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Robin Zimmermann
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It wasn't a strawman. MG quoted the part of my first post where I spoke of my own preferred gender to write and questioned my writing. It's a legitimate question, especially since I also conceded in my post that Seuss himself was most likely guilty of misogyny. So you did - I apologize. I believe part of the vitriol directed against you may arise from confusing your defense of Seuss (and claiming he was only "most likely" misogynistic is defending him, given the evidence presented) and your remarks on your own writing. Nevertheless, I would second MadGastronomer's point about internalizing misogyny. I remember taking at least one online implicit association test which suggested I associated black skin with violence - and I'm black. Being a member of a disadvantaged group does not automatically shield you from the culture which penalizes that group.
MG, you seriously believe that writing from a male POV means a writer is misogynist? That's a new one for me. Why does it matter which gender I prefer to write? Two things wrong with that, Phoenix: 1. You make no reference to the passage from And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street and Theodore Geisel's defense thereof. 2. It is not simply a matter of writing from a male POV, but of silencing or marginalizing all female characters. Even if you prefer to write male characters, to make fully half of the human species all but invisible and inaudible is a distortion of reality rightly condemned. Yellow card: straw man argumentation.
While you're at it, try Intent! It's Fucking Magic! for details on why, no, it does not matter that he didn't mean it. *bookmarked* Seriously, though, Phoenix, I'm forced to paraphrase Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip here: thou shalt not put writers or artists on ridiculous pedestals, no matter how great they are or were. Dr. Seuss was just an author.
I wouldn't have either - but I think that's mostly because it's such a common bias for authors to have. I'm noticing it much more now that I'm looking for it, and especially because I'm now trying to find books about little girls... Reminds me of the Bechdel Test. Like Godwin's Law, it's a thought exercise which highlights an unfortunate tendency in the culture.
MadGastronomer, you're right. The same objection applies to lies about deathbed conversion, like the Lady Hope story.
Toggle Commented Sep 22, 2010 on Jackie at the crossroads at The Slacktiverse
MadGastronomer, Sep 21, 2010 at 08:34 PM: I'm sorry, I don't quite understand your point. Do you mean that actually talking about the Afterlife at the funeral of a religious person causes sufficient suffering to people not of the deceased's religion to justify not following the wishes of the deceased, or that not performing the proper rites for the dead could potentially cause enough suffering for the soul of the deceased to justify causing discomfort to attendees at the funeral? Or just that if you were a Mormon, you'd baptize dead people of other religions because of the belief that you were helping people? The latter. I don't personally care why the Mormons do it, I just don't want them to do it to me. It's insulting. I care why they do it. I'm unusual, because I don't much care what happens to my body after I die (unless, of course, I'm not really dead), but the intentions seem much more salient to me than the disrespect. If nobody were willing to be altruistic merely because social norms are being violated, the world would be much worse. The Mormons are doing a bad thing with their posthumous baptisms - but I want to criticize the appropriate step in the broken chain of reasoning that led them there, and I think that step is believing that the dead cannot enter the kingdom of God without baptism.
Toggle Commented Sep 22, 2010 on Jackie at the crossroads at The Slacktiverse
KJ: And R.E. "don't be a douche" as first comandment: too easy for biblical literalists to interpret it as some sexual restriction. Ha!
Toggle Commented Sep 21, 2010 on Jackie at the crossroads at The Slacktiverse
Italics, begone! (Did that work? I put two slash-i tags after "Italics,".)
Toggle Commented Sep 20, 2010 on Jackie at the crossroads at The Slacktiverse
jack lecou: I'll have to think about that definition. I think that's the second one I've seen after Carrier's that seems to fit the way that the term "supernatural" is used. Most of then (e.g. "supernatural entities are unfalsifiable") simply don't. (That said, I notice it makes it subjective in the same way "confusing" is subjective. Not a criticism, of course, but worth noting.) K.Chen: Well, we've got conflicting datasets then. Or maybe you just hang around with the right/wrong sort of atheists? My sense has been that the more recent crop (even discounting teenage boys on the Internets) tends to be both more confrontational and more exacting of internal orthodoxy, but I haven't done anything close to a systemic study. I don't think a systemic study, or even a systematic study, is required - if I understand our disagreement, all we need to note is how often people who identify as atheists use qualifiers when they describe "atheists", and on what descriptors. If these people often express sentiments like "atheists are skeptics" or "atheists are against religion", then that suggests your description more accurate; if they instead propose that "not all atheists are skeptics" or "I oppose religion, although I know some atheists don't", then that suggests my description is more accurate.
