A collection of reading comprehension fails

I was going to respond to the second pitter response in the “dialogue” the same way I did to the first, but it turns out that’s not possible. That’s because there isn’t nearly enough content, and what content there is looks like a massive reading comprehension fail when taken at face value (one can speculate whether these pitters really are that dumb, or whether they’re playing dumb to avoid having to answer properly).

So instead, I’ll pick at some of the more interesting fuckups of that response, rather than focusing on the supposed point of the dialogue. (content of quotes not altered, but form adjusted for easier reading)

a pitter: We seek to establish real truths from untruths, for without this discernment we end up with religions, dogmas, and demagogues poisoning our society. We establish truth through the application of logic, evidence-based reasoning, critical thinking, skepticism, and scientific inquiry. Our competence in this truth-seeking endeavour is the most valuable asset we have.

Stephanie: I agree and disagree. We dont only seek truth for reasons that are that dramatic or noble. The basic reason we seek truth is that, without it, were flailing ineffectually in the dark. Curiosity drives us to seek truth. The desire to predict and control the world around us drives us to seek truth.

a pitter: Scientifically driven skeptics like us may pursue truth for different reasons compared to others in society. We agree that curiosity serves as an impetus for some people; so may a desire to explain the world around us. While desires to predict and control the world around us may serve as an impetus for some people, those reasons seem less likely to be widespread among atheists & skeptics.

1)The pitter response to Stephanie totally reads like “but we’re not like other, normal people, we’re better than the commoners! We Are Skeptics!”
2)I’m pretty fucking sure that curiosity and a desire to explain the world is the main motivation for knowledge-seeking among scientists.
3)Wanna bet they read “predict and control the world around us” not in the clearly intended sense of bending the environment to our needs (e.g. curing disease, improving agriculture, etc.), but in the Pinky and the Brain sense?

a pitter: We seek to establish real truths from untruths, for without this discernment we end up with religions, dogmas, and demagogues poisoning our society. We establish truth through the application of logic, evidence-based reasoning, critical thinking, skepticism, and scientific inquiry. Our competence in this truth-seeking endeavour is the most valuable asset we have.

Stephanie: I am unwilling to put competence at truth-seeking above other-Ill call them ‘virtues’ for lack of a better word. It is certainly important, but making it our primary consideration has come to be recognized as a bad idea. Placing the collection of knowledge above all else was the kind of thinking that led to the Tuskegee experiment. Researchers uncovered a great deal of truth about the progression of untreated syphilis, but they did so at the cost of the health and lives of people who did not volunteer to be sacrificed for truth. In response to this and other travesties, weve instituted safeguards intended to curb unchecked truth-seeking. Putting truth-seeking above ethics and compassion is deeply troubling.

a pitter: I dont see any disagreement amongst the atheist community on the importance of ethics in biomedical research.

Dumb or disingenuous? You decide! Definitely fucking hilarious though.

a pitter: In our pursuit of truth, we must test our beliefs in the forum of open and free debate. Nothing is left off the table; all claims can – and sometimes must – be fully examined and tested to determine the best evidence, arguments, and explanations. We can do this without rancour or dismissal and it is a key requirement in achieving our objectives: freeing this world of the terrible injustices we see all around us.

Stephanie: […]Where I disagree in that case is that science is supposed to be a cumulative process. Once consensus has been reached on a particular topic through that process, its typically time to shelve that topic and move on until we come across information that doesnt fit the models. Continuing to study geocentric models of planetary and stellar motion at this point would not advance our pursuit of truth. Debate does not go on forever on a topic without the introduction of substantial new information.

a pitter: This description of science seems at odds with that typically seen in a research environment. Scientists do not shelve topics and move on to the next subject. Nothing is proven absolutely in science and even topics that seem certain are being constantly tested – for example the recent experiments testing the idea that some particles might be able to exceed the speed of light in a vacuum. The principle that every hypothesis must be open to falsification is the primary means we have to distinguish science from pseudoscience. In other words, I agree that the scientific process should be as open as possible, and disagree that science is supposed to be a cumulative process in which a topic is shelved once consensus is reached.

1)How ignorant do you have to be to disagree that science is a cumulative process? If it weren’t, we’d still be trying to figure out whether the earth goes around the sun or vice versa. As Stephanie noted.
2)Wanna bet this is just their attempt at defending their refusal to let go of privilege & the biases that come with it?

Stephanie: If this is intended to suggest that individuals must test all their beliefs through debate and that this process will lead to understanding the truth, I strongly disagree. When people who are taught to debate are taught to be equally comfortable taking either side of an argument, we are looking at a process designed for winning, not truth. If we want to arrive at truth through give-and-take, we need a more collaborative process in which the goal is not to win.

a pitter: This is rather confusing and perhaps would be better expanded so that the meaning is made clearer. Certainly we cannot expect the scientific method to determine every aspect of our lives (for example regarding the love we have for family and friends, taste in music, literature, etc.) These are questions about emotions. Again, many political questions are based on personal values that have an emotional rather than empirical basis. It is best to separate out value-based questions from those that have an empirical solution.

reading comprehension fail, disingenuousness, or do they really think science is practiced like a debate club?

a pitter: We can work together by following the principles core to atheism/skepticism and remembering we are each and all fallible humans, each with one life to live and with an equal right to self-determination. We owe it to those who are hurting, suffering, and dying in this big wide world of ours.

Stephanie: Promoting reason, critical thinking, science, skepticism, atheism, and secularism is worthwhile, necessary work. I would disagree that any individual owes it to anyone to do specifically this work. There is other humanitarian work that is just as necessary and just as worthwhile. One of our challenges going forward is making people feel that ours is the worthwhile, necessary work on which they want to spend their time.

a pitter: […] we disagree if you are saying that “making people feel that ours is the-work on which they want to spend their time” is a widespread goal among atheists and skeptics.

lol. I wonder how the pitters imagine social movements grow, if not by convincing people that theirs is the work they should consider important to do/support?

72 comments on “A collection of reading comprehension fails

  1. David Marjanović says:

    2)I’m pretty fucking sure that curiosity and a desire to explain the world is the main motivation for knowledge-seeking among scientists.

    *is data point*

    Dumb or disingenuous? You decide! Definitely fucking hilarious though.

    Actually, that topic hasn’t come up much in the parts of the Internet I’m familiar with. Are there Deep Rifts In The Atheist Community over ethics in medical research?

    Of course, phrasing it as “the importance of ethics” is ridiculous: few people are card-carrying villains, all will agree that ethics is totes important, and then they’ll mean wildly different things by it; but I can’t even remember a discussion of those different things.

    Nothing is proven absolutely in science and even topics that seem certain are being constantly tested – for example the recent experiments testing the idea that some particles might be able to exceed the speed of light in a vacuum.

    LOL! That was a serendipitous discovery! Physicists did not stand around in the lab saying “perhaps this goes faster than light? No? How about this? Or this? Or this?” Instead, neutrinos from a known source arrived at the detector earlier than expected, and somebody said “hang on a second”. That was exactly the mentioned “substantial new information”!

    2)Wanna bet this is just their attempt at defending their refusal to let go of privilege & the biases that come with it?

    That’s so obvious even I can see it. You should be scared.

    or do they really think science is practiced like a debate club?

    Why not? The creationists do after all.

    we disagree if you are saying that “making people feel that ours is the-work on which they want to spend their time” is a widespread goal among atheists and skeptics.

    uh *blink* what

  2. Jadehawk says:

    Actually, that topic hasn’t come up much in the parts of the Internet I’m familiar with. Are there Deep Rifts In The Atheist Community over ethics in medical research?

    not that I know of. Point is though, biomedical research wasn’t what Stephanie was even talking about

  3. David Marjanović says:

    *reread*
    True. She used it as an example for a wider point; he pounced on the example and didn’t address the general issue at all.

  4. Steersman says:

    Speaking of “reading comprehension fails”, and since you asked on Stephanie’s “Moving Right Along” thread:

    the question is whether it is ethical for you to be free of the moderation guidelines that everyone else is subject to. Why should you think that you alone of all the participants to this dialog should not be subject to the same rules that everyone else is subject to? Elitism? Privileged speaking? Papal Infallibility?

    I’m mildly curious what the fuck he’s on about here. It’s not like Stephanie or anyone else has been moderating the pitters’ contributions, so where are these “guidelines everyone else is subject to”?

    Relative to those “guidelines”, maybe you missed perusing Michael’s “How to Participate” page (1) which has these salient points:

    2(b) Tips for interpreting others’ posts (reading & responding)

    1.Please avoid ascribing motive, morality, beliefs, or opinion to another person or group.

    Moderators are likely to find problematic posts that

    2.Comment on presumed characteristics, morality, or beliefs of another person or group, rather than about statements or actions by that person

    And considering that Stephanie herself concedes that it was paragraph 25 which was considered objectionable, let’s take a look at Zvan’s original comment from which that devolved (2):

    We may not or we may or we must shape our agendas to appeal to groups of people whose relationships to these various issues are very different from the relationships of the white, cisgendered, educated, middle-class to upper-class men who have shaped the traditional concerns of our movements.

    Looks to me to be a pretty clear case of “ascribing motive, morality, beliefs, … to another … group”, as well as “commenting on presumed characteristics, morality, or beliefs of … another … group”. And that Stephanie rode roughshod over the same principles she supposedly had a hand in creating, and imposing on everyone else. Elitist much?

    But, even apart from that relatively minor transgression, there is the even more egregious and completely un-evidenced implication if not opinion that those attributes – “white, cis-gendered, educated, middle to upper class, male” – have had some seriously negative consequences on the principles and values in “our movements”. Talk about a dog-whistle.

    While there is no doubt some evidence that that might be true in some specific cases, to suggest that it is universally and categorically true in all of them – as was strongly implied by Zvan’s statement – is highly questionable at least if not simply unacceptable – about on the same order of magnitude as arguing, as I suggested, that there are different cis and trans gendered values for the molecular weight of plutonium.

    In addition, Zvan also argued in 25 that:

    Phil Giordana unilaterally declared it “unacceptable” that I discuss how the organizations of the secular and skeptical movement have been influenced by the fact that most of the leaders of these movements have historically been white, cisgendered, educated, middle to upper-middle class, and male.

    Apart from the fact that he said nothing of the sort, she hadn’t even been talking about discussing that question in the first place – it was simply a bare un-evidenced assertion about “white … men who have shaped the traditional concerns ….”

    And finally, relative to your post itself, one might suggest that it seems you have your thumb on the scales in ascribing various statements to “pitters”. Each of those individuals – Jack Smith, Thaumas Themelios, and Skep Sheik – are only individual pitters: they most definitely do not speak for everyone there, even if several of them periodically used phrasing that might have been suggestive of that.

    —-
    1) “_http://atheistskepticdialogue.com/how-to-participate/”;
    2) “_http://atheistskepticdialogue.com/2013/03/31/strand-1-opening-statement-by-stephanie-zvan/”;

  5. Steersman says:

    And since you recently posted something on Zvan’s blog that I can’t respond to, you said:

    sorry, i’ll stop now. what i actually went there to see is how they’re interpreting what you’re saying. they’re claiming your writing is too difficult for them to comprehend*, so that wasn’t a very fruitful expedition.

