Hardcore Skeptic #2 - Slander in Skepticism

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This is the second episode of The Hardcore Skeptic, the supplemental podcast to go with the Brainstorm Podcast. In this episode I had three topics that I wanted to talk a little bit about, slander in the skeptical movement, can the caramel color in soda cause cancer and I address a few questions for atheists.

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Slander in Skepticism

A few months ago, maybe even a year now. I read an article by the blog Freethought blogs. This particular article was about someone I’ve admired for a few years. It was about DJ Grothe and it claimed, based on anecdotes, that Mr. Grothe was a psychopath. Now I’m no psychologist but I’m pretty sure that is supposed to be a term reserved for actual psychopaths. A psychopath, as opposed to a sociopath, is violent in some way. I read the article and was astounded in the way someone will go back into your history and find anything they can to call you a sexist or a liar or a psychopath. I wasn’t impressed with the accounts of supposed lies and misdeeds. It all seemed open to interpretation. Now, I’m not going to go into the history of the person who wrote it but it seems to me that she was just looking for something to write that would get clicks and that did it.

You might wonder why I’m bringing this up. A couple weeks back there was an incident between the Skepchick blog and Hemant Mehta of the Friendly Atheist where Hemant was accused of being in line with some hate group. I honestly can’t even remember which group it was and from what I remember of Hemant’s article I think his point was just to mention the group. Do we have to point out how horrible a group is, every time we talk about them? If we don’t then we must be promoting them. Either way, calling DJ a psychopath or Hemant a hatemonger or whatever, is slander.

And isn’t that just what’s happened to skepticism lately? Every day there’s a new article from one skeptic or atheist to another one pointing out how horrible they are as human beings. Never mind that they fight to promote humanism, free thought. equal rights, and fair secular laws. One wrong move and someone is calling you a libelous traitor to the cause or something even worse. Sexist, misogynist, racist, islamaphobe, bigot and a whole host of other labels are attached to each and every person who has an opinion about anything. Particularly if that opinion is contrary to what certain groups of people think.

Just for starters, Feminism is getting a bad rap these days and the reason is that they call anyone who disagrees with them sexist. There are some feminists who make claims that aren’t supported by data or facts or in some cases even logic. The requirement is, that you listen to what they say and agree. If you don’t, you’re sexist. You need to check your privilege. You need shut up and listen. There are many, many feminists who are interested in facts and getting things right. There are many who consider the language of feminism to be problematic. They too, are called out as sexists, rape apologists or some other denigration. Do you ever stop to wonder why only around 18% of people are willing to call themselves a feminist? It’s not because only that many think men and women shouldn’t be treated equally. It’s because of the behavior surrounding disagreement. Open discussion, about all the things is what’s needed. I still like to think of myself as a cis male feminist. I completely disagree with many of the things that are associated with feminism and I worry that it’s a movement caught up in its own ideology rather than basing its action on facts.

This seems to be where the lines are drawn though. Other groups have other issues and some of them are very similar. In atheism or skepticism, mainly male, mostly white, mostly educated there are some issues of sexism but nowhere near what is out in the rest of society. Most atheists I know are also humanists, most are also skeptics which means they prefer to discuss things based on facts and logic.

Just off the top of my head, I could list a bunch of well known atheists, skeptics and scholars who all are currently in petty feuds with other skeptics, atheists and scholars and frankly I think it just needs to end. If you need an enemy then face the one’s in the world who actually disagree with equality, fight those who are actually against you, not those who fundamentally agree with you. If you’re spending your time arguing and calling down people who believe in and agree with you on 80% of your ideals then you’re spending your time inefficiently. I prefer to fight those who disagree on 80% and I think most of us do. When someone like Jaclyn Glenn points out the sexist nature of a country music song. I think it’s a mistake to say she isn’t a real feminist and decry her for taking selfies. We need to applaud that behavior, and share it. When Rebecca Watson talks about something like sexism in science, I listen. When she starts attacking people personally, I ignore her.

A week or so ago, I did a little piece on slander in skepticism. I didn’t publish it but I thought I ended it well. Basically, my point is that nobody is perfect, we all make mistakes. We all say shit we shouldn’t and often times we think things that need to be changed. But we all do it. I’m not perfect, and neither are you.

Caramel coloring in pop

Here's the Science Daily article that started my search into this topic. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150218191653.htm

Here's a couple links discussing it http://scienceblogs.com/denialism/2012/03/09/cspi-overblows-the-cancer-risk

http://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/8451/does-the-caramel-colouring-previously-used-in-coke-and-pepsi-in-california-cause

 

Questions for atheists

I couldn't actually find the link I originally got this topic from but I found this one.

http://whistlinginthewind.org/2013/01/24/10-questions-for-atheists/

 

Music for this episode was Anarchy in the UK by The Sex Pistols from the album Never Mind The Bollocks Here's The Sex Pistols

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