Toggle Commented Sep 20, 2010 on Jackie at the crossroads at The Slacktiverse
(Sorry - the first is a reply to K.Chen, the second to jack lecou.)
Toggle Commented Sep 20, 2010 on Jackie at the crossroads at The Slacktiverse
Another difficulty results from the struggles between self-described atheists as they discuss and compete over the definition of atheism[-as-an-identity]. The interactions of secular humanism (compare Manifestos I, II and III), skepticism, the Brights movement, Freethought, Discordian and/or parody religions (Church of the Subgenius) are both symptoms and inputs in the struggle, and tend to produce atheists who hold certain beliefs or positions as inherent to the label, when they are in fact an orthodoxy promoted by a faction. In this sense, atheism very much is a religion. That doesn't comport well with my experience. The atheists I've seen are always careful to say that "this is commonly believed by atheists" or "this group of atheists says that" - the only criterion that they are likely to insist upon is that atheists do not believe in a god. (Even that seems to be relaxed by some people, bewilderingly enough. See what I mean about "careful to say that"?) That's clever, but I don't know that mental processes need to be given a place in it. I would say that a useful distinction can be made by noting that "naturalism" is the hypothesis that nature always obeys predictable rules (e.g., physics). Something, whether animate god or inanimate magic tennis rack, that is unbound by the rules that otherwise govern the rest of the universe would be "supernatural". That's very interesting - does that make Morpheus a supernatural entity when he enters the Matrix?
Toggle Commented Sep 20, 2010 on Jackie at the crossroads at The Slacktiverse
Atheism shares at least one important quality with religion in that it serves as an identity - the tenancy to say "I am an atheist/Christian/Jew/Daoist/Spritual-but-not-religious" rather than to say "I have beliefs (or the absence of beliefs) that are atheist/Christian/Jew/Daoist/Spritual-but-not-religious." This is an important point - I think the term "affirmative atheism" was invented to describe this sort of usage. What it comes down to is that questions like "Is atheism a religion?" are disguised queries - the answer to these questions depends on the reason the question is asked, and so the same four words might require the response "Yes" in a discussion of religious freedom and "No" in a discussion of religious dogma.
Toggle Commented Sep 20, 2010 on Jackie at the crossroads at The Slacktiverse
Actually, regarding "fundamentalist atheism", I think the main problem is that "atheism" is not a belief system that can have fundamental dogmas. It is the specific absence of a particular belief. From what I've seen, "evangelical atheism" would be a more accurate substitution in almost every case - the irritating behavior that induces people to use the label seems to be attempted (de?)conversion of religious believers.
Toggle Commented Sep 20, 2010 on Jackie at the crossroads at The Slacktiverse
Wikipedia has some information - it was a movement dating from the early 20th century US, based on supporting various "Fundamentals", such as (I steal this list directly from the article): The inerrancy of the Bible The literal nature of the Biblical accounts, especially regarding Christ's miracles, and the Creation account in Genesis. The Virgin Birth of Christ The bodily resurrection of Christ The substitutionary atonement of Christ on the cross The title comes from a series called The Fundamentals: A Testimony To The Truth edited by A. C. Dixon and later by Reuben Archer Torrey. As for "supernatural", I hold by the Carrier definition: In short, I argue "naturalism" means, in the simplest terms, that every mental thing is entirely caused by fundamentally nonmental things, and is entirely dependent on nonmental things for its existence. Therefore, "supernaturalism" means that at least some mental things cannot be reduced to nonmental things.
Toggle Commented Sep 20, 2010 on Jackie at the crossroads at The Slacktiverse
Also - wrt Internet Atheist, I've always seen it as similar to "Nice Guy" or "Real True Christian." Fred is a nice guy and a real, true Christian, but not a Nice Guy or a Real True Christian. However, I'm not an atheist, so it's not my place to say if it's okay usage. It's okay as far as this atheist is concerned, but as I said before, I think it's more specific than necessary. Ross pointed out the same Internet Smart Guy behavior happens on Dr. Who forums.
Toggle Commented Sep 20, 2010 on Jackie at the crossroads at The Slacktiverse
Izzy: Most of us don't want to have the sort of endless conversation where both sides are convinced that they're right; many people don't think they should have to defend their worldview, or whatever, in casual conversation as long as that worldview isn't hurting anyone. And nobody wants to have supposed friends take potshots at their views. That's what I mean by "shutting up". I mean, if I were for some unfathomable reason a guest on The Atheist Experience and MadGastronomer called in, I would probably be more pointed than jack lecou - but I'm a guest on Slacktivist, and long, protracted arguments about the truth of religion aren't what I come here for. I'd rather talk about secondary school rhetoric education.
Toggle Commented Sep 20, 2010 on Jackie at the crossroads at The Slacktiverse
Addendum: And the former will seem less losing face than being a good raconteur.
Toggle Commented Sep 20, 2010 on Jackie at the crossroads at The Slacktiverse
I'm with Underhill: As a fellow atheist, I must confess myself befuddled by this assertion that "Conversion attempts are impolite" is a bad community standard. But, as I was saying before, there is a sense in which atheists find the story of Bad Jackie all too familiar. And that is the sense that a lot of atheists have, that they must shut up about their friend's religion when that friend is in the room. And the fact that this sense derives from intense frustration and all-around bad feelings encountered when they try to talk to their friend about that religion. (That's happening here, actually, modulo the usual levels of Internet Atheist Internet Smart Guy* rudeness.) What makes the parallel poor is that the story isn't about the friends mocking Jackie behind her back. It's about Jackie. It might even be written for Jackie - Jackie who does not want to be held in contempt, Jackie who, in that moment when she sees that Snopes post (or FactCheck.org post, or Skepdic article, or even newspaper clipping or blog post) has the choice of changing her mind or making up excuses not to. If that Jackie knows she will lose respect in the eyes of her friends by doing the latter, then the latter will seem less like defending her self-image and more stupid. * The same thing turns up in other contexts, e.g. politics - barring some evidence of independent mechanisms, Occam's Razor suggests lumping the phenomena.
Toggle Commented Sep 20, 2010 on Jackie at the crossroads at The Slacktiverse
Jumping back in the shark pool after all the chum is eaten... First: I love that model, Evan - I remember it from last time Snopes came up. Second: In fairness to our troll thread derailer, atheists often feel as if they are the friends of Bad Jackie - being silent out of concern for the feelings of their deluded friends - but anyone who imagines that all religions are easily proven wrong is simply naive. The point of the story is that Bad Jackie really does have access to definitive evidence against the exact position she proposes ... and rejects it. I'm a strong atheist and I've never seen anything like definitive evidence of the religion of Fred Clark. Third: I wish I was taught rhetoric. I can write - I can read like a fish - but I don't think specifically persuasive writing was ever explicitly on the curriculum. (I may have simply missed it, though.) (Homeschooled, by the way.)
Toggle Commented Sep 20, 2010 on Jackie at the crossroads at The Slacktiverse
Re Lila @ Sep 19, 2010 at 09:26 AM: I was just watching one of those recently (well, it was Goofy's Freeway Troubles, which didn't have Gallant in it) - to compare that work to this is no insult to either. I wonder if there is a third Jackie, though - a Jackie who doesn't have quite the self-confidence to make a proper joke of her gullibility. A Jackie who seems so humiliated, so embarrassed when people mention the "airport spiders" that the story just dies. That Jackie probably won't repeat the legend, probably will go (nervously) to the airport bathrooms ... it's a victory, but a sadder one.
