Respectful Insolence

Richard Dawkins sues Josh Timonen

Wow. Just wow.

I realize that I haven’t exactly been enamored of Richard Dawkins lately, at least not as much as I was, say, three or four years ago. Most of this came about gradually, although the final nail was driven into the proverbial coffin last fall, when Atheist Alliance International bestowed the Richard Dawkins Award to that quacktastic anti-vaccine and anti-science believer in woo and cancer quackery, Bill Maher, an atrocity that I likened to giving Jenny McCarthy an award for public health. Actually, the second to last nail was probably driven in back in May when Richard Dawkins proclaimed that he was “proud to have presented the [AAI] award to Bill Maher.” The true final nail was driven in at TAM8 in July, when in response to questioning by JREF President D.J. Grothe during an interview Richard Dawkins once again defended the choice of Bill Maher and publicly poo-pooed his demonstrably harmful anti-vaccine and anti-”Western” medicine views as not being particularly significant or relevant to that choice.

Game over, as far as I was concerned. Dawkins was toast, at least to me.

Even so, I find it sad to have learned this morning via ERV that Richard Dawkins is suing the forum moderator of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, Josh Timonen, for nearly $1 million embezzled from the Foundation.

Apparently, if Dawkins’ complaint is accurate, these are the sorts of things that the embezzled funds were used for:

Timonen’s “significantly older” girlfriend, defendant Maureen Norton, allegedly used at least $100,000 of the charity’s money to upgrade her Sherman Oaks home before she put it on the market.

A recent real estate listing describes improvements such as a “custom backyard pool and spa area with a wonderful waterfall and glass block fire pit plus custom seating for the ultimate outdoor living and entertaining experience,” according to the complaint.

Dawkins claims Timonen made off with 92 percent of the money generated at the store in 3 years.

Timonen has responded. Although I find his denial self-serving, I do find it odd that there have been no arrests. After all, embezzlement is a criminal offense. If I ran a charitable organization and discovered that an employee had embezzled close to $1 million, I’d have called the police, not the lawyers. Something more than meets the eye appears to be going on here.

In any case, this makes me wonder: What is it about rationalist/skeptic groups that make them seemingly have such a hard time running their organizations well from a financial standpoint? After all, just a couple of months ago the Center for Inquiry (CFI) sent out letters desperately begging for more contributions. The reason was that CFI had one large benefactor whose yearly contribution funded approximately 20-25% of the yearly CFI budget. As clueless as I may be about finances, even I know that you don’t use such donations to run the operating expenses of an organization, because you can’t count on them from year to year and it’s too big a chunk. You use this money for special short-term projects and a rainy day fund. Not surprisingly, when this mysterious donor stopped donating earlier this year, suddently CFI was in deep doo-doo from a financial standpoint, prompting the desperate plea for donations and deep budget cuts. I realize that the down economy has played havoc with many nonprofit and charitable organizations, but these issues with skeptical organizations seem to go beyond just that. Or is this just a problem with nonprofits in general?

Comments

  1. #1 W. Kevin Vicklund
    October 24, 2010

    Josh is in California, Dawkins is in the UK; this might explain why no arrests at this time.

  2. #2 Felix
    October 24, 2010

    Well, it’s not only skeptical groups that have such problems.
    Remember that Prince Charles’ woo organisation was recently shut down due to fraud:

    http://www.quackometer.net/blog/2010/04/police-investigate-the-princes-foundation-for-integrated-health.html

  3. #3 Leo
    October 24, 2010

    If it’s a civil matter, I’m not sure any arrests would be made. I know precious little about the law though, and even less about California law, so please feel free to correct me.

  4. #4 Denice Walter
    October 24, 2010

    Dawkins appeared live on Maher’s show about 2 or 3 weeks ago: I thought he was rather too courtly and unctuously appreciative of the host, who BTW, championed “Science” over “Superstition” or somesuch irony. True, Maher has been closetting his views recently even when la Grande Duchesse de Woo-ville Arianna appears. Possibly he’s trying to cultivate a new persona involving the greening of our economy where “green” means many things to many people, especially those in Mendocino County.

  5. #5 Brett
    October 24, 2010

    I don`t get the whole Dawkins love for Maher either. I wonder if it`s just a case of mutual back-scratching, with Dawkins defending Maher because Maher gives him more public exposure.

    As for Timonen, it couldn`t have happened to a better person. If I remember right, the guy was a jackass who alienated a huge part of the senior board members and voluntary mods.

  6. #6 Brett
    October 24, 2010

    I don`t get the whole Dawkins love for Maher either. I wonder if it`s just a case of mutual back-scratching, with Dawkins defending Maher because Maher gives him more public exposure.

