add misogyny and not misandry? A failure to call out this behavior as what it is, misandry, leaves it open for others to continue using. The assumption that men don’t think women are “thinky” enough to be non-theists is as hateful of men as an attitude that women aren’t “thinky” enough to be non-theists would be of women, but it seems only one of these attitudes are even acknowledged. You clearly skirt the issue with the section on tribalism, but seem unwilling to fully explore it… why? Is there concerns that such a challenge will somehow support the misogyny claim already firmly attached to you by those who wouldn’t appreciate the criticism?

    • Eshto says:

      In the radical, ideological version of privilege theory they’ve concocted, it is considered impossible for prejudice to be aimed back in the direction of members of the historically privileged demographic. Whites are racist against people of color, but POC cannot be racist against whites. Men can be misogynist, but misandry doesn’t exist. Any and all animosity toward an historically over-represented or privileged demographic is considered justified.

      They feel free to insult and belittle individual members of those demographics, without feeling the need to learn anything about them as individuals. It’s okay to dismiss a male’s argument as “mansplaining” if all you know is that he’s a male. Sure, you’re dismissing someone based on their gender, which is basically the very definition of sexism, but… but… the “patriarchy”!! It’s only sexism when it’s aimed toward women! It’s okay to tell straight or cisgender people to f*** off, because they’re the oppressors. Society is unfairly tipped in their favor, so they probably have it coming anyway. Never mind what any individual person thinks, or what adversity they have faced in their life time. People are the groups they belong to, and it’s okay to insult some groups and not others. Two wrongs makes a right, yo.

      I don’t dismiss dominant privilege as a concept btw, I found it perfectly valid when I studied it in sociology courses in college, under trained professors who actually knew what they were talking about; and furthermore as a gay person I am acutely aware of the privilege I lack in this society. But if I were to go around resenting straight people as a class, that would make me one thing and one thing only: a bigot.

      • Mark Neil says:

        Which is why I believe it is important to acknowledge misandry, to include it in the list where bigotry, racism and specifically misogyny (rather than the more encompassing sexism) is found. Misogyny is one directional, so to include it alongside bigotry and racism, without a counter going the other direction, gives a validity to the idea that sexism only runs one way.

      • ikonografer says:

        this this this. finally.

  11. Mykeru (@Mykeru) says:

    Unfortunately, I am sure the calls for unity will fall on the deaf ears of the con-artists, neurotics and ideologues who have attempted to co-opt the atheist and skeptical movement for their own self-centered and opportunistic ends.

    Ophelia Benson, aside from being a particularly mean-spirited and hysterical (yes, I said it) case, also seems incapable of putting aside her own bias and predilection for assuming anyone who doesn’t follow her checklist jot and tittle has a number of distasteful beliefs, most of which are projection and products of her own feeble imagination.

    Let’s just say it: There’s no way to reason with these ideologues. There can be no compromise. They cannot be accommodated and any vulnerability displayed by common human decency makes them smell blood. Please, let’s stop trying to “work with them”.

    These people infecting the movement, Watson, Meyers, Svan, Benson, Laden, Christina, Marcotte and the rest of the horn honkers in their tiny little clown car, are in the business of just making shit up out of greed, grievance and no doubt a plethora of unresolved personal issues.

    They can only be defeated and sent packing back to whatever “isms” they have decided to window-dress with the skeptical movement.

    • Raymond says:

      Did PZ even notice Michael’s call for unity in the last paragraph?The entire article culminated in the direction of the last paragraph’s appeal, which, it seems very few even noticed, if they did, they said nothing supportive of it, I may be wrong, I dunno.

  12. Boar says:

    I’m sick of these people from FTB

  13. B Hero says:

    This raw, unedited interview with Amanda Marcotte and Amy Roth covers Harriet Hall and is a MUST LISTEN:

    I beg you all to listen to the interview in its entirety. People critical of this have been savagely maligned. It beggars belief.

    • Raymond says:

      Uh…I heard not a whiff of anything about Harriet Hall in that sound clip, perhaps you were mistaken about it?I didn’t hear anything new except the active hateful actions about the T-Shirt negative against Skepchick, and the abusive jewelry mock-up actions that I hadn’t heard before, I do know that until the mention by Ms Watson about the elevator event, there wasn’t so much bad PR happening, but since then it seems so much devisiveness and insulting accusations and personal attacks against men being misogynists, sexists, has caused men to fight back defensively against women like OB, RW, or men like PZ, who stand up for them. I’ve been called a mangina, for siding with women on certain issues, by MRAs, and attacked by Feminists, though I’ve been a Feminist since the first Ms magazine issue was released(I was just fairminded before the term Feminist was in vogue)but for a group supposedly who stands for logic and reasoning, there’s far too much emotionally charged insulting rhetoric going on. And it is really silly when folks want to divide themselves further into special sections of atheism with an added plus to set themselves apart, and to think there are atheists who aren’t for social justice hence are sexist, or misogynists, is also silly cuz atheists pretty much have rejected the notion of religion’s injustice found in bibles, or Qu’rans. Then when some say if she/he is there I won’t be, then it is out of hand big time. Sometimes things are more innocent than folks think and there is not an evil conspiracy going on, but simply a display of naivete, unknowing, and innocent ignorance.

  14. Kylie Sturgess says:

    The issue of finding women to present was raised at the first Global Atheist Convention and resulted in this website to help all convention and event organisers find qualified and suitable women to help address imbalances:

    There are also Speakers Bureaus, like the one created by CFI:

  15. Mykeru (@Mykeru) says:

    Here’s some of the levels of crazy or cunning Ophelia Benson is willing to sink to. The video picks up on a Twitter conversation where Benson 1. Intones “I know who he is” and then accuses me of committing violence through my videos, my voice “vibrating with rage (actually, disgust) and then to cap it, claims I am going to shoot Rebecca Watson because, well, she just has a feeling:

    Now, I doubt this is all crazy. These people seem to get off on the power though at least attempting to have people denied access in the skeptical community through spurious claims of threats. Watson in particular has attempted to turn bogus claims of threats into a power base to decide who can and can’t attend skeptical events.

    Somewhere down the road they will have violence done by proxy on their behalf based on one of their spurious and cynical “protect me from criticism” bogus claims.

    Does anyone really want to work with these people?

    • AdamWho says:

      Well you have to admit the (high) production quality of your videos might have a greater effect on those less attached to reality.

    • oolon says:

      Hmm well anyone reading Mykeru’s comments might think he is a big fluffy teddy who no one would possibly misconstrue as violent. Of course when he says, and I quote:-

      “[its]… within the rights of the aggrieved party to hunt that doxer/harasser down and stick an ice-pick into the base of their skull.
      Does that seem reasonable to you?”

      Not really reasonable to me, but Mykeru seems to think it is a good suggestion worth repeating multiple times :-) So take what he says with a pinch of salt…

      • Marcel Kincaid says:

        oolon, you’re a known intellectually dishonest troll and bad faith person.

        • Monty Cantsin says:

          I second that.

          I also append this message with filler, since i was notified that my succinct response was deemed too short by the message filter.

      • Mykeru (@Mykeru) says:

        See how that works? I can be a skeptic who actually cares about skepticism and no one says “There goes Mykeru the skeptic”. I can do funny graphics to turn what is really a tragedy in the skeptical movement into some lulz and no one says “There goes Mykeru the artist”. I can make satirical videos mocking the Orwellian excesses of the sexually obsessed poor-widdle-me-grifter crowd and no one says “There goes Mykeru the satirist”.

        But under a constant barage “he’s going to shoot Rebecca Watson because his voice vibrates with rage” nonsense I make one little joke about ice-picks…

      • ikonografer says:

        uh…clearly i was mistaken. it was my impression that a+ creatures shunned the light of non-‘safe’ spaces. still, perhaps you would do well to troll elsewhere. thank you for your attention in this matter.

        • oolon says:

          I’d certainly recommends all A+’ers avoid the pit, but mainly because they would get bored really fast… It mostly consists of various slack-jawed ‘sceptics’ obsessing over everything the FtB lot say… Repeat… Repeat… Repeat…

    • Raymond says:

      I subbed because you placed a bag to cover up Greta’s image in the upper left of the screen, and it made me laugh, as I’d have just normalised the window and resized to cut off that part of the monitor screen. Very creative you are, putting a bag over her head…almost literally. Some cases you were really a bit jarsh, others spot on though and kudos.

  16. EllenBeth Wachs says:

    “Ophelia Benson, aside from being a particularly mean-spirited”

    This is particularly ironic coming from someone that photoshopped a penis atop Greg Laden’s head.

    • John C. Welch says:

      Given Greg’s history of PTSD triggering attempts, direct threats of violence, stalking et al, I’d say photoshopping his head into a penis is a venial sin in comparison.

    • Skeptic says:

      that was photoshopped???

    • Mykeru (@Mykeru) says:

      Never did a penis on Greg Laden’s head. That might have been any number of people at I do remember poster Concentrated H2O doing one placing his avatar, which is a cartoon penis, on Greg Laden’s shoulder in Eraserhead fashion, but all that probably has too many references for someone who can’t even follow a thread to get right. Perhaps you mean this one by Lsouma:

      Whatever, you are wrong again.

      Although I agree with you that doing so was totally outrageous and Greg Laden should be left in peace to propose that males are females damaged by fetal testosterone and dox, threaten and harass people without being mocked for it.

      I, however, take full responsibility for this image depicting Greg Laden’s future should he not be able to restrain his urge to threaten and harass people:

      Incidentally, pay attention to my avatar which is directly mocking Ophelia Benson’s attempt to start a “Mykeru is going to shoot Rebecca” meme. I point that out because of your known difficultly of comprehending the intersection of cause and effect relationships and humor.

      Please continue embarrassing yourself.

    • (nil) says:

      Yeah. Especially when it’s done to Greg Laden. The shining example of moral righteousness, pure and innocent as a virgin snow angel in a chasity belt, having a nap near to a stream of the most crystal clean water flowing from an alpine glacier. Coincidentially also the guy who did his best to write the following testament to the moral achievments of mankind into the heavenly stars, from where they might whisper his eternal and benevolent wisdom into the willing ears of generations to come:

      – Women who disagree with him should “get off the rag”
      – Men are women damaged by testosterone
      – “White people, on the other hand, are dark skinned people with genetic defects”
      – His Havard educated feet could totally kick soldier ass if he wanted (including attempts to trigger PTSD)
      – Ringing up the educators of people you disagree with, to get them into trouble (like a total creep would do) is 1a okay

      He’s an awesome human being and an example for skeptics everywhere.

      • (nil) says:

        The “genetic defects” quote goes a bit further than that. Full quote can be looked up easily, though.

    • Marcel Kincaid says:

      “This is particularly ironic coming from someone that photoshopped a penis atop Greg Laden’s head.”

      Tu quoque is not only a fallacy, it’s a concession.

  17. someoneoranother says:

    “Does anyone really want to work with these people?”

    From what I’ve seen in your videos: more than with you.

  18. CommanderTuvok says:

    EllenBeth, satirising Greg is somewhat trivial, unlike Greg sending threats of violence to people, or telling to people to rape themselves with a porcupine.

    You are part of the cult, and you are part of the problem. You have consistently jumped in to defend Ophelia Benson when she doesn’t deserve to be defended. You are also one of the main smearers of Justin Vacula. You toe the FTB line that any woman who doesn’t share their rabid and irrational agenda is a “gender traitor”, “sister punisher” or “chill girl”.

    To use one of Stephanie Svan’s famous phrases, don’t complain when the “pushback starts to get you down”. The community has started to pushback against the bullies and troublemakers at FTB, Skepchick and A+ (how’s that going? LOL), and the ball got rolling at TAM, where it was made clear just how much contempt and anger there is towards people like Ophelia.

    Finally, let us not forget Ophelia was involved in the rumourmill regarding a certain blacklist. Turns out the rumours were trivial, but that didn’t stop the bullies from trying to stir the pot.

    You’re dismissed, EllenBeth.

  19. Mykeru (@Mykeru) says:

    Ah, EllenBeth Wachs, who systematically banned people and deleted comments from the video of Rebecca Watson’s HFA speech. Who responsible for booking Watson to do her usual “people are mean to me on You Tube” speech filled with lies and deceptions as a keynote speech for a conference on “Theocracy vs. Humanism” for no justifiable reason.

    And as part of your tradition of not having a clue what you are talking about. Whatever graphic you are talking about wasn’t by me.

    From a normal person with some credibility I would ask for an apology for getting that wrong, but we both know that will never happen and, more important, you are obviously abnormal and have no credibility.

  20. Drsidethink Hp.D says:

    If you hang around the nut house you may expect to encounter squirrels!!

    Radicalism 101 has its first tenet:

    “You will be more effective if you piss people off at the bad guys rather than to address real issues”

    This leaves Broncos as a rational alternative to nuthouse rhetoric.

    Dr, Latero Sidethink Hp.D.
    Bobdobbs University
    69th clench of the Stark Fist of Removal
    Reformed Church of the Subgenius

  21. Julie says:

    – In this article, Shermer conveniently leaves out the detail that Ophelia Benson dropped out of speaking at TAM after she received threats that JREF refused to take seriously.
    – Shermer’s characterization that the blogging about very real safety breaches is “irresponsibly blogging” by secular feminists, shows his sexism, right there. Women have been threatened and groped and subjected to upskirt photography year after year, but to Shermer, the only thing “irresponsible” going on is exposing the abuse.
    – Shermer ends this piece with a call to fight against “real” discrimination. If women being subjected to threats and groping and upskirt photography — and having JREF call those women irresponsible and liars (and Richard Dawkins call them attention whores) — is not real discrimination, then what the hell is real discrimination in Shermer’s book?

    • Sili says:

      Real discrimination = Anything that might hurt Shermer himself.

      Examples include persecution of atheists, a well regulated economy and a strong social safety net.

    • Mykeru (@Mykeru) says:


      The “threats” were Ophelia stupidly misreading an email by someone concerned for her safety after the idea that she was being threatened was put in their head:

      Please stop making shit up.

    • CommanderTuvok says:

      What were those threats again?

      Ah yes, I believe they came from a supporter of FTB/Ophelia. Turns out they were not meant to be threats at all, but that doesn’t stop Ophelia from milking them for all their worth.

      Meanwhile PZ has got a post up and delivers a classic “Dear Muslima”.

    • Mykeru (@Mykeru) says:

      “If women being subjected to threats and groping and upskirt photography”

      There never was any upskirt photography. A man was spotted with a camera on a monopod. Some woman waited until after the evident to claim that upskirt photography must have been the only reason and man with a camera would have it on a monopod.

      That doesn’t indicate any real incident, rather, it reveals the paranoid and sexist thinking of the women promulgating this nonsense.

    • Jonathan says:

      “Women have been threatened and groped and subjected to upskirt photography year after year,”

      Upskirt photography?

      Are you referring to the “monopod man” incident at TAM 2011? Because if so, then as I recall there was never any evidence that he took “upskirt photos”or that that was even his intention. Just vicious unsubstantiated rumour. Unless you know differently? Or if you’re talking about something different then please clarify.

      • Pitchguest says:


        What’s worse about the “monopod man”, even though there was no evidence that he’d taken upskirt photography, his reputation had nevertheless been sullied and even though TAM had always, for him, been the highlight of the year, he didn’t attend TAM this year because of the kerfuffle and the accusations levelled against him.

        • Mykeru (@Mykeru) says:

          Probably wise on his part. Although his crime was imaginary, the punishment by the hysterical, sexually-obsessed opportunist ideologues isn’t.

    • CommanderTuvok says:

      “Shermer’s characterization that the blogging about very real safety breaches is “irresponsibly blogging” by secular feminists, shows his sexism, right there. Women have been threatened and groped and subjected to upskirt photography year after year, but to Shermer, the only thing “irresponsible” going on is exposing the abuse.”

      Where is the evidence of “upskirt photography”? Also, the groping accusation presumably ignores Rebecca Watson’s much publicised groping, would it? Further, Shermer can’t be blamed for the fact people didn’t tell the conference organisers about any inappropriate behaviour.

      BTW, bullying, abuse and hunting for witches is not “blogging about very real safety breaches”.

      You’re dismissed, Julie.

    • Pitchguest says:

      What about those that doth protest too much?

      Ophelia Benson may have dropped out of TAM, but what about the other women that remained? Were they accosted, sexually harassed, bullied? As it happens, TAM had no complaints from women this year. Gee. One might think that Ophelia Benson plays the victim card a bit too much, and a bit too loudly, yes? She would also choose not to go because of a perceived threat? I thought she took social justice seriously.

      • Justicar says:

        Well, I don’t want to trigger anyone by recalling attention to the *looks left and right and whispers* the t-shirt incident.

      • Eshto says:

        I found it fitting that a keynote speaker at TAM 2012 was an accomplished woman, PhD, and social psychologist who studies gender issues. Meanwhile the self-proclaimed “feminists” with no formal background were yapping on twitter all night as if they are authorities on gender issues. If you want to learn about gender issues in society, ask a reputable social scientist. I guarantee she will know a hell of a lot more than some totally unqualified opinion blogger.

    • Un Named says:

      “In this article, Shermer conveniently leaves out the detail that Ophelia Benson dropped out of speaking at TAM after she received threats that JREF refused to take seriously”

      Have you read the threat? It is kind of vague at best and many don’t see it as a threat. Regardless of that, have you seen the JREF’s response? It’s hard to know if they “refused to take it seriously” or not unless you’ve seen it. Ophelia refuses to make that email public.

      Women have been threatened and groped and subjected to upskirt photography year after year, but to Shermer, the only thing “irresponsible” going on is exposing the abuse”

      The upskirt photo mess has been debunked many times. First, off, it didn’t happen in the conference space at TAM, it happened in the bar. Second, security was called over and examined the camera and found no images of upskirt photos on the camera. That entire thing was picking on a poor guy with Autism that has no social skills and didn’t realize he was making people uncomfortable. Once he was made aware he stopped holding the camera down low. There’s plenty of picks online of this person using the monopod to take pictures of himself with other people.

      The JREF has also mentioned in a few places the results of the TAM survey that including things about feeling uncomfortable and harassment and nothing was reported in those surveys.

    • crrodriguez says:

      “- In this article, Shermer conveniently leaves out the detail that Ophelia Benson dropped out of speaking at TAM after she received threats that JREF refused to take seriously.”

      Ok, I assume threats to safety of people were taken to court or the police right ? where I can read the police report or court documents ?

      “– Shermer’s characterization that the blogging about very real safety breaches is “irresponsibly blogging” by secular feminists, shows his sexism, right there. Women have been threatened and groped and subjected to upskirt photography year after year, but to Shermer, the only thing “irresponsible” going on is exposing the abuse.”

      I get it now sexism == “I disagree with you” . again where is the evidence that someone actually took upskirt photos ?

      “and having JREF call those women irresponsible and liars (and Richard Dawkins call them attention whores)”

      Well, someone has to tell the truth even if it hurts.

    • Miranda Celeste Hale says:


      “having JREF call those women irresponsible and liars”

      Where/when did that occur?

      “(and Richard Dawkins call them attention whores)”

      Where/when did that occur?

      • Notung says:

        Yes, I’d like to know too. These are serious accusations, and they (especially on need to be backed up with evidence/quotes.

    • Marcel Kincaid says:

      “shows his sexism, right there”

      And that’s the bottom line for the cultists … cherry pick like crazy to “show” that everyone who disagrees with them is sexist, even when the evidence of the contrary is overwhelming.

    • Eshto says:

      Here’s the problem Julie. None of these incidents were verified. The “threat” against Ophelia turned out to be nonexistent, from a fan of hers. Ophelia didn’t wait for confirmation though, oh no, it was much more important to rush to her blog, turn it into a public fiasco and oh so DRAMATICALLY announce to the world that she had been threatened.

      *blog hits blog hits ad revenue blog hits fan adoration blog hits*

      Even if one or two incidents actually occurred, they would not justify the absolutely over-the-top, hysterical reaction of taking to public blogs, slamming DJ, slamming JREF, insinuating that TAM is unsafe for women, and all the other nonsense that occurred. This “controversy” was manufactured. When people ask for evidence so they can properly address the problem, if there is one, they are met with mad barking about “misogyny” and “rape culture” and “the patriarchy” – but no more evidence than they started with.

      I was on twitter during TAM2012, and from the tweets of the self-described “feminists” slamming JREF, I honestly got the sense that they WISHED something would happen to somebody, just so they could be right. It sickened me.

    • NOT says:

      The upskirt photography thing has been exposed as an overreaction to one guy carrying a camera on a monopod. The guy has even come out in his own defense. You aren’t doing yourself any favors here.

      • Raymond says:

        I’m such a dumb s**t, what exactly is a monopod? Tripod I get, 3 legs but can a ‘monopod’ stand with one ‘leg’alone?I’m serious, To Google I go, sorry for wasting your time, but I wanted to register that some(like me) are more clueless than others :-)

    • Numbersixxx says:

      They are irresponsible liars!

    • ikonografer says:

      “…If women being subjected to threats and groping and upskirt photography…” (citation needed)

  22. smebird says:

    Many women are still the primary caregivers for our families. This effectively removes a fair number of potential speakers from traveling.

    Also, those of us in permanent caregiver roles often do not get to plan “down time.” We find moments for ourselves in between the needs of others. Frankly, when I can relax, I want to settle down and read Michael Shermer in the comfort of bed, not brave a winter’s drive to hear him say essentially what I can learn in the peace and quiet of home. Conferences and books both cost money, and the issue of bang-for-buck determines much of what I purchase and do.

    However, I remain a passionate reader of anything skeptical writers are willing to put down on paper. As I prepare meals, I listen to lectures of all kinds and I do my best — in spite of the restrictions inherent in my job — to keep informed. If life were different, I might participate in forums and conferences. But, life is what it is.

    Please do not assume that an absence of women has anything to do with men being unwelcoming or women being less interested in hearing ourselves speak. I can pontificate with the best, and my ego is more than up to the challenge. Logistics might not be a sexy problem – but believe me, it is a potent one.

    Also, I am an atheist and a feminist, but I live in the real world, where comments I make are sometimes misconstrued and interpreted in the most negative light. It is a painful experience –particularly if there is no way to defend one’s character. I am heartily sorry that an important discussion about why there may be fewer women identifying ourselves as atheist started with an attack on Michael Shermer’s integrity. But, can we continue discussing this problem, in spite of its unfortunate beginning? I’m one of the missing, and I don’t have any ready solutions.

  23. xxxild says:

    Ophelia forgot to study the audience to determine whether the women in our population consider ourselves feminists. It’s not a label she can slap onto us, not anymore. And especially since the year-long plus of non stop tantrums and stunts some of these women have been conducting. Yes, it’s been divisive, but it’s also caused many women, like myself, to evaluate our ideology, and ask ourselves whether or not we find the label appropriate. For too long, working class, poor women, and other marginalized groups have been letting feminists do our thinking for us.

    I’ve been able to determine that mainstream feminism has significant problems. It’s caused harm and stood firmly in the way of at least one marginalized group as we’ve sought rights. The N.O.W. has endorsed legislation that oppresses sex workers in a most dishonest manner. What I’ve learned about feminist politics in this arena has caused me to reject the ideology and the label. This isn’t a wave of feminism we need, in my opinion, but I am glad the skeptical community won’t be shamed into not analyzing the behaviors, attitudes, and political actions of feminists and feminism.

  24. Preskinn says:

    Good article.

    I just wish in the future it will not be thought crime to see misandry as a problem also. And that a witch hunt will not be instigated against any one individual who takes it upon them to speak up against discrimination and violence against boysa and men.

    But we all know that problem is sooooo much smaller then misogyny, because men after all have patriarchy working f o r them… and lets not forget the original sin of men…

  25. CommanderTuvok says:

    An example of the desperate naval-gazing nonsense you get over at PZ’s cesspit comes from Lou Doench:

    “Harriet Hall’s statement is pretty much the essence of libertarian racism/sexism etc, a system that discriminates passively yet quite effectively. Look at it this way… Regardless of whether “science” has shown any such damn fool thing, Harriet is being indirectly sexist because she is asserting the privilege of deciding what a level playing field looks like, and then declaring baffled surprise when her arbitrary and perhaps misinformed definition of level ends up with lots of chips falling in the gutter. Letting the chips fall where they may sounds even handed and reasonable, but it is incredibly deceptive because the people being disadvantaged are not being allowed to testify as to the evenness of the chips landing area.”

    Now, where did racism come into it? Then there is the “accusation” that Harriet is determining what a level playing field looks like. This is stunningly inept from Lou, who fails to provide a definition of a “level playing field” and how he views what one is. Oh, and despite all that waffle about “chips falling”, Lou doesn’t at any point explain why Harriet is wrong, or what the real reason is.

    Lou Doench – what a tool.

  26. CommanderTuvok says:

    BTW, I’ll just point out that most of the posters on Pharyngula appear to be men.

    Posting on Pharungyla – it’s a guy thing!!! Obviously, Pharyngula must be sexist, and not a level “playing field” where the chips “can’t fall to the ground”.

    PS – PZ really hates it when your turn their parallel logic back onto them.

  27. CommanderTuvok says:

    Ashley F. Miller pops up at the Cesspit with a charge of misogyny and sexual harassment.

    Of course, there is no evidence in her comment. And no mention of Rebecca Watson’s sexual harassment!

  28. AnimalAndy says:

    Thank you for this article. This divide, the “us v.s them” mentality and the attempts at ideological purges have been bothering me for a while now. Ophelia Benson and others in the Freethought Blogs/Atheism+ sphere have created a toxic environment where dissent or inquiry (or even worse, asking for evidence for their claims) is seen as misogyny, sexism, harassment and worthy of banishment and public shaming. I am not at all surprised that you were quote-mined and misrepresented by Benson – this sort of behavior seems to be the norm. At least here commenters interested in discourse will be safe from having their comments censored or – as seems to be the newest trend – edited.

    • Mitch says:

      That’s Feminism for you. How anyone can consider themselves Feminist and a Skeptic is beyond me.

      Feminism’s conclusions are based on an “we are discriminate lets show why” not a “lets find out why women make less money on average then men”. If you do a critical examination you find then when you control variables, and compare single, childless, never married people to each other (you know, apples to apples), the women make more, flat out, then the men.

      The true story is that women prioritize family, safety, flexibly, and short hours over dollars. Men prioritize dollars over safety, personal satisfaction and time with the family. It all comes down to the choices of individuals in today’s society.

      Equal playing field does not me equal outcomes, it means equal choices.

  29. paula says:

    Sadly, Watson, PZ , Benson and others are why my masters degree niece left the skeptic field (not without a parting kick in the ass to help her out the door by Watson). She was interested in science, and combating creationists. Then reality hit, if you weren’t interested in the feminist goal and agenda you were simply “riding on the coat tails” of those doing the feminist work for you. No, it wasn’t her long hours studying and working that was contributing to her minor success in the skeptic community, it was THEIR hard work to have her accepted as a woman in the skeptic community. She needed them and owed them (they thought), and her unwillingness to join in line, lead to her FEAR of these women (and PZ, geez, people now use him to scare their kids I think) who can brutally, and without shame, misquote and tear you apart online until good luck clearing up your reputation. The “Wait, that is NOT what I said” and “Wait that was quote was out of context”… the ability to crucify someone online (and on google search) with just a few words (as seen in the quote mining above) drove her from the skeptic field where women, really well educated women, are so needed. Maybe it’s the women that aren’t making women feel welcome? When you are a minority, it’s hard to see that there will be people just not interested in the same things. “No, I’d like to talk about Bigfoot” is met with “WHAT? Why aren’t you addressing what WE feel is important? YOu have BREASTS!” Trolls and crazy dudes are an issue, but oddly most people have them, (yes including Shermer and Dawkins and peopel with a penis)… but most of us don’t avoid skeptic conferences or writing about skepticism because of THEM. We avoid writing because of PZ and Watson and Benson. The joke has always been that PZ and Watson are in a room saying “There will be fewer but better skeptics!” and then looking for more skeptics to send to Siberia. Sadly far too many of those sent to Siberia are women.

    • Patrick says:

      This is exactly what I feared would happen – that these self-righteous pricks would be more successful at driving women away than the trolls or “misogynists” (real or imagined) that they keep complaining about. It’s hardly surprising when women who disagree with the FtB/Skepchick/Atheism+ agenda are branded as “gender traitors” and “sister punishers”, then accused of voicing dissent in order to get male approval rather than because they actually used their own minds.

    • ikonografer says:

      “… and tear you apart online until good luck clearing up your reputation…” i would humbly speculate that being maligned by the clown car posse is becoming a badge of honor. for my part, i will tout this as an accomplishment, suggest you do so as well, and encourage your niece to fight back. bullies are, in fact, afraid of the light of day. i’d say they were like vampires-bloodsucking parasites-but that would be an insult to vampires.

  30. Corylus says:

    Oh dear, I don’t blame Harriet Hall for not wanting to get involved on Ophelia’s blog. Poor lady.

    I spent some time on that very thread trying to point out how unkind, uncharitable and generally unpleasant people on there were being. I worked very hard to have a polite conversation with her and her commenters. The result? Reasonable comments held in moderation (then wiped) the putting up of a hate-thread on her blog dedicated entirely to me; insulting implications of ‘sockpuppetry’; summarily banned and generally misrepresented. Oh well, at least she noticed my desire to be polite – if her comments on twitter about the ‘hyper-civil’ troll that she was currently dealing with are anything to go by.

    It is very sad indeed. Ophelia has done some sterling work fighting against post-modernist silliness and the religious oppression of women. To say that I admire that is an understatement. However, she now seems determined to throw all her credibility away by behaving in a dreadful fashion; being impossible to have a reasoned conversation with; taking every sign of dissent as a personal insult and encouraging her commenters to draw unevidenced, insulting conclusions about people.

    I am depressed by what she has allowed herself to become. I also feel sorry for the co-authors of her books. Her recent behaviour cannot have done their credibility any favours.

    • CommanderTuvok says:


      Ophelia once allowed Lousy Canuck to post a lie about Sara Mayhew on her thread. When Sara replied to address the lie, Ophelia went into Stazi mode (the term is accurate, folks – she is a hypocritical censor, and we have proof and documentation) and essentially told Sara to shut her mouth as it was her (not Canuck) who was “off-topic”.

      She is completely untrustworthy.

  31. EllenBeth Wachs says:

    Mykeru, I would have Rebecca and PZ back to speak for me in a New York minute. I would invite Ophelia as well.

    As for banning you and pitchguest and any other toxic commenter, you better believe it. You come on to my channel and leave vituperative, hateful remarks, I have the right to ban you and delete them.

    Tuvok, I know throwing “you’re dismissed” at people gives you some satisfaction. Unfortunately for you, it has no authority.

    • Mykeru (@Mykeru) says:

      Of course you would have them speak as you are the person who thought a good keynote speech for “Theology vs Humanism” was Rebecca Watson giving a narcissistic ramble on how people (designated “atheist men”) were mean to her on YouTube.

      Who wouldn’t you have speak from within your intellectually incestuous, communal reinforced little clique?

      I thought my comments were simply critical of the claims made by you and Rebecca Watson. However you claim (as if you are reading from a script, which you pretty much are) they were “vituperative, hateful remarks”. Could you link to one of my comments? Oh, wait. You deleted them. Convenient.

      Seriously, are you aware that sort of ploy doesn’t go over well outside of the sealed bubble you screech from that’s giving you hypoxia?

      Apparently not.

    • John C. Welch says:

      Of course you would. It saves you time from finding local speakers. It’s not like Florida has any decent universities, or other groups that would be a good source.

      • Mykeru (@Mykeru) says:

        Yes, overlooking local skeptics in order to fly in the handful of “Gravy Train Surly-Ramic Skeptics” makes Freethought Blogs and their associates the Clear Channel of the skeptical speaking circuit.

    • CommanderTuvok says:

      Erm, EllenBeth, if you could counter my claims instead of evasion. Thanks.

      Until then, you’re still dismissed.

    • Marcel Kincaid says:

      EBW, that is not the sort of response that an intelligent, mature person would make.

      • Mykeru says:

        Of course it isn’t. Another thing EBW is notable for is banning people from her YT channel, but keeping one or two of their posts she responded to and then acting as if their lack of response was due to their being unwilling to engage her insightful critique.

        She’s a fraud, through and through.

    • ikonografer says:

      sadly for you, your unabashedly pro-crazy-person stance lends the phrase “you’re dismissed” all the authority it needs.

  32. Red5StandingBy says:

    In my opinion we should stop radical feminist agendas being pushed at places like TAM. It should be (among other things) about giving the community the tools to accepting atheism and critical thinking skills.
    Skepchick, atheism+ and FTB have been nothing but detrimental to our movement many people have expressed their disenchantment at the atheist movement because of this group. Thus it’s time to let them go elsewhere let them do their hate speech, illogical witch hunting to themselves whilst we all disown this group entirely.
    Skepchick believe that they have done the most at promoting an increase of women attendance at TAM, I’d put forth that we don’t need Skepchick or it’s posse of misandrists to raise female attendance at all, we just need better ways of communicating to society.

    • Monty Cantsin says:

      I am an unfortunate latecomer to all of this, having found it by way of Thunderf00t videos.

      I agree with that idea politically. The atheist movement is, ostensibly, a political one. (i mean that in the neutral sense of the word political). After all, isn’t it the point that secularists gather to develop an exchange to further their goals and ideas?

      I think it all went south with the blending in of feminism, whether you are for or against feminism. Two separate movements, coming together, don’t usually go together like chocolate and peanut butter. At best you can form a coalition over a particular political issue, but in the end, an adherent of both will inevitably find an issue that will put them at a fork in the road.

      I sense that, from an outside perspective (not the perspective of someone who has been scathed by the rift), it’s also irritating to those in the atheist community that adherents of feminism have waltzed in, like a “big sisterly” movement, to throw an arm around the shoulder of atheists and say “Here, let us show you how it’s done.”

      I think about the absolute conceptual absurdity of people like Surly Amy working to get more women at atheist events, when the first step on the path to being a skeptic is about choosing to “go it alone” and find out truth for oneself, despite social opinion. Wouldn’t women (or anyone) who are skeptics find themselves wanting to check it out on their own, in the course of the pursuit of direct observed truth?

      • Raymond says:

        Though in replying to you I’m not disagreeing, and you do make a good point as there are environmentalist and all manner of Progressives, and if my being a man who is a Feminist furthers the Humanist/Skeptic/Atheist/Freethinker movement it isn’t likely my Feminism should be used to divide anymore than my Atheism is used to divide the Feminists movement by joining an atheist clique filled with purer atheists(whatever that may mean) that want to push social justice because to me atheism automatically is for it, since rejecting religion that is all about social injustice and having some belong while others do not which is again, divisive. I’m a Feminist, but I’m not a gatekeeper for who belongs and who doesn’t as OB, RW, PZ and others seem to act as if they are the arbiters of what makes a Feminist and an Atheist.
        Now, that said, I’m not sure if when I say I’m a Feminist the same definition holds as RW,OB,AM,PZ and others who seem to want to define it for all. To me it’s always been about human rights more than women’s rights though granted it(rights)have been skewed to men for a while now, but that just means there’s room for improvement but working together is the way, not calling each other less Feminist than others or blaming all the ills of society on one gender.
        Just sayin

    • Mykeru (@Mykeru) says:

      P.Z. Meyers, once again demanding that people pay attention to him.

      • oolon says:

        Trouble is people do pay attention to him, and for good reason since he is a good scientist and sceptic. You lot, not so much, maybe that’s why we get all the whining and hyperbole from the pit to just get someone to pay attention!

        • xytl says:

          PZ’s a scientist? What did he last publish?

        • John C. Welch says:


          He hasn’t authored too many more papers than me, and I’ve never authored a single peer-reviewed paper.

        • Mykeru (@Mykeru) says:

          And now the official FTB doxxer demands we pay attention to him.

          • Mykeru (@Mykeru) says:

            Oolon, didn’t you take part in the Twitter conversation where Ophelia Benson “just knew” I was wishing for violence, claimed my voice “vibrated with rage” and then followed up with a claim that I intended to shoot Rebecca Watson, all while you did your sycophantic aiding and abetting routine?

            If only people had the inability to form long term memories that many FTBers take for granted. However, liars such as yourself are often hamstrung by themselves having conveniently poor memories.

          • oolon says:

            And the Slymepit d0x’ing me? Not removed by the “mod” Lsuoma? The pit d0x’ing Brownian? Not at all relevant of course….

            Now point me to where I posted your real name or address online… Point me to where I have posted anyones real name or address online… Hmm strange you cannot, and I’m the ‘official’ d0x’er!! Not a lot of d0x’ing going on FtB side obviously :-P

        • Pitchguest says:

          Let’s try to keep it civil, eh, oolon? I’m sure you can accomplish that much.

        • Mykeru (@Mykeru) says:

          PZ is such a good scientist that of the last three papers he published, mostly recently five years ago, have been cited zero (that’s zip, zilch, nada, a big zen one-hand-clapping) times.

          Must be truly important stuff.

        • CommanderTuvok says:

          “Trouble is people do pay attention to him, and for good reason since he is a good scientist and sceptic.”

          Get lost, Oloon. PZ Myers reputation is in the sewer and he is increasingly seen as a joke. He’s a hypocrite, he’s admits he’s racist, and he uses controversy to boost his own image. He is a piece of scum who should be ignored by the wider atheist/skeptic community.

        • CommanderTuvok says:

          BTW, I should point out that Oolon is a known troll from another blog.

          • oolon says:

            Hmm I have to do it…

            ‘Trolling’ in the very least sense of disagreeing with the Slymepit, then taking the piss out of some of the regulars there… And I have to say they handled it brilliantly. Of course they would because they are troll experts, everyone knows you just ignore trolls! Right Tuvok?

        • Marcel Kincaid says:

          oolon = troll, not worth bothering with.

        • Numbersixxx says:

          He is a third rate scientist, you moron.

          • oolon says:

            Dunning Kruger in full swing here, this goon and Tuvok are so convinced of their own brilliance they are able to say a Biology Professor is “third rate” or “his reputation is in the sewer”… So while PZ only won International Humanist of the year in 2011, Tukok and his goon here have I’m sure done far far more for the atheist-sceptical communities… Over to you Tuvok and random goon… Enlighten us.

          • Numbersixxx says:

            Do they give International Humanist of the year awards for scientific achievements? LOL, look at his scientific contribution in term of peer reviewed papers. He is a little better than the average creation scientist, if that makes you happy.

        • ikonografer says:

          funny you should mention whinging…atheismplus is notorious for it’s oppression olympics thread…or was that orwelled down the magic reality hole–no, i’m not referring to ophelia.

          • oolon says:

            So you are basically avoiding the whiny accusation by saying yeah..but… Look over there! They are whiny too!

        • ikonografer says:

          sigh…i don’t actually *have* to respond to your whinging (and whiny) comment. you’re not a serious interlocutor, oolon. you’re a demonstrated PZ sycophant, and sadly, ad-hominem or no, you’re a feminist. which is to say, you’re a dogmatic, ignorant, bigoted, violent, cretin. i’m not even an mra and i know this about you.

          run along screaming privilege now…

          maybe you should change your online name?

  33. jacks says:

    No, Michael!! Not you too! I thought you were the last good guy standing in the New Atheism movement. Your contemporaries are famous for their anti feminist stances, but you have always seemed above all that…. Now I feel like there is no one left. I am so disappointed.

    Please, listen… I feel like I am being forced to pick between atheism and feminism, and a lot of women feel the same way. Don’t you go starting a battle with feminism too. You were the last guy we were holding on to… the last standing bridge between feminism and atheism these days.

    As we have seen in the case of Dawkins and Hitchens, you may say something small like this (and it was very small, I admit), but your male followers will take it to the Nth power, and create an even worse environment for women, an environment that really is misogynist, even though you are not. Look at the rape and murder threats towards Rebecca Watson, after Dawkins disagreed with her… or the numerous nobody bloggers claiming women were naturally intellectually inferior after Hitch’s simple “women aren’t funny” comment…. I could go on, but everyone on here will say we are pretending to be victims (I dunno, rape threat is sort of victimization, though, no?). The point is, people respect you, hell, border on worship you, and will take everything you say to the next degree. So please. Please.

    Like you said, we all (men and women) need to stick together in our philosophies, and we will be that much stronger. Please use your power (and brilliant mind) for good, and not to advance this stupid war between feminism and atheism. I don’t want to have to pick a side.

    • Mykeru (@Mykeru) says:

      I would suggest you pick feminism as atheism isn’t an ideology which, apparently, is what you are looking for.

      • jacks says:

        Nope, guess you misunderstood. Best of luck.

        • Mykeru says:

          No, I understood completely that someone who compares atheism with some ideology (note I did not say “some other ideology”) has probably adopted atheism not on critical grounds, but because it allows them, they think, to have a contrasting ideology to some religious dogma.

          In these cases when theists claim we atheists have “faith” too, they are unfortunately correct in the case of non-critical atheists

          GirlWritesWhat explained the consequences of letting that kind of “atheism” and “skepticism” into the movement:

          • Mitch says:

            +1 for quoting GirlWritesWhat.

            Fun fact, you are not being asked to pick between Atheism and Feminism, but rather between Skepticism and Feminism. (btw we are at not

            I see no conflict in believing that there is no god and that women are eternal victims that need to be given privilege above men to make genders equal, or the world better.

            However, if you critically examine religion and ended up an atheist, and then critically examine feminism and then end up an Feminist. I just don’t understand how that would be possible. None of the Feminist claims in anyway backed up with evidence.

            On the subject of rape threats, those are bad, but you implying that atheist men don’t get treated similarly. Solmon Rushtie had a death Fatwah declared on him. You do realize that’s two orders of magnitude worse that a rape threat letter? Order one Death is worse than Rape. Order Two: threat by an international intuition.

    • Pitchguest says:

      What are you talking about?

      Atheism is an absence of belief in a god or gods, not an ideology. Why would you have to make a choice between feminism and atheism in the first place? The atheist/skeptic community and being an atheist are not the same thing. If you can’t keep them seperate, or if you don’t want to keep them seperate, that’s your problem–not ours.

      • jacks says:

        I didn’t say it was an ideology…? The point is, the two groups, feminists and atheists (I am referring to followers of Dawkins/Shermer/Hitchens not just everyone who lacks belief in god), have been at odds for some strange reason the last few years, and I find it to be counter productive. A lot of atheist feminists have expressed frustration that they feel they have to pick a side, since the two don’t get along… who the hell knows why, it seems like they should.

        • Barael says:

          Could be because we don’t want your original sin (male/white/cis/whatever privilege), your god-did-it (patriarchy) explanations nor your dogma (feminist theory).

    • ChichesterSpode says:

      Jacks, Shermer isn’t choosing between atheism and feminism (or asking anybody else to). He’s taking a stand against the McCarthyism of the likes of Benson, Watson, Myers, et al.

    • Marcel Kincaid says:

      jacks’ comment epitomizes the irrationality of the tribal cult.

    • Marcel Kincaid says:

      ” I thought you were the last good guy standing in the New Atheism movement. ”

      The only ones standing are ones who haven’t yet been attacked by the cult. It’s bizarre that you blame Shermer, Dawkins, etc., for their own demonization.

      • Mykeru says:

        Which works like this:

        The cult comes out swinging accusing people of women-hating misogyny, privilege, racism, sexism or whatever “ism” they like without having any evidence but their subjective feeling or, more likely, by the most uncharitable interpretation of a quote-mined offense fetish object

        When asked WTF they are talking about, being accused of “doubling down” and the accusation ramped up a notch because that’s how echo chambers work, they scream that that’s exactly the hostility and women hating they were on about.

        Eventually and paradoxically, the only thing a civil and rational person can do is ask them to please fuck off.

    • Kaj says:

      My suggestion is to use your own skepticism in both cases, evaluate both on their merits, and decide for yourself. Atheism as a whole is only a response to a question. Feminism isn’t really apart of this, either for or against. There are many logical arguments put forth for feminism, and illogical ones (see: appeal to emotion). I suggest sifting through them, and take away for yourself what stands up to scrutiny.

    • JoyaB says:

      I’m not sure why jacks’ comment inspired such a negative response. I took it as heartfelt and desirous for finding common ground. I don’t see it as jumping on an anti-male bandwagon to say that some of the comments that were leveled at Watson and others were really dreadful and over the top.

      I do understand that men have a lot of rage buried because they feel that they’ve been attacked for decades just for existing, and particularly for existing if they’re heterosexual. I wish, though, that this rage would not burst forth from men who are likely otherwise great people, because it really feels like an anger at ALL women.

      So men, who feel like they have been the target of female rage, turn around and make women feel like the target of male rage – which alienates many women who otherwise might agree with the men. And then they feel like, hey, I guess I need to side with my gender.

      This is the way to draw battle lines and tear down all possibility that the skeptics can work together for common goals.

      I said this in a separate post, of course. But it just struck me that I didn’t see jacks’ initial post as being combative (OK, maybe calling him the one “good guy” on this side of the divide was a *little* harsh..), but rather expressive of her experience.

      Let’s allow each other to express our experiences. Let’s allow women to say they feel misogyny and men to say they feel misandry. We’ve heard each complaint often enough from people of both genders that it hardly seems fair to simply dismiss it as mindless b.s. from either side. Sure, some see it around every corner and some see it only occasionally. But “the best defense is a good offense” approach only creates escalation while the less angry leave in dismay.

      • Monty Cantsin says:

        You seem earnest, so I’ll say this:

        Finding common ground with feminists would be easy, if feminists in general didn’t have:

        a) A worldview that presupposes a male-based oppressive hegemony
        b) A presumptuous sense of ownership of all things relating to women, the feminine, etc,
        c) A presumptous sense of worth in arenas that are based in merit, not gender
        d) Apply emotional pleas and/or demands in a venue promoted, initially, by people who seek to exist through and promote life based on reason, fact, reality and that which can be observed and ideas which can be subjected to testing and verification.
        e) insist, quite despite feminism, to moralize and enforce behavior control, especially where none was needed. And primarily upon men.

        Maybe so many of the male atheist, skeptics and secularists are outraged because of the various approaches, from that soft, emotional “laying on of hands”, to outright shaming tactics, attempt to apply a form of control that was unnecessary to begin with, and therefore, offensive.

        If that truly scares away a woman, then maybe that woman needs to accept that her feelings and her heart aren’t the correct springboard and shaping tool for grouping up with people who champion reason and the mind.

        I.E. grow the hell up, and learn to accept criticism.

      • Jacks says:

        Thanks, Joya, for your response. I do very much want both groups (feminists and Dawkins/Shermer/etc. followers) to get along. Michael Shermer has always been one of my favorites, both in Scientific American, and his own Skeptic magazine.

        I just think this is bad for everyone. Like Shermer says above, let’s avoid the tendency towards tribal thinking… BOTH sides (not just feminists). Mobs of angry knee jerk reactive people are scary, no matter which side they are on.

      • Raymond says:

        I disagree, jacks attacked Shermer the same as Ophelia did only worse because it was after Shermer bothered to explain what he meant whereas OB never gave him the chance to do that. jacks is worse.

    • ikonografer says:

      i would humbly suggest you do pick a side. i would also suggest that you think long and hard about the inherent misogyny in the abject victimhood mantra feminism holds so dear. i’ve never been a feminist, yet have never belittled, raped, or targeted anyone who hasn’t come after me (man or woman)-because in my version of atheism, one’s plumbing, or even the plumbing one wishes to have (in the case of trans-gendered people), has anything whatsoever to do with their value as a human being, or the value of their intellectual output-not so for feminists i’ve encountered, or feminism as an ideology–where in every single case of which i am aware, feminism seeks to reduce me to the genetic sex i was born with, and in at least one case, i, and all my brothers minus 1-10%, have been targeted for gender-cide (look up “femitheist divine” on YT).

  34. jose says:

    Shermer: “Tribalism is bad.”
    Shermer’s supporters: “Shermer is right, all those people from the other tribe are bad, bad persons.”

  35. JD says:

    @36, Nothing but strawmen. PZ is that you?

  36. Rich says:


    An I quote, from jacks, above:

    “but your male followers will take it to the Nth power, and create an even worse environment for women, an environment that really is misogynist, even though you are not. ”

    Typical male followers! All of them.
    Thanks for putting us straight on ‘sexism’.

    • jacks says:

      Actually, I don’t believe I said “all,” Rich; so it was an accurate statement. Thanks for missing the point, though.

      • Rich says:

        Jacks, you made a sweaping generalization of a reply. YOU ARE SEXIST. Booo! Hisssss! No communal elevator time for you!

      • Mitch says:

        Unless your using some nonstandard form of English grammar, you did say “all” just didn’t use that exact word.

        A male supporter = exactly one, non specific male supporter
        The male supporter = exactly one, specific male supporter
        some male supporters = more than one, but less than 50%
        many male supporters = more than one, about 50%
        most male supporters = more than one, more than 50%
        vast majority of male supporters = 90%
        male supporters = all of them

        So yes, you did say all.

  37. Priscilla Parker says:

    I’m not one to add to drama (except when I am) but I think it goes without saying that the reasons bloggers use loaded words, such as “misogynist” is because of the connotation of the word. It incites emotional reactions and that is what fuels blogs so I’ve always taken what bloggers say with a pound of salt.

    From my perspective and experience, most women I know that are secular (atheist, agnostic, skeptic, etc.) are also mother’s and so naturally we approach activism in a different manner than men, which fine. There are plenty of women within the secular community that are just as outspoken about secular issues as men and limiting their presence in the “atheist community” to how many of them speak at conferences is beyond absurd, it’s retarded (meaning people who try to make an argument out of something so trivial don’t think about what they are saying and therefore shouldn’t be recognized or entertained when using those tactics.) Mr. Shermer is well known and so he makes an easy target, just like Mr. Harris did. Attach his name to an issue and make it “controversial” and BOOM, everyone wants to weigh in. Just ignore it Mr. Shermer, no one of any importance pays any attention to Ms. Benson so why are you? You just gave FtB the traffic they were looking for.

    • Steersman says:

      Because if someone repeats a lie often enough – without others objecting to it – then it frequently becomes “conventional wisdom”, it becomes just another problematic stereotype. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

      While there are, no doubt, stereotypes of that nature about both men and women, it seems to me that one of the drivers of this current “kerfuffle” is the postmodernist aversion to any thought that some aspects of gender might have a very significant genetic component to it. An aversion which tends to cause many to reach for the holy water and wooden stakes – betraying a not particularly skeptical frame of mind.

      • jose says:

        To be fair, we can all play that game. We can begin by saying all those studies about kin selection are nothing but the desperate attempt of selfish, bitter people to rationalize the fact that lots of animals and humans are sociable and naturally nice to each other and they help each other because of the empathy they feel for them. These right-wing types, incapable of empathy and motivated primarily by their political agenda, are unable to acknowledge kindness in their Hobbesian mentalities, and therefore must concoct convoluted fantasies to make every species look as heartless and miserable as they themselves are.

        It’s very easy to make these sort of false, baseless accusations. It’s also kind of not productive, isn’t it?

        • Steersman says:

          Not quite sure I understand your argument there.

          If it is to throw stones at specious “just-so stories” as arguments, or to criticize the “appeal to nature” argument – if it’s natural then, ipso facto, it is good – then I’ll quite agree with you. However, if it is try to discredit the idea that no part of human behaviour is determined by our genetic inheritances from our evolutionary past then I don’t think it holds a lot of water. And it seems not to take more than a rudimentary knowledge of that past to see substantial behavioural similarities between humans and animals and insects who, arguably, can’t be said to have much in the way of “culture”. For instance, as an example of genetically programmed behaviour in our “ancestors”, I think it doesn’t get much more stark than this:

          “Even apparently sophisticated and intelligent sequences of behaviour can turn out, on closer investigation, to be surprisingly rigid. There is the well-known example of the Sphex wasp who leaves a paralyzed cricket in a burrow with her eggs so that her offspring will have something to feed on when they hatch. When she captures a cricket, she drags it to the entrance of the burrow, then leaves it outside for a moment when she enters, seemingly to check for intruders. However, if an interfering experimenter moves the cricket back a few inches while the wasp is inside, she repeats the sequence: dragging the insect to the burrow’s entrance, then entering once more alone. And this sequence can be made to ‘loop’ indefinitely many times over. [The Architecture of the Mind; Peter Carruthers; web review]”

          In addition, there is the phenomenon of altruism which has a large degree of credibility as an explanation for the behaviour of various animal species. Yet the phenomenon is hardly unheard of in the human species either as attested by the recent mass murder in Aurora, Colorado where three people – males, if I’m not mistaken – died protecting their partners – females, if I’m not mistaken. So, is the former case entirely nature with the latter being entirely nurture? Or is the latter mostly or significantly nature but with some component of nurture/freewill-autonomous-individualism?

          And finally, partly to plug Dr. Shermer’s book “The Believing Brain” [highly recommended], he talks of some interesting similarities between superstitions that might have first seen the light of day in the “Pleistocene” era, and similar ones today such as those found in most churches and around most gambling tables.

          Just a shade improbable to argue that large swaths of human behaviour – including gender – are not determined, to a greater or lesser extent, by our genetics. However, that is not to say – as many ideologues, many of whom seem to be feminists of one persuasion or another, seem to infer and react as if it had been said – that human behaviour is determined to the last decimal point in the same way that a Sphex wasp’s is.

          Far better and much more credible, plausible, and useful to consider, at least as a “working hypothesis”, that both nature and nurture influences us all. Or, as the American moralist Philip Wylie put it many years ago, “We aspire to the discipline of the instinct by the heart and the mind”. But it is, I think, bad form, if not getting uncomfortably close to Lysenkoism, to insist, as many gender feminists apparently do, that instincts are not at all a factor in the behaviours of all of us, to a greater or lesser extent.

          • jose says:

            No, no. All I was responding to was the allegation that the critiques are primarily due to a conflict with a political agenda, rather than honest arguments about perceived flaws in the actual substance of the studies. By moving from those accusations to arguments about substance, you’re moving in the right direction. I have made way too many comments about the flaws of the field of evolutionary psychology lately, I’m sure you’ll have read some of those if you’ve been following things (not necessarily by me, as many people have been writing); but I reeeally can’t let you get away with this, especially if that’s how you start your argument:

            “…the idea that no part of human behaviour is determined by our genetic inheritances from our evolutionary past…”

            Come on… be fair. You know better.

        • Steersman says:

          jose said (@ December 12, 2012 at 8:18 pm):

          “No, no. All I was responding to was the allegation that the critiques are primarily due to a conflict with a political agenda, rather than honest arguments about perceived flaws in the actual substance of the studies. …. But I reeeally can’t let you get away with this, especially if that’s how you start your argument: ‘…the idea that no part of human behaviour is determined by our genetic inheritances from our evolutionary past…’”

          Aye, there’s the rub. Seems to me and many others, including some in this thread, that the political agendas of some branches of feminism have a proverbial “dog in the fight” over that substance – which tends to make some of the arguments about the substance a little less than entirely honest, more than a little suggestive of Lysenkoism if not McCarthyism.

          Reminds me of having read a jaw-dropping passage in Steven Pinker’s “How the Mind Works” some time ago in which he described the reception meted out to Edward O. Wilson – apparently the primary progenitor of the field of sociobiology, apparently the precursor to evolutionary psychology:

          “… When sociobiologists first began to challenge [the Standard Social Science Model], they met with a ferocity that is unusual even by the standards of academic invective. The biologist E.O. Wilson was doused with a pitcher of ice water at a scientific convention, and students yelled for his dismissal over bullhorns and put up posters urging people to bring noisemakers to his lectures. Angry manifestos and book-length denunciations were published by organizations with names like Science for the People and The Campaign Against Racism, IQ, and the Class Society. …[pg 45]”

          Doesn’t look to me much like dispassionate argumentation over “the actual substance of the studies”, but something more akin to religious “holy” wars over dogma, to religious beliefs motivating various political agendas. In addition, Pinker also argued, in an attempt to understand the motivations behind those actions, that both EP and sociobiology conflicted with central tenets of postmodernism. While I think there are probably other reasons – disabused anthropocentrism, for example, which has, of course, a religious dimension or echo – his argument seems to hold some water:

          “Many of us have been puzzled by the takeover of humanities departments by the doctrines of postmodernism, poststructuralism, and deconstruction, according to which objectivity is impossible, meaning is self-contradictory, and reality is socially constructed. The motives become clearer when we consider typical statements like ‘Human beings have constructed and used gender – human beings can deconstruct and stop using gender’ ….[ibid; pg 57]”

          And finally, you might want to take a look at a post [reference below] by Stephanie Zvan titled “Legitimate Differences of Opinion” in which there is some discussion – in the context of explanations for human behaviour, in particular the differences between the sexes – to the effect that:

          “… the appropriate null hypothesis is that a gender difference is a social construct until proven otherwise”

          While I’m a little unclear about the concept, it seems the person I quoted is likewise. Seems to me that that is a hypothesis which is pretty much a non-starter in the face of things like altruism and homosexuality. A more appropriate null hypothesis is that a gender difference could be either a social construct or genetically determined; theirs betrays a seriously problematic bias. And while Zvan herself seemed to be evasive about agreeing with it in that thread, she has more or less raised those [waffling] colours in a recent post on the same topic [reference below as I’m getting a “spammy” complaint].

          So my characterization of “no part of human behaviour is determined by our genetic inheritances” – and argument that there is a political dimension and consequences associated with that belief – doesn’t seem all that far off the mark.



          • Raymond says:

            Women are biologically different from men, they can bear young, there’s a non social construct difference right there. Due to menses and the fluctuating hormone levels that affect women’s moods is another non-social constructed difference. Which is not to say women are not in control of or are slaves to say, their moods because of the severe PMS some women experience. There are genuine differences, but that makes no excuse for why there were drug trials that excluded women yet women were given the same drug after the trials which was in the all male trials which didn’t take into account women’s physiology.

      • Priscilla Parker says:

        Hmmm, I think I understand your point, that letting an accusation go unchecked, can and does lead to assumptions that it’s true. I agree to a point but not in this case. The only thing Benson accomplished in that post was demonstrating that she has an inferiority complex and it has nothing to do with feminism or nontheism. For me you have to assess what Benson’s motives were for honing in on one question asked of Mr. Shermer throughout his entire career and linking it to something she sees as a significant issue (feminism within atheism), which it simply isn’t, it’s just a talking point and a boring one at that. Women who are secure with themselves, especially in relation to how intelligent they are (however one measures that), don’t go around using their gender as some kind of variable that influences the “thinky stuff.” It’s her premise that is flawed and it’s her own fault. Even the title of the post, Nontheism and Feminism: Why the Disconnect, is a presumption. I don’t know what Ms. Benson was trying to accomplish in writing that but whatever it was, she failed.

        • John Greg says:

          Priscilla Parker says:

          “I don’t know what Ms. Benson was trying to accomplish in writing that….”

          What Benson was trying to accomplish is what she is usually trying to accomplish these days: her goal is to “other” someone who she sees as the enemy simply because that putative enemy, at some point in time, said something that disagrees with Benson’s lunafundy ideology.

          Nothing more; nothing less.

        • Raymond says:

          Your comment made me think of Madame Curie and her work, and you can bet she dealt with a lot of gender abuse in her time.

      • Raymond says:

        I propose looking into the nature of the brain and how it actually works. i.e., stereotypes are like templates, and the brain perceives its reality and sees in these types of categories initially a particular grouping of which the person is a member and then it further delineates and looks at the individual after seeing the group and its why one’s initial impression often may be wrong as it does not account for the individual first, and since each of us belongs to one ‘group’ or another, when we object to being stereotyped its because we are not being seen as the individual within the group(seems we humans want to stand apart from the group as individuals rather than otherwise).
        So, I think oftentimes the nature of the brain obscures rather than clears things up, at least in the beginning, which could account as a source for a lot of confusion and misunderstanding, which is why Shermer’s appeal in the last paragraph is so important, as it’s an acknowledgement that we all don’t know something and should set aside our bias, so perhaps starting with humility is a place to start for all involved.

  38. JD says:

    Michael it’s not worthwhile engaging with Benson, Myers, Svan et al. from the misleadingly named Freethought Blogs (reminiscent of such other deceptive groups as Christian Science, the Discovery Institute, or Scientology); the cover doesn’t match the contents at all. They’re ideologues, not skeptics.

    The only sensible way to address them is with ridicule and mockery, just as we do with other whacky religious nutters.

    • Ray says:

      That is absolutely true.

      Those idiots at Free-From-Thought Blogs are beneath serious consideration and engagement. Their self-righteous holier than thou bullshit is as bad as any religious cult I can imagine. Seriously just fuck them.

  39. Bad Boy Scientist says:

    We are all sexist; we are all racist; we are all tribalist. We are human and products of both biology and culture. Even those of us who intellectually know that prejudice is wrong have these tendencies. We’re all human. No one is “without sin.” The best we can do is fight discrimination in our society and in ourselves … and be patient with everyone who is fighting on our side (no matter how many short-comings they have).

    If we burn all of the “witches” who are prejudiced – no one will be left uncharred.

    It takes time to root out such a deep problem. How many decades have people been openly able to promote equality for all – now compare that to how many millennia humans have openly accepted some people are inferior or even sub-human?

    Certainly, it is hard to ask victims of discrimination to be patient people who honestly oppose it but are fighting it along with their own upbringing – but what is the alternative? Alienate them from the cause? That seems counter-productive.

    Also, let’s not get automatically defensive whenever weare accused of being insincere in our support for equality. As a white man who used to play football, I have been accused of being racist & sexist based on “Body Type Stereotyping.” I look like a “bubba’ and people who are unaware of my Ph.D. often assume I am one (and Hollywood has done an excellent job of portraying men like me as assholes). Many will judge me – and my sincerity – as unfairly as they are judged. Does it suck? Yes but recall that they are products of their upbringing and culture.
    I cannot change their judgement but I can be sensitive to their feelings and views. [E.g. when I’m walking from my office on campus after dark and I see an unescorted woman I recall that she doesn’t know me so, rationally, I am a potential threat (false negatives in this situation can devastate her life) so I try to make myself a non-threat… I don’t blame her for not being able to look into my heart and see the real me.]
    FWIW: I still sometimes get rankled when I am accused of being a racist, sexist asshole because I know I am one but I wish I weren’t.

    • CommanderTuvok says:

      Yes, I’ve noticed how the folk at Pharyngula are keen to admit just how racist they are!

      They are not welcome anywhere near me.

    • JD says:

      Bad Boy Scientist said, “We are all sexist; we are all racist; we are all tribalist. … FWIW: I still sometimes get rankled when I am accused of being a racist, sexist asshole because I knowjd I am one but I wish I weren’t.”

      It really is interesting to see the cult-like mind set in this quoted post. It’s like Original Sin and “the sins of the father”. Something a religious person would: We’re guilty and must admit it and purge ourselves of sin and evil thetas. Only to these nutters it’s privilege and instead of witches and demons, it’s misogynist.

      They’ve just traded one religious ideology for another.

  40. Renee Hendricks says:

    Great article, thank you.

    First, in as far as there not being as many women out there speaking as there are men in the skeptical/atheist community, I suspect some of that has to do with self-doubt level differences between men and women. For some reason, women tend to play themselves down and have more self-doubt than men. It took me a few years to get over that myself. I also agree with a few of those who have commented here regarding the reality that many women are still the “primary caregivers” in the home and this creates a large crimp on one’s time. I certainly don’t have the luxury of taking off for days at a time due to being a mother of three (and working primarily from home).

    I agree with the “dangers of in-group fighting and inquisition purges of those who are not “pure” enough in their atheism, skepticism, or humanism”. For the most part, this seems to be purely an online phenomenon. When one talks to atheist/skeptical people in the real world, it’s not seen at all.

    In any case, I’d take what Ophelia Benson has put out with a grain of salt. She’s been showing more and more lately to be more than a bit hypocritical. Not a good look, overall.

    • Outwest says:

      As always, whenever the controversey well is dry, the people at FTB have to generate some.

      • Renee Hendricks says:

        Definitely. I’m becoming more and more agreeable with the idea that these people are going out of their way to create controversy for the blog hits (because, for them, that equates into money).

        • xytl says:

          Money, not all that much; attention, oh so very much. Attention, and name recognition, and notoriety. That’s what you need if you’re to stay on the conference speaker gravy train, where you travel the world at somebody else’s expense and stay in hotel bars till 4am.

        • Bad Boy Scientist says:

          Good point. For many bloggers, hits = Ad Revenue.

          It wouldn’t be the first time that someone tried to ‘sell papers’ by rebel-rousing.

  41. Astrokid.NJ says:

    Did you hear of how feminists went after Ed Rybicki for saying that women have stronger tendencies towards shopping? Womanspace: Responses to Rybicki’s display of male privilege on NPG

    You need to get this straight.. Men cant make any generalization about women.
    On the other hand, Feminists can.. and have demonized and targeted men for the last 50 years. Doris Lessing herself had this to say in 2001
    Lay off men, Lessing tells feminists. Novelist condemns female culture that revels in humiliating other sex

    “I find myself increasingly shocked at the unthinking and automatic rubbishing of men which is now so part of our culture that it is hardly even noticed,” the 81-year-old Persian-born writer said yesterday.
    “It is time we began to ask who are these women who continually rubbish men. The most stupid, ill-educated and nasty woman can rubbish the nicest, kindest and most intelligent man and no one protests.

  42. Astrokid.NJ says:

    CONTD 1:

    In every damn area, men have been demonized. Even boys havent been spared. for e.g Domestic Violence.. it has been established by academics since 1985 that it happens in both directions, in approx. equal amounts.

    Feminists never allow this truth to come out. They put out such ads in mainstream, propagandizing “men are perpetrators (always), women are victims (always)”
    Monsters In the Closet – Domestic Violence From a Child’s View
    Men are rapists, and need to be taught.. catch them young right when they are babies

    Have you seen the “awaiting instructions.. respect women” billboards in NYC targeting boys?

    Thats feminist justice for you.

  43. Astrokid.NJ says:

    CONTD 2:
    And thats nothing new either. Mild-mannered Warren Farrell has been talking about this for over 3 decades now.

    The Lace Curtain
    Hearing women’s internal stories – without hearing men’s – made the world seem unfair to women. Ironically, because we didn’t know men’s stories were being left out, the more we heard from women the more we thought we’d been neglecting women. Soon it became politically incorrect to interrupt her flow. So women’s stories became women’s studies, not to be interrupted by men’s studies.
    Graduates of women’s studies courses soon controlled gender related decisions in almost all large bureaucracies. When an issue about sexual harassment or date rape came up on a college campus, the feminists flooded the committees concerning these decisions, created the agenda, and decided who would be hired as consultants and speakers.
    The problem? Women with backgrounds in women’s studies were not only uneducated about men, but often saw men as the problem and women as the solution. They had demonized men. If someone spoke up against them, they weren’t just outnumbered, they were labeled sexist. And what we will see in this chapter is how that labeling led to the end of careers in the ‘80s and ‘90s as quickly as being labeled communist ended careers in the 1950s.
    The power of feminists to allow only a feminist perspective to be aired (in every field that dealt with gender issues) came to be labeled the “Lace Curtain.”

  44. Jim Davies says:

    There might or might not be more women in the atheism *movement,* but from what I’ve read, women worldwide tend to be more religious than men, and in general have more experiences interpreted as paranormal. Anybody have any counter-evidence? I’d love to see it, as I am writing about this stuff in my book.

    Previc, F. H. (2006). The role of the extrapersonal brain systems in religious activity. Consciousness and Cognition, 15(3), 500-539. (page 514 in the footnote, citing Batson and Ventis 1982)

    Peltzer, K. (2003). Magical thinking and paranormal beliefs among secondary and university students in South Africa. Personality and Individual Differences, 35, 1419–1426. (chapter 2)

  45. JoyaB says:

    Let me start by clarifying what I have and haven’t read. I read this article, but not Ophelia’s, and I read comments to this article up until about 28 or 29, at which point I became saturated, and having noticed a steady deterioration into anger pervading the comment thread as a whole, skipped to adding my 2 cents.

    First let me extend a useless but heartfelt plea to stop bashing others, particularly by name, particularly when those names aren’t directly relevant to the specific articles being discussed. I do understand there’s a lot of backstory, but bringing it in is only going to draw up the battalions on either side.

    Second, let me get to the meat of the article, and issue.

    I think that Michael Shermer’s wording during the interview was not ideal. Had I heard it in its original context, I might have raised an eyebrow – or I might not, since tone can be important and I can’t hear that from a quote. Certainly, the quote itself was slightly wince-producing to me reading it. However, I was willing to read further to give him the benefit of the doubt – a thing he later, and rightfully in my opinion, asks that we all do. It is challenging to respond perfectly at all times in off-the-cuff situations. None of us would be able to do it – there will always be some times where we express ourselves imperfectly.

    We could, of course, pick apart those imperfections as “Freudian slips,” and seek to uncover what the subconscious attitudes are in a person which led them to use those particular words.

    Doing this is human nature, and does not always necessarily produce flat-out wrong conclusions – we DO each carry subconscious attitudes that result from our life experience, and sometimes those attitudes are at odds with what we consciously believe or profess. We DO each harbor, if we are ruthlessly honest with ourselves, at least vestigial sexism, racism, etc., etc.

    Yet presuming that we can “call” another individual on being racist or sexist or whatever based on the subconscious attitudes we think we see in their words is ultimately a problematic exercise. The key words are “we think we see.” We must make assumptions about the other person, and in doing so, our own subconscious assumptions and attitudes come into play, to an extent we may or may not fully realize.

    Hence, some people will see more sexism than others. Are they more right? Or are they more sensitive? It is all in the eye of the beholder.

    Now, I did not intend to get sidetracked into some discussion smacking of literary deconstructionism, about what is more real, the author’s intent or the readers’ interpretations.

    I INTENDED to discuss the quote itself, and whether “it’s more of a guy thing” is accurate, and if so, why.

    I think that both badrescher and smebird make interesting points about why “it’s more of a guy thing” might be the case. Badrescher’s suggestion is that men in our society may be more prone to seek attention, whereas smebird’s suggestion is that women may feel they need to spend time on other things, such as child care.

    I think both points may be valid in part. I also thought of a related point or two myself.
    Before I go into what that is, let me say that I am somewhat surprised that the harder core feminist viewpoint does not seem to be addressing the if and WHY of “it’s more of a guy thing,” but instead jumping to assuming Michael Shermer is saying it because he thinks women less capable. (Again, I did not read Ophelia Benson’s article, so I apologize if she does in fact discuss the if and why. I am basing my comment on the comments I read above, as well as the comments Mr. Shermer attributes to Ms. Benson and her supporters in his article above, which I realize may be an incomplete representation. End of disclaimer. ;) )

    Back to my surprise. I was born in 1968 to a young activist-ish mom, and my mom and stepmom, and their friends, were all feminists though not meeting attenders or anything. Around 1976 to 1978 or so, my mom took a women’s studies class at either San Francisco State or Humboldt State, and came home talking about what she was learning. Specifically, she was learning that there were studies that had found that men talk more than women in groups. That they raise their hands more in class and business, and are called on more. That women defer to a man who is speaking. That men make more statements asserting fact, i.e., “This is how it is,” whereas women couch their statements as opinions based on feeling, i.e., “I feel like this is how it is.” That when women do speak, their suggestions, etc. often seem not to be heard by the group, until a man says the same exact thing as his own idea. That a woman who said, “Hey, I just said that very thing and no one listened to me,” or who argued her point too forcefully, not backing down when challenged by a man, continuing to speak when he interrupted, etc., was seen in a negative light by others, both male and female: a bitch, a shrew, shrill.

    The teacher invited her students to notice interactions of mixed-gender groups, and my mother suggested I might notice, too. Both how I behaved and how others behaved, and how changing that behavior might result in changing reactions from others. And how my own reactions to people might subconsciously be based on expectations of gender behavior.

    I certainly did over the years. Watching TV in the 1990s, in the McLaughlin Group, the one woman struggling to be heard sounded shrill to my ears, but I was aware that this was unfair. Hillary Clinton was despised as an outspoken woman, though she seems finally to have gained respect (I’m not certain whether this is a sign of changing times or not.)

    Anyhow, my point is not about my childhood. My point is, it is within the historic context of hardcore feminism to look at the why. If skepticism is “more of a guy thing,” as by simple numbers in group participation it seems to be, WHY is it?

    While I think (here I am as a woman couching my language in let’sallgetalongness ;) ) that the points raised by badrescher and smebird are probably in play, I think there are probably a host of reasons. And I think it would be a very interesting, scientific and USEFUL thing to study more formally, with surveys, etc.

    My own thought is similar to badrescher’s, but shaped by that women’s studies class of my mom’s – that men are more accustomed to speaking their minds, forcefully and in groups, and that they receive more positive attention from others for doing it. Regardless of the fact that girls are now raised with the expectation that they will have careers, boys are raised knowing that they MUST have careers. They MUST have a focus outside of their family. They MUST go out and interact with the world.

    Testosterone may play a role, too – I’m raising two boys, and I do see ways in which they differ from girls – on a whole, not talking about every individual boy or girl.

    Hormones influence internally-felt attitudes and behavior. They are one factor, though certainly not the only.

    My observations, which of course are individual and anecdotal, and no doubt influenced by the current wider climate of thinking/studies on gender differentiation, are that boys seem more active, more aggressive, and less aware of their internal emotional states and the external social dynamic – they spend almost no time analyzing social interactions, while the girls in their classes seem to be hyper-aware of a minute-by-minute changing social status among themselves.

    So to sum up this very long comment – can we stop attacking each other, and maybe start looking at:

    a) objectively studying the extent to which Michael’s comment is or is not accurate;
    b) objectively studying the reasons why “it’s more of a guy thing,” if in fact that is found to be true; and
    c) what can be done to change things, to include more female voices?

    I might add that we will also need to d) make sure that we don’t get too upset by those added female voices when we hear them. AND e) that we don’t argue which female voice is more truly a female voice than which other female voice.

    I say that as much to my fellow women as to men. I say that equally to the women who are attacking such and such a woman for disagreeing with them and to the men who are attacking such and such a woman for saying experiences sexism. Stop taking it personally and going nuclear.

    The whole point of equality is that we women get to be PEOPLE, with opinions to be assessed on their own merit, not just “the female voice.”

    Let’s start giving each other the benefit of the doubt, and seeking the CORE of what people mean to say, feel, etc. From there, we can realize that we’re mostly seeking the same things, at core: the freedom to speak, to question, to effect positive change. And when we see ourselves as providing different views on how to build a bridge, rather than arguing so much over the bridge that we explode it, then maybe the movement can be relevant and helpful in the world at large.

    • Bad Boy Scientist says:

      (I was going to leave it at that b/c I didn’t think I could add anything to JoyaB’s comment … but this website detected that I am a man and won’t let me post my comment unless I pretend to be an authority on this topic: Joya’s Right!

    • slothrop1905 says:

      You’ve already conceded that there is a difference between boys and girls, so they want nothing to do with you except throw copies of Delusions of Gender at you on your way out the door…

    • Marcel Kincaid says:

      Try posting a thoughtful comment like that on one of the FtB blogs and watch what happens.

  46. Stretchycheese says:

    Good post, Michael.

    You’re right in that this whole episode would be a good case study in human nature with respect to in-group mentalities and tribalism. No movement it seems is immune to “Animal Farm” shenanigans. I dislike how they try to frame this conflict as a battle between the evil misogynists and the righteous feminists. I think it’s more accurately a conflict between those who espouse a form of dogmatic gender identity politics vs. those who do not.

    I don’t take seriously the hyperbolic rhetoric the FTB/Skepchick/A+ crowd makes when the accuse their critics of “vicious hate or misogyny”. Their defintion of “vicious misogyny and hate” simply appears to be “disagreement with radical feminist ideology”. Kind of like how religious fundamentalists will charge nonconformity or criticism of their beliefs as “religious bigotry”.

    I think it’s also the anti-authoritarian stance many skeptics have, regardless of left/right political leanings or gender, that turned many off to the FTB/Skepchick/A+ crowd and their ideology. Paula Kirby wasn’t the only one to pick up on the “totalitarian thought” from them. Vilification of dissent, groupthink, hyperbolic rhetoric, witch hunts, declaring critics persona non grata, banning or suppressing criticism, the occasional threat of violence to nonconformists, polarization, “you’re with us or against us” mentality, character assassination, divisive ideological and KKK-esque labels like “gender traitor”, “chill girl”, “sister punisher”,… and all sorts of other red flags.

  47. Roy Niles says:

    I haven’t slogged through all these comments so this may be repetitive, but who proclaimed that men and women need to be exactly equal in all respects or that inequality here and there is somehow serving of an unfair evolutionary purpose. Which of course a Dawkinsist would object to, since in his/their views, evolution neither has or serves a purpose.
    Face it, men and women do serve both physical and intellectual purposes, and they are by necessity different. Which side of the human dichotomy of evolutionary duties has the best of it? Who knows, as they have also evolved to continually fight for an evolutionary advantage. As all life forms, ironically, will cooperatively do. Cooperating to compete that is.

  48. CommanderTuvok says:

    Over at the Cesspit that is Pharyngula, PZ Myers has admitted he is a racist, and his commentators agree with him.

    Seriously, those people are not welcome in the atheist and skeptical communities. Can all conference organisers get the message and stop inviting these dimwits as speakers.

  49. Bad Boy Scientist says:

    There was a paper published in 2000 and it’s available online. Folks may want to read it:

    Biobehavioral Responses to Stress in Females: Tend-and-Befriend, Not Fight-or-Flight

    By Shelley E. Taylor, Laura Cousino Klein, Brian P. Lewis, Tara L. Gruenewald,
    Regan A. R. Gurung, and John A. Updegraff at University of California, Los Angeles

  50. Steersman says:

    Seems to me that Michael’s point about the “in-group bickering that splintered the [first wave feminist] movement” bears emphasizing. Given that many have noted the problematic linking of feminism with atheism on various sites including Atheism-Plus, and the statement by Ophelia Benson herself that “Connecting the word ‘feminism’ with the word ‘virulent’ … is misogyny” – in spite of evidence to the contrary, one might reasonably argue that there is a very problematic dearth of skepticism when it comes to feminism itself.

  51. Ben Zvan says:

    I hope that the wealth of misogynist comments made on this post in your support help you see which side of the fence you’re standing on.

    • Marcel Kincaid says:

      Standard issues guilt by association from a member of the cult.

    • slothrop1905 says:

      Not that I don’t believe you, but can you point out a good example of this misogyny? I’ve read just about the whole thing now and must’ve missed it. Does criticism of PZ count?

    • CommanderTuvok says:

      Ben Svan. Two Words.

      GREG. LADEN.

      Oh, and have a peak at Spokesgay’s comments which are documented at the Pit. Remember, we document the evidence so you can’t get away with your little fibs.

      Oh, and don’t come here talking about misogyny whewn your band of merry “social justice” warriors have bullied and harassed any woman who dares not to toe your agenda.

      How dare you.

    • Marcel Kincaid says:

      By Ben Zhan’s logic, he’s on “the same side of the fence” as these people:

      • Mykeru says:

        Also, don’t forget Melody Hensley’s rule-of-thumb that being on the “right side of history” means you are not bound by the pesky rules you apply to others.

        So talking about “virulent feminism” is misogyny. Calling someone a “sister punisher” for not toeing the line is just being on the right side of history.

    • Renee Hendricks says:

      Ben, which comments are misogynist? It would be helpful to point these out in particular rather than just make a general statement.

      • CommanderTuvok says:

        C’mon Renee, you joker.

        Ben won’t point out any such comments because there are none. That’s all they can do – point fingers and then hope other people “think” there is misogyny because they are pointing fingers. They will never actually show the evidence.

      • Ben Zvan says:

        Did I say misogynist? I’m sorry. I meant whiny, name-calling, “feminists.”

        • Renee Hendricks says:

          Right. So no evidence to point out. You simply popped on to yell “misogyny” and then ran off. Got it :)

          • Eshto says:

            I trust you aren’t surprised. That has been the standard tactic for a while now, has it not?

          • Raymond says:

            Ha Ha Thanks for that Renee, for some reason not completely known to me, you tickled my funny bone with that image of an unthinking Ben running up shouting the word ‘misogyny’ and then popping out again. Actually it has promise, maybe we can get OB,PZ,RW and that whole FTB group to condense most of what they say down to what Ben did here. One word shouts from them, as when all is said and done that’s what it boils down to whatever they say usually. They use far more verbiage than needed cuz like here with Michael OB really only wanted to call him names.

        • Pitchguest says:

          Let me get this straight. First you call us misogynists for no reason, then you say we’re whiny, namecalling “feminists”? Does that make you a hypocrite, Ben? Oh, and “whiny”? I suppose you won’t deny the challenge, then, to prove that Stephanie (or you) have ever come across as “whiny” and “namecalling”? That’s why you said that, right? We don’t need to prove the “feminist” one (with scare quotes intact). That one’s implied.

        • Peter Ferguson says:


          If you are going to through around labels, please have the decency to supply evidence, this is a sceptic site after all. And if you can’t provide the evidence, then retract the statement or at least have the civility to refrain from commenting again in same infantile manner.

        • Mykeru says:


          Some people would be chagrined by being revealed an idiot. I must say I admire how you just run with it.

    • John Brown says:

      Ben, I’m beginning to think that you and Steph use the Misogyny thing as foreplay.

      “Tell me again how much of a woman hater I am, Steph.”

      “You’re a woman hater, Ben. A real MISOGYNIST! You need to be punished!”

      “Oh, God, yes. Punish me. I’m deserve it!”

      You two are a laughing stock.

    • Pitchguest says:

      What is with you and Stephanie and your tendency to abuse the guilt by association fallacy?

  52. Stretchycheese says:

    Yes, but your definition of a “misogynist” appears to be “disagreement with radical feminist ideology”. So those of us who aren’t indoctrinated within your ideological bubble don’t really take your point that seriously.

    • CommanderTuvok says:

      As a Baboon might put it.


    • Stretchycheese says:

      Sorry, I intended to nest my above post under the previous post. :(

      • Patrick says:

        I don’t think CommanderTuvok was chastising you for your mistake. It’s just that baboons have a tendency to say “YES!! THIS!! A THOUSAND TIME THIS!!!!” whenever they emphatically agree with what someone else said.

    • Mykeru says:

      The wonderful thing is that more women, intelligent, strong women who can stand on their own and engage in the market of ideas, are coming forward to politely ask that you neurotic clowns stop speaking for them.

  53. Marcel Kincaid says:


    Even if this comment thread were infested with blatant misogyny (I have seen some of that in comments on other posts criticizing the cult), it wouldn’t make Ben Zhan’s comment valid … it’s the most gross sort of fallacy of guilt by association and commits exactly the sort of tribal false dichotomy that Shermer is writing about.

  54. Amii Lockhart says:

    I heard your 50/50 comment, and came here with the expectation of concluding that Benson had overreacted. It certainly wasn’t worth my commenting there or here, but in the interest of giving you a fair run at responding to an assertion about you, I came to see.

    Where is the explanation of the comment in question? I don’t really see a difference between believing that women have no real interest in atheist speaking or believing that they have an interest in atheism, but not in speaking about it. Please explain. Given the abundance of women atheists out there, I find both assumptions a bit sexist.

    In my purview women atheist writers/vloggers passed men by about a year ago (I’d say I read about 60f/40m these days). As to Cara Santa Maria’s attempts to find women speakers, who would count them as anything more than…hurried at best, or more likely, rather abysmal? She engaged three male speakers, yet only reached out to two female speakers, stopping when they both said no, then defined that as a helluva time finding speakers.

    You took this kerfuffle as an opportunity to parrot Grothe’s ridiculous stance of blaming feminists for the low TAM female turnout. And with seemingly no sense of the scorching irony, you took a dig at Benson for skewing the female/male ratio of TAM speakers by dropping out. One of the feminists you and Grothe are so quick to blame was actually responsible for 12 grants for women to attend the 2012 TAM, and Benson dropped out due to threats.

    I still think Benson probably overreacted to this single statement in an unrehearsed conversation, but it did serve to alert me to these very troubling tendencies of yours.

    • Marcel Kincaid says:

      “I don’t really see a difference between believing that women have no real interest in atheist speaking or believing that they have an interest in atheism, but not in speaking about it”

      A pity that you can’t see a difference between two quite different things. And a pity that you attribute to him a belief that he clearly doesn’t have.

      “I find both assumptions a bit sexist.”

      You don’t understand what sexism is.

      “You took this kerfuffle as an opportunity to parrot Grothe’s ridiculous stance of blaming feminists for the low TAM female turnout.”

      No, he didn’t.

      “you took a dig at Benson for skewing the female/male ratio of TAM speakers by dropping out. ”

      ” Benson dropped out due to threats.”

      There were no such threats … have you read that email?

      “it did serve to alert me to these very troubling tendencies of yours”

      Tendency toward what, exactly? How about your own tendency toward hyperbole, intellectual dishonesty, and demonization? Do you think that Shermer will read your comments, think you have some good points, and strive to do better and to avoid moving further along this “troubling tendency”? Was that even your intent in posting?

      • Amii Lockhart says:

        “A pity that you can’t see a difference between two quite different things. And a pity that you attribute to him a belief that he clearly doesn’t have.”

        Of course I see a literal difference, and my obvious and stated point was that they were both sexist.

        I only attribute one of those assumptions to him, and included the other because people are arguing its merits here. I regret not stating that. The assumption I attribute to Shermer is that women have an interest in atheism, but not speaking about it (and I was giving him the benefit of the doubt by limiting it to speaking when his words implied a lot more). That’s what he said:

        “I think it probably really is 50/50.”
        “It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it; you know, it’s more of a guy thing”

        “You don’t understand what sexism is.”
        Yes I do.

        “No, he didn’t.”
        Yes, he did.

        “There were no such threats … have you read that email?”
        Right, because you say so.

        “Tendency toward what, exactly?”

        A tendency toward defending himself when he knows he said something stupid instead of recanting, and in my opinion, it was a stupid enough thing to say that he probably could have caught it then and there. A tendency toward absurd irony in bringing up Grothe’s feminists-did-it argument.

        • Acathode says:

          She published the mail in question after that post.
          Again, have you read it?

          It’s very clear it’s not a threat, instead it’s from someone who is overly concerned about her safety.

          Seriously, if you’re commenting here, aren’t you supposed to be a skeptic? Why aren’t you checking the facts? If you’re truly a skeptic, you should really be ashamed that you’re helping this kind of smear campaign by repeating proven lies.

    • CommanderTuvok says:

      Amii Lockhart

      “You took this kerfuffle as an opportunity to parrot Grothe’s ridiculous stance of blaming feminists for the low TAM female turnout.”

      No. Grothe blamed a certain group of feminists, namely feminists such as Rebecca Watson and Stephanie Svan. Many feminists DO NOT share the same views and agenda as those two. The Pit exposed their accusations as BS and hyped up beyond all credibility. They expected Grothe to obey them, just as they expect everybody to obey them. They failed. So they tried to muckrake and ramp up the accusations of misogyny. Again, they failed. The they skulked off with their tails between their legs.

      “And with seemingly no sense of the scorching irony, you took a dig at Benson for skewing the female/male ratio of TAM speakers by dropping out. ”

      What is ironic about that. It was a fact. It was also a fact that there was never any such threat, only a dimwitted comment from one of their cult members who Ophelia misinterpreted. I guess that is an easy mistake to make when you surround yourself with crazies like Ophelia Benson has done. I have NO sympathy for her over her behaviour pre-TAM.

      “One of the feminists you and Grothe are so quick to blame was actually responsible for 12 grants for women to attend the 2012 TAM, and Benson dropped out due to threats.”

      I’ve dealt with the last part – that is a lie. Also, the grants are completely irrelevent when it comes to criticism. That is a skepticism fail. Just because you were responsible for grants, that DOES NOT make you immune to criticism, something that Rebecca Watson and her ilk seem to take for granted. BTW, are I presume you are just as concerned for all the feminists (described as “sister punishers”, “gender traitors” and “chill girls” by the Baboons) who have received abuse for the past year or so?

      “I still think Benson probably overreacted to this single statement in an unrehearsed conversation”

      You don’t say! Oh, go and have a look over at PZ’s cesspit to see another overreaction. These people are a dangerous cult.

      “but it did serve to alert me to these very troubling tendencies of yours.”

      What would they be, then? Maybe you need to open your eyes at Watson, PZ, Svan and company, first, before you criticise here.

      • Amii Lockhart says:

        Me:“One of the feminists you and Grothe are so quick to blame was actually responsible for 12 grants for women to attend the 2012 TAM, and Benson dropped out due to threats.”
        “I’ve dealt with the last part – that is a lie.”

        You’re right. I apologise to Grothe and readers here for saying he was specifically talking about Surly Amy. I’ve re-read his comment, and he never named any specific feminists.

        “That is a scepticism fail. Just because you were responsible for grants, that DOES NOT make you immune to criticism…”
        You really have no room to call sceptical fail on anyone; you didn’t even call it on the actual fail – my unintentional mischaracterization of Grothe. You spout opinions as though they were fact and add a bunch of unnecessary vitriol so that everyone here knows you’re seething with rage. Whoop dee do. Let me explain to you why that isn’t a sceptical fail. Nobody ever implied that giving grants grants anyone immunity – that is a strawman. Giving grants so that women can go to TAM actually increases the number of women who go to TAM. If you still don’t understand, I’m sure you can find a beginners math class somewhere to get you up to speed. Adding increases things.

        “What would they be, then?”
        A tendency toward defending himself when he knows he said something stupid instead of recanting, and in my opinion, it was a stupid enough thing to say that he probably could have caught it then and there. A tendency toward absurd irony in bringing up Grothe’s feminists-did-it argument.

    • Raymond says:

      Amii, C’mon, Amii, AMII!! one word, lurkers….of which there are many who sit in the back and just take in the show, and are 100% all in the movement on display. Shyness is… for whatever the reason women are quiet. boys make asses of themselves but women are subdued, for ill or nil, but it’s often the case. I heard of how one school was separating classes according to gender as some of the females felt they could learn better without the males acting out and disrupting the class as some often do(only to encourage the females to speak out more in class, as in this class boys were way too aggressive).

  55. slothrop1905 says:

    Yeah, I know, it’s just that over the past couple years (and maybe I just wasn’t paying attention as much before, admittedly) I’ve noticed that word being used in ways I never thought it could be used…it really does seem on some blogs that it means ‘disagrees with particular beliefs in a particular strain of feminist ideology’. To which they say ‘Yeah, the radical claim that women are PEOPLE!’. As though that was really what was going on, and if you’re confused and ask who’s saying women aren’t people you’re labelled the M-word. You’re completely right about the fallacy argument, I just didn’t see this ‘wealth of misogyny’ in this particular thread and wanted an example.

    • Stretchycheese says:

      Another mantra I’ve heard was “listen to women!” But which women? This conflict isn’t divided by gender. A lot of women have expressed criticism towards the FTB/A+ party line (e.g. Kirby, Miranda Hale, Abbie Smith, McGraw, etc…) and many men (PZ, Greg Laden, Lousy Canuck) support the FTB/A+ party line.

      “Listen to women!” becomes hilariously contradictory when they expect to us side with Greg Laden over Paula Kirby over feminism and gender identity politics.

      What they really mean by “listen to women!” is “listen to [radical feminist idealogue] women [and men who agree with them]!”

  56. Stretchycheese says:

    I think there’s one thing about this Animal Farm-esque conflict in which we can take heart. In Animal Farm, Napoleon ended up totally in control. In our situation, fortunately, the FTB/A+ crowd’s “some animals are more equal than others” ideology isn’t establishing the dominance and conformity over the nontheist/skeptic community that they’re wanting. Sure, many have been sucked into it, but it’s good to see the FTB/A+ receive abundant criticism from several prominent skeptics.

    While atheist/skeptics are not immune to the foibles of human nature like Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies, dogmatism, McCarthyism, and idealogues seeking dominance, at least a great many people within the atheist/skeptic movement are wise enough to recognize it and fight back against it.

  57. Red5StandingBy says:

    I haven’t heard any one point point out this criticism about skepchick of FTB blogs yet but why are so many of them white?
    What about their readers mostly white as well probably, shouldn’t they be working to get this up to 50/50.

    Skepchick doesn’t have an equal amount of males to females involved in it, is it because they are sexist?

    • CommanderTuvok says:

      The majority of Pharyngulites are WHITE MEN.

      So, Pharyngula is obviously a site that is NOT SAFE for women and non-whites. Plus, there is the fact that PZ and his Baboon troop appear to be calling themselves racists.

      • Red5StandingBy says:

        where does PZ say he’s racist?

        A google search brings up Sam Harris not liking the fact that people reading FTB call him a racist and a search for racist on FTB brings back a lot of results.

        • Ben Zvan says:

          Oh look how they run when you say something true.

          • CommanderTuvok says:

            Sharon has posted the link below.

            What’s that about running, Ben? You asshat. Looks like you just got called out again, on a blog, and in public.

            That’s the problem with hanging about with crazies such as PZ, you never know what kind of insanity you are going to be associated with. Unlucky for you Ben, but I now see PZ Myers as “racist” and a “potential rapist”, and the good thing is, his commentators would be the first to say it. You’re welcome to his claptrap, Ben.

            You’re dismissed.

          • John Brown says:

            How do you do it, Ben? How do you show your face in public without the least hint of shame? It’s a thing of wonder. It really is.

            Bless your cotton socks.

        • Sharon Reese says:

          Right here:

          “Seriously, every one of us is racist as fuck. We can’t help it.”

          You can agree or disagree with his statement, I am just pointing out that he did say it…several times in fact.

        • Sally Strange says:

          PZ thinks we’re all racist. That’s what’s being elided.

    • Justicar says:

      Then you haven’t been following my youtube channel. =P

      • Raymond says:

        integralmath, right? subbed recently after your Clint shout out about RW’s skepticon rant agnst EP

      • Raymond says:

        Saw your video about using my PC for computing projects, great idea, can’t wait to be a part of the endeavour with Abbie Smith and you.

  58. Henry says:

    Michael Shermer — the essential missing element from this article is a clear statement of your position in the battle currently raging with the skeptical and atheist communities (including the comment thread above) on the subject of feminism. Sean Carroll on The Point was much more clear in stating his desire that scientifically minded folks should find a way to accommodate diverse viewpoints. For all of their rhetorical faults, the feminists have been clear in their desire for a more woman-friendly environment at conferences and on the Internet. You seem to have thrown up your hands in stoic resignation that in-group-out-group conflict is preordained. Yet, I think there is much that you and other prominent men in the movement can do to calm the water. Why not criticize the vile minority that constantly badgers outspoken female skeptics and atheists with rape and death threats? The feminists miss the mark sometimes — as in Ophelia’s misreading of your comments on The Point — not giving enough credit for good intentions — but what purpose does it serve to defend yourself in your use of pronouns if you don’t acknowledge and condemn the vile and violent context of the feminist vs. atheist discussion that prompted Ophelia’s criticism?

    • CommanderTuvok says:

      Henry, you mean SOME feminists have been demanding things, while other feminists have condemned them for their bullying and harassment, and their fibbing.

      “You seem to have thrown up your hands in stoic resignation that in-group-out-group conflict is preordained.”

      You obviously missed Richard Carrier’s “you’re with us, or against us” post, which was so bad even the Baboons had to order him to take it down. These are the type of people the rest of community (ie – the majority) are faced with in the form of these control freaks.

      “Yet, I think there is much that you and other prominent men in the movement can do to calm the water.”

      Oh, really. Whenever somebody does that and it doesn’t fit the narrow FTB/Skepchick agenda, they dog-pile and the witch hunt begins.

      “Why not criticize the vile minority that constantly badgers outspoken female skeptics and atheists with rape and death threats?”

      Lots of people do, but the narrative from the Baboons, esp. Ophelia Benson, Svan and Watson, is that if you criticise them, you are somehow “on the side” of those sending threats (they forget about Greg Laden and PZ “bury him into the ground” Myers) in a blatant confabulation designed to shut people up. It has not worked, and the pushback against is stronger than ever.

      “The feminists miss the mark sometimes — as in Ophelia’s misreading of your comments on The Point — not giving enough credit for good intentions”

      SOME feminists miss the mark. A lot of feminists oppose Ophelia and her train of thought. Why anybody in their right mind would take Ophelia Benson seriously only, the Flying Spaghetti Monster knows. The things is, when Ophelia whines about something, the other Baboons kick into action. It is the same tactic every time, one of them launches a hit piece, and it is supported by multiple bloggers who got the alarm call in the backchannel.

      “but what purpose does it serve to defend yourself in your use of pronouns if you don’t acknowledge and condemn the vile and violent context of the feminist vs. atheist discussion that prompted Ophelia’s criticism?”

      Because Ophelia is misrepresenting him as per usual, and deliberately conflates Shermer’s comments with her other pet hates regarding those horrible sexists who exist in the shadows. Oh, and what “feminist vs. atheist” battle are you talking about? I’ve already mentioned that many feminists DO NOT share Benson and Watson’s POV. Stop claiming they represent the feminist viewpoint. They represent an extreme part of it.

  59. oolon. says:

    @ Ben Svan
    Ooh, it must have been about seven, eight years ago. Me and the little lady was out on this boat, you see, all alone at night, when all of the sudden this huge creature, this giant crustacean from the Paleolithic Era, comes out of the water. It stood above us looking down with these big red eyes…
    and I yelled, I said, “What do you want from us, monster?” And the monster bent down, and said, “I need about tree-fitty.”

  60. oolon. says:

    I said, “I ain’t givin’ you no tree-fitty, you goddamn Loch Ness Monster! Get your own goddamn money!”

  61. NOT says:

    From PZ’s blog on this:

    “It’s a plain assumption that men are intrinsically better suited to leading skepticism and atheism. You can’t get much plainer than “It’s more of a guy thing.””

    No, Shermer stated that men may be more likely to want to speak at skeptic/atheist conferences or invest their intellectual time in skepticism/atheism.

    Shermer in no way stated that women did not have intellectual ability to invest in other areas more commonly. Further, Shermer did not state that men speaking more was the correct state of affairs and that men are better at leading the skeptic community.

    When PZ puts words in Shermer’s mouth like this, he is actively lying.

    • CommanderTuvok says:

      Since PZ is racist and a potential rapist, I suppose “a liar” is not much of a stretch for him.

      He is an embarassment.

  62. Len Firewood says:

    Another cuckoo(gender\rad feminism) in the nest(atheism). When such feminism invades a space it doesn’t matter what field it is in because of it’s extreme narcissism and victim stance it soon becomes “all about me”. This type of feminism is both a RELIGION and a parasitic growth. The atheism\skeptic community is a large one and thereby there is MONEY to be had and these feminists are expert fleecers it is what they do. Anyone calling themselves an atheist or skeptic who supports and of these intruding parasites on the take has just outed themselves as a fraud and merely a part of the new cucknoo in the nest. Purging needed and a thorough one too.

    • CommanderTuvok says:

      Some good points there, Len, but I would point out that there is a healthy amount of feminism in the atheist and skeptic communities without referring to the radical feminist movement of Watson and her ilk.

      If there is one thing that Watson, Myers and co. hate most, it is feminists who disagree with their narrow view of feminism. I keep pointing this out because the Baboons repeatedly talk about feminism as though they are the standard representatives of its movement. They are not.

      • Monty Cantsin says:

        Perhaps the feminists who aren’t of the Watson/Benson/FTB/A+ ilk need to call a meetin’ and see if they can come up with an apt descriptor to tack on to either their own or the crazy kind of feminism, whichever theyso choose to append.
        Because until such time as we have a descriptor, I’m stuck looking at anyone addressing themselves as a feminist with incredible wariness.

        • Len Firewood says:

          Good points both of you there. When I use the term “feminism” I really mean that form which since the 70’s has dominated the mainstream ie Gender or Radical Feminism and various related flavours. The other form which is far less dogmatic in nature comes under a heading of “equity” feminism. The former is primarily characterised by taking a victim standpoint in sexual matters ie women are victims of male oppression or the “patriarchy” etc. They actually view the entire world via this form of a binary. Equity feminists believe in female agency and look for equal opportunity a goal for all intents and purposes which was reached some time ago. Watson and her ilk however cannot be appeased because they deny female agency via their victim stance “elevator gate” is a typical example of how something rather trivial is turned into a whole sexes fault. It is the feminism followed by Watson and being leveraged by Watson that will and is causing the rot.

  63. Steve Caldwell says:

    The strongly emotional reaction of those who disagree with Ophelia Benson and others sympathetic to the “atheism plus” ideas reminds me of the reaction of US conservatives towards Barack Obama. In both cases, strong emotional feelings are interfering with rational thought.

    I suppose some of the folks commenting here could do the Clint Eastwood thing and get a few empty chairs to represent the Ophelia, Rebecca, PZ Myers, etc to have your arguments with.

    • Mykeru says:

      A person who would use a biased analogy such as “The strongly emotional reaction of those who disagree with Ophelia Benson and others sympathetic to the “atheism plus” ideas reminds me of the reaction of US conservatives towards Barack Obama.” reminds me of Squealer the Pig from Orwell’s Animal Farm, skipping from side-to-side while uttering sophistic horseshit.

      • Steve Caldwell says:

        Mykeru – Thanks. I think you’ve proven my point. Your reaction to my comment is excessive when you could have simply disagreed without using loaded words like “biased” and “horseshit.”

        The ur-example of this over-reaction trend has been the several replies that referenced Rebecca Watson and the elevator incident. Again, I think the replies about the elevator incident on this thread are talking to an empty chair and not the person just like Clint Eastwood did.

        • Steersman says:

          Methinks that this “it’s a guy thing” is really only the tip of a quite problematic iceberg which has hived off from the feminist ice sheet. While there’s certainly been a fair amount of “emotional reaction” from both sides, I would say the greater amount has come from those defending various aspects of feminism. I mean, for Ophelia Benson to tweet that “Connecting the word ‘feminism’ with the word ‘virulent’ … is misogyny” has to be considered rather obtuse at best and to suggest a problematic commitment to dogma and not to skepticism.

        • Mykeru says:

          It’s almost never the case when someone says “Thanks. I think you’ve proven my point.”.

        • Mykeru says:


          In 23 instances of “Watson” all of them reference her committing harassment, her HFA speech and her relationship with various Free Thought bloggers. None of them reference “the elevator incident” save yours.

          So, wrong again, Squealer.

          • Mykeru says:

            P.S. Your wording was “Rebecca Watson AND the elevator incident”, so if you pig-fu and claim that references to Becky without the elevator still count, I will have no choice but to chuckle and make a BLT sandwich.

    • Jeff says:

      Are you calling us “emotional”? You misogynist!

  64. Verity Manumit says:

    Dear Mr. Shermer: Another great essay. Thanks.

    Dear Ophelia Benson: Please. Shut. The. Fuck. Up. Already. I’m embarrassed for you.

  65. mordacious1 says:

    If I were to organize a skeptic conference, I would (as my first priority) find speakers who are skeptics. If I wanted more women speakers, I would find women speakers who were skeptics. I certainly would not seek out women (or men, or minorities) who are popular in the atheistic community for whatever reason, who are not skeptics. I would also want people who have knowledge that I don’t have (or most people don’t have). I wouldn’t want to pay money to listen to someone who knew less about a subject than I do. That’s not saying that everyone has to be a Richard Dawkins, but they should have expertise in something other than talking merely to talk.

    I learned a long time ago that loud does not mean smart. There are women, men and minorities out there who could and would give excellent talks if asked. If you are a professional speaker, you should have qualifications or knowledge in the area on which you are speaking, being entertaining does not in itself a good speaker make. It’s not a disqualifier either, as long as people walk away having learned something that is accurate information.

    One more thing, if I may. Criticizing a speaker, who happens to be a woman, does not make you a misogynist. If you are criticizing the content of the talk and not her sex, then you are being a skeptic, not a woman hater. Some people can’t distinguish between the two and get upset if you criticize someone they like, even if the criticism is spot on.

    • Len Firewood says:

      Well said – if other skeptics\atheists put the integrity of practicing critical thinking before succumbing to populism the community would be better able to resist serious or fatal infection. From an outsiders pov the whole movement is currently inflicted with gangrene. That gangrene is caused by infection with victim based feminism that has sneaked in under the cloak of ethics and morals – ethics and morals are one thing but accepting pre-digested tenets of radical feminist ideology(aka victim feminism) is accepting a religion under another guise. You know who these agents are and the wise amongst you need to regroup and separate yourselves from them before the whole movement is fatally inected.

      • Steersman says:

        “Infected”? Thems fightn’ words – or word – there pardner- at least in some benighted swamps of the femo-sphere where “converted” seems to be the accepted replacement. At least according to their “Ministry of Truth” ….

  66. Mrs. A.S. says:

    Well, Michael, as difficult as it is to have your reputation trashed in a leading periodical for free thought, I wouldn’t worry about it too much.

    Ophelia has gained a reputation for seeing sexism and misogyny everywhere including on billboards for the SPCA with “coquettish, manipulative, slut puppies” wearing pink bows.

    I wonder which Teletubby is a misogynist?

    • Raymond says:

      As a long time subscriber to Free Inquiry, I hate to admit it was a let down to read OB was going to be a regular author there, as there are so many others I’d prefer to have her spot. I hope I’m not being unfair, it’s just that she beats the same drum and it’s like when once you get the message, you hang up the phone, but she won’t allow you to hang up though, she keeps you on the line while she repeats herself ad nauseum.

  67. Pete Schult says:

    I have no reason to accuse Shermer of misogyny, but his article misses the point badly, as do many commenters here. The stats on female participation, whether as attendees or speakers at conferences or as people who identify as skeptics/atheist/agnostics, are not the issue. The issue that led to this whole divide within skepticism was Rebecca Watson’s posting a video where she politely pointed out that a man extending an invitation to have coffee in his hotel room (keep in mind that in American culture, at least, an invitation to “coffee”, even to be drunk at a neutral setting, is commonly understood as indicating sexual or romantic interest on the part of the inviter without explicitly expressing that interest) at 4 AM in an enclosed space to a captive audience with no one else around is kind of creepy. Her “unreasonable” summary? “Don’t do that.”

    For that rather benign rebuke to men in general, she has received rape threats, death threats, and so on from men who identify as skeptics. THAT is why, since Elevatorgate, many women have expressed that they don’t feel safe at skeptical events.

    Now, to bring a skeptical point of view to the schism that has resulted since that video, we could ask a few questions:

    1) Female bloggers/vloggers in general who question or correct male privilege/cluelessness get such attacks. How does the skeptical community compare with the larger culture in its level of active, verbal attacks against women (both online and IRL)?

    2) How does the community fare as a physically safe place for females in comparison with the larger culture?

    Those are the statistics (and deeper analyses) we need if we are to bring a healthy skepticism into the conversation over whether the skeptical community is more or less misogynist than the culture at large.

    • Yndrd1984 says:

      “The issue that led to this whole divide within skepticism was Rebecca Watson’s posting a video…”

      No. The Youtube video added publicity and gave trolls a forum, but that isn’t what started it. Watson used the elevator incident as a way to make feminism the primary topic of discussion wherever she went, and then did everything possible (perhaps unintentionally) to encourage people to troll her on the internet. The schism developed between those that saw the attempted pickup and trolling as irritating or rude, but also normal and nonthreatening human behavior, and those that assumed it was specifically targeting women, was done by men as an expression of privilege, and was actually a sign of dangerous attitudes in those men.

      “THAT is why, since Elevatorgate, many women have expressed that they don’t feel safe at skeptical events.”

      No. If women in general don’t feel safe it’s because they’ve been constantly bombarded by the message that they’re in danger. If Dawkins and Hitchens had made the death threats against them and their families a central part of every speech they gave and every conference they attended, do you think that people in general would have felt more threatened? Why shouldn’t the same thing happen if it’s constantly publicized that a girl was ‘almost raped’ on an elevator (she wasn’t), and someone was taking up-skirt pictures (they weren’t), and that the non-theist community is full of ‘misogynists’ (i.e. people who don’t see an ill-timed attempt at hooking up as that bad)?

      “rebuke to men … correct male privilege/cluelessness”

      And that’s why people like me get frustrated. From some people’s perspective, it’s perfectly acceptable to assume that the majority of men are privileged and clueless and in need of rebukes to correct even their offhand comments, while the group of people who “get it” aren’t to be questioned – ever – and those that try can only be doing it because of misogynistic attitudes. That attitude produced the schism in the first place and makes meaningful discussion impossible.

  68. Alastor says:

    Honestly, I didn’t interpret “it’s a guy thing” to mean men are more inclined to use their brains than women. Rather, it sounded to me as if Shermer thinks men are naturally disposed to seek attention or be aggressive, and that women are underrepresented on the podium because they simply don’t want to be there.

    In either case, gender stereotyping is pretty poor idea, and it think Shermer would have done better to mull it over a bit and apologize for the remark. I, for one, would be willing to accept the “hey, I was put on the spot and offered a really dumb answer” defense.

    Going on an acrimonious rampage isn’t going to fix the situation. Neither is showing up with your “female friends”, one of whom appears to think personality and interests are inherited traits (sorry, Dr. Hall, but I suggest you revisit your Stephen Jay Gould).

    Anything else I could possibly offer has already been more succinctly stated by Crommunist.

  69. Luke says:

    Michael Shermer,

    This is an unfortunate “debate”. I do hope my opinion is read by you and that I can be clear enough to make it understandable and respectful enough to garner attention and potential action.

    When you say: “intellectually active about it; you know, it’s more of a guy thing”

    I feel confident you recognize the obvious flaw.

    What you say about the ratio (highlighting your remark about being 50/50) and TAM doesn’t carry the weight you seem to imagine in context to the quote above (and the rest of that off the cuff remark). The discussion was about “atheism” and you equate behavior having to do with “atheism” in part as “intellectually active” (hence: “Unbelieving in God is thinky work”).

    I’m sorry, but you are being irrationally defensive in your article. Much of which is a distraction that I believe you think follows from “correcting” the criticism of your statement. I can only imagine this distraction stems from wider debates that have taken place recently involving many people in the movement – more than you list in what appears to be an ill advised argument bringing to your defense those who’s issues are actually distinct form your claim.

    You made a claim, Michael, that’s the point. In your article you don’t explain this claim properly, you don’t defend it rationally. If anything the argument (claim) you are making is that men are disproportionally recognized in the “movement”.

    However, you don’t mention reason for disproportional representation and in fact contradict that idea by making a point of the gender ratio of speakers – you had dug yourself deeper there and seem oblivious to this fact (if it’s a “guy thing”, how does it follow to point out the ratio for female speakers is higher(?) You could also be making an historical claim, but again, you don’t take the opportunity to explain.

    The video makes matters worse, because the host makes the point about “not getting” what you say about “a guy thing” by saying forthrightly the obvious – she’s a women speaking out.

    I have a feeling what I am saying won’t make a dent in anyone’s opinion. I’m also disappointed by your article, Michael, but for a more wide ranging reason. The issue you take up with tribalism is real, it is happening, but you picked the wrong time to recognize the problem. Ophelia Benson, PZ and others (including commenter’s – yes regular commenter’s to blogs are part of the dialogue and can be referenced) can be manipulative gadfly’s with “followers” that are often horribly irrational and nasty (which they enjoy). One problem is you’re very late to that debate and unfortunately have attracted gadfly’s of the other sort who wander aimlessly around claiming victim-hood at the hands of Free Thought Bloggers. In essence your Kumbaya works to maintain the tribes. It’s the mistake Ron Lindsay has made on occasion and therefor has made himself vulnerable to nonsense and manipulation while degrading the integrity of journal’s such as Free Inquiry.

    Michael, perhaps you can take the time to show you recognize what you have said is an irrational claim which you even recognize in your article. I believe you without any doubt when you say: “And for the record I don’t believe for a moment that women are not smart enough to do nonbelief thinking, or any other type of cognition for that matter.” Now, “man up”, recognize and apologize.

    • Yndrd1984 says:

      “Now, “man up”,…”

      Because women can’t be tough, or because men are required to be? Such sexism!

      “…recognize and apologize.”

      I don’t think he owes anyone an apology, but even if he did, should he do it in the wake of a smear campaign based on a misunderstanding of an out of context quote of an off the cuff statement? He can’t spend all of his time catering to people who want to play victim, so he’s better off just clarifying when necessary and ignoring the haters.

      • Luke says:

        Michael Shermer,

        I apologize (see my post #71). I just finished reading Ophelia’s article. She clearly takes what you said out of context, it’s seems even more than just out of context, she’s applying the wrong question to the answer. Is this purposeful? I would assume, yes. I also read PZ’s blog post on this, did he not read Ophelia’s article and watch the video?

        Here is a quote from Ophelia’s article for those who need reminding.

        “The host, Cara Santa Maria, presented a question: Why isn’t the gender split in atheism closer to 50-50? Shermer explained, “It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it; you know, it’s more of a guy thing.”

        Did she watch the video? This is so crazy, especially after reading PZ who manages to ignore the facts, that I’m wondering if I’m not witnessing some sort of “set up”.

        I’m an ass for not reading Ophelia’s article before posting yesterday. Now reading PZ and through the comments here and there, it appears obvious there is some motivation behind this beyond Ophelia’s naive fail.

        • Raymond says:

          To add to your comment. 111th Congress is 17% women. There’s been talk that women just are not interested in that job that requires extensive background checks and the opening up of all parts of one’s personal life to the general public, which isn’t to say they have anything to hide, but the media can be really hateful in their sensationalising of politicians lives and many women want no part of it. Scott Brown made a terrible comment about Liz Warren related to Brown’s scantily clad modelling gig in some magazine, when a Liz staffer said at least Liz didn’t have a claim to fame from only taking her clothes off, and Brown said something like, thank god, or something to the effect of, oh, please make her keep her clothes on. The US population is 52% women. The first woman in Congress was a Montana Republican, Jeannette Rankin, won, in the 1916(yes, before women could vote), and 1940, elections as a Representative. was a Pacifist and voted against US entry into WW I and WW II, said of women, “We’re half the people; we should be half the population.”I read that quote in the ’70s and have touted weekly that for women to be truly represented there needed to be a 50% women to men Congress. And we should start now to produce it as it took 72 years though former slaves got the vote, for women to get the vote, and 80 years to remove the Jim Crow laws from the South with Civil Rights Laws.
          Does anyone think HR 3 and HR 358 would have passed the House if 50% of the lawmakers were women?
          90% of my lifetime girlfriends and 2 wives had common interests more to do with fashion, shoes, TV daytime stories, shopping, than interests I had regarding science, politics and such. I didn’t pick those interests, those were common interests with my girfriends, not a list of “women interests” only. I think that folks are just different based on gender sometimes and upbringing other times. And remember 10% of my lifetime girlfriends were interested in the same “intellectual” topics I was.

        • Yndrd1984 says:

          “I apologize (see my post #71). I just finished reading Ophelia’s article. She clearly takes what you said out of context, it’s seems even more than just out of context, she’s applying the wrong question to the answer.”

          I can’t speak for the good doctor, but since you replied to me – don’t worry about it. Most of us were very concerned for a while when we first heard that there was sexism in the skeptic/atheist movement. The important thing is that you looked into it and made up your own mind.

          “Now reading PZ and through the comments here and there, it appears obvious there is some motivation behind this beyond Ophelia’s naive fail.”

          And that would be my question for Dr S. – is this just overly passionate feminism, a way to drive up blog hits, or an attempted coup d’état? The last one may seem a bit conspiracy theory-ish, but we’ve now seen most of the scientists and academics, who were famous before starting the New Atheists, attacked as sexists by a group of bloggers who would be mostly unknown if it weren’t for those attacks – e.g. in a single action Rebecca Watson made herself internationally famous AND knocked Richard Dawkins down a bit. If that wasn’t planned it was an amazing coincidence.

  70. Sally Strange says:

    Next time you want to complain about being criticized for saying something sexist, please analogize the situation to one of the most brutal episodes of violent oppression of women in European history, and then cast yourself as the victim in the analogy.

    • Sharon Reese says:

      @72 That sounds like the Dear Muslima statement that Dawkins got a lot of crap from PZ . Skepchicks and the rest of the FTBers.

      • Sally Strange says:

        Indeed. It contained the word “the” and “and” and also made reference to women. Well spotted.

        • Sharon Reese says:

          If you ever make a post that actually imparts knowledge rather than snark, I think I may faint from shock.

          • Sally Strange says:

            I suggest you take your own advice and explain for our patient readers:

            1. In which ways my comment is similar to Richard Dawkins’ infamous “Dear Muslima” comment (and for bonus points, how it differs).

            2. Why that is bad.

  71. Sally Strange says:

    Oh wait, you did do that. Great job. It really shows how seriously you take the the issue of women’s oppression. Kind of like when someone calls you an anti-Semite, and you compare yourself to the Jews during the holocaust. Because being criticized by bloggers and writers is very similar to being violently murdered.

    Really, well done.

    • CommanderTuvok says:

      Sally Strange:

      “Because being criticized by bloggers and writers is very similar to being violently murdered.”

      I’m pretty sure Shermer never said such a thing, and since it comes from the gob of a Baboon, I know he never said such a thing.

      But wait, wasn’t it A+ who said something about being murdered is not as bad as being raped? You guys have some nerve coming over here with your criticisms of analogies.

      • Sally Strange says:

        No no, Schermer just said he was the victim of a witch hunt, and titled a section of his post after a section of the Bible that was used to justify the violent murder of millions of women.

        BIG difference. I beg your pardon.

        • loyB says:

          “Millions of women?” You’re off by literally orders of magnitude. 1 would be too many, though, so I won’t quibble. Just for the sake of not making us all even more historically illiterate than we already are, re-check your figures for future reference.

          Also, if your argument is right, you just successfully defended McCarthyism from one of the most successful arguments against it. So… yay?

        • Yndrd1984 says:

          “Schermer just said he was the victim of a witch hunt…”

          Which has been a commonly used metaphor for persecution based on moral panic for almost a century now.

          “…justify the violent murder of millions of women.”

          You probably meant to say “tens of thousands of women and thousands of men.” I mean, ignoring a large fraction of the victims because of their sex would be wrong, correct?

        • John Greg says:

          Sally Oddsocks said:

          “No no, Schermer just said he was the victim of a witch hunt, and titled a section of his post after a section of the Bible that was used to justify the violent murder of millions of women.”

          If you are referring to his reference to the Malleus Maleficarum, you doolally ignoramus you, it is not biblical; it is secular, and compared to the bible, contemporary. Do some research toad.

          Also, if you are referrring to the Malleus Maleficarum being used to facilitate the actual witch hunts and the concomitant murders of women, and some men, accused of being witches over the past few centuries, then it most certainly is not millions.

          Gawd, Sally, you are indeed a moron, a lick-spittle toady, and a sycophantic ideologue of the first water.

          • franc says:

            Well, Malleus was written by the Catholic Church for the secular courts and the trials themselves were mostly secular. This is a surprisingly rational article and has figures that are around the same as other properly researched sources, ~100,000 trials, roughly half ending in execution –


            The most thrown around number by hystericists as 30 million. Absurd when total population of Europe estimates at the time range between 40 and 100 million. Genocide inflation for political point scoring is a vile practice and a sure sign of a vacant mind.

          • Steersman says:

            Interesting quote from that site (gendercide):

            “Most of the accusations originated in ‘conflicts [that] normally opposed one woman to another, with men liable to become involved only at a later stage as ancillaries to the original dispute.’ Briggs adds that “most informal accusations were made by women against other women, … [and only] leaked slowly across to the men who controlled the political structures of local society.”

            In light of which it is just a little difficult to lay all of the blame for that at the feet of “the patriarchy” ….

            Somewhat interesting anecdote. Some fellow over on A Voice for Men who had been in Saudi Arabia had noted that some of the most venomous attacks against women there had been instigated by other women. As deplorable as their situations are many seem to think that they derive some benefits such that they have to guard against any “gender traitors” rocking the boat.

          • Raymond says:

            I had to laugh at that as the Malleus Maleficarum was not a part of the WhollyBabble but was written by monks for the sole purpose of going after what was formerly ignored groups of weird folks known as witches to become enemy number one as it was after the Dualists had been decimated by the Holy Roman Church and they needed a new enemy, and as it turned out they needed money, too, as many of the witches were rich land owners and their wealth went to the church after they were killed.

          • Raymond says:

            Seems I read figures of from 500,000 to 9 million!!! not sure why the wide variation but it was what I read in the article about Kramer’s MM witch hunt manual.

        • Fascination says:

          Here is the definition of “witch hunt” from free

          An investigation carried out ostensibly to uncover subversive activities but actually used to harass and undermine those with differing views.

          You can also look up the metaphorical use of the words “witch hunt” on Wikipedia. There is a whole subsection about the very topic on their witch hunt page.

    • Aj says:

      Wow, so I bet you had a real go at Ophelia Benson when she compared TAM to Nazi Germany, no?

      • CommanderTuvok says:

        Of course she didn’t. Ophelia never calls anybody out that she likes and she certainly never owns up to her own mistakes.

        Ophelia Benson is a liar and a vindictive individual. A lot of people were glad she pulled out of TAM, and I’m sure TAM attendees would rejoice in her missing the next one as well. Ophelia is not welcome in our community.

    • NOT says:

      I love that a known FfTB commenter has strayed over here and is now being totally schooled in an environment where the commenter does not have tons of back up commenters nor the thought that dissenting voices can be banned or moderated away.

  72. Claire says:

    I believe the author may have meant “second wave” where he wrote “first wave” feminism. First wave was early 1800’s through 1920’s (think right to vote). Second wave was mainly 1960’s and 70’s (think birth control and equal pay).

  73. Kevin Solway says:

    The fact that 50% of the speakers of TAM are women means that something is *seriously* wrong, unless it was just by coincidence.

    If I go to some meeting, I want to hear the best speakers. I don’t want to hear Rebecca Watson or Ophelia Benson just because they are women.

    • Mykeru (@Mykeru) says:

      Can we list some skeptical women with real credentials with something interesting to say?

      I would like to see Dr. Elisabeth Cornwell speak on sexual selection. According to her page on the Secular Student Alliance [] she speaks on:

      women’s issues
      children’s issues
      human sexuality
      evolutionary psychology
      science of religion

      Nominate your own.

    • oolon says:

      Mykeru and Kevin would likely get on very well… Both being nutty MRAs n all…

      Kevin Solway sez: “Increasingly I realized the inseparability of reason and masculinity. At the same time I could not help noticing the increasing feminization of society. The only course open to me was to attack femininity at the root. My life’s work, I decided, would focus on making people aware of the shortcomings of femininity and the great benefits of masculinity. For there to be wise men, there must first be men.”

      They could slap each other on the back and congratulate themselves on their uber-masculinity and how rational they are compared to the ladiez :-/

      • franc says:

        oolon / Chester says: “Mykeru and Kevin would likely get on very well… Both being nutty MRAs n all… ”

        Paraphrases oolon from the Freethoughtblogs hadiths. Two points here –

        1) The overwhelming majority of folks branded as an “MRA” have no idea whatsoever what an “MRA” is and have to look it up. And the list of these “ingroup” jargon terms grows by the day. One is reminded of stupid teenagers continuously modifying their language to confuse parents. Took a while to work out what “CIS” implied as another excellent example of deliberately confusing “ingroup” snideness.

        2) As pointed out elsewhere, no one has done more to promote the MRA causes and recruit new members and sympathisers than Rebecca Watson and the mindless yapyaps like yourself that goose-step along with her. Keep up the good work!

        • oolon says:

          Well I did add a quote to give some context to their stupidity… But I guess you are in the same group of “real men” as Mykeru and Kev?

          But for reference have a look here if you wonder what a “nutty MRA” is – Also I did say “nutty” not the boring garden variety…

          • franc says:

            What’s a “real man” Chester? One that alternates between all sides of a discussion seeking what approval may fall of a table as scrap, or someone that has defined opinions that are impervious to popular acceptance? You do live up to the definition of “slut” that I use, which differs to Benson’s. You really are anyone’s. If being a “man” is not “being you”, then I am a “man’s man”. Cheap harlot. Are there any friends you have not pissed on at the drop of a hat left? Sad, sad, sad.

          • oolon says:

            Poor old Franc, persecuted by the FtB’ers way way back and then stabbed in the back by his conference mate who d0x’d him when his stalking got a bit too much…. This is the future of Mykeru and some of the new bunch of whiners. Years from now shouting about psychotic ideologues and waiting for the end-times when the world wakes up to their brilliance and FtBs is wiped from the face of the internet.

  74. mordacious1 says:

    There is a lot of criticism of the Slymepit from certain blogs, in fact the name originated with them and the denizens at ERV co-opted it. The difference between the “Pit” and other blogs (the opposition) is that B&W, Pharyngula, Almost Diamonds, A+ and other such sites is this: They can’t stand criticism, no matter how mild or correct. If you try to discuss a point in an intelligent manner and are destroying their arguments, you get banned, your posts are selectively deleted and instead of answering the criticism, they make violent threats (or tell you to harm yourself) and/or call you names. This is not how rational people discuss issues. Whatever you say about the Pit, no one is banned or deleted because they disagree. Everything is refuted and left to stand on its merits or lack thereof. PZ is now banning anyone who even has the gall to post on the Pit, no matter how mild and logical their argument is. I find this telling and am surprised more people don’t see what is happening and why. If your arguments can’t stand up to criticism, they are probably not good arguments (sounds like religion).

    Only a few FTBers have had the nerve to comment on the Pit where they will actually have to support their arguments with logic and facts. They don’t have control to delete fair criticism, so they stay in their nest with their sycophants, discouraging any deviation from the Party Line. They are the laughing stock of the skeptical community. Even when they show up at a “neutral site” they will do a drive-by like Ben’s comment above crying “misogyny”, then they disappear back to the safety of FTB and claim victory, it’s really pathetic to watch. Until this changes and both sides are allowed to talk-it-out, the larger community will suffer.

    • adrian says:

      Interesting, I thought people in the Pit are banned for being obnoxious and stupid. A bit of persecution mania can be added to it.

      • Aj says:

        You thought that, or were told it?

        Do you accept the possibility that what you thought may be wrong, or did you just want to provide another yet another example of the kind of drive by trolling and prove the post you were responding to?

      • Mykeru (@Mykeru) says:

        As far as I know only one person has ever been banned, ever, and that was someone who posted a photoshopped image rendering an under-aged girl in a sexually suggestive manner.

        The image was blocked, the person –who some suspected posted the image as a bit of trolling to be used to show how noxious Pitters are — was warned and then banned.

        One can post on The Pit as a guest, without registering and we have quite a number of lurkers.

        We do get that, people who pop in and immediately post some crap like “What do you say to a woman with two black eyes? Nothing, you already told her twice” Either due to the reputation advanced by FTB and PZ Meyer in particular that people on the pit are exclusively vile rape apologizing child molesting commie scum trying to tain his precious bodily fluids, or the person is posting intentionally so they can point to that as the sort of thing posted in The Pit.

        People like that are not banned. They are just flayed alive.

        When people do delurk they often say that they read the forum, but don’t post on it because one of the invisible regulars is PZ himself who summarily bans people he knows have posted to The Pit.

        PZs antipathy isn’t because The SlymePit (the name itself is a sort of own-the-abuse bit of mockery) is so vile. He claims it is so vile because it’s the one-stop for a loose coalition of bloggers, forum members, You Tubers and the like trying to wrest the skeptical community from the increasingly odious influence of cynical ideologues and con artists like PZ Meyers and Ophelia Benson.

        As we all have our own social media and blog followings, and as someone analyzing the traffic of The SlymePit vs the Atheism Plus forum noted, we have a disproportional influence.

        Just as PZ, Opie and The Beaver continuously war away against the leaders of the community such as Dawkins and Shermer, the existence of people who can take the fight to Twitter and You Tube and more often than not win whenever the playing field is level (as Melody Hensley learned after trying to get her handful of minions to false flag a video by our own Woolly Bumblebee) is a constant bug up their collective asses.

        So there’s nothing nefarious going on in The Pit. Just a bunch of Brave Heros and Freedom Fighters waging guerrilla warfare against a bunch of grubby little fuckwits who have set themselves up as the new status quo.

    • Mykeru (@Mykeru) says:

      “Even when they show up at a “neutral site” they will do a drive-by like Ben’s comment above crying “misogyny”, then they disappear back to the safety of FTB and claim victory, it’s really pathetic to watch. ”

      That tactic seems familiar.

      Perhaps we can adopt the old adage about Creationists and fundamentalists to

      “Arguing with an FTBully is like playing chess with a pigeon. You can know all the arguments and have facts on your side, but that won’t prevent the pigeon from knocking over the pieces, shitting on the board and strutting around like it won”.

    • oolon says:

      Anyone wondering what happens when an FtB’er with “the nerve” does argue on the pit… Well I did in good faith here –

      Then decided as I’d been branded a troll when arguing in good faith to just take the piss a bit and wind them up a little – nothing really nasty just play on paranoia a bit. How well do the troll masters handle it? Well make up your own mind,

      Personally I think a ban is a better remedy for everyone. The Pittizens just put you on ignore if you don’t join in with their circle-jerk anyway… While non-ironically complaining about banning and kill-files over at “FfTBs”…

      • mordacious1 says:

        The Pit didn’t ignore you because you disagreed, in your case I ignored you because you were trolling and weren’t good at it. Then you’d hopped over to Ophie’s or PZ’s place and claimed how you really socked it to us., quite lame dude. Also you were a bore, nothing personal. And who in their right mind would download kiddie porn, moron?

        • oolon says:

          Bullshit, no idea who you are on the pit or if you were someone I argued with about the pits use of ‘cunt’ but that was a pretty standard position to take. So where is the ‘trolling’? Of course anyone disagreeing on there gets the usual treatment – called a troll – in fact this quote from the “mod” Lsuoma was in direct response to just my posts asking about the pits predilection for calling women they disagree with ‘cunts’

          “Lsuoma wrote: Yeah, dilurk is >>THIS CLOSE<< to going on my ignore list too, due to engaging with Mr. Crazyfuck."

          So no banning, all open minded fun until someone disagrees… Then even the "mod" on the site starts threatening his own posters… Tell me just how many 'trolls', real ones or just people disagreeing, does the pit actually get? Me… Errr…. Steersman sometimes disagrees and gets called one… Errr… That's it… I suppose I shouldn't be surprised at how badly you all handle someone doing a little bit of destructive piss-taking :-)

          • mordacious1 says:

            So, by your logic, if I choose not to watch Bill O’Reilly, I am violating his free speech rights? Did that sound OK to you when you said it in your head?

          • oolon says:

            Personally I don’t see it as free speech – the pit whines on about banning infringing their FREEZE PEACH! Not me… I’m pointing out the hypocrisy there… And what happened to your reading comprehension? Did you not notice the “mod” threatened *other* members of the pit with shunning for just arguing with me! That comes pretty close to free speech issue when the person in authority is threatening members of the community… Not seen that on FtBs.

          • mordacious1 says:

            Maybe my reading comprehension is poor, I did not see where the owner of the site threatened anyone who responded to you. I certainly didn’t feel threatened by that statement. Is paranoia one of your issues? The blog owner merely said he might ignore your comments which is obviously his right. No one is required to read blather if they don’t want to.

          • mordacious1 says:

            Oh, and your statement that you went to the pit to “build bridges” is the biggest load of crap I’ve heard in quite awhile.

          • oolon says:

            Hehe if paranoia is my problem then not being able to spot a joke is yours… The “building bridges” bit was clearly not meant seriously, did you think I literally “pissed in their cornflakes” as well :-D

      • John Greg says:

        oolon, oolon, oolon. You are such a liar and braggart. Out of a potential 392 possible users, approximately 4 put you on ignore. If you think that that in anyway whatsoever has any relationship at all to moderating, editing, deleting, or banning, you are suffering from deep cognitive dissonance and outright delusion.

        You remind me a little bit of Jason “I-wannabe-Laden” ToiletBowl, who insists that moderation, deletion, and banning encourage free speech, whereas an open forum without censorship is in fact a serious constraint on free speech. Man, oh, man, talk about Newspeak.

        Listen, you pathetic little worm, stop lying all the time; you might make some friends.

        • oolon says:

          I see little “free speech” on the pit John… A lot of hive mind circle jerking about how awful all the FtB’ers are and that’s all you got. Feel free to carry on obsessing over other people and what they say, you obviously get off on it. Why do I think my comment above has already been ‘discussed’ on the pit in the usual sceptical open minded way :-)

          And no I don’t bother looking over there so I may be wrong but having spent a few weeks posting on the pit I’ve seen it all… As I say, that’s all you got, obsessive whining and it is predictable and not particularly pretty.

          • CommanderTuvok says:

            You see little “free speech”, do you Oloon?

            Well, nothing is stopping you! Why don’t you try and post some “free speech” like before, and then we will rip it to shreds. But unlike FTB, it won’t be censored or edited.

            No you go running back to your master, Oloon.

            PS – Thanks for the lulz.

          • John C. Welch says:

            Oolon complaining about “obsession” is hilarious, given you monitor well, any and every mention of the ‘pit, FTB, and A+ with more than complete coverage. I have not read a single article mentioning any of the above three or any of their membership in months where you did not have a comment that always boiled down to “Just talk to MEEEEEE, I’m the only person able to properly comment on all of this!!!!”

            A stadium full of insecure method actors could not attention whore the way you do.

          • oolon says:

            Tuvok, yeah I don’t post on the pit any more cos I’m scared of the big bad pitters and their razor like minds :-D Your arguments were pathetic in regard to use of misogynistic language, widely ridiculed across the internet… People in the UK say it and it isn’t misogynistic, derp!

            Hi John, why not toddle off back to the pit to get some cookies on how you “won” the argument with that nasty troll oolon again? John W, “those ‘FfTB’ers’ sure don’t do well on their own outside of their home, we pwned them!”… I know you all too well and that is a favourite phrase trotted out by the Tuvok-bullshit-generator-bot so I’d bet its there somewhere :-)

            You can pop over to the A+ forum and see how many threads are obsessed about what you guys say on the pit…. Well none in fact but you may learn something trolling around looking ;-)

          • John Greg says:

            oolon the toad says:

            “I see little ‘free speech’ on the pit John….”

            Then clearly, young warrior, you know not what that phrase means. For your edification:

            “Freedom of speech is the political right to communicate one’s opinions and ideas …. [including] any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used…. ‘the right to hold opinions without interference … ‘everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers….'” — from Wikipedia.

            Now, seriously oolon, pull your head out of that ol’ bifurcated fundament, and tell me, clearly and specifically, with examples, wherein the Pit does NOT allow any and all of the concepts listed in that quote?

            Soldier on Brave Hero; soldier on.

          • oolon says:

            OK John so how is the “mod” of the site threatening to shun people who argue with me not “interference”? Would like to hear your justification :-)

          • franc says:

            Chester: “Tuvok, yeah I don’t post on the pit any more cos I’m scared of the big bad pitters and their razor like minds”

            You don’t post because you have no nappies left to soil.

          • oolon says:

            I admit it was close at times, but I honestly only pee’d myself metaphorically laughing at the stupidity there. That is probably the major challenge posting on the pit, trying to keep a straight face in print when you are almost crying with laughter.

      • Mykeru says:


        You are confusing the top-down authoritarian nature of a forum ban with the democratic grass-roots movement of individual posters who chose unilaterally and by their own volition to ignore your candy ass.

        Let me lick your sweet, sweet tears.

        • oolon says:

          I just think it is hypocritical when the pit whines on about free speech and the FtB’ers will their nasty killfiles. I agree no one should have to listen to a moron whine on about what they think is important… I’d just go further than you and ban/block them from the blog/forum as a form of ‘ignore’.

          So why are you allowed to whine on about whatever moronic grievances you have on FtBs? Why can the owner of the blog not block you from their private space when they are fed up with you? Please explain where in the provisions for free speech this is not allowed….

          • mordacious1 says:

            Well, it’s their blog but certain actions make them look ridiculous and they are doing harm to the community as a whole. Case in point: First PZ bans Vacula (probably because he was scoring points in a discussion and PZ hates that). Then PZ makes a thread about Vacula, taking him out of context and quote-mines him. Vacula can’t respond because he’s banned, PZ thinks he’s won an argument. This kind of behavior is pathetic and shows what a coward PZ is.

          • oolon says:

            Hmm well if we hadn’t just had needlepointgate I might not think this quite so ridiculous…

            I almost think it unfair to make a blog post about a comment of his… But boy was it a stupid comment. So do I think he was really “winning” the argument against PZ? Seriously doubt it but feel free to link to it so we can all marvel at the boy wonders debating skills.

  75. Jeffrey Eldred says:

    Great article! Witches was probably a poor word choice, as it sounds like a gendered slur. (The idea behind a gendered slur is that it is an insult that only applies to one gender, thus implying there is something wrong with that gender as a whole that lends itself to that insult.) I’m sure there is a reference in there somewhere that would explain why you kept using it.

    • Mykeru (@Mykeru) says:

      The term was “witch hunt”, not “witches”.

      Witch hunt is a generally understood term and mostly refers to the sort of person or tactics of the person doing the hunting rather than what is hunted. Specifically, it implies the person doing the hunting takes on a non-falsifiable position on the guilt of others where an accusation alone suffices and from which there is no escape.

      See, Salem, Know-Nothings, Lynching, Anti-German legislation during WWII, the Holocaust, McCarthyism, child sexual abuse and satanic ritual abuse hysteria and The FTB Witch of the Week.

      But literally interpreted it bestows gendered victim status, so what the fuck you are on about is beyond me.

  76. Bob S. says:

    On the gender issue. It IS a thinky thing. It’s why more men do chess tournaments, chess tournamnets, engineering, math, physics. You have to know and enjoy science. Geeky stuff. Just read the articles in this magazine. Geeky stuff, much of it very precise and very boring. Most women are not science majors, sorry to sterotype and generalize. The logic of the scientific method, scientific testing and proof, are not high on their list. My wife has a Ph.D and took her last science course in high school. It’s touchy-feely, anecdotally-based, not factually oriented. Ask Jenny McCarthy. It’s “new ways of knowing”. I don’t know why we deny sex differences.

    • John C. Welch says:

      You’re (hugely) confusing the professions women tend to be drawn to with the skills women are capable of mastering. The two are rather different.

    • CommanderTuvok says:

      Yeah but, yeah but, men’s and women’s brainz are exactly the SAME! It is impossible that men’s and women’s brainz could different, and that men and women could desire and wantz different thingz, or have different aimz and amibitionz!!! It is impossible because it would upset PZ Myers and Rebecca Watson if the lack of women speaking up could be down to anything other than THE PATRIARCHY and THE FEAR OF GETTING RAPED IN FRONT OF THE AUDIENCE.

      Next up, Watson and Myers explode with rage tears after finding out more men go fishing than women!!!

      What a bunch of asshats they are.

      • Mykeru says:

        Actually, that’s a rather unfair characterization of their position.

        They do admit innate brain differences that manifest in certain behaviors. That is women are compassionate, holistic, nurturing, empathetic while, conversely menz are either a useful merging of an ATM with a spooge-filled basting syringe or just a violent rapey thing .

  77. Alethea says:

    An important additional point to consider is a statement made by Atheist Experience’s Matt Dillahunty while discussing Watson’s Elevator story. He said that whether it is true or (in his words) “entirely fictional” is irrelevant, because its purpose is to draw attention to a real problem.

    Making shit up is just fine if you’re trying to draw attention to something that is, in your opinion, a “real problem.”

    I don’t think he was supposed to reveal this quite so publicly, and I can only imagine the wave of “Arrgh” throughout the FTB/Skepchick/Atheismplus community.

    It does explain the constantly changing elevator story. The lies in Svan’s petition against Vacula. Watson’s lie about Evolutionary Psychology research (that they only interviewed white women). The “upskirt photographer” story being spread by those who know it never happened. The list goes on and on. Even Ben Svan’s accusation of “misogyny” in this thread – see how quickly he had to backpedal when asked for actual examples? But outside this forum, where no examples are required, the accusations continue.

    They make shit up to draw attention to “real problems.” Anyone pointing out the holes in their stories is accused of ‘hyperskepticism’ or ‘JAQing’ and dismissed (if they’re lucky) or stalked, bullied, doxxed (if they aren’t).

    The (self-identified) elite know what’s best for the rest of us to believe and it’s their divine right to trick us into believing it if that’s what it takes. Cuz, y’know, the rest of us are too stupid to draw our own conclusions from actual evidence. Or perhaps the actual evidence doesn’t support their beliefs… oh darn, am I being hyperskeptical?

    Keep all of that in mind when listening to a word any of these people say. Please, please keep it in mind if you have any part in hiring speakers for skeptic conferences.

    • mordacious1 says:

      They make shit up to draw attention to themselves, I mean “real problems.”

      • Mykeru says:

        The real problem is that Matt Dillahunty is a half-bright bombastic bag of hot gas who acts too busy and too important to actually perform the due diligence of thinking anything through. His only claim to fame — aside from sleepwalking through much of his adult life as an evangelical Christian– is his new-found noble calling of arguing with the ghost of himself in the form screened morons on public access TV.

        The guy is a walking talking appeal to his own illegitimate authority and he seems to have learned absolutely nothing from his Atheism Plus experience except to never allow himself to be mistaken for a peasant again.

        Fuck Dillahunty. He brings nothing to the table.

        • oolon says:

          Oh my, that was too funny! Drink spat onto laptop!

          Mykeru sez: “Fuck Dillahunty. He brings nothing to the table.”

          Yeah and Mykeru is debate champeen of the pit… How about you ring up and debate with him? Lets see who brings nothing to the table when you have no little den of mates to back you up and recourse to threats of violence :-D

          • franc says:

            Waiting for a snowflake in hell is like waiting for oolon/Chester to have a non-ad hom in a post.

          • oolon says:

            ^^^ My I’m surprised Franc, king of the Slymey sceptics, doesn’t know what an ad-hom is! Well not really, so to make it clear to Franc that was called sarcasm.

  78. John C. Welch says:

    To actually respond to Michael’s article:

    The biggest reason Benson et al are going after you is the same reason pundits like John Dvorak and others will write ridiculously stupid articles about Apple or Linux: attention. Dvorak said it point blank in an interview with Robert Scoble – any time he sees his traffic starting to drop, he writes something inflammatory about Apple or Linux and BOOM, hit count heaven.

    Same thing here. You’re considered one of the top people in the Atheist/Skeptic movement, and so going after you for “crimes” is an easy way to get attention and drive up one’s recognition. I think a while ago, PZ was whining about you because you had committed the unforgivable crime of having an intimate encounter with a (adult) audience member for one of your lectures. Evidently, you were abusing the “power of the podium”. It was a remarkably stupid thing to even try to make an issue of, but, if you’re going to target someone to draw attention to yourself, well, punching up is a better way to do it.

    (the power of the podium PZ was so concerned about is a nebulous thing. It doesn’t seem to exist when someone he approves of calls out an audience member in a bad way. Funny that.)

    It’s the same reason they use your political views as a way to show you’re a “bad person” or a “bad skeptic”. It has nothing to do with your accomplishments, and they rarely take you to task for anything specific, (because that would require, well, actual work, and hey, slacktivism), and everything to do with using you to make them look better. “He’s a libertarian, he’s a bad person.” Yes, because 3+apples = CHEESE.

    There is literally nothing you can say that about, or in reply to that lot that won’t create yet another outcry of OMGWTFBBQKHAAAAAN from them. About the only options are ignore them, or periodically poke them to get a fresh round of squawks, ala “Nervous Ted” from Dilbert. Taking them seriously, or attempting to engage them in a serious manner is simply a waste of time. In person, they won’t say any of the things they say on their blogs about you to your face, (in fact, it’s an enshrined practice of Pharyngula: ) and online, they only really engage from the safety (and editorial control) of the Super Social Justice Warrior Friends Headquarters.

    So yeah, there’s no point in taking them any more seriously than you would a chihuahua with anger management issues. Every time you mention them, you give them a reward.

  79. Jen says:

    “Harriet Hall, M.D., . . . told me she “was vilified on Ophelia’s blog for not following a certain kind of feminist party line of how a feminist should act and think. And I was attacked there in a disturbingly irrational, nonskeptical way.””

    Yeah, no, she was vilified for a making a semi-personal attack on another attendee at TAM and dismissing out-of-hand concerns about sexual harassment at TAM with her anti-Skepchick t-shirt. Of course she has every right to wear the t-shirt. And Ophelia et al. have every right to criticize her for her wearing it.

    And re: Shermer’s article. The following is either genuine naivete or disingenousness:

    “A variance from perfect demographic symmetry does not necessarily correspond to racist attitudes. It just means that the world is not perfectly divided up according to population demographics, and people have different interests and causes. There is nothing inherently bigoted, racist, or misogynistic in the fact that the demographics of the secular community do not reflect those of the general population (in gender, in age and socio-economic class, or in height, weight, or any number of other variables for that matter), so short of some other evidence of bigotry, racism, and misogyny, there is no need to go in search of demons to exorcise.”

    Seriously? So it just HAPPENS to be the case that white, generally well-to-do, men are over-represented in the secular community? That the FSM just threw a bunch of personality traits up in the air and willy-nilly a preference for secular thinking just HAPPENED to fall and stick tight to that particular brand of chromosomes? Any consideration that there might be issues of systemic, institutionalized racism/sexism/class that contribute to this being the case?

    I ask you this basic question, Michael Shermer. Would you so unthinkingly say (and I note how VIGOROUSLY you and your defenders here repeat that this was just a throwaway line, an off the cuff remark, etc.)

    ” . . . who’s intellectually active about it, you know, it’s a white thing.”


    ” . . . who’s intellectually active about it, you know, it’s a Christian thing.”


    ” . . . who’s intellectually active about it, you know, it’s a heterosexual thing.”

    Yes or no, would you have said that? Yes or no? If not, why not? And why is that defensible or not defensible?

    • Mykeru says:

      “So it just HAPPENS to be the case that white, generally well-to-do, men are over-represented in the secular community?”

      Obviously we need an outreach program to ensure equality of outcome and bring in more minority and/or working class men.

      Although I am white, I don’t please racists who don’t consider those of Mediterranean descent to be white enough and I am of solidly blue-collar background.

      So I am proud to do my part to buck the horrible trend you so rightly stand against.

      • CommanderTuvok says:

        Careful there, Mykeru. We wouldn’t want Ophelia getting offending by the odours of working class people! She might even have to share a bus with them!

    • John Greg says:

      Jen says:

      “… she was vilified for a making a semi-personal attack on another attendee at TAM….”

      Ah, here we go again: that vicious, evil, mean, and oh so violent tee-shirt. Gawd’s balls, what total codswallop.

      “… dismissing out-of-hand concerns about sexual harassment at TAM….”

      More idiotic, hysterical, juvenile codswallop.

      Isn’t it amazing what a bland tee-shirt with some innocuous words can do when interpreted by a reactionary, hysterical, fanatic. Anyone got any Allah cartoons handy?

      What friggin’ planet do you live on that tee-shirts and disagreement with your lunafundy point of view equal attacks and dismissals? What kind of myopic hysteria must you invent to imagine such nonsense.

      As for the rest of your infantile ragey-teared dithering: paranoia, delusion, and more typical misrepresentation and intellectual dishonesty.

      • Jen says:

        Please sit up and wipe your chin.

        • CommanderTuvok says:

          Erm, Jen, that T-shirt was a fun, clever and harmless protest towards the foaming-at-the-mouth bullies in the form of various Skepchicks and Baboons who had for the previous week, done their very best to smear TAM, smear Grothe, and disseminate disinformation about the event.

          That T-shirt protest was nothing. A lot of people at TAM were bloody angry at the antics of people like Surly Amy, Svan, Myers, Laden, Watson, Ophelia, etc. and that is what resulted in the dismissive and hostile attitude towards certain people. Jen, it is called PUSHBACK, and there is going to be more of it. Get over it.

          You people don’t realise that the more you do your hit pieces on people in the community, the stronger we become, and the more determined we are to humiliate and sideline you in the community.

          We will prevail.

    • Tom says:

      “who’s intellectually active about it, you know, it’s a heterosexual thing.” if changed a little and was referring to the LBGT and their work in changing laws around gay adoption and marriage than something like

      “who’s intellectually active about it, you know, it’s a gay thing.” may very well be as poorly worded, but the intent is the same.

      • Jen says:

        ““who’s intellectually active about it, you know, it’s a gay thing.” may very well be as poorly worded, but the intent is the same.”

        Oh, no it isn’t. I said, ” . . . it’s a straight thing.” Try changing that around a little and making it work.

    • J. J. Ramsey says:

      The problem is that Shermer’s remarks were specifically about the goings-on in the atheist community and the gender balance of its speakers, so substituting “white” or “Christian” or whatnot for “guy” wouldn’t make his remarks obviously bigoted but rather just incoherent. You especially can’t just take the words “who’s intellectually active about it” out of their original context — especially since doing that is part of what created this mess in the first place.

      (BTW, to those name-calling others “baboon,” just … don’t. It just makes you look tacky and foolish.)

      • Jen says:

        It would only make them incoherent if the question to which he was responding were still about gender. Suppose the above read like this: ” In a Q&A that followed the main discussion, one viewer (a man) asked: “Why isn’t the RACIAL split [of speakers] closer to 50/50 as it should be?” Benson then quotes me: “It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it; you know, it’s more of a WHITE thing”

        Not incoherent at all. Just indefensible. Simply wouldn’t have been said by Shermer.

        • J. J. Ramsey says:

          If Shermer then went on to say that it was *naturally* a “white thing,” or something that should be a “white thing,” rather that something that, for whatever reason, happens to be dominated by whites, *that* would clearly be indefensible. We don’t have that, though, nor do we have Shermer saying something analogous about men and women.