    *”Svan’s [sic] posts were written such that I had to keep going back to reread, wondering ‘wtf does that even mean?

    Citations urgently needed. From my recollection that quoted comment was by one individual – Submariner – and is hardly justification for you asserting that “they’re claiming ….” At least unless you’re in the habit of calling one elephant a herd of them. One might suggest that you be a little more circumspect and use phrasing like “one of the pitters …” or “several of them ….”

    Although in passing, you might want to take a look at Michael’s “update on the dialog so far” (1) which has this:

    The second question is whether the process of responding separately to two opening statements, which broadly address similar issues, is becoming too cumbersome for the participants and the readers.

    So there are more than a few people who are finding the process rather “cumbersome” at the moment – which is, I expect, at least a significant part of Submariner’s objections.

    But that was part of the reason why I created a spreadsheet to try and promote that as a better method of keeping track of this process. It’s in the same thread that you were lurking about in – for which you are to be commended, although you might want to watch out for PZ’s banhammer as he applied it to Julian for the same heresy. However, you would have to register there if you wanted to download it, although I expect you could do that relatively anonymously if you were concerned about your reputation ….

    And relative to Zvan’s subsequent comment – “Funny how they never ask for clarification, just make up what they think I meant” – you might want to ask her how she expects that they/we could do that if she puts everyone from there into moderation or direct into her spam filter.

    —–
    1) “_http://atheistskepticdialogue.com/2013/04/16/an-update-on-the-dialogue-so-far/”;

  6. Jadehawk says:

    Looks to me to be a pretty clear case of “ascribing motive, morality, beliefs, … to another … group”, as well as “commenting on presumed characteristics, morality, or beliefs of … another … group”

    what “motive, morality, beliefs” are being ascribed or presumed?

    But, even apart from that relatively minor transgression, there is the even more egregious and completely un-evidenced implication if not opinion that those attributes – “white, cis-gendered, educated, middle to upper class, male” – have had some seriously negative consequences on the principles and values in “our movements”.

    except not. The dominance to the near total exclusion of alternatives has negative consequences.

    about on the same order of magnitude as arguing, as I suggested, that there are different cis and trans gendered values for the molecular weight of plutonium.

    that was a dumbass comment there, and it is still a dumbass comment here. Can’t be assed to repeat myself.

    it was simply a bare un-evidenced assertion about “white … men who have shaped the traditional concerns ….”

    you’ve gotta be shitting me. Are you seriously going to dispute that this demographic which has for so long dominated both in numbers and visibility/access to audiences (what you may call “leadership” i suppose) has not shaped the concerns of the movement?

    even if several of them periodically used phrasing that might have been suggestive of that.

    well that’s their problem not mine. however, as a dialog between two individuals, this entire experiment would be useless. if what they say isn’t at least roughly agreed upon by pitters, it is worthless as a dialogue to heal rifts. How is it supposed to establish common ground, if apparently the statements don’t even represent pitter common ground? do yall even know what the fuck you’re doing?

    Citations urgently needed. From my recollection that quoted comment was by one individual – Submariner – and is hardly justification for you asserting that “they’re claiming ….”

    multiple people have now claimed to not understand Stephanie’s writing. Are you really gonna tell me you haven’t seen those? lol.

    So there are more than a few people who are finding the process rather “cumbersome” at the moment

    sure it’s cumbersome, because it’s fucking long and it’s taking forever. that has nothing to do with understanding it.

    although you might want to watch out for PZ’s banhammer as he applied it to Julian for the same heresy.

    lol

    if you were concerned about your reputation ….

    LOL

    And relative to Zvan’s subsequent comment – “Funny how they never ask for clarification, just make up what they think I meant” – you might want to ask her how she expects that they/we could do that if she puts everyone from there into moderation or direct into her spam filter.

    I was not aware that publishing comments on her blog is the sole place at which you can communicate things to Stephanie. I was under the impression there was a dialog through which misunderstandings could be addressed…

  7. Jadehawk says:

    oh yeah, and on this note. Do you think “Please avoid ascribing motive, morality, beliefs, or opinion to another person or group.” applies to (emphasis mine):

    those who wish to impose a particular political and social ideology

    Further, do you think Skep Sheik broke rule #4 (“Begin each paragraph response by saying either ‘I agree with this’ or ‘I agree with this with reservations’ or ‘I disagree with this’, and then elaborate on why you agree or disagree.”) in almost all of the responses?

    (I’m going somewhere with this, so bear with me past this tu quoque for now and answer the questions)

  8. Steersman says:

    what “motive, morality, beliefs” are being ascribed or presumed?

    Why else would Stephanie bring up the question and phrase it that way unless she thought that those “motives, moralities, and beliefs” had had a negative influence on “our movements”? Why not mention the cars they drove and the suits they wore?

    except not. The dominance to the near total exclusion of alternatives has negative consequences.

    Maybe you would care to document how the dearth of women physicists and mathematicians, at least historically, has seriously crippled those disciplines.

    well that’s their problem not mine. however, as a dialog between two individuals, this entire experiment would be useless.

    Have you read anything about the purpose, agenda and structure of that dialog? Michael explicitly says (1):

    This is a structured dialogue to move beyond the recent rifts in the atheist and skeptic communities.

    It is a dialogue between individuals, not between imagined monolithic groups, and the power of any outcomes will lie in their content and how they were formulated, and not in any assumed authority.

    The consensus and the “buy-in” was to follow from those people making comments and agreeing or disagreeing with the opening statements and responses.

    You might want to reflect on this aphorism: “Put brain in gear before putting mouth in motion”.

    multiple people have now claimed to not understand Stephanie’s writing. Are you really gonna tell me you haven’t seen those? lol.

    How old are you? You might want to give more substance to your comments by cutting back on the “lols”, and adding a few citations.

    sure it’s cumbersome, because it’s fucking long and it’s taking forever. that has nothing to do with understanding it.

    It has everything to do with it. If the method of tracking who has said what to whom and where is cumbersome then people aren’t going to be able to follow the conversation or to respond accordingly. You might want to try reading a book without a table of contents, index, chapter headings, or page numbers. And then write a book review of it.

    I was under the impression there was a dialog through which misunderstandings could be addressed…

    Well, your impression is seriously wrong. Like much of the rest of your responses.

    —-
    1) “_http://atheistskepticdialogue.com/purpose/”;

  9. There’s an awful lot of reading comprehension failure there in Steersman’s response. Race, gender, class, and education – none of these are beliefs, morals, or motives. They are attributes which affect how people experience life, thereby shaping their viewpoints.

    So the point is simply that if a field is heavily dominated by people who share the same attributes, that you end up with a narrow range of viewpoints. There exist a wider variety of viewpoints once you start mixing in different combinations of those attributes. There’s no implication of malice to say that a group with a narrow range of viewpoints will have difficulty considering, or even being aware of, other viewpoints.

    Sure, things like race don’t have an impact on whether 2+2=4. But a lot of science is not that clear cut or basic. And even in mathmatics having a wider range of diversity of viewpoints and ways of thinking can lead to more creativity in coming up with new ideas and solutions. When it comes to, say, understanding how policing works, there are clearly very important differences in experiences lived based on the different combinations of those attributes.

    I don’t see how this is a difficult concept to grasp. It seems quite straightforward to me. Yet this seems to be one of the major contentions with the ‘pitter crowd – they seem to think these complaints about a narrow set of views are somehow an attack on morals and motives.

  10. Jadehawk says:

    Why else would Stephanie bring up the question and phrase it that way unless she thought that those “motives, moralities, and beliefs” had had a negative influence on “our movements”? Why not mention the cars they drove and the suits they wore?

    that doesn’t even remotely answer my question. Again: what motives or beliefs are being ascribed or presumed?

    Maybe you would care to document how the dearth of women physicists and mathematicians, at least historically, has seriously crippled those disciplines.

    You are trying to make me prove a historical hypothetical? lol. Of course, the boringly simple answer is “because there would have been more of them were they not almost completely excluded”, but that’s not even the point here.
    I’ve already given examples from other disciplines however, so this question is moot. EDIT: in fact, why don’t I link some of the relevant comments from Stephanie’s blog:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/2013/04/15/moving-right-along/#comment-227213

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/2013/04/15/moving-right-along/#comment-227216

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/2013/04/15/moving-right-along/#comment-227219

    Have you read anything about the purpose, agenda and structure of that dialog? Michael explicitly says (1):

    I have. I don’t remember agreeing to Nugent’s ideas about it. To have Staphanie argue a number of individuals who don’t even agree with each other is counterproductive, even if it is what Nugent wishes this dialogue to be. This is veering off topic though: the reason the dialogue is listed as “pitters” and “stephanie” is because it wasn’t relevant to this post to figure out which specific pitter said which thing. the labels are just there to demarcate the back-and-forth. would it make you feel better if i edited it to singular “pitter”?

    How old are you? You might want to give more substance to your comments by cutting back on the “lols”, and adding a few citations.

    so that’s a yes, you’re gonna play dumb. figures. and no, I’m not gonna cut back on expressions of amusement. Why the fuck would I? How old are you, that you think internet conventions are somehow bad?
    anyway, knock yourself out:

    While I remain neutral on the suggestion to exit the dialog, this is otherwise an excellent point. If I got one thing out of Svans response, it was the intent to obfuscate as much as possible. While one ‘sides’ posts were awfully verbose, it was easily understood in intent. Svan’s posts were written such that I had to keep going back to reread, wondering ‘wtf does that even mean?’ Her current behavior on her own blog only serves to further confirm that opinion.

    You too?

    and

    I must have some sort of cognitive deficit, because I can’t make any sense of the latest Stefuscations at Nugent’s dialogue site. Finnegan’s Wake is easier to read than all that convoluted horse puckey.

    Now I don’t feel so bad. I couldn’t make sense of it either and you’re smarter than me.

    so that’s four people directly admitting to incomprehension. others jumped on the she-is-doing-it-on-purpose explanation instead:

    It just shows to me the post modernist style of arguing is not only useless it is highly damaging when trying to reach common understanding.

    and

    Agreed.Seriously people, with all of the tortuous bullshit this person has vomited out in her attempts justify to the actions of her and her friends and to keep the hate on for Slymers, who could possibly believe that she is ever going to engage in a way that would acknowledge contrary views?

    I have found only one quote admitting enough comprehension to agree or disagree. As such, I’m justified in my statement that the expedition to figure out what the pitters’ interpretations of Stephanie’s words were to have been fruitless because almost everyone talking about it said they didn’t understand it at all, in one form or another.

    You might want to try reading a book without a table of contents, index, chapter headings, or page numbers. And then write a book review of it.

    this amuses me, insofar as the dialogue is numbered. There is no indication in any of the above quotes however that people are not tracking what response goes with what, and it’s rather difficult to assume that accusations of obfuscation and postmodernism are targeted at the overlying structure.
    Secondly, writing commentary about things on the net doesn’t strictly speaking require numeration. That’s what quoting, linking, and Ctrl+F are for.

    Well, your impression is seriously wrong.

    that was sarcasm. nonetheless, posting comments on Stephanie’s blog is not the only form of communication with her.

  11. Steersman says:

    that doesn’t even remotely answer my question. Again: what motives or beliefs are being ascribed or presumed?

    The question isn’t WHAT motives or beliefs are being ascribed or presumed, but the FACT that SOME of an unspecified nature are asserted to have had some nefarious influence “on our movements”.

    Maybe you would care to document how the dearth of women physicists and mathematicians, at least historically, has seriously crippled those disciplines.

    You are trying to make me prove a historical hypothetical? lol. Of course, the boringly simple answer is “because there would have been more of them were they not almost completely excluded”, but that’s not even the point here.

    But the question is HOW that disparity has crippled those disciplines. Do we think some things true that are actually false that would have been proven false precisely because there would have been more coloured, trans-gendered, or female mathematicians and physicists?

    The issue isn’t the number or types of individuals in a field, but whether the results of their studies are accurate depictions of reality. That you seem to have some difficulty with that difference is probably of some relevance and of more than a little concern.

    [got to call it a day; may pick it up later depending on what you meant on Stephanie’s blog about allowing if not encouraging everyone to be “jerks” ….]

  12. Jadehawk says:

    The question isn’t WHAT motives or beliefs are being ascribed or presumed, but the FACT that SOME of an unspecified nature are asserted to have had some nefarious influence “on our movements”.

    it is essential for you to be able to pinpoint such an assertion, which is why I asked you what is being asserted. It is not sufficient to simply claim that there must be one because you cannot imagine another reason to mention demographic attributes. That’s merely an argument from incredulity.

    In fact, there is no ascription or presumption or any beliefs, motives, etc. The claim here is simply that demographic similarities lead to large overlap in experiences, leading to some degree of homogeneity. It is the homogeneity, with its tendency to produce a narrow perspective and blind-spots that aren’t taken care of, that’s at fault. Not any “nefarious” attributed beliefs.

    But the question is HOW that disparity has crippled those disciplines.

    not really. I mean, I know that’s the question you’re asking, but it’s not the question under discussion; it’s your odd attempt at evading the question. The question under discussion is whether homogeneity caused by demographic similarity/overlap causes problems for a skeptical movement. The answer is yes, and it has been dealt with in the posts I linked to. The examples of how homogeneity is harmful were explained in some detail, but the main ones are:
    1)Adult males as default humans, leading to neglect of diseases that affect or manifest differently in non-males and grossly inaccurate psychological theories about transsexuality, because of lacking input from trans folks.
    2)Potentially neglected topics of interest for discussion/presentation/etc. in skeptic media, and consequently potentially missed audience that might be interested in skepticism, just not the specific topics that have been traditionally popular.

    The issue isn’t the number or types of individuals in a field, but whether the results of their studies are accurate depictions of reality.

    dude, I just said that wasn’t the issue here. However, it’s hardly controversial to say that more scientists often means more and faster scientific progress.

    [got to call it a day; may pick it up later depending on what you meant on Stephanie’s blog about allowing if not encouraging everyone to be “jerks” ….]

    I can’t blame this on you not reading the other thread, so what exactly explains that you know I said that, but do not know it refers to Stephanie explaining that she’s keeping y’all off her thread to keep us from behaving like jerks, because she prefers it when we contribute to the actual conversation, rather than rip into you?

    Also, are you going to answer my questions, or not?

  13. 2)Wanna bet this is just their attempt at defending their refusal to let go of privilege & the biases that come with it?

    I dunno. I would say the discussion about privilege is pretty difficult and people tend to misuse it. It’s not that it’s a bad idea, clearly many people have had much different and easier paths through life than others. However, making huge assumptions about individuals based on their race/class/gender is the type of racist and sexist thinking that we learned to reject over the past century or so. It’s not just morally wrong, it’s factually wrong. In any event, I’m not seeing many (any) pitters reject the idea that minority voices shouldn’t be heard and valued, so it doesn’t seem like an area of disagreement.

  14. embertine says:

    Hi Edward. I agree that no-one has explicitly stated that they don’t value minority* voices, and, to give them credit, I don’t believe that is the Team Pit™ intention at all. However, the Team Zvan™ arguments, from a complete outsider, seem to be:
    a) Minorities may feel unwelcome in skeptical spaces
    b) Skepticism benefits from the perspective of people who are not all the same
    c) Action is necessary if the status quo is to change

    Versus a rather convoluted argument courtesy of Steersman, which seems to be that minorities shouldn’t feel unwelcome, but even if they do then the movement doesn’t suffer.

    I mean, what would convince him – proof that, if women had been able to be scientists all along, science would be 34% more effective, plus space goats? It’s a ridiculous burden of proof to require before you can admit that excluding people (either intentionally or via apathy) is nasty.

    I understand that saying to someone, “You are white and male, and all your colleagues are too, so maybe you’re not very good at understanding people who aren’t” sounds a bit like racism and sexism. I really do get that. But we are living in a world where privilege is a reality, and pretending equality exists is not going to make it so. This is why I have a problem with equity feminism even though I believe it is well-intentioned.

    I would certainly not feel comfortable assuming that I know all about how a white man thinks and feels based on his race/gender, any more than I would for a black woman. That shit is not OK. But I think it’s reasonable to assume that race and gender can be a factor in experience and that those on the privileged end tend to be a bit oblivious. I definitely don’t approve of people screaming “PRIVILEGE!!!” as a checkmate in arguments, but I don’t think that’s what’s going on here.

    Does that make sense?

    *feel a bit weird using “minority” to describe women when we’re not, but you know what I mean.

  15. Jadehawk says:

    Edward, your response has exactly nothing to do with what you quoted. What you quoted was a response to a statement that skeptics should never move on and consider a point provisionally settled until further evidence comes in; a response in which I say that I suspect the reason for refusing to do this pretty basic thing is so that they can endlessly re-debate crap like “well, but what if stereotype threat isn’t actually real?”, like one skeptics group tried to do.

    As to what you wrote: no, no one explicitly rejects minorities; what you get is rejections of the idea that they will contribute valuable perspectives not present in the currently still largely homogeneous communities; you get people aggressively ridiculing the notion of gender-neutral pronouns; etc. all of which amounts to a rejection of members of minority groups by making them feel disrespected and unwelcome. Oh, and we’re not supposed to do specialized outreach/topic-focus like Women in Secularism either (not seen pitters specifically whining about e.g. the day of solidarity with black non-believers; but then, I didn’t actually look at the pit around that time)

    However, making huge assumptions about individuals based on their race/class/gender is the type of racist and sexist thinking that we learned to reject over the past century or so.

    denying that in a kyriarchal society different demographics will have different experiences that form a common basis for many biases and experiences is pure Thatcher-like denialism of the existence of society. Experiences shape our minds; demographics predict a certain amount of core experiences; and while each individual may escape some of this enculturation, no one person can escape all of it.

  16. Jadehawk says:

    *feel a bit weird using “minority” to describe women when we’re not, but you know what I mean.

    don’t worry too much about doing it. It’s a specialized definition (like “community” in ecology, or “theory” in science in general), but it is perfectly appropriate:

    minority, a culturally, ethnically, or racially distinct group that coexists with but is subordinate to a more dominant group. As the term is used in the social sciences, this subordinancy is the chief defining characteristic of a minority group. As such, minority status does not necessarily correlate to population. In some cases one or more so-called minority groups may have a population many times the size of the dominating group, as was the case in South Africa under apartheid (c. 1950–91).

    source

  17. Steersman says:

    Jadehawk said:

    The question isn’t WHAT motives or beliefs are being ascribed or presumed, but the FACT that SOME of an unspecified nature are asserted to have had some nefarious influence “on our movements”.

    it is essential for you to be able to pinpoint such an assertion, which is why I asked you what is being asserted. It is not sufficient to simply claim that there must be one because you cannot imagine another reason to mention demographic attributes. That’s merely an argument from incredulity.

    I think you’re essentially agreeing with me, but are apparently unable to see that, possibly because a difference in phrasing. All I’m doing is asserting that there is A reason for mentioning those “demographic attributes”, without specifying what it might be. Are you going to argue that Stephanie mentioned them for no reason at all? A rather untenable position given her subsequent response to Phil’s comments.

    And once we’ve agreed that there was a reason – you do concede that now, do you? – then the next step is to ask what that reason might be. And I have conjectured that she is implying or strongly suggesting that being a member of the “white”, “cis-gendered”, “middle to upper class”, and “male” classes – 3 genetic (nature) and 1 environmental (nurture), I might note in passing – has had a negative causal influence on “our movements”. Which you are, I think, essentially agreeing with, athough you are phrasing it in a slightly different way:

    In fact, there is no ascription or presumption or any beliefs, motives, etc. The claim here is simply that demographic similarities lead to large overlap in experiences, leading to some degree of homogeneity. It is the homogeneity, with its tendency to produce a narrow perspective and blind-spots that aren’t taken care of, that’s at fault. Not any “nefarious” attributed beliefs.

    You say po-tat-o, I say po-ta-to; you say homogeneity, I say being members of the same class. And, apart from wondering how you think that that “homogeneity” has a causal influence, it is that assertion that I at least, and Phil apparently, am questioning as being a serious and problematic stretch, at least in all cases – which is largely what Stephanie is, I think, asserting. While I will readily concede, as I think I did earlier here, that it probably does have some negative effects in some cases, the question is, I think, whether that is true in all cases.

    And more particularly, Stephanie was referring to “our movements” without specifying exactly what that encompasses which makes it even more untenable and problematic. But from the context of both her statements, and the nature of the Atheist-Skeptic Dialogue within which she is making those statements, one might reasonably conclude that “our movements” would encompass both pure and unalloyed atheism and skepticism defined as a set of philosophical principles and values. Which then raises the cogent and highly relevant and quite problematic question as to how you, and Stephanie, think those principles are influenced if not corrupted by the possession of those various attributes. Is there an intrinsic difference between cis-gendered atheism and a trans-gendered atheism? Which is why I presented that hyperbolic analogy of cis-gendered and trans-gendered “molecular masses” for plutonium.

    … but do not know it refers to Stephanie explaining that she’s keeping y’all off her thread to keep us from behaving like jerks

    I don’t see that that has much relevance. Considering that being called a jerk has some pejorative connotations, and that it is not something that most civilized, sane and rational individuals normally aspire to, that you would somehow condone that as an acceptable behaviour pattern doesn’t speak all that well of your ethics, morality, and credibility.

    Also, are you going to answer my questions, or not?

    Maybe; we’ll see. Let’s deal with this one first as I think there is a hell of lot that can be “unpacked” out of it, much of it that is quite problematic.

  18. smhll says:

    Whether the wider community has a right to know. In the end, though, it is about a public figure in the skeptical community, and not just any public figure. It is, in fact, about a luminary. A shining light.