    As for Timonen, it couldn`t have happened to a better person. If I remember right, the guy was a jackass who alienated a huge part of the senior board members and voluntary mods.

    The question you posed about atheist groups is interesting, although I`d be careful about developing a generalization based off of just two groups. There`s just not a lot of public atheists who are actively involved inrunning groups like these, so it`s a smaller pool of financial and management talent.

  7. #7 Badger3k
    October 24, 2010

    It’s not just skeptical organizations – Embezzlement is probably the number one Church-related crime as well . Most organizations tend to trust people and do not have adequate safeguards in place to prevent this type of behavior. Nobody likes to think that it can happen to them, and nobody wants to work in a place where you are (apparently) under suspicion at all times. I think most people don’t want to take the necessary steps.

  8. #8 CanadianChick
    October 24, 2010

    IANAL, but i am a designated accountant. The laws etc may be different in the US than in Canada, but the reason I was told more frauds are not charged criminally has to do with the standards of proof as well as restitution.

    In criminal law, you must prove your case beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil case it’s to a balance of probabilities. Financial fraud often involves “cooked books”, for example, that by definition make it difficult to prove diversion. As an accountant and auditor I can attest to that. However, the balance of probabilities is an easier standard to meet.

    Also, with civil litigation there is a greater chance of actually getting money back. You can file a notice of pending litigation and attach it to assets, blocking their sale. You can obtain injunctions against diversion of assets. If you win your case you also get your lawyers fees as part of the settlement. You may also receive other damage awards, plus interest. And bankruptcy rarely extinguishes debt related to judgements.

    These results are highly unlikely to come about in criminal court. A judge can order restitution, but for some reason they rarely do. You can get some blocking of asset diversion in a criminal case, but it’s a more onerous process involving court appearances, as I understand it.

    While it may be satisfying to think of the guy rotting in jail, it’s more satisfying to get some of the money back, no?

  9. #9 Adam C.
    October 24, 2010

    Personally, I went off Dawkins when I read him writing nonsense about evolution.

    In The God Delusion, he denies any role for genetic drift in evolution.

    …This is just nuts. The role was elucidated in the 1920s.

  10. #10 CanadianChick
    October 24, 2010

    Non-profits are really ripe for the picking, be they religious groups, skeptic groups or other societies. Trust is a cornerstone of their arrangements, and a lack of resources means that there is usually minimal segregation of duties and little oversight. Add to the mix frequent small transactions, especially cash based, and you’re just waiting for embezzlement.

    I’ve long planned after I retire from my current job to create a consulting company that goes into churches, charities and the like and sets up a system of controls and designs systems to reduce the opportunities for embezzlement. Especially after my best friends church was a victim!

  11. #11 Nick
    October 24, 2010

    The civil and criminal actions are not mutually exclusive however. If Dawkins really had the resources and evidence, he would be taking both actions right now. My guess is the case isn’t as cut and dry as Dawkins’ compliant initially suggests.

  12. #12 =8)-DX
    October 24, 2010

    Hey, I too was highly sceptical of Bill Maher (whose done a lot to demote theism), when I heard his anti-vac “comical” tirades (we all laugh at the things we find unimportant). But I DID read he explained and apologised on-show, that his main rants were against the swine-flu vac (which turned out to be not so important as it might), and for me it was more a “he’s a lil’ to uneducated in this aspect”. He likes bashing big companies and likes bashing “big pharma”, and they need bashing but if he says “science over superstition”, he’s got it right.
    Anyway Bill Maher has his heart in the right place. And his brain as well, so
    Cheers!

  13. #13 Orac
    October 24, 2010

    Really? Then how do you describe Maher’s embrace of cancer quackery?

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2009/09/is_bill_maher_really_that_ignorant_part_2.php

  14. #14 Orac
    October 24, 2010

    Oh, and as for his “apologies,” well, let’s just say they aren’t convincing or particularly science-based:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2009/11/bill_maher_flames_out_over_vaccines.php

    He even cites Dr. Jay Gordon as one of his favored “experts”!

  15. #15 G
    October 24, 2010

    I joined a horse group a while ago. My very first mailing, before even receiving any group membership paperwork, was a letter sent to all members about firing the treasurer, suspected embezzlement, and “we’re looking into this.”

    This summer, more than 3 years after I joined, they informed the membership that they finally had all the evidence and they were pursuing criminal charges. I think the total amount was less than $20k.

    $1mil+ probably would be even more complicated.

  16. #16 HughMcB
    October 24, 2010

    Josh has joined the RationalSkepticