Please go listen to the podcast, it is quite good.
How much change has happened in the way the world views crazy religious beliefs because of boobquake? How much change in the way we cause change has happened because of the critique of boobquake? I’d say a little of each, but not much of either.
I think that the critique of boobquake is somewhat disproportionate to the event. Boobquake was clearly never meant to be that big of a deal, got bigger than planned, and thus subsequent critiques that insist that is was poorly planned are kinda dumb. I mean, you can’t be poorly planned if you are a spontaneous event bigger than expected, by definition. At the same time, there are real issues (of which I was mostly unaware until I listened to this podcast) of conflict not just between philosophical camps (of which I was at reasonably well aware) but of rather aggressive feel-bad bashing of people on both sides of the boobquake controversy.
My cleaned up notes on the McRae part of the interview (you should listen to the interview to get what I’m saying here):
The podcast started out, I sensed, as a conversation between two people who had every intention of setting up Boobquake with a negative critique, even to the point of calling the Quakers’ integrity in question by talking about post-quake “claims” of success.
Boobquake was claimed to be a failure because scientific facts were not transmitted. But again, post hoc, did Jen really claim that this or that fact was communicated?
Interesting points were made about how to do a better job of science communication, about the so called “placebo protest” and how to make a more effective protest, and that’s good. I’m a bit cynical about that, though, because I have the sense that some of the more effective instances of protest have been the ones that were not that well planned but had a high impact in part because of their spontaneity. Not to say that a better job could not have been done, or that one should never plan protests, but I don’t buy that every effort needs to be planned and controlled, and that every effort that was not well planned in advance automatically deserves more effort to criticize it than effort to effect it to begin with. In other words, this was a mole hill that could have been a better molehill being buried under a mountain of “yer doin’ it rong’ reaction.
(My cynical reaction in part is that the real reason for this critique comes out around 20 minuets with the discussion of the old JREF crew looking at the new people and not liking the competition. Makes me wonder. I didn’t see a lot of self reflection there among the purist skeptics.)
Claims were made without real evidence when the discussants opposed boobquake, and claims about boobquake that were often reasonable were discredited because studies had not yet been done to evaluate those claims. One side granted itself the use of confirmation bias, while the other side was accused of relying on it. Several times. That’s the skeptical skeptic in me talking.
Tiny little blog faces need to shut up and let the big giant ice bergs lead us. ???? That is one of those interview bits that the people involved look back and wish they had not wandered into, I would think.
Desiree’s segment was more constructively useful, perhaps because she is an actual expert on the sort of thing one would want to do to create a skeptical or scientific protest. Again, I think the spontaneity is an energy-creating effect, but yes, things can be done with more clearly defined goals. But here’s the question I have, then: Which subset of the skeptical community is currently addressing the frequent claims made by Iranian Clerics and US Evangelicals (female bodies cause earthquakes and the Haitians are screwed forever because of a pact they made with Satan, etc.)? Huh? Where’s the web site? Who’s in charge? Who’s on the protest planning committee?
I don’t think there is one. I think boobquake is an indicator that the skeptical community has dropped the ball on actually DOING something … or being systematically, scientifically, communication sciencey, all cool and ready to deal with these stupidosities when they arise.
If this was a relationship instead of an Internet event, one might guess that criticizing boobquake is a psychological response to one’s own inadequacies that are not overtly recognized. When the cleric made the dumb-ass remark about earthquakes, the JREF response squad didn’t come on the scene. Because there is no JREF response squad. Instead, there was a vacuum.
And, apparently, boobs abhor a vacuum.
Boobquake was a phenomenon, largely unplanned. Addressing the people who did it, and telling them that they did it wrong is one possible response, and I learned a few things listening to that response. Using the phenomenon in an effective way, if possible, is a different, possibly smarter and more useful response. Brush boobquake aside as a mostly spontaneous event of ephemeral consequences (good and/or bad) on the way to the drawing board to set up the dumb-ass blaming the victim statement response squad.
What if you were in favor of increased measures for airplane safety? And a plane happens to crash …. Do you lament that it would have been better if different people died in the crash, of that the crash had happened in more optimal location? No. You would, after paying due respect, use the event as it was in service of your cause, if appropriate. If the cause is to criticize each other, then blame the quakers. But if the cause is to promote skeptical thinking, use this event to move the battle line against the clerics, use it to push them back a bit more, use it to recruit and organize something that will be more effective.
When spontaneity gives you lemons, make lemonade.
I’m afraid that the outcome of boobquake is that the crazy religious people are more convinced of the veracity of their own cause (there was a major earthquake on that day, after all) and the outcome of the critique of boobquake is a further rifting in the community. Two failures, both avoidable.
We talk a lot about how women were using their sexuality, but not much is said about how women were using their sense of humor.
If women were made to feel badly about not wanting to be involved, then the people who made them feel that way were … boobs! That was totally inappropriate. I did not see that happening from where I sat, but my view was not that open.
Yes, it is all depends on how you measure it, and the way I measure it, in my community, boobquake was a minor success. Every year, with some degree or another of success, I try to organize or encourage the organization of a visit by skeptics, science educators, atheists, etc. to the Christian Creation Science Fair at a local mall. We go there for a number of reasons, not the least of which to show that we can in fact show up and look at the science fair posters and not kidnap and kill any of the children. We also simply have used it as an excuse to get together, and this year’s version was a great success that way. It is a protest, it is a community building effort, it is an outreach program, and it is a direct mild confrontation with those we’re kinda pissed at for trying to shove their religion down the throats of kids in our public schools. In a nice way. It is quiet, closed, and low key, like Desiree’s “sit in” nurses.
Boobquake was the same thing, more or less. A bunch of people got together for a diner organized by Stephanie Zvan (I was sick and could not go), there was blogging, etc. The science fair effort was also criticized, but the critics were early on clearly misinformed of what we were doing and they went away. Boobquake seems to have pissed a lot of people off. Boobs tend to do that. Another difference is that our little science fair get together does not usually get heavily analyzed.
I personally would not have thought of boobquake, and I have no problem that it happened and almost made it to a boobquake dinner. I was sick so I stayed home and monitored the seismographs, just in case. I totally get that one can make protests more effective, and do a better job at science communication. At the moment, however, I see zero in the way of organized well planned efforts to deal with these frequent curses … randomly timed but frequent enough that we know there is always one coming … these rallying cries of the fundamentalist religious leaders that defy science, history, and humanity, blame the victims, and deflect observing eyes from the real problems.
So, I hereby call for everyone who was involved in boobquake OR the protest of boobquake to estimate the amount of time you spent on that effort, and figure out a way to spend the same amount of time again but dealing specifically with the fundy curse problem.