    Perhaps the negative effect of limiting insight or direct personal knowledge of certain situations.

  19. FloraPoste says:

    And I have conjectured that she is implying or strongly suggesting that being a member of the “white”, “cis-gendered”, “middle to upper class”, and “male” classes – 3 genetic (nature) and 1 environmental (nurture), I might note in passing – has had a negative causal influence on “our movements”.
    No. She is not asserting that *being* a member of one of those classes has a negative causal influence on “our movements”. The claim is that homogeneity *itself* is a weakness in a movement that aims to have an impact on the actual society we live in, which is not homogeneous. Does that make sense?

  20. Jadehawk says:

    All I’m doing is asserting that there is A reason for mentioning those “demographic attributes”, without specifying what it might be.

    bullshit. you’ve specified a reason, namely that Stephanie is attributing “nefarious” beliefs and motives to people in that demographic.

    Are you going to argue that Stephanie mentioned them for no reason at all?

    your Morton’s demon is strong. let me repeat myself: The reason is that that particular demographic has dominated the secular community, and that demographic similarities lead to large overlap in experiences, leading to some degree of homogeneity.

    And, apart from wondering how you think that that “homogeneity” has a causal influence,

    you’ve gotta be shitting me. are you claiming that similar demographic attributes don’t create similar social experiences?

    While I will readily concede, as I think I did earlier here, that it probably does have some negative effects in some cases, the question is, I think, whether that is true in all cases.

    It is true as an emergent property of the homogeneity caused by most individuals, and especially most vocal individuals with large audiences belonging to the same or very similar demographic groups, which is the point here. And to some degree, it’s also true as an emergent property of the fact that the majority demographics are also socially dominant ones, because on average people from non-dominant groups are more aware of issues concerning the dominant group than vice-versa.

    Which then raises the cogent and highly relevant and quite problematic question as to how you, and Stephanie, think those principles are influenced if not corrupted by the possession of those various attributes.

    Again: are you shitting me? Are you really going to claim that the issues in atheism are the same for vastly different demographics? Are you really going to claim that skepticism so far has not been practiced to a very limited scope (the exclusion of religion being one such example, which begun to change as more non-religious skeptics joined the skeptic movement/communities)?

    Is there an intrinsic difference between cis-gendered atheism and a trans-gendered atheism?

    “Intrinsic” is pretty much meaningless when referring to social phenomena. However there is of course a substantial difference: religion has different effects on trans folks than on cis folks, and so secularism/atheism would have different foci of importance to people in these different groups, on the whole. Same for white Americans vs. black Americans, which is what Sikivu Hutchinson often writes about.

    Which is why I presented that hyperbolic analogy of cis-gendered and trans-gendered “molecular masses” for plutonium.

    Your example wasn’t hyperbolic, it was inapplicable. You seem to mostly confuse social phenomena with physical ones. You do understand that social phenomena do vary depending on demographic, yes?
    Aside from that, I’ve now referred you several times to an example from biology; cardiac arrest is cardiac arrest regardless of sex; and yet, it’s qualitatively different in men and women, a fact that was ignored for a very long time because of a blind spot caused by homogeneity. Hell, even now that it’s known that heart attacks aren’t a male-only thing and that symptoms are different, there’s still a dominant blind spot to heart attacks and women: when a middle-aged, post-hysterectomy woman can be told she needs a pregnancy test instead of an ECG, that’s a good clue that a bunch of people in that ER were having a collective blind spot (this is an extreme example, but women’s heart attacks are too often misdiagnosed still)

    I don’t see that that has much relevance. Considering that being called a jerk has some pejorative connotations, and that it is not something that most civilized, sane and rational individuals normally aspire to, that you would somehow condone that as an acceptable behaviour pattern doesn’t speak all that well of your ethics, morality, and credibility.

    This is fucking hilarious, considering that context here has everything to do with why I used the word “jerks”; in scarequotes and everything: it is the sole reason why I used that word. You see, I don’t think ripping into idiotic cents by pitters makes us jerks, but that’s how Stephanie described it, which I was referring to. Also, it’s fucking hilarious that pitters would get upset at “bad words”, especially in facetious self-reference.

    Maybe; we’ll see. Let’s deal with this one first as I think there is a hell of lot that can be “unpacked” out of it, much of it that is quite problematic.

    So far, the only problematic issue I see is the denial that homogeneity in demographics tends to result in a narrower worldviews and fewer perspectives than a heterogeneity in demographics does. Problematic is really the unsupported belief in the effectiveness of hierarchy-blindness to actually erase hierarchies. Didn’t work in Yugoslavia, isn’t working in France in regard to race issues, isn’t working to solve US class issues. Why would it magically work in atheist/secular communities?

    Also, are you going to tell me whether or not replacing “pitters” with “a pitter” would be more to your liking, or not? Don’t just whine at me, and then don’t respond when I’m offering a change.

  21. Jadehawk says:

    you do concede that now, do yo

    idiot. I never denied there was a reason, I just knew that it wasn’t the one you asserted, i.e. one that ascribed motives and beliefs.

    And I have conjectured

    yeah, that you certainly have.

    3 genetic (nature) and 1 environmental (nurture),

    “white” is a social construct; remember, about 150 years ago, the Irish weren’t white, nor were Jews. “male” can sometimes be one, too (e.g. pre-transition trans* women will be often read as male), and is often closely intertwined with “masculine” which is almost entirely constructed.
    None of this has anything to do with anything; the similarity of experience comes largely from those being socially constructed statuses within a hierarchy (and to a lesser degree by environmental factors such as basic geography).

    Which you are, I think, essentially agreeing with

    nope. if the homogeneity were caused by a different demographic setup, it would still be problematic. The only somewhat unique factor is that the statuses mentioned are hegemonic ones, and as I already said, dominant groups tend to be less knowledgeable about non-dominant experience than vice versa (compare atheists knowing a lot about Christians, Christian culture, etc. but not vice versa, because Christianity has a socially dominant status in society)

  22. Steersman says:

    Jadehawk said:

    All I’m doing is asserting that there is A reason for mentioning those “demographic attributes”, without specifying what it might be.

    bullshit. you’ve specified a reason, namely that Stephanie is attributing “nefarious” beliefs and motives to people in that demographic.

    Unmitigated horseshit, if not evidence of acting like a fucking jerk. If homogeneity is asserted to be or produce some emergent property that has some causal influence on the behaviours of individuals within a group then the mechanism is presumably that it changed the “beliefs and motives of the people in that demographic”. Unless you wish argue that the mechanism is unconscious, although that hardly changes the fact that it is still something that motivates the individual, i.e., a motive.

    Also, it’s fucking hilarious that pitters would get upset at “bad words”, especially in facetious self-reference.

    I don’t know about other pitters so the plural is hardly appropriate, but I’m certainly not “upset”, only that I prefer not to have to deal with such obnoxious individuals. However, my impression is that the self-reference is looking to be a fairly accurate description.

    Also, are you going to tell me whether or not replacing “pitters” with “a pitter” would be more to your liking, or not?

    Much better, thanks. Although my previous comment suggests that you’re still unclear on the application of the principle.

    you do concede that now, do you

    idiot. I never denied there was a reason, I just knew that it wasn’t the one you asserted, i.e. one that ascribed motives and beliefs.

    Stupid cunt. Relabeling the mechanism as “emergent property of homogeneity” hardly changes the implication or claim that membership in a particular class changes or strongly influences one’s beliefs and motives in supposedly problematic if not nefarious ways.

  23. Does that make sense?

    It makes great sense. I wholeheartedly agree that privilege is a good idea and it’s well-worth keeping in mind a healthy sense of perspective when dealing with social issues. We don’t have the luxury of doing great experiments on social issues, so it can be all too easy to just impute our own experiences onto everyone else. However, too often it’s used as some sort of judgment or a way to dismiss another person, which is unfortunate. I probably sound like a broken record lately, but racism and sexism isn’t wrong just because just so. It’s wrong because it leads us into making untrue, unfair assumptions about people based on mostly irrelevant uncontrollable factors. So “they won’t admit their privilege” can be offensive, because maybe “they” have had awful, miserable lives devoid of any real privilege at all.

    denying that in a kyriarchal society different demographics will have different experiences that form a common basis for many biases and experiences is pure Thatcher-like denialism of the existence of society. Experiences shape our minds; demographics predict a certain amount of core experiences; and while each individual may escape some of this enculturation, no one person can escape all of it.

    Maybe. Who knows? The whole point is that it is flatly impossible for you to know something about someone based on some factor, such as they are female, or they are black. You can accurately say that 20 percent of black males have been to prison, but just saying that doesn’t mean that you can look at a black person and tell if he has been to prison. And that’s an easy statistic, unlike other quite nebulous things like how someone feels about women or something similar.

  24. Jadehawk says:

    If homogeneity is asserted to be or produce some emergent property that has some causal influence on the behaviours of individuals within a group then the mechanism is presumably that it changed the “beliefs and motives of the people in that demographic”.

    you can’t read. please quote where I said emergent properties are causal to behavior; besides, the emergent property of homogeneity and therefore narrowed and fewer perspectives exists irrespective of what beliefs members of a demographic share, or what precisely their behaviors are.

    Unless you wish argue that the mechanism is unconscious, although that hardly changes the fact that it is still something that motivates the individual, i.e., a motive.

    the mechanism for what?

    Relabeling the mechanism as “emergent property of homogeneity” hardly changes the implication or claim that membership in a particular class changes or strongly influences one’s beliefs and motives in supposedly problematic if not nefarious ways.

    what “mechanism”? where did I say that experiences being shaped by demographic is problematic? you have no fucking clue what you’re talking about.

    Also, you keep using slurs here, you’ll find yourself in moderation. I see no reason to let you indulge in that pointless shit.

    ————-

    It’s wrong because it leads us into making untrue, unfair assumptions about people based on mostly irrelevant uncontrollable factors.

    actually, it’s ethically wrong because it harms people. so does blindness to hierarchies.

    So “they won’t admit their privilege” can be offensive, because maybe “they” have had awful, miserable lives devoid of any real privilege at all.

    I’m sure somewhere exists a social group that’s at the shit end of all axes of oppression, but it’s extremely unlikely that any of us will ever encounter such. especially not on the internet or at skeptic conferences.

    You can accurately say that 20 percent of black males have been to prison, but just saying that doesn’t mean that you can look at a black person and tell if he has been to prison.

    well good that no one is actually saying that. OTOH, it is possible to say that a black person in America will have experiences with the “justice” system that are related to the high incarceration rates (e.g. they’ll have experienced some discrimination by cops themselves, or have witnessed friends and family being thusly affected in a disproportionate and unfair way); that are qualitatively different from those of white folks; few exceptions to such shared experiences will exist.

    unlike other quite nebulous things like how someone feels about women or something similar.

    there’s a reason intent is usually discarded as impossible to ascertain; actions indicating certain cultural biases and contributing to the culture creating/maintaining these biases are usually what people talk about.

  25. Flora Poste says:

    Actually the benefits of heterogenuous groups goes beyond the introduction of new viewpoints:

    http://insight.kellogg.northwestern.edu/article/better_decisions_through_diversity

    Really quite hilarious how Steersman keeps missing the point.

  26. smhll says:

    Sorry, people. My post time-stamped 2:54 is incomprehensible because I had a non-sequitur in my paste buffer.

    What I said is intended to be in reply to this passage where Steersman responds to Stephanie Z, as quoted below.

    >>>” But, even apart from that relatively minor transgression, there is the even more egregious and completely un-evidenced implication if not opinion that those attributes – “white, cis-gendered, educated, middle to upper class, male” – have had some seriously negative consequences on the principles and values in “our movements”. Talk about a dog-whistle.” [Steersman]

    I’m trying to say that the implied negative consequences may be as mild as limiting insight or direct personal knowledge of certain situations in the leadership of the atheist movement. Experiential diversity is undoubtedly positively corelated with racial and gender diversity. Even ideological diversity may make a positive contribution to broadening overall understanding.

    I do not believe that Stephanie is making an accusation of dire malfeasance that should cause alarm.

  27. Steersman says:

    you can’t read. please quote where I said emergent properties are causal to behavior;

    And you can’t think. If emergent properties aren’t causal to behaviour then why are you talking about them as they – by your definition – have no influence. But relative to the concept you might to take a look at even the Wikipedia article (1) which notes:

    The usage of the notion “emergence” may generally be subdivided into two perspectives, that of “weak emergence” and “strong emergence”. Weak emergence is a type of emergence in which the emergent property is reducible to its individual constituents. This is opposed to strong emergence, in which the emergent property is irreducible to its individual constituents.

    Others have suggested that strong emergence actually exists in a number of phenomena such as superconductivity and phonons (2), and I would argue, on the basis of some evidence and current thought, that group-think and mob-behaviour qualifies as well.

    Also, you keep using slurs here, you’ll find yourself in moderation. I see no reason to let you indulge in that pointless shit.

    If you don’t want slurs to come back at you in spades then don’t use them yourself. Known as “tit-for-tat”; you and Stephanie both might want to at least attenuate your ignorance in that regard by actually reading something of substance (3) for a change.

    —-
    1) “_http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emergent_properties#Strong_and_weak_emergence”;
    2) “_http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phonon”;
    3) “_”http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/game-theory/”;

  28. Steersman says:

    Flora Poste said:

    Really quite hilarious how Steersman keeps missing the point.

    Maybe what you think is the point, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that that is the point. Unless you’re so arrogant as to think you’re omniscient.

  29. Steersman says:

    smhll said:

    I do not believe that Stephanie is making an accusation of dire malfeasance that should cause alarm.

    Maybe that wasn’t her intent – which many keep telling us “isn’t magic” – but the consequences of allowing a categorical statement to pass unchallenged might well have some very problematic consequences. Which is probably why Phil challenged it – and quite rightly so.

    Unless everyone is prepared to address every possible case then that seems the wiser course of action. And I, and many others, would consider the rather egregious and highly contentious claims about “The Patriarchy” to be a case in point.

  30. Jadehawk says:

    If emergent properties aren’t causal to behaviour then why are you talking about them as they – by your definition – have no influence.

    jesus fucking christ. you asserted that the properties of homogeneity i noted cause certain behavior in individuals; that’s not the case; the emergent property emerges from the behaviors; perfectly good or neutral behaviors of irrelevant content, since their only relevant quality is the circumscribed nature of their source ideas; the content of which is also not relevant. Now, the emergent properties are causal to various things, but obviously not the behaviors that are its base. d’uh.

    I would argue, on the basis of some evidence and current thought, that group-think and mob-behaviour qualifies as well.

    all social facts qualify; that’s what makes them social facts, and not simply psychological aggregates. I’m not sure what to make of this side-track into definitions of emergent properties; are you arguing that by assigning negative qualities to an emergent property of homogenous beliefs, morals, etc., I’m ascribing group-think to the demographic under discussion? Are you accusing someone of group-think? Is this just a total non-sequitur?

    If you don’t want slurs to come back at you in spades then don’t use them yourself.

    i didn’t use a slur. i used an insult. you can insult me all you want if it pleases you, but you may not use slurs.

    Really quite hilarious how Steersman keeps missing the point.

    Maybe what you think is the point, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that that is the point. Unless you’re so arrogant as to think you’re omniscient.

    Flora is right though. You’re so focused on finding some way to claim that Stephanie ascribed motives and beliefs (negative ones, to boot) to an entire demographic that you’re unable or unwilling to realize that it’s entirely fucking irrelevant what the motivations and beliefs are, since Stephanie’s point was about the homogeneity of a group dominated by a single demographic; ever since, I’ve been trying to explain that as well as explain how homogeneity of ideas is harmful even when the ideas themselves aren’t (which is why the content of the ideas isn’t really relevant to the point, and thus needn’t be ascribed or presumed)

    And I fucking wish we could finally get off this very basic and increasingly tedious point and move on to the next.

  31. Jadehawk says:

    but the consequences of allowing a categorical statement to pass unchallenged might well have some very problematic consequences.

    well that’s almost a point. now let’s hear what those problematic consequences are, and maybe we’ll finally get a whole point out of this discussion.

    Unless everyone is prepared to address every possible case

    every possible case of what?

    And I, and many others, would consider the rather egregious and highly contentious claims about “The Patriarchy” to be a case in point.

    that’s nice, but entirely irrelevant to the topic at hand.

  32. ambidexter143 says:

    The point that Steersman keeps avoiding is not that homogeneity caused maleficence, i.e., the doing of evil or harm, but that it limits viewpoints. Gary Zukav’s The Dancing Wu Li Masters gave a different interpretation of quantum physics as seen from a New Age viewpoint. Like many others, I was quite annoyed by the book but it was a dissimilar view of a complicated subject than is usually given, especially in books written for the non-scientist.

  33. Jadehawk says:

    Another good example of a completely atypical (from the perspective of mainstream atheism) viewpoint is presented in Pinn’s “End of God” talk. The perspective was so foreign to me, I had a hard time with it; but it was absolutely worth reading nonetheless. Stretching the brain a bit. :-p

  34. embertine says:

    Hello again Edward, hope we’re not derailing this thread too much! I too have seen mentions of privilege used as, I guess, a silencing tactic, a sort of gotcha to shut down argument. And yes, it sucks, because I perceive that discussion of privilege can be very eye-opening and something that is valuable to all kinds of people. Therefore I don’t think we should allow a few people misusing that concept to prevent us from being aware of privilege and how it operates in our society. On the other hand: if I, as a white person, start banging on about racism from my perspective and get told to shut up and listen because my privilege is showing, I think it behoves me to at least stop and think whether they have a point before getting offended.

    Also, it seems to me that privilege still applies even if other aspects of your life are crappy. Anecdotal example – my friend R. He thinks his life is pretty dreadful because he suffers from depression and crippling social anxiety, which has stopped him finding a partner, leaving home, getting promotions etc. I feel huge amounts of sympathy for his plight. But what he doesn’t understand, when he talks about how racism is irrelevant, is that if he were black he may have to deal with all of that PLUS the additional problems that come with being racially discriminated against. Like he may not have got that decent job in the first place, or he may not have had parents who were well enough off to support him, etc etc.

    It’s complex, I think, because there are so many factors in what makes up someone’s life. But I still believe it’s a useful discussion to have.

  35. Jadehawk says:

    since Edward used the example of prison, let’s actually look at that real quick:

    White men with prison records receive far more offers for entry-level jobs in New York City than black men with identical records, and are offered jobs just as often – if not more so – than black men who have never been arrested, according to a new study by two Princeton professors.

    source (just a newspaper article about it; i’ll dig for the actual paper, if anyone wants, it later)

    that shit is what privilege often is about: a white dude with a record and therefore a hard time finding a job won’t think of himself as privileged; but he is, if he’s actually getting job offers as often as black dudes with no record. He won’t necessarily be able to see that privilege though, because really, who the fuck thinks of themselves as privileged if they get rejections because of their record?

    Anyway, that’s only very tangentially related to the discussion. Not that I mind, I am just not convinced everyone will be able to remember that these are now two different topics of discussion :-p

  36. David Marjanović says:

    And, apart from wondering how you think that that “homogeneity” has a causal influence, it is that assertion that I at least, and Phil apparently, am questioning as being a serious and problematic stretch, at least in all cases – which is largely what Stephanie is, I think, asserting.

    When everyone has the same shared experiences and the same shared lack of experiences, some ideas are bound to come up very quickly, while others are highly unlikely to occur to everyone.

    Now, in geology I’m certain this doesn’t make a difference. But when you get closer to humans, you’ll be surprised how WEIRD you are (link to pdf file). Even optical illusions can be purely cultural instead of telling us something about how eyes or optic lobes work.

    BTW, Steersman, to make a link here, you can either post the naked URL or write the actual HTML: <a href=”http://www.asdf.com/”>this</a> automatically turns into this. I have no idea what weird kind of forum you come from because you try to use quotation marks and underscores; that’s not even BBCode…

    Also, are you going to tell me whether or not replacing “pitters” with “a pitter” would be more to your liking, or not? Don’t just whine at me, and then don’t respond when I’m offering a change.

    It’d definitely more to my liking, because “pitters” does make it sound like there’s a consensus and you just picked one of several similar comments in each case.

    Stupid cunt.

    *ding ding ding ding ding* We have a winner!!! Steersman, you woman, you! :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D

    Your choice of words is interesting for a second reason, too: it reminds me of the “blooming arse” in My Fair Lady: contrary to my expectations, “arse” was evidently printable in 19th-century Britain and apparently more or less sayable at a horse race, but “bleeding” was not. I think reminding Jadehawk of her place in the patriarchy was so important to you that you didn’t even bother coming up with anything actually halfway offensive instead of the mellow “stupid”.

    Do you always get that desperate when you disagree with a woman? :-D

    Gary Zukav’s The Dancing Wu Li Masters gave a different interpretation of quantum physics as seen from a New Age viewpoint.

    …In the process, the book actually gets several things wrong. It’s not a good example.

    Pinn’s “End of God” talk. The perspective was so foreign to me, I had a hard time with it; but it was absolutely worth reading nonetheless.

    Is it online somewhere?

  37. FloraPoste says:

    Do you always get that desperate when you disagree with a woman?

    I suspect it is a.) a form of “counting coup” with his peer group “(look, I went into the enemy camp and used a bad word to hex their mojo!”) and also b.) an attempt to end an argument he knows he can’t win, in such a way that he can convince himself, and his social milieu, that he has still somehow come out on top. He’s hoping for an outraged reaction so he can say “All I did was stick up for white, middle-class, cis-gendered males when they were being maligned, and that stupid c___ banned me!” Never mind that he never got the point that the issue wasn’t “corrupting influence” of this or that group, but that the demographic in question does not, in fact, represent the totality of human experience. So basically what you said.

  38. doubtthat says:

    Steersman, this is really stupid, and it gets dumber with every awful attempt you make to defend it:

    The question isn’t WHAT motives or beliefs are being ascribed or presumed, but the FACT that SOME of an unspecified nature are asserted to have had some nefarious influence “on our movements”.

    You believe that Stephanie violated this “rule” from Shermer (quotes because it’s somewhere between a rule and a suggestion):

    2(b) Tips for interpreting others’ posts (reading & responding)

    1.Please avoid ascribing motive, morality, beliefs, or opinion to another person or group.

    Moderators are likely to find problematic posts that

    2.Comment on presumed characteristics, morality, or beliefs of another person or group, rather than about statements or actions by that person”

    Stephanie made absolutely no claim about the motive, morality or beliefs of the white, straight, males that have historically dominated the secular movement. She merely commented on the fact that a single dominant group, FOR WHATEVER REASON, will end up stressing issues that are important to them.

    These white dudes (including me) could be ignoring issues important to women and minorities intentionally (racism, sexism) or by accident or by ignorance or by well-meaning mistake, the motives absolute DO NOT matter. Notice that there are some folks that fall in every possible category, but regardless of motivation, the factual result is the same: marginalization of minority voices.

    The second half of your shitty whining is equally worthless. The result need not be “nefarious” to be worth correcting, and once again we have a massive range of unacceptable results going from outright harassment to a sort of benign exclusion. None of this is particularly cumbersome to correct, unless you engage in histrionic denials.

    That being said, it’s fairly easy to point out instances of “nefarious” results, and once again, that does not involve ascribing motives. It simply requires empirical observation. Now, understanding the motives will likely be important to correcting the problem, but that’s outside the scope of what Stephanie was arguing, making your melodramatic tantrum all the more spurious.

    Why else would Stephanie bring up the question and phrase it that way unless she thought that those “motives, moralities, and beliefs” had had a negative influence on “our movements”? Why not mention the cars they drove and the suits they wore?

    The fact that you’re incapable of answering this question should be a moment of pause and self-reflection. YOU are the one dramatically ascribing motivations to Stephanie based on a hostile, emotional reaction. The projection is embarrassing to behold.

  39. doubtthat says:

    Don’t know why I said “Shermer.” Should be “Nugent.”

  40. ambidexter143 says:
    Gary Zukav’s The Dancing Wu Li Masters gave a different interpretation of quantum physics as seen from a New Age viewpoint.

    …In the process, the book actually gets several things wrong. It’s not a good example.

    I’m not a physicist and it’s been years since I read the book. I remember Zukay’s attempt to explain the two-slit experiment.* He insisted that photons were particles even though the obvious explanation for the experiment is that photons have wave characteristics. Particle-wave duality is not a concept Zukay understands.

    As I said previously, I found the book quite annoying. I mentioned it as an example of heterogeneous thinking. Perhaps Fritjof Capra’s The Tao of Physics would have been a better example. Capra is a physicist but I find his attempts to combine religion and science even more annoying than Zukay’s ignorance.

    *A photon is projected at a barrier with two slits set very close together on it. The photon appears to go through both slits simultaneously, showing an interference pattern on a screen behind the barrier.

  41. Did anybody see that TED talk about hyperbolic maths, crochet, and coral reefs? Turns out mathematicians spent 100 years thinking that there was no way to model hyperbolic equations in the real world because none of them did crochet. Why did none of them do crochet? Because maths are for men and crochet is for women! (Coral reefs came up because their structure is hyperbolic, but dudely mathematicians didn’t realize this either on account of not having being able to model the equations. Now there’s a worldwide coral reef crochet project.)

    That’s one example of how the exclusion of women slowed down mathematical discovery.

  42. With regards to the :”nefarious” question – nobody intended for CO2 emissions to cause global climate change, therefore it’s not a problem worth addressing. Right?

  43. Dan L. says:

    David Marjanovic, I was going to mention WEIRD as well. It is exactly what Steersman is asking for: an example of how scientific procedures and results can be improved simply by increasing diversity among researchers and subjects without having to ascribe any malign motives or intentions to anyone in any particular group or class of people.

    I would say “I don’t know why this is so hard for Steersman to understand” except that I DO understand why it’s so hard for Steersman to understand. Motivated reasoning, the same reason creationists can’t understand very simple points about evolution and the evidence for it.

    Steersman, here it is one more time. Svan was not ascribing malign motives or intentions to white, cis, etc. etc. She was asserting that the homogeneity of viewpoints of a group primarily composed of white, cis, etc. etc. is delimited by the narrow range of life experiences possessed by that group. She suggests that a more diverse group drawing on a more diverse range of life experiences would be less susceptible to basic errors of human reasoning such as confirmation bias since the inclusion of different points of view would force all participants to revisit assumptions they had been taking for granted.

    You sarcastically ask whether a more diverse group would have arrived at different values for fundamental physical constants. It seems to me that when you do this you are employing a diversionary tactic. This is not really an argument; it is intended as a withering remark but since the implicit argument is so obviously flawed it comes across not so much as withering as desperate. Clearly science is not only concerned with the values of physical constants. WEIRD, the example brought up by David, is a case in point. Many attitudes and behaviors are considered (usually as part of “folk psychology”) to be “human nature” because people within our society typically compare themselves to others within our society. So constants that are merely cultural seem as though they are universal.

    This is an example of a more widespread philosophical problem in science known as a “theory-laden observation”. More generally, experimental results don’t have any significance to themselves until they are interpreted within a theoretical framework. Furthermore, it’s skepticism 101 that no scientific theory is “provably true” — they are always provisional. Thus science depends on two non-reductive, non-deductive, and arguably non-rational processes: theory generation and interpretation of empirical results. If you bother to read Thomas Kuhn you’ll see he adduced a great many historical examples in which both the willingness to accept new and controversial theories and the willingness to interpret empirical results within certain ways were constrained by cultural biases on the parts of the scientists involved.

    Perhaps if more scientists with different, non-overlapping cultural biases were included in the scientific project we would have different theories than we currently do, and perhaps these theories would be able to account for the 98% of the universe that is anomalous according to current physical theories. Yes, current physical theories predict only 2% of the energy/mass density of the universe — our best physical theories do not predict the existence of dark matter or dark energy which — based mostly on assumptions about the nature of these entities — seem to make up the vast majority of our universe by “weight” as it were. Perhaps if more people of different cultural sensibilities were included we’d have made more progress in reconciling relativity with quantum mechanics — a project that has been apparently fruitlessly carried out for the last 8 decades or so.

    Or maybe not. We can’t say because it’s counterfactual. But it does prompt the question: why should we exclude people who are not white, cis, etc. etc.? Do we gain anything in particular by doing so? There’s good arguments for why diversity should be good for science — do you have any arguments concerning why it wouldn’t?

  44. Steersman says:

    ambidexter1 said:

    The point that Steersman keeps avoiding is not that homogeneity caused maleficence, i.e., the doing of evil or harm, but that it limits viewpoints.

    So, what then is the problem with “limiting viewpoints”? Maybe there’s some consequential “harm”? ….

  45. Steersman says:

    David Marjanović said:

    Even optical illusions can be purely cultural instead of telling us something about how eyes or optic lobes work.

    Purely cultural? That’s a bit of a stretch. I can see that the specific illusions are cultural, but how the eyes of optic lobes work is, I expect rather consistent across cultures. As with languages, and as suggested by Steven Pinker’s The Language Instinct.

    BTW, Steersman, to make a link here, you can either post the naked URL or write the actual HTML: this automatically turns into this. I have no idea what weird kind of forum you come from because you try to use quotation marks and underscores; that’s not even BBCode…

    Thanks for the update, but I’m quite aware of that. I’ve found that many blogs put comments into auto-moderation depending on the type and number of links included. If Jadehawk were to confirm that that is not the case here then I would be quite prepared to embed the links as described.

    *ding ding ding ding ding* We have a winner!!! Steersman, you woman, you! :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D

    I figure those types of insults are cases of synecdoche (1):

    A figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole (as hand for sailor), the whole for a part (as the law for police officer), the specific for the general (as cutthroat for assassin), the general for the specific (as thief for pickpocket), or the material for the thing made from it (as steel for sword).

    If, for example, “cunt” is used in a non-pejorative sense then that would be covered by the first case above – similar to refering to a bunch of sailing ships as, for example, “20 sail”, or referring to a woman as a “skirt”, or to a bunch of business men or lawyers as “the suits”. To use the word in an insulting sense is, I think, to reduce the individual to that only.

    Do you always get that desperate when you disagree with a woman? :-D

    How do you get the idea that it was a case of desperation? As mentioned, it was a case of “tit-for-tat” (2), which tends to have some corrective capabilities.

    —-
    1) “_http://www.thefreedictionary.com/synecdoche”;
    2) “_”http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/game-theory/”;

  46. Steersman says:

    FloraPoste said:

    Do you always get that desperate when you disagree with a woman?

    I suspect it is a.) a form of “counting coup” with his peer group “(look, I went into the enemy camp and used a bad word to hex their mojo!”) and also b.) an attempt to end an argument ….

    I think you need to tune up your inference machinery since, as mentioned above, you’re way out in left field if not out of the ballpark entirely. And, speaking of reading comprehension fails, you too might want to read or re-read my comments and the relevant article on “tit-for-tat”.

    He’s hoping for an outraged reaction so he can say ….

    I hope you didn’t pay much for that mind-reading course. Although if there is such an outraged reaction I’ll be more than happy to point to that as further evidence of hypocrisy – which is actually reaching mountainous proportions for FreefromThought bloggers and fellow-travelers.

  47. Steersman says:

    doubtthat said:

    You believe that Stephanie violated this “rule” from [Nugent] (quotes because it’s somewhere between a rule and a suggestion):

    2(b) Tips for interpreting others’ posts (reading & responding)

    1.Please avoid ascribing motive, morality, beliefs, or opinion to another person or group. ….

    Stephanie made absolutely no claim about the motive, morality or beliefs of the white, straight, males that have historically dominated the secular movement. She merely commented on the fact that a single dominant group, FOR WHATEVER REASON, will end up stressing issues that are important to them.

    Christ in a sidecar. You don’t think that “stressing issues that are important to them” is not a consequence of their “motives, morality or beliefs”? Straining at the gnat and swallowing the camel whole, indeed ….

  48. Dan L. says:

    Steersman,

    Purely cultural? That’s a bit of a stretch. I can see that the specific illusions are cultural, but how the eyes of optic lobes work is, I expect rather consistent across cultures. As with languages, and as suggested by Steven Pinker’s The Language Instinct.

    Perhaps you should do the tiniest modicum of research on the subject before spouting off. David said “some” and according to the WEIRD research that seems to be correct. Some optical illusions are purely the effect of culture and some are not.

    The very way the brain is wired can be an effect of culture due to neuroplasticity. The morphology of the brain is not encoded in the genome. This is really fucking obvious: you can see morphological differences in the brain between, say, English speakers and speakers of Mandarin. These morphological differences are due to culture (language), not genes.

