Dear Assholes: an open letter in support of Rebecca Watson

June 5, 2012

Holy shit.

I can’t really believe we are doing this all over again. Last year it was “elevatorgate”, and this year it’s the “not going to TAM shitstorm”. Both of these huge blowups have been caused by people who self-identify as “critical thinkers” attacking (harassing, threatening, name-calling…) an outspoken leader in the skeptic movement for – *gasp * – expressing her opinion.

Like, fuck.

Last year, Rebecca suggested on one of her regular youtube videos that propositioning a woman in an enclosed space late at night was not a way to make a woman feel safe and comfortable, especially not after she had announced that she was tired and just wanted to go to sleep. This triggered a series of escalating responses from both men and women.  These responses ranged from the spurious (“others face more threat than you did, so why are you complaining”) to the absurd (“if we can’t proposition women in secluded elevators, how will we ever get a date”) to the thuggishly moronic (“fuck you, you should be raped”). And these, for the most part, from people who could rhyme off a dozen or so logical fallacies at the drop of a hat. Obviously they don’t actually understand the application of those logical fallacies in rational discourse.

This year, Rebecca stated that she didn’t want to attend TAM because JREF president D.J. Groethe chose to blame “…irresponsible messaging coming from a small number of prominent and well-meaning women skeptics…” for the decline in women registrants this year, rather acknowledging that the best way to attract more women might be to assure them that steps were being taken to make the event as safe and friendly to all participants as possible.

As with elavatorgate, Rebecca received a torrent of hate mail, threats of rape and accusations of all sorts. Again, this is the skeptical, supposedly critical thinking community. Apparently William Steig was right when he said “People are no damn good”.

So let me spell it out to those who feel it is okay to harass Rebecca Watson for stating her opinion, and I will try to use as few syllables in each word as possible:

If you scream that someone should be raped for saying that they don’t feel entirely safe attending a conference with you, I think you kind of make their point for them. Don’t you?

So to all those misguided, misogynistic, ignorant, threatening, willfully blind assholes out there, just grow up, will you?


Holding the world hostage.

August 1, 2011

Imagine, if you will, a small group of people keeping a large group of people hostage, threatening harm to them and with uncertain outcome, unless another group concedes to their ideological demands. If the ideology in question is Islamic fundamentalism, then these people would likely be labeled terrorists. But what if the ideology is ultra-right-wing conservatism? That is the scenario playing out right now with the Tea Party.

This vocal and intensely ideological faction of the Republican Party is holding the entire economy of the United States, and by extension the people of the United States – not to mention economies around the world – hostage. Why? Because they stubbornly adhere to an ideology of reduced taxation, and refuse to allow new taxation to resolve the debt crisis. Never mind the economic theory, and to hell with actual common sense. It’s their way or the highway.

The frightening thing is that this group is the same group that criticized Obama for opening dialog with Iran. They criticized him for even thinking of “negotiating with the enemy”. So we know, and Obama should have known, that these people will not negotiate, and yet the Tea Party knows that Obama will, and they are willing to recklessly bet the global economy that Obama will blink first. Unless the President can find a way to bypass the impasse through executive orders, I suspect he will have no choice but to cave to their demands – because unlike them, he has enough of a conscience to recognize that the needs of the many far outweigh the ideological standpoint of the few.

The Tea Party are terrorists. Fuck you, Tea Party.

On Health Care

August 20, 2009

This is somewhat off topic from my usual posts, but it is something I feel rather strongly about. With the current US administration discussing socialized health care, the conservative critics are once again screaming that this would raise the cost, limit accessibility, stifle innovation, infringe on personal rights, yada yada.
Let me just say this:
Those in the US with scads of cash who can afford premium health care and premium insurance have access to some of the best medical care in the world. And the most expensive. These people are the minority. The majority of the population has access to public clinics, or limited-insurance sponsored clinics that get paid extra for not referring patients to the tests they need. Oh, and they can’t afford the outrageous cost of prescription meds, which can be many times the cost of the same meds in other countries.
Let me make a comparison with other state-operated social services, such as, say, police and fire departments.
Imagine the following scenario:
You get mugged at knifepoint, the thief steals your wallet and runs into an alley. You call for help, a policeman shows up, but refuses to help until you have paid up front. You protest that the whole point is that you just had your wallet stolen with all your money, and the thief is standing right over there. Still, he refuses to assist until a deposit is given.
Or imagine your house catches fire, you get your family out, the fire truck arrives, and the driver says they cannot begin until they are paid. You explain that your money is inside the burning house, and would they be able to bill you afterward. They could, says the fireman, but they would need some collateral. Like your house. Which is rapidly loosing value…
These same scenarios are panning out in emergency rooms and medical offices across the country. But it’s an issue of liberty. My ass.
Properly run healthcare is cheaper, with greater accessibility for more people. And as for innovation, most of it comes from research institutions (ie universities), not private medical offices.
These arguments are simply smokescreens from idealogues who are rabidly allergic to anything even remotely resembling socialism. But socilaized medicine is not communism. And if you think it is, well, we can just tell that to the police and fire departments as well the next time you run into trouble.

Stupid Quote of the Decade

May 22, 2009

Don McLeroy, chair of the Board of Education in Texas has this to say about Science:

Somebody has to stand up to the experts!

He even goes on to describe these experts as

…very brilliant, wonderful people

who certainly know a shitload more about evolution than McLeroy too, but somebody has to stand up to ’em. Just ’cause.

Video courtesy of the wonderful people at the NCSE

On Hitler, Darwin, and Social Newtonism

May 14, 2009

In the movie Expelled, as well as a number of other sources, it is repeated over and over that Hitler’s eugenic and antisemitic views were influenced by Darwin, and thus Darwin and his work on Natural Selection are inherently evil.

It takes very little research to discover that Hitler in fact used the Bible and tenets of Christianity to justify his actions, and any association with natural selection or evolution is in name only, and not in reality.

Allow me to illustrate with an example of a made up scheme of Social Newtonism: 

According to Newton’s law of gravitation, tall people have more potential energy than short people. Now, everyone knows that having potential is a good thing, and having energy is a good thing, so clearly any tall person – with greater potential energy – is superiorto any short person. As such, it could be suggested that only tall people should be allowed to reproduce, in order to ensure the future improvement of the human race. And because this is so clearly based on physical laws, I will call this Newtonics, or Social Newtonism.

Now, should the response to this be:

Since Social Newtonism is clearly misguided and evil, we will call Newton the Antichrist, and stop teaching Physics in school.


So called “social Newtonism” has nothing to do with Newton’s laws other than hijacking his name, is a complete misrepresentation of physics, is merely an excuse to promote prejudice, and should be exposed as such. Newton’s laws should be taught more and better, to ensure this type of gross misrepresentation should never happen again.

Which is the correct response? Clearly not the first. So please tell me why it is that this is precisely what is happening with Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection? I understand the motivation (discredit Darwinism so fundamentalist Christianity can be rammed into the school system to indoctrinate children when they are young and susceptible), I mean why are people letting it happen?

To put it plain and simple, blaming Darwin for Hitler is a lie. Isn’t there something in the bible about not telling those?

Maine feels the love

May 9, 2009

A hearty congratulation is in order to the state of Maine for following Vermont in legalizing same sex marriage. The bill, which passed the senate with a substantial majority, defines marriage as a union between two people, rather than specifically a man and a woman.

New Hampshire is next, with a bill in preparation. With Massachusetts and Connecticut recognizing same sex marriage by court order, that would leave Rhode Island as the only New England state to not recognize gay marriage.

Yikes, it’s creeping North!

May 1, 2009

In a blow to common sense, the Alberta government has passed a bill that allows parents to request their child be exempted from classes that include topics of evolution or homosexuality.

Although falling short of removing or muzzling these topics in the classroom, it impacts not only Science classes, but Phys-Ed, Health, Geography, and Social Science as well. Some of these may be compulsory courses.

It seems to me, as an educator, that closed-minded prejudice should be all the more reason to take those courses and learn more about the concepts, rather than an excuse to ignore them and continue misunderstanding them.

What’s next, exemption from History class that discusses Sumerian civilization (7400 years ago), or the settling of the Americas (>10,000 years ago)? Or exemption from a course that discusses the Moon landings? 

If you don’t like reality that’s your problem. But government approval to turn a blind eye to it – that’s just not right.

Thought of the day

April 20, 2009

Some people do what they do because they can.
Some people do what they do to survive.
Which are you, and what will you do about it?

Hooray for Vermont

April 9, 2009

Vermont legislators have passed a bill legalizing gay marriage. Governor Jim Douglas vetoed the bill on the grounds that Vermont has had civil unions for gay couples for almost decade, so adding the term “marriage” would serve no purpose. The Governor’s veto was overturned in the house and senate.

Mr. Douglas, in a legal sense adding the term marriage may serve no purpose, but nor in that sense does it serve a purpose for heterosexual couples. By denying the right to use the term you are relegating a portion of your citizenry to second class status. Fortunately, in this case, more sensible (and less bigoted) heads prevailed.

Way to go Vermont!