Toggle Commented Sep 19, 2010 on Jackie at the crossroads at The Slacktiverse
DSimon, July 20, 2010 at 08:02 PM: Joshua, thanks, I actually already knew about the guy but I was just curious where the reference to him re: this article first came from. I posted a link to an essay of his in reply to Rieux, July 19, 2010 at 08:11 AM.
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Nurse Ingrid, July 20, 2010 at 04:10 PM: Much to my transient shame, I haven't seen it yet.[1] But a relative of mine that I visited during the vacation I'm on in Texas liked that line, and on reflection[2] I liked it too. 1. It's ... *edits* ... on my list, I promise! 2. Coincidence. I swear.
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Rieux, July 20, 2010 at 01:08 AM: Joshua Zelinsky already made the point I was planning to make, but I think it's pretty clear that the way I described it had to have been confusing, particularly the way I used the word "evidence". So let me try to elaborate a bit. Suppose someone said "2 + 2 = 6". What might that mean? Most likely, of course, they won't mean anything - it'll be a hypothetical, like the ones we've been making up, or it'll just be a typo. Similarly unhelpful to the analogy are cases where it's a notational confusion - where "2" does not mean two, "+" does not mean plus, "=" does not mean equals, and/or "6" doesn't mean six - and cases where it's a joke like the missing dollar riddle. Or they might be making some sort of metaphorical point, for example about the sum being more than the parts. (That would probably fall into the category of "notational confusion".) But they might simply be wrong. Yes, the statement is obviously, risibly, false ... but screws fall out all the time - the world's an imperfect place. Someone in front of you is saying "2 + 2 = 6". How do you show that they're wrong? In that situation, I suspect you'd argue it like I'd argue it: by pointing out how we do sums and showing that the sum comes out differently. Me, I'd probably say that addition of natural numbers is like putting counted sets of items together and counting the total set, and if "2" is "one two" and "4" is "one two three four", you can run the test yourself and confirm that the set "one two one two" has the same number of items as "one two three four", not "one two three four five six" - "6". If abstract argument isn't convincing to that person - perhaps they're bad at analytical thinking - you might pull use objects on the table to do the same operation. "Here's two pennies and two quarters. Two and two. How many coins are there? Four!" Maybe you'll draw a straight line and measure off two touching two-inch segments, make a picture like: --|--.--|--.--|--- |- 2"-|- 2"-| and measure the distance from the the beginning of the first to the end of the second and show it's four inches. My point is not that the answer is empirical, but that you can actually make the argument as if the question is not resolved. And by reference to that argument, you can say, "If two plus two were six, then this line segment would be six inches long." Similarly, if there were a benevolent and omnipotent God, I would expect (say) flood waters to part like Moses at the Red Sea around the dwellings of the righteous, leaving them unharmed. And there is a similarity between these two statements, despite one being a statement of mathematical inference and the other a statement of empirical observation. In both cases, it's possible to describe some result which would make the answer at least seem to be different.
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Rieux, July 19, 2010 at 09:34 PM: I'm in a weird sort of bind, actually - in this context (that is, the comment thread on Greta Christina's Blog), the you could be mistaken objection is a quibble ... but if we're going to address remarks to people who sincerely disagree, we have a social obligation to treat their claims seriously. If I were in conversation with an otherwise-reasonable person who was convinced that 2 + 2 = 6, I would claim that I could be convinced to agree by evidence ... and then point out that the evidence was absent, and contrary evidence was present. Otherwise there's no way for them - or any of the spectators - to determine that I would have agreed if I had good cause to. That's exactly what Greta Christina does, actually.
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Rieux July 19, 2010 at 08:11 AM: What amount of evidence could convince you of the hypothesis that 2 + 2 = 6? None, one hopes--because that hypothesis is provably false, and "no amount of evidence" could possibly change that reality. Even that's not true. It's not overly difficult to imagine a scenario in which you could become deceived about such a thing. That said, I would struggle to imagine any kind of evidence not involving long-term delusion which would allow for a traditional monotheistic god. If we were looking at something more like the Ursula Vernon Divine-Social-Worker gods ... that's kinda difficult.
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