  49. Steersman says:

    Jadehawk said:

    If emergent properties aren’t causal to behaviour then why are you talking about them as they – by your definition – have no influence.

    jesus fucking christ. you asserted that the properties of homogeneity i noted cause certain behavior in individuals; that’s not the case; the emergent property emerges from the behaviors; perfectly good or neutral behaviors of irrelevant content, since their only relevant quality is the circumscribed nature of their source ideas; the content of which is also not relevant. Now, the emergent properties are causal to various things, but obviously not the behaviors that are its base. d’uh.

    “You keep using that word [emergent]; I do not think it means what you think it means”. And, speaking of reading-comprehension fails, you too might want to read or re-read a little more closely that Wikipedia article (1) on the topic. I would also recommend the book Complexity by M.Mitchell Waldrop for a popular focus on the topic and the history of its evolution and implications.

    But while I’m happy to see you at least recognize that “emergent properties are causal to various things”, you are totally out to fucking lunch in asserting “[not causal to] the behaviours that are its base”, the flocking behaviour of birds being a case in point, phonons being another (2).

    i didn’t use a slur. i used an insult. you can insult me all you want if it pleases you, but you may not use slurs.

    Well, my impression is that, at least according to the cant and catechism of Pope Myers and his merry band of deluded clowns, “idiot” – which you called me – qualifies as an “ableist” slur. Sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander; “tit-for-tat” and all that. And, somewhat apropos and related to Zvan’s and Watson’s frequent use of “asshole” and “dick”, that is why I had argued in a comment in that Atheist-Skeptic Dialogue, although that portion was moderated out, that an appropriate point to debate is this analogy (1):

    Resolved: Calling someone a “cunt” is to a charge of “sexist” or “misogynist” as calling someone a “nigger” is to a charge of “racist”. Or, as calling someone an “asshole” is to a charge of “misanthropist”.

    Although I think that that relationship and premise – that insulting someone with of those terms is necessarily insulting all members of the indicated classes: what you apparently define as a slur, although that is not an actual dictionary definition – is totally bogus, not at all supported by the relevant definitions either, and prima facie evidence that those holding those opinions have their heads so far up their asses as to look two-faced.

    And I fucking wish we could finally get off this very basic and increasingly tedious point and move on to the next.

    Likewise, but this one hasn’t been resolved yet.

    ——
    1) “_http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emergent_properties#Strong_and_weak_emergence”;
    2) “_http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phonon”;

  50. Dan L. says:

    Steersman,

    I hope you didn’t pay much for that mind-reading course.

    Nice deflection but your motives are pretty apparent. Calling people “stupid cunt” is not conducive to reasoned discussion and so I infer based on your words and behaviors that you have no intention of engaging in reasoned discussion. What’s left?

  51. Steersman says:

    Sally Strange said:

    That’s one example of how the exclusion of women slowed down mathematical discovery.

    What unmitigated horseshit. You’re maybe saying “[hyperbolic equations], it’s more of a gal thing”?

    If it is something intrinsic to being a woman then why didn’t these women twig to the problem and its solution: Emmy Noether, “groundbreaking contributions to abstract algebra and theoretical physics”; Hypatia of Alexandria, “credited with various inventions including a hydrometer and an astrolabe”; Marie Skłodowska-Curie “Nobel prize in 1903 (physics)”; Barbara_McClintock, studies of maize genetics led to “Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1983”

  52. Dan L. says:

    Steersman,

    Emmy Noether, “groundbreaking contributions to abstract algebra and theoretical physics”; Hypatia of Alexandria, “credited with various inventions including a hydrometer and an astrolabe”; Marie Skłodowska-Curie “Nobel prize in 1903 (physics)”; Barbara_McClintock, studies of maize genetics led to “Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1983”

    I can’t help but note that not a one of those examples involves hyperbolic functions.

    I don’t think Sally Strange is saying “more of a gal thing”, I think she’s saying “based on the consistent differences between the experiences of men and women within our society, this is a situation in which a more typically female experience would have been valuable to the progress of mathematics.”

  53. Dan L. says:

    That you have to reach back to the 300s AD for one of your examples is also pretty telling.

  54. doubtthat says:

    Goddamn, man, are you really going to keep at it?

    Of fucking course their behavior is the result of their motives. I would love for you to provide an example of the opposite: behavior as some uncaused quantum event.

    When you “ascribe a motive” to someone’s behavior, you observe a behavior and then explain it with a particular assessment of their motives. Noting that they’re “stressing issues that are important to them” is NOT ascribing motives. You seem to think that “not ascribing a motive” means “refusing to deal with anything that could possibly have a motive of any kind” or something.

    Observe:

    A: John voted for Obama.
    B: How dare you ascribe a motive to his behavior.
    A: I didn’t, I have no idea why he voted for Obama.
    B: But don’t you think that his vote is a consequence of his motives, morality or beliefs?
    A: Well, of course, but I made no comments concerning those motives. There could be a thousand possible reasons why he voted the way he did, I was just pointing out how he voted.
    B: I guess that makes sense, but I’m an obsessive asshole, so I’m going to keep babbling about this stupid point and eventually I’m going to call you a cunt. As long as we’re talking so frankly, I want to stress again how goddamn stupid I have to be to require multiple posters to explain this point to me, but there you have it. I pay people to keep my backside clean because I’m baffled by that crazy little roll device that you put toilet paper on.

    Stephanie would be breaching Nugent’s recommendation if she said, “white, straight, males stress issues important to them BECAUSE they are racist, sexist, stupid, ignorant, well-meaning but misguided…etc.”

    This is so obvious that I’m having trouble understanding how you are both capable of turning on your computer and still think you have a point worth arguing here.

  55. Dan L. says:

    Steersman is reminding me of no one so much as a high school sophomore who asked me what the point of “imaginary numbers” is. “What good are they if they are imaginary?” So I explain to him that “imaginary numbers” is the informal name for these numbers which are more properly called “complex numbers”, that they are no more imaginary than any other numbers (all of which are either imaginary if you’re not a Platonist and real if they are), and that despite the informal name they do have a great number of uses in representing the physical world. I point out to him that the electrical engineers who designed the board on his iPod definitely used complex functions in modeling the flow of electricity through the board.

    He responds: “But what good are they if they’re IMAGINARY?”

    You can take the kid to school but you can’t make him think.

  56. Dan L. says:

    A point on synecdoche, BTW: Steersman tries to justify his use of the word “cunt” as an epithet by referring to synecdoche but in doing so he seems to miss the whole point of synecdoche in the first place. He seems to imply that referring to a woman by a vulgar word for her sexual organs does not have any further implications — certainly no pejorative ones. But that is not how synecdoche works. If it was it wouldn’t be much of a literary device.

    You can see this in Steersman’s own examples. Why would anyone refer to businessmen as “suits”? Yes, it is synecdoche but there is a reason that the term “suits” was chosen over, say, “briefcases” or “noses” or any of the other thousands of things businessmen have in common. Why suits? Because it’s implicitly a pejorative accusing businessmen as a class of conformity and lack of imagination. Similarly, it’s clear to just about everyone in the western world (besides, apparently, Steersman) that referring to a woman as a “skirt” is pejorative. Synecdoche, sure, but as I’m arguing synecdoche does not preclude pejorativity. To call a woman a “skirt” is to implicitly suggest that the most significant thing about women is the way they look.

    Even non-pejorative uses of synecdoche still USE the synecdoche to some end. Why “all hands on deck” and not “all feet”? Because “all hands on deck” means get on the deck and WORK, not loiter.

    Thus when you use “cunt” as synecdoche one is left to infer why you chose a vulgar term for female sex characteristics as your point of synecdoche. What should we infer about that, Steersman?

  57. Jadehawk says:

    “You keep using that word [emergent]; I do not think it means what you think it means”.

    unlike you, I do know what the word means; for starters, I know that even perfectly good behaviors, beliefs, motives, and whathaveyou can create emergent properties that are comparatively negative.

    But while I’m happy to see you at least recognize that “emergent properties are causal to various things”,

    this is the second time you make up bullshit like this. You can keep on claiming that you convinced me out of something I never asserted, but every time you do, I become more and more convinced that you have no desire whatsoever to actually have a conversation, rather than merely “win” a debate.

    Well, my impression is that, at least according to the cant and catechism of Pope Myers and his merry band of deluded clowns, “idiot” – which you called me – qualifies as an “ableist” slur.

    a)your impression is wrong.
    b)this is not FTB, nor is it pharyngula; nor is it e.g. Finke’s blog, which is why “stupid” is fine. Disagreements about the extent of splash damage do not however invalidate the concept any more than disagreements about mechanics of a speciation event invalidate evolution.

    Resolved: Calling someone a “cunt” is to a charge of “sexist” or “misogynist” as calling someone a “nigger” is to a charge of “racist”. Or, as calling someone an “asshole” is to a charge of “misanthropist”.

    oh yeah; misanthropy. such an important axis of oppression, that.

    that insulting someone with of those terms is necessarily insulting all members of the indicated classes

    yeah; being insulted by comparison to a currently oppressed class of people is totes not insulting to that class of people. makes perfect sense.

    you are totally out to fucking lunch in asserting “[not causal to] the behaviours that are its base”, the flocking behaviour of birds being a case in point, phonons being another (2).

    the things that cause emergent properties are not caused by that emergent property; if you take the flock of birds for example, the flock pattern supervenes on the individual birds’ behavior, not the other way ’round. Or another example: saturated air rising quickly and forming into spiraling thunderstorms is not the result of a hurricane; a hurricane is the result of saturated warm air rising quickly and forming such thunderstorms.

    Or, on a subject similar to the one under discussion in the dialogue, the main focus of 19th century women’s activism being suffrage, temperance, and splitting of wealth didn’t cause it to be led by upper middle class white women; it’s the other way round.

    So, what then is the problem with “limiting viewpoints”? Maybe there’s some consequential “harm”?

    yup; that’s what we’ve been saying. what we’ve also been saying is that the harm is not present in the constituent parts; the beliefs, motives, behaviors, etc. that bring forth the homogeneity can be very positive, and yet the homogeneity limiting viewpoints still will have negative effects (though, again, it’s not causative to the beliefs, motives, and behaviors that created it in the first place; it will have other effects, elsewhere)

    Purely cultural? That’s a bit of a stretch. I can see that the specific illusions are cultural, but how the eyes of optic lobes work is, I expect rather consistent across cultures.

    that’s the point. turns out that at least for the bits of the brain processing visual information, that’s not the case; optical illusions that had been assumed to be caused by more-or-less basic brain functions turned out to not happen in some non-WEIRD people.

    You don’t think that “stressing issues that are important to them” is not a consequence of their “motives, morality or beliefs”?

    of course; but, once again, the content of those motives, morality, beliefs, whateverthefuck is irrelevant; it could be absolutely anything, positive, neutral, or negative. So unless you simply want to claim that that demographic is simply entirely lacking in any kind of motive, belief, etc. whatsoever, which would be absurdly stupid, you cannot make the claim that any beliefs were being ascribed to anyone.

