Hi folks,

For those of you subscribed to this – but not to my Youtube channel – you may enjoy my (awful) song video about P.Z. Myers’ up-coming tome.

Yes. I have gotten a bit carried away with the videos, but I’ll still try to update this from time to time with articles or tidbits.

Video  —  Posted: February 24, 2013 in Uncategorized

Hi folks. You might be a few episodes behind. Time to catch up on my dramatic readings. Here’s Episode 7, a dramatic reading of Chris Clarke’s civility pledge.

I’m still working on a Hensley article, but these have been too enjoyable not to focus on!

Stay tuned for a special song episode this weekend!

Video  —  Posted: February 22, 2013 in Uncategorized

I went here. This is the website SecularWoman.org and they have a few theories on things and, specifically, a few action items in order to increase the participation of women in secular organisations.

As I don’t get paid for this, I don’t have the opportunity to go through the post and point out the errors.

Reading through, I wanted to respond to one particular item: the action item that women should have 60% of leadership positions across national, state and local organisations. That sounds fine. That sounds representative. Because women form a slight majority in the United States, so 60% is not unreasonable. Right?

Well, not really.

First, there’s the issue of equality of opportunity versus equality of outcome. Providing women the same opportunities as men and extending the same welcome as men may not necessarily lead to an equal representation. It may just be that more qualified men rocked up on the day.

On the linked page, Secular Woman itself points out that women form only 50.8% of the United States’ population. But they should of course take 60% of the leadership positions because… well, that part is not particularly clear.

Maybe the argument is that the demographics of atheism (which we can presume represents the pool from which members of the atheist / skeptic community would derive) are actually more women-centric but that somehow the atheist / skeptic community cannot attract women.

But as the posted link states, the demographics of atheism are as follows:

Total Male Female
Country Atheist Religious Not Religious Atheist Religious Not Religious Atheist Percent difference Ratio
Romania 0.6% 90.5% 8.4% 1.1% 95.9% 4.0% 0.1% 1.0% 11.00
Guatemala 0.8% 68.5% 30.0% 1.5% 75.7% 24.1% 0.2% 1.3% 7.50
Poland 1.4% 92.5% 4.9% 2.6% 96.4% 3.2% 0.4% 2.2% 6.50
Ethiopia 0.4% 78.9% 20.6% 0.6% 83.4% 16.5% 0.1% 0.5% 6.00
Chile 3.2% 56.2% 38.1% 5.6% 72.4% 26.5% 1.1% 4.5% 5.09
United States 3.6% 65.1% 28.9% 6.0% 78.6% 20.1% 1.2% 4.8% 5.00
Indonesia 0.3% 82.5% 17.1% 0.4% 86.9% 13.0% 0.1% 0.3% 4.00
Trinidad 0.5% 81.3% 18.0% 0.7% 86.9% 12.9% 0.2% 0.5% 3.50
Italy 2.7% 82.8% 13.0% 4.1% 93.1% 5.7% 1.2% 2.9% 3.42
Spain 7.4% 36.6% 51.8% 11.6% 53.9% 42.5% 3.6% 8.0% 3.22
Peru 1.4% 77.4% 20.4% 2.2% 86.4% 12.9% 0.7% 1.5% 3.14
Ukraine 3.0% 71.5% 23.7% 4.8% 88.0% 10.4% 1.6% 3.2% 3.00
Uruguay 7.6% 45.0% 43.2% 11.8% 65.4% 30.3% 4.3% 7.5% 2.74
Turkey 0.5% 79.6% 19.6% 0.8% 85.5% 14.2% 0.3% 0.5% 2.67
Colombia 0.5% 75.5% 23.7% 0.8% 84.4% 15.3% 0.3% 0.5% 2.67
Cyprus 2.1% 49.7% 47.1% 3.1% 71.7% 27.0% 1.3% 1.8% 2.38
Argentina 2.3% 72.5% 24.2% 3.2% 88.8% 9.8% 1.4% 1.8% 2.29
South Africa 1.2% 73.1% 25.2% 1.6% 89.4% 9.9% 0.7% 0.9% 2.29
Bulgaria 5.3% 57.1% 35.5% 7.5% 69.4% 27.3% 3.3% 4.2% 2.27
Finland 3.1% 51.3% 44.4% 4.3% 68.3% 29.8% 1.9% 2.4% 2.26
Japan 13.7% 21.6% 59.2% 19.3% 26.4% 64.6% 9.0% 10.3% 2.14
Malaysia 2.3% 87.4% 9.4% 3.2% 90.7% 7.8% 1.5% 1.7% 2.13
Serbia 4.0% 83.3% 11.4% 5.3% 87.7% 9.8% 2.6% 2.7% 2.04
Russia 4.4% 61.6% 32.3% 6.1% 83.2% 13.8% 3.0% 3.1% 2.03
Iran 0.1% 80.7% 19.1% 0.2% 86.6% 13.3% 0.1% 0.1% 2.00
Norway 6.8% 30.5% 60.5% 9.0% 52.3% 43.1% 4.6% 4.4% 1.96
Netherlands 7.5% 50.8% 39.2% 9.9% 62.9% 32.0% 5.1% 4.8% 1.94
Slovenia 9.8% 66.2% 20.5% 13.3% 77.8% 15.2% 7.0% 6.3% 1.90
Canada 6.6% 60.8% 30.5% 8.7% 72.1% 23.3% 4.6% 4.1% 1.89
Moldova 1.0% 75.8% 23.0% 1.3% 91.4% 7.8% 0.7% 0.6% 1.86
Hong Kong 5.4% 19.8% 73.2% 7.0% 34.1% 62.1% 3.8% 3.2% 1.84
France 17.1% 42.0% 35.6% 22.3% 51.5% 36.3% 12.3% 10.0% 1.81
Andorra 14.2% 40.1% 42.0% 18.0% 56.9% 32.9% 10.1% 7.9% 1.78
Sweden 17.2% 26.4% 52.0% 21.6% 40.6% 46.6% 12.8% 8.8% 1.69
South Korea 28.6% 23.0% 41.4% 35.6% 37.1% 41.3% 21.7% 13.9% 1.64
New Zealand 7.0% 43.3% 48.2% 8.5% 55.1% 39.7% 5.2% 3.3% 1.63
Germany 19.2% 36.7% 39.5% 23.7% 48.6% 36.5% 14.9% 8.8% 1.59
Iraq 2.7% 54.3% 42.5% 3.2% 55.1% 42.8% 2.1% 1.1% 1.52
Burkina Faso 1.6% 90.8% 7.3% 1.9% 92.2% 6.6% 1.3% 0.6% 1.46
Mexico 2.9% 70.6% 26.0% 3.4% 80.0% 17.6% 2.4% 1.0% 1.42
Viet Nam 23.6% 32.2% 40.7% 27.1% 46.6% 33.6% 19.8% 7.3% 1.37
Taiwan 16.8% 40.1% 40.5% 19.4% 40.4% 45.4% 14.2% 5.2% 1.37
China 17.9% 20.7% 58.7% 20.7% 22.8% 61.7% 15.6% 5.1% 1.33
Switzerland 7.9% 59.8% 31.2% 9.0% 69.0% 24.0% 7.0% 2.0% 1.29
Great Britain 10.4% 42.4% 46.0% 11.6% 54.5% 36.3% 9.3% 2.3% 1.25
Australia 9.9% 46.8% 42.8% 10.4% 56.2% 34.4% 9.5% 0.9% 1.09
Mali 0.4% 97.5% 2.1% 0.4% 97.8% 1.8% 0.4% 0.0% 1.00
India 2.5% 74.4% 23.2% 2.4% 82.7% 14.6% 2.7% -0.3% 0.89
Brazil 1.2% 84.7% 14.2% 1.1% 91.1% 7.6% 1.3% -0.2% 0.85
Thailand 0.2% 35.4% 64.5% 0.1% 35.5% 64.3% 0.3% -0.2% 0.33
Rwanda 0.1% 93.5% 6.5% 0.0% 94.9% 5.0% 0.1% -0.1% 0.00

If that’s the case, having women at 60% of leadership roles would be wholly unrepresentative (even of the pool from which the community could be derived). And there seems to be no good reason for it.

This whole brouhaha happened because someone looked out at a group of conference attendees and said that there were more men than women at the conferences. Which is what you would expect. If you even bothered looking at the demographics. But, instead, organisations like Secular Woman have been pointing at alleged, vague campaigns of harassment (based apparently on people disagreeing with and, on occasion, mocking the proponents of certain opinions) and blaming that. There was no real justification to do so, but it has taken hold like any other poorly reasoned but ideologically satisfying opinion and it is becoming exceptionally hard to shake from the hands of the insular members of the echo chamber.

A further observation can be made from this: it can be inferred that Secular Woman will not consider it has achieved its goals if women do not have 60% of leadership roles.

This seems unlikely, without a dedicated campaign of conversion of women to atheist roles, or, in all likelihood, the unfair and damaging preference of women to men (even presumably if a more qualified man was available for the job).

It is already clear that such organisations will blame their not having achieved their goals on nebulous ‘campaigns of harassment’ or ‘misogyny’. Therefore, they are effectively setting themselves up to fail.

It is reasonable to assume that this is deliberate. If they were to set their goals as representative of what “equal opportunity” could actually achieve, we would likely already be there. And noone would need to listen to them. Or give them website clicks. Or pay to see them speak.

A final point arises, particularly in relation to conferences, what if the conferences are failing to appeal to women for reasons outside of sexism issues? How do we figure out whether this is the problem rather than sexism and, if it is the lack of appeal, what do we do? Are more women speakers the answer, or is that too simplistic – to expect that a woman would only go to see a woman speaker? Would it be more interesting if more varied topics were discussed, for example, or less of a focus on women’s rights issues in discussions (while still obviously incorporating women’s rights issues) but with a discussion of humanism more broadly or, even, an increased focus on the interesting dissections of various theistic arguments? Should there be more debates (including against theists) or more prominent speakers, or better advertising? Assuming attendance at conferences is unrepresentative of we excluded the other factors for the lower numbers of women at conferences?

These questions go unanswered because it is treated as canon that women not attending something means that it is a sexist, unwelcoming environment. But we don’t have any real good reason to believe that is true. The claims of harassment seem to be trumped up (I’ve been accused myself on a number of occasions after 2 – 3 tweets of disagreement or, even on one occasion, not having interacted with the person at all!) and no evidence has been provided.

These guys are keeping themselves in a job by perpetuating a nonsense.

Please don’t fall for it. Or stand for it.

I was asked by Franc, Notung and Ted to do a dramatic reading of Timecube.com.

This was a freaking mission. I deserve a medal.

Video  —  Posted: January 28, 2013 in Uncategorized

Taking each person at their word

Posted: January 27, 2013 in Uncategorized

I’ve been considering a post at the Centre for Inquiry by Ronald Lindsay (from 12 September 2012). I’m obviously a bit late to the game about that post, but you may as well read it. (It’s here).

He writes generally about divisiveness within the atheist community and he chooses to sit neatly in the middle of the fence:

In a sense, Greta and PZ are right: the movement is divided, but it’s not divided for any good reason. It’s divided because too many in the movement are not willing to recognize that their fellow secularists can be mistaken without thereby being bigots; that their fellow secularists can have different understandings of the implications of feminism without being misogynists or “sister-punishers”; and that their fellow secularists can have can have different perceptions of the problem of harassment without being feminazis.