          What we do have is Benson interpreting an ambiguous comment by Shermer in an uncharitable fashion that didn’t even fit the context very well. That’s not defensible, either.

          • Jen says:

            Look, I’ll try this one more time.

            “If Shermer then went on to say that it was *naturally* a “white thing,” or something that should be a “white thing,” rather that something that, for whatever reason, happens to be dominated by whites, *that* would clearly be indefensible. We don’t have that, though, nor do we have Shermer saying something analogous about men and women.”

            But Shermer did NOT say it was a white thing. Why? Because he would have been called out immediately to take a position on whether it was a question of natural ability vs. institutional factors, for obvious reasons. It is not acceptable anymore to imply that people of color are less endowed with reason than white people.

            “What we do have is Benson interpreting an ambiguous comment by Shermer in an uncharitable fashion that didn’t even fit the context very well. That’s not defensible, either.”

            But Shermer is able to make an ambiguous comment because it is still acceptable in many circles (look at some of the comments in this thread) to imply that there are natural differences in cognitive abilities between men and women.

          • J. J. Ramsey says:

            “But Shermer did NOT say it was a white thing. Why?”

            Because the conversation in which he made his remarks wasn’t about race.

            “But Shermer is able to make an ambiguous comment because it is still acceptable in many circles (look at some of the comments in this thread) to imply that there are natural differences in cognitive abilities between men and women.”

            Or maybe Shermer’s fellow panelists let Shermer’s ambiguous comment pass because, oh, they just didn’t interpret it the way Benson did? It’s not as if any of those panelists were the sort of ‘Pitters who have infested this thread.

        • Jen says:

          “But Shermer is able to make an ambiguous comment because it is still acceptable in many circles (look at some of the comments in this thread) to imply that there are natural differences in cognitive abilities between men and women.”

          Or maybe Shermer’s fellow panelists let Shermer’s ambiguous comment pass because, oh, they just didn’t interpret it the way Benson did? It’s not as if any of those panelists were the sort of ‘Pitters who have infested this thread.

          It doesn’t matter why they let it pass. The POINT is that it is not acceptable to say things like “it’s a white thing” anymore — why? because (even casual) racism is taken seriously in the world today. Shermer simply would not have said it, or if he had said it, he would have backtracked immediately.

          • John Greg says:

            Orwell. Room 101. Newspeak. Paranoia. Delusion. Dogma. Fundamentalist lunacy. Incompetent reading comprehension. Partial illiteracy. Doolally social incompetence.

            Hi Jen, Y U No Be Intelligent?

          • J. J. Ramsey says:

            John Greg, you’re not helping. Anyway, …

            “It doesn’t matter why they let it pass.”

            Of course it does. Your whole argument rests on Shermer actually committing an instance of casual sexism.

        • Mitch says:

          Sure, and Jazz, Hip-hop, Rap and Slang are “Black Things” that oppressive white people have copycatted.


  80. Red5StandingBy says:

    We need an A+bortion distance ourselves from the radical feminist movement as much as possible, get pz myers and skepchick cohorts out of TAM and focus on the real issue of getting people into critical thinking which these people obviously cannot do.
    It’s like inviting the KKK to any thing, you wouldn’t want their hate speech marring the group. Just let them go, of course they will cry misogyny over it but they can make their own group if they want, they have that freedom, just like the KKK.

    • CommanderTuvok says:

      Well, one way to combat them is to hit the comment boards whenever one of them has an article, or a hit piece, etc. They control their own sphere and because of editing, memory holing, banhammers, etc. it is difficult to expose them on their patch. That is why whenever their is a post regarding atheism/skepticism, make your presence felt.

      We need to expose these nasty little bullies at each and every opportunity. Hit them hard in the places that they can’t censor, and the truth about them will become more and more apparant.

      • A Hermit says:

        And maybe give `em a little “kick in the c*nt” eh Tuvock? Isn’t that how you slymepitters roll?

        You people are pathetic; Shermer was actually almost sounding rational then you lot show up with your little traveling hate-fest and prove the feminists right …again…

        • mordacious1 says:

          You guys will never let that die, it’s like someone grasping onto a root after falling over a cliff. But OK, here goes: If I said to you: “If I was a Martian, I’d blast you with my ray gun”. Would you feel threatened? Would you bring it up month after month? It’s not a threat if it’s an impossibility.

          • Jen says:

            Because you seem to be saying this; that kicking someone in the c–t is as impossible as hitting someone with a raygun. Are you saying it is an impossibility for a man to kick a woman, or that women don’t get kicked, beaten, raped, etc.?

          • John Greg says:

            No, Jen, you intellectual fraud dressed in PZ’s PJs. If you want to play that game, you must include the entire quote and context. But of course, you cannot do that because then it just shows you being disingenuous and stupid.

            You see, “”kicking someone in the c–t is as impossible as hitting someone with a raygun” if it requires that the male stating the intent must somehow become a female before he can enact said kick.

            Ah, but you don’t want to include that critical part of the fantasy, do you. Oh noes.

            Gads, what a dishonest interlocutor you are; such intellectual fraud. Tsk, tsk.

          • John Greg says:

            Another important part of the “infamous statement”, and one that I don’t think anyone has emphasized before, are the implicit, but not stated, sub-texts of the statement, to wit:

            “[Because her statements and accusations are a dismissive insult to any intelligent female], if I was a girl I would kick her in the cunt, [but because I am not a girl, I won’t].”

            Do you get it? The implicit parts of the statement are left out because, especially within the context of when and where the statement originated, they are understood by most people who have approximately a grade six or better level of reading comprehension, EXCEPT when they have a dogmatic ideology to follow, and/or are gender-fem lunafundies.

        • Red5StandingBy says:

          Get a job PZ other than coming here with your hate speech propaganda, and if you happen not to be PZ then, get a job and stop whining.

        • franc says:

          How about you actually quote c*nt kick and its context accurately? Will never happen. Gives the game away –

          Most abusively quote mined comment in the whole miasma. A deliberately planted bait bomb, fished out of a 5000 comment thread by the FTB offence truffle pigs. Short version – it was a response to a mass censorship call and effort to cause a female science worker to get fired from her university by Freethoughtblogs, instigated by PZ Myers and delivered by Greg laden and a maggot that hides under the ‘nym Rorchasch.

          In other words, a deliberate attempt by Myers et al. to DESTROY a female that does not submit the the party line. Quote accurately you toilet slug, or don’t quote at all.

          • A Hermit says:

            And you guys grabbed that phrase, ran with it, adopted it as a rallying cry and then act like you’re the victims. It’s a perfect symbol of your contempt for women.

            You’re a sick, obsessed little manchild Hoggle. Get help.

            And Shermer, you’re a smart guy, and I admire and respect you, but you’re missing a lot of whats gone on here. You have to decide which is worse; the women and their allies who are making a lot of noise objecting to sexism and even outright misogyny, or the sexism and misogyny itself.

          • John Greg says:

            A Hermit says:

            “And you guys grabbed that phrase, ran with it, adopted it as a rallying cry and then act like you’re the victims.”

            That is complete and utter bullshit. It is Ophelia Benson who grabbed the phrase and ran with it, and intentionally, willfully, and specifically avoided any form of maintaining context with it, for the sake of manifesting and boosting her fantasized and/or self-willed victimhood.

            Hermit, you are either deeply uninformed, or you are a blatant, willful, liar.

          • Numbersixxx says:

            @A Hermit
            The only one with a permanent victim complex is your crowd. Btw, nice job equating Ophelia with ALL WOMEN.

        • mordacious1 says:

          No, the original statement was: If I was a woman, I’d kick her…”. But he’s not a woman, nor can he ever be a woman, therefore not a threat.

        • Jen says:

          Mordacious, you are almost too stupid to reply to. The issue of whether “If I were a blueberry/Martian/woman/troglodyte . . .” is irrelevant. The issue is that women do get kicked in the c–t (and face, and ribs, and stomach) all the time.

          • Acathode says:

            Jen: The obvious point is that it’s not a real threat, no more so than PZ Myers’ commentators wishing people would rape themselves with dead porcupines and rusty knifes are threats.
            I’m assuming you’re quite fine with those “threats” of sexual violence? Since after all, I’m not seeing you condemning PZ Myers and the rest of the FTB for allowing, and reveling, in that kind of violent sexual fantasies.

            One has to conclude that you do actually have the ability to discern between actual threats, and expressions of deep contempt? Or is it just that it’s ok when “the right” people do it against “the wrong” people, but not the other way around?

          • John Greg says:

            Gads, what repetitive nonsense.

            Jen, the initial part of the statement is indeed relevant, as it sets up a necesarry condition to carry out the dreaded Satanic kick. And, without that necessary condition, the Kick of Holy Terror is not carried out.

            Fuck, I feel like I’m talking to a five year old who cannot understand that the car in front is not necessarily going faster just because it is in front.

            Jen, yes, women get kicked in many places. So do men. However, that fact is irrelevant to the debate over the Statement of Bitter Evilness and its context. But to support and boost your lunafundy agenda and anger, you are avoiding all context, editing the sentence to suit your lunafundy requirement, avoiding, with intent, all possible meanings other than the one your lunafundy dogma requires, and you are also, apparently, reading the minds of any Shaitanesque users of such Blasphemous statements.

            Go figure. Must be a gender feminist in da house.

  81. nobody says:

    You know that witch hunts are a real thing, right? Historically, and they’re still happening in parts of the world, and they probably wouldn’t happen to you. They’d happen to women who stood up for themselves or were different or queer or perhaps even atheist.

  82. Mykeru says:

    ” and they probably wouldn’t happen to you.”

    Got to disagree with you there, sparky:

    • oolon says:

      Glad to see Mykeru stand up against Paul Elams dox’ing campaign. I don’t agree with him on much but at least he makes a stand for what is right for once — he has staunch anti-dox principles and is not willing to compromise them to score points. The other pitters should take note of his integrity!

      As I’m sure Mykeru already knows you can profess your support for the victims of Elams hateful dox’ing campaign here:

  83. Scruffy says:

    Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
    That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
    And then is heard no more: it is a tale
    Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
    Signifying nothing.

    • John Greg says:

      Ya, ya, ya, poetry is nice.

      Woe is my sorry socks
      Upon which my mysteria does depend
      But when
      And if
      And where
      My troth does ply
      I too must succor and on blithe descent
      Ensure that only mine
      And mine alone does ensure
      Life, truth, justice, and …

  84. Curt Nelson says:

    Jen said:
    “But Shermer is able to make an ambiguous comment because it is still acceptable in many circles (look at some of the comments in this thread) to imply that there are natural differences in cognitive abilities between men and women.”

    Isn’t it a biological fact that males and females differ mentally? A clear example is that each tends to prefer the other as sexual partners. Doesn’t the fact that the sexes differ by a whole chromosome provide an explanation for why this would be true?

    I understand that women hate this idea because it has been used to “put them in their place,” and convince them that their differences are inferiorities. Male differences are just as likely to be “inferior,” and they are commonly depicted that way in TV commercials and sitcoms.

    It is bizarre that a biological fact is so politically incorrect that even in skeptical circles it is avoided, denied, and used in a McCarthyist way as Jen is here. To me Shermer was saying that men are apparently more interested in skeptical activism than women – because they have differing preferences.

    • Julie says:

      Well, maybe one of those “biological differences” is memory.

      Why is this discussion not about the historical role that women have played in the atheist movement in the United States?

      I suggest for anyone who hasn’t to read this book: “Women Without Superstition: No Gods – No Masters.” (

      “The Collected Writings of Women Freethinkers of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. The first anthology of women freethinkers, featuring more than 50 activists and writers critical of religion. Includes biographical sketches, selected writings, 51 photographs, and full index.”

      It is insipiring as well as eye-opening. It was women – white women – who dared to speak out, sometimes against the wishes of their husbands, other times where their husbands did not dare, about abolition. Amazing – before worrying about themselves, they worked for the freedom of others. And all the while, they understood how it was Christianity that put women “in their place” more than anything else.

  85. Becca says:

    It’s apparent from the comments here that feminists hate women more than any man could. Ophelia Benson is clearly insane.

    • John Greg says:

      “It’s apparent from the comments here that feminists hate women more than any man could.”

      This, this, a thousand times this!”

      As an FfFTB / Skepchick / A+ might say:

      This, this, a thousand times this!

    • J. J. Ramsey says:

      “It’s apparent from the comments here that feminists hate women more than any man could.”


      First, you don’t have a representative cross-section of feminists in the comments. Second, there’s no indication from any of the comments that are from feminists that they hate women. Also, not all feminists are women, so you’ve presented a false dichotomy as well.

      Please, we need more nuance, not less!

  86. Tiago Guerra says:

    Fantastic article!

    I agree with Dr. Shermer!

    The skeptic movement is being hijacked by ideological organs.

    It’s refreshing hearing someone sane enough to go bring their misandric hatred to light.

  87. Baud2Bits says:

    It is very clear that a group of people have evolved such thin skins that they now feel under attack from every direction. That they take the ‘guy thing’ quote mine and spread it around like it is some misogynistic mantra, rather than an off the cuff, in context, quote says much more about them than they will ever know. They are simply looking for evidence to fit their preconceptions rather than challenging those preconceptions.

    They call themselves atheists but seem to have left rationality far behind in their rush to claim some higher moral ground which they themselves have defined.

  88. CommanderTuvok says:

    The tactic that will really hurt the Baboons will be to walk out on their talks (if you have not fallen asleep during them!).

    If PZ, Rebecca, Ophelia, Laden, Svan, etc. are giving a presentation, walk out, protest and signal your opposition. Promote your walk out via Twitter and the community forums, and put pressure on conference organisers to actually book people who the community value.

  89. Moi says:

    It’s not even about “hurting the Baboons” it’s about keeping skepticism in the skeptical/atheist community. Skepticism is under siege.

    The way to do it, imo, is outreach. Keep teaching and promoting critical thinking, and rather than boycotting conventions encourage new people to attend.

    People who are educated about skepticism and critical thinking will know woo when they hear it. People without personal emotional ties with the speakers won’t feel any obligation to listen to it. They’ll walk out without any organized effort. Even better, they won’t be turning their backs on “the Baboons,” they’ll be turning their backs on bullshit. That’s how it needs to be, imo, fight against woo not people.

  90. CommanderTuvok says:

    Talking of the skeptical community, Rebecca Watson has just landed herself in a bit of bother.

    She’s accusing lots of people of being a rapist on the basis that drunk people can’t give informed consent. However, I know that Rebecca has had sex with plenty of drunken and tipsy men in the past.

    So that means Rebecca Watson is calling herself a rapist.

    Don’t be too surprised. The Baboons have spent most of the past month talking about how racist they are as well.

    We need to kick these brutes out of the atheist and skeptical communities.

  91. CommanderTuvok says:


    Because Ophelia was really butthurt over Michael’s intelligent takedown here, she has responded with not just one awful rebuttal, but has now added what can only be described as a stinking pile of embarassing of insinuations.

    She has found (after searching around for stuff to attack Shermer on – yes, she is that desperate!) a piece Shermer wrote about how some people view the pitch of men’s voices, and how the more lower it is suggests he has more calibre. Note that Shermer does not himself come up with this notion – he is reporting on it. Ophelia then somehow interpretes this theory into “women have much higher pitched voices and are therefore considered dumb” or at least, that what the piece implies. Remember folks, Shermer did not create this “experiment”, he was reporting on it. This is all the “evidence” that Ophelia needs to suggest Shermer actually believes women are inferior because they have higher-pitched voices!!!

    You couldn’t make this crap up.

    Anyway, at bit later in her comments, Ophelia begins to realise what a catastrophic fail she has committed and begins to backpeddle. She mentions that she never meant to suggest Shermer endorsed it – which begs the question why she felt the desire to write about it.

    Yes, we know Ophelia jumped the shark a while back, but has she really sunk this far.

    PS – In the comments PZ Myers turns up and says “You know, Michael Shermer isn’t exactly a baritone himself”. Take your guess as to what PZ is trying to insinuate with that one.

  92. Bea says:

    Really . . .

    who cares?

    no one with any intelligence.

  93. Greg Gauthier says:

    The most fascinating thing about this article, is the comment thread.

    What is it about this particular subject – and the people at the center of it – that has managed to pit the secular/atheist/humanist community against itself? What is really going on here?

    I don’t think it has anything to do (at least directly) with “gender” or “bigotry” or any of that other stuff. There’s something else going on here. A handful of angry women (who may or may not be justifiably angry – I don’t know), has most of the men (and some of the women) in this community either running and hiding, or gouging each others’ eyes out.

    It couldn’t possibly be a remnant of childhood conditioning, could it? Mommy is mad, so everyone needs to sit up and pay attention.

  94. Jack's prostate says:

    Time has come, to not care what feminists are saying too much. That social movement is vastly more a generator of heat than light, a force for inane pseudo-controversies that do much harm to the very causes that feminists claim to champion.
    Laugh at it, it’s Ok even and especially if you’re left-of-center. If you’re libertarian like Shermer, you’ve got your career and magazine to run. As for the rest of you -LAUGH AT THE CRAZY Opehilas of the world.

  95. Jack's prostate says:

    Apologies to reasonable feminists regarding the comment above. However it may be that intelligent, reasonable women that self identify as feminists of one sort or another may do well to consider that their causes are undermined by the unethical and mad rantings and smear tactics of a very, very vocal subset of …the medical term is “crazy” people.

  96. P.A. LaMar says:

    Excellent article. Thank you Michael Shermer.

  97. kk says:

    Goodness me. Perhaps if you read (and took seriously) any of the feminist critique of the skeptic movement, it’s often the case that women who speak out on the subject are harassed. They are threatened and sexualized in a way that shuts them up. It’s not a case of women aren’t interested – it’s a case of men can’t handle women having a platform. And so they behave really badly.

    And by categorizing atheists and gays as the last two remaining outposts of inequality…you’ve got to be kidding me. We’ve got a long way to go to achieve gender and racial equality too. Your privilege is showing.

    Here’s a good roundup if you think I’m making this up:

  98. Mike says:

    Article main point ‘white males are just natural atheists/sceptic. nothing wrong with that.’

    Oh Shermy. Just recognize an issue and do you part to remedy it. Not just dismiss it, and hope some rabid anon users will drone you in faint praise.


  99. Mike says:

    Article main point ‘white males are just natural atheists/skeptic. nothing wrong with that.’

    Oh Shermy. Just recognize an issue and do you part to remedy it. Not just dismiss it, and hope some rabid anon users will drone you in faint praise.

    Empathy and reason. That needs to be the corner stone for any atheist, or skeptic culture. Remember, the goal is to INCREASE the base, and to make sure the consistency of the base is something other than narrow minded and hostile people that we seem to label all the irrational, religious, racist, homophobic, sexist people out there

Patreon: a new way to support the things skeptic creates

Get eSkeptic

Science in your inbox every Wednesday!

eSkeptic delivers great articles, videos, podcasts, reviews, event announcements, and more to your inbox once a week.

Sign me up!

Donate to Skeptic

Please support the work of the Skeptics Society. Make the world a more rational place and help us defend the role of science in society.

Detecting Baloney

Baloney Detection Kit Sandwich (Infographic) by Deanna and Skylar (High Tech High Media Arts, San Diego, CA)

The Baloney Detection Kit Sandwich (Infographic)

For a class project, a pair of 11th grade physics students created the infographic shown below, inspired by Michael Shermer’s Baloney Detection Kit: a 16-page booklet designed to hone your critical thinking skills.

FREE PDF Download

Wisdom of Harriet Hall

Top 10 Things to Know About Alternative Medicine

Harriet Hall M.D. discusses: alternative versus conventional medicine, flu fear mongering, chiropractic, vaccines and autism, placebo effect, diet, homeopathy, acupuncture, “natural remedies,” and detoxification.

FREE Video Series

Science Based Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine

Science Based Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine

Understanding the difference could save your life! In this superb 10-part video lecture series, Harriet Hall M.D., contrasts science-based medicine with so-called “complementary and alternative” methods.

FREE PDF Download

Top 10 Myths of Terrorism

Is Terrorism an Existential Threat?

This free booklet reveals 10 myths that explain why terrorism is not a threat to our way of life or our survival.

FREE PDF Download

The Top 10 Weirdest Things

The Top Ten Strangest Beliefs

Michael Shermer has compiled a list of the top 10 strangest beliefs that he has encountered in his quarter century as a professional skeptic.

FREE PDF Download

Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future (paperback cover)

Who believes them? Why? How can you tell if they’re true?

What is a conspiracy theory, why do people believe in them, and can you tell the difference between a true conspiracy and a false one?

FREE PDF Download

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

Mind altering experiences are one of the foundations of widespread belief in the paranormal. But as skeptics are well aware, accepting them as reality can be dangerous…

FREE PDF Download

Top 10 Myths About Evolution

Top 10 Myths About Evolution (and how we know it really happened)

If humans came from apes, why aren’t apes evolving into humans? Find out in this pamphlet!

FREE PDF Download

Learn to be a Psychic in 10 Easy Lessons

Learn to do Psychic “Cold Reading” in 10
Easy Lessons

Psychic readings and fortunetelling are an ancient art — a combination of acting and psychological manipulation.

FREE PDF Download

The Yeti or Abominable Snowman

5 Cryptid Cards

Download and print 5 Cryptid Cards created by Junior Skeptic Editor Daniel Loxton. Creatures include: The Yeti, Griffin, Sasquatch/Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster, and the Cadborosaurus.

Copyright © 1992–2018. All rights reserved. The Skeptics Society | P.O. Box 338 | Altadena, CA, 91001 | 1-626-794-3119. Privacy Policy.