    You’re maybe saying “[hyperbolic equations], it’s more of a gal thing”?no, she’s saying that culturally, crocheting has been relegated to being a woman’s activity.

    If it is something intrinsic to being a woman

    are you really this fucking stupid, or is it merely that you’re trying hard not to get the point? There’s nothing “inherent” to anything cultural. Nonetheless, crocheting was considered women’s work, while mathematics was considered men’s work; so crocheters in maths weren’t a thing; and neither were mathematicians who crocheted.

    Hypatia of Alexandria

    crocheting in the Roman Empire. You’re hilariously stupid.

  58. Jadehawk says:

    I figure those types of insults are cases of synecdoche (1):

    exactly; hence splash damage, since any term for vagina -> woman. if you insult someone by calling them a woman, that rather implies that womanhood is something insulting, and something bad to be.

  59. Steersman says:

    Jadehawk said:

    But while I’m happy to see you at least recognize that “emergent properties are causal to various things”,

    this is the second time you make up bullshit like this. You can keep on claiming that you convinced me out of something I never asserted, but every time you do, I become more and more convinced that you have no desire whatsoever to actually have a conversation, rather than merely “win” a debate.

    Seems apparent that you’re the stupid one more interested in “winning” that developing an understanding – i.e., being a fucking jerk. That phrase was something you yourself had actually said, and I was just quoting it. I wasn’t “claiming that I had convinced you” of something that you had in fact said, only noting it and indicating my pleasure that you had recognized that as it at least suggested some common ground of understanding.

    Disagreements about the extent of splash damage do not however invalidate the concept any more than disagreements about mechanics of a speciation event invalidate evolution.

    What a fucking joke. “Splash damage” has as much credibility and proof and evidence as evolution? Pretentious, much?

    Hypatia of Alexandria,crocheting in the Roman Empire. You’re hilariously stupid.

    And you are a stupid fucking twat.

  60. Flewellyn says:

    Jadehawk, I have a question: why is this idiot still here?

    Steersman has never contributed anything of value to any comments thread. Perhaps time to take out the trash?

  61. Jadehawk says:

    That phrase was something you yourself had actually said,

    yeah, I’m entirely aware of what quotemarks mean. You once again managed to completely misunderstand what is being said to you. This was the second time you asserted a lack of previously existing “recognition” or “realization” on my part. The first time was the BS about how I supposedly claimed Stephanie mentioned a demographic for no reason at all.

    “Splash damage” has as much credibility and proof and evidence as evolution? Pretentious, much?

    analogies: you fail at understanding how they work.

    Hypatia of Alexandria

    crocheting in the Roman Empire. You’re hilariously stupid.

    And you are a stupid fucking twat.

    yeah, using slurs against me is not going to change a goddamn thing about the fact that you just responded to a comment about crocheting with a comment about Hypatia. It does however mean that any further commentary by you will be deleted, since you’re incapable of following a simple rule.

  62. But what he doesn’t understand, when he talks about how racism is irrelevant, is that if he were black he may have to deal with all of that PLUS the additional problems that come with being racially discriminated against. Like he may not have got that decent job in the first place, or he may not have had parents who were well enough off to support him, etc etc.

    You make a great point, in that what many don’t fully realize about racism is that people suffer not just from what others do today, but also from what has happened for hundreds or thousands of years. If you are born to a single parent in a crime ridden area with poor schools, things are tough. A black person is more likely to be born into this environment than a white person, due to many factors from slavery to Jim Crow to white flight. This is the very essence of a privilege discussion.

    However, where I get a bit antsy about privilege is that it isn’t some sort of constant. Full disclosure – I’m white, my two daughters are black. However, I live in a great school system, I’m firmly middle class, and by current trends my daughters would be far more attractive to many colleges and employers than their white counterparts given equality in other areas. So it burns me a bit when people go on about how “unprivileged” my kids must be. There are layers to this stuff that are great to talk about, but perhaps a bit more sensitivity would be good for avoiding the big disputes people seem to get into over it.

    I guess that’s why it ties into the main post. Talking about privilege is basically talking about people being more or less worthy based on factors they have no control over, such as race, class, gender, etc. By it’s very nature, it’s offensive if you are trying to apply it to a particular individual, especially if you don’t know them. People such as your friend, who is clearly unhappy with his life despite whatever privileges he has had. Things could be worse is a true message, but it’s understandable that he would get mad if you tell him so.

  63. well good that no one is actually saying that. OTOH, it is possible to say that a black person in America will have experiences with the “justice” system that are related to the high incarceration rates (e.g. they’ll have experienced some discrimination by cops themselves, or have witnessed friends and family being thusly affected in a disproportionate and unfair way); that are qualitatively different from those of white folks; few exceptions to such shared experiences will exist.

    I guess. It is one of those things that is difficult to tell, and hard to judge how important it is. Even if you could say that nearly all black people have such an experience (which you can’t), what importance is that? Men are more likely to be discriminated against by law enforcement than women. What does this tell us? What value should we take from this? I don’t know, but the point is that on an individual level it is impossible to know, which is why we should avoid it on an individual level.

    there’s a reason intent is usually discarded as impossible to ascertain; actions indicating certain cultural biases and contributing to the culture creating/maintaining these biases are usually what people talk about.

    I’ve seen this said and it always rings really empty to me. For example, Obama was criticized for calling an attorney general of California good looking. On one hand, I certainly understand that women being judged by looks instead of competence is a real issue. On the other hand, I call by partner beautiful, many people call their significant others beautiful, because it is a compliment and we want to make people we like feel good. It gets a little too easy to justify calling some action sexist or racist if we divorce intent away from the action. When we do that, literally everything can be some sort of sexist or racist action to someone, and without intent there is no guidance on what we are supposed to do. Human beings have intent. I think it’s lazy to start calling things sexist or racist without also trying to puzzle out intent. It’s easier, but being easier doesn’t make it right.

  64. Jadehawk says:

    FYI, Steersman is now whining “you can dish it out, but you can’t take it.” Y’all can pretty much conclude now that the reason he used words he knew quite well I wouldn’t use or permit was precisely to be able to make that claim, despite the fact that I let him call me a jerk and stupid and allowed him to tell me how apparently I can’t think.

    Pretty much he gave himself a convenient out, seeing as he’s failed to respond to most of my points and questions, and made a complete ass of himself responding to Sally the way he did.

  65. doubtthat says:

    Well, now Steersman will run back the to pit, whine about being censored, and the collective of vapid, deluded nitwits will lick each others’ wounds and console their poor, battered warrior by indulging in their favorite myth: “Steersman, they didn’t delete your posts because they were pointless, infantile, and aimlessly malicious, they did it because they couldn’t handle your incredible arguments.”

    The work you’ve done here will outlive your stay. You have produced some honestly sad shit. There aren’t any points to actually engage, just trivial errors that need correcting.

    Just like you and your cohort did on Nugent’s blog and elsewhere, every word you and your poor-thinking buddies type further eliminates any credibility you (wrongly) assume you have.

  66. Jadehawk says:

    Flewellyn: you gotta admit, letting him post as long as I did was totally worth seeing him respond to Sally’s comment with ramble about “inherent” qualities and why it was that Hypatia didn’t realize that crocheting patterns modeled hyperbolic equations.

    Edward: I’ll get to responding to your comments tomorrow, ok?

  67. Jadehawk says:

    Well, now Steersman will run back the to pit, whine about being censored,

    oh, it’s even better than that. He’s doing a “I didn’t wanna talk to you anymore anyway” sort of post-deletion flounce by claiming that I gish-gallopped* in this thread and therefore talking to me wouldn’t have been worth his while. And apparently I did it to avoid answering his points, which baffles me because I see nothing that I left unaddressed that resembles a point.
    – – – – – – – – –

    *how one can gish-gallop in a conversation that had only three points total, I really don’t know; especially since one was resolved early (using “pitters” in the dialogue), and the second he refused to engage after which I didn’t mention it again (whether Stephanie was trying to make herself exempt from rules she wanted applied to others), leaving only the last for almost all of the discussion: that Stephanie didn’t attribute any beliefs or motives to anybody, because any set of beliefs or motives, good bad or neutral, can produce the same problems of homogeneity (the homogeneity in turn being caused by shared demographics and therefore shared core experiences).

  68. embertine says:

    Things could be worse is a true message, but it’s understandable that he would get mad if you tell him so.

    Absolutely, I would never say or even think that when a friend is telling me his problems! It is more that R tends to be oblivious about such issues, starts discussions about it and then when the topic of privilege vs. discrimination comes up, tries to shut down argument with the “Well I’m white, male and straight and my life sucks, so clearly, racism/sexism/homophobia is not a thing*”.

    I certainly don’t think that your daughters, if they are articulate and educated and motivated to learn, would be somehow less attractive to colleges than their white peers. I imagine they would be snapped up, actually, and their race would be irrelevant to most recruiters. But I also think it’s realistic to acknowledge that some bits of society hold damaging stereotypes about black women and that your girls are going to have to face that at various points in their lives. Not every day, certainly, and not from everyone they meet. But sometimes.

    Hell, I’m a white woman living outside the US and I’m certainly not here to tell you or your daughters what their lives are like, will be like, should be like etc. I also think it’s encouraging how far we’ve come that we’re having a discussion about how your girls will be going to college and most folk won’t bat an eyelid about it. T’was not always the case. But there’s still work to do, IMO.

    *Not his exact words although that would be hilarious

  69. David Marjanović says:

    oh, it’s even better than that. He’s doing a “I didn’t wanna talk to you anymore anyway” sort of post-deletion flounce by claiming that I gish-gallopped* in this thread and therefore talking to me wouldn’t have been worth his while. And apparently I did it to avoid answering his points, which baffles me because I see nothing that I left unaddressed that resembles a point.

    Epic win!

    I’m too busy* to catch up with the rest of this thread. But my day is saved before I even visit Pharyngula. See you later. :-)

    * Working on an analysis so I can submit an abstract to a conference (deadline: Monday) while rolling on the floor laughing at Steersman.

  70. doubtthat says:

    Steersman achieved the internet equivalent of suicide by cop: he knew there were a certain set of insults that would more or less force you to ban him, so he went with those. He probably could have continued to be an ass without being banned, but he wanted you to end the conversation to he could play make-believe and pretend that he had a great point that no one could handle.

    It’s so transparent and childish.

  71. David Marjanović says:

    Steersman achieved the internet equivalent of suicide by cop: he knew there were a certain set of insults that would more or less force you to ban him, so he went with those.

    Either that, or he was just stupid. I explained HTML to him, and he blithely continued making artistic arrangements of underscores and quotation marks around URLs and apparently expected that to work…

    The difference between being impolite and using racist/sexist slurs has evaded much smarter people. Nerd of Redhead once thoroughly embarrassed himself on Pharyngula that way when he tried to explain to some troll why not to use slurs.

  72. You’re maybe saying “[hyperbolic equations], it’s more of a gal thing”?

    There are many ways to possibly misinterpret what I said, but that is definitely among the stupidest.

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