Essentially, the point is valid. We should be careful not to paint everyone with the same brush. Someone posting on the Slymepit does not mean that they agree with Mykeru or Reap or Vicky Caramel or one of the many users whose names are derived from the word “lurker” or “c*nt”.

Similarly, just because someone posts on Freethoughtblogs doesn’t necessarily mean they agree with everything on Zvan’s, Benson’s, Myers’ or – across the very thin barrier to Skepchick – Watson’s blog. (However, it usually does because it’s extremely easy to get banned from an FTBer’s blog. Pharyngula is the worst example: you only get to comment if you agree with PZ or go further in the direction he intended to go and reprimand him for not going far enough, or if he wants to allow your post in to call you an ‘asshole’ and then ban you from responding further.)

Usually, the public extent of disagreement between FTBers, Skepchick and their more well-known allies is a struggle to outdo one another. If PZ says someone is an asshole but perhaps there is light at the end of the tunnel, Watson will rush to say “Yeah. That guy was an asshole. But I checked the tunnel. There’s no light either.

However, the combination of Lindsay’s post and Melody Hensley’s words at comment #18 below Lindsay’s post (which is obviously not going to toe the party line when teh womenz are involved):

Jr, don’t believe everything you see on the internet. Things I have said been taken out of context, my views conflated with other people’s views, and some things of written about me are nothing but lies. Other comments that do not fall into those categories, I stand by. They were not made because the person is a woman, but because those individuals have been anti-woman. A vagina doesn’t make a feminist.

Take her up on her challenge

Okay, there’s her challenge – it’s a bit stale but we can still act on it – let’s take her at her word, and let’s take each FTBer (and their brethren in arms) at their word and see where we get. I’ve not seen anyone do anything else, but it would be useful to repeat the exercise.

Let’s make sure this man is not made of straw. Then we can see whether we can knock it down. (Figuratively, obviously, for all those worried about harassment)

A good candidate for my first attempt at this will be Melody Hensley herself.

Melody has become a bit notorious of late for veiled threats to exclude people from WIS (or at least campaign for their exclusion), including the unfortunately moustachioed Mr Vacula because of alleged breaches of harassment policies prior to the Women in Secularism 2 Conference. She is trying to utilise her power (or influence) within CFI to advantage herself and her allies in an ongoing internet drama.

I am going to start collecting material on Melody Hensley. I will collect her words and as faithfully as possible document her positions.

So we should collect her words and see if she’s all she makes herself out to be. And then she can respond.

I will be addressing:

  1. her demonstrated approach to skepticism on various issues;
  2. her views on gender politics (primarily as it relates to 1.); and
  3. her use of influence or power within CFI or because of her CFI role.

(And, reader, I would appreciate your help on this. Please forward me material to a hotmail address bearing my name).

My response to expected criticism

The common response when this kind of thing is done by the FTB (et al) crowd is that by writing a blog article about Hensley, I would be harassing her.

Hensley is the Executive Director of CFI-DC. She frequently makes her personal opinion publicly known. She is a public figure within the skeptic movement. She is attempting to use her influence to disadvantage others in their online and offline participation. She is fair game for an exposé.

To call this harassment would be like a Congressman saying “Hey, don’t criticise me. I’m doing my own thing.” No, you’re not. You’re trying to change things in our name. We can talk about whether you’re right for the job or whether you’re trying to change the right things.

Hey folks,

Here’s another of my dramatic readings. I got a bit into the whole dramatic reading thing, so you can also find my other videos after clicking through to Youtube.

I’ll try to post something more substantive within the week (if you were wondering if I was going to).

Video  —  Posted: January 23, 2013 in Uncategorized

Hi folks

I now also have a Youtube account. This is my dramatic reading of a comment on A+.

Let me know if you have any other dramatic reading requests – anything from Amazon reviews to FtB comments to annoyed rants by homeopaths or conspiracy theorists.

Video  —  Posted: January 22, 2013 in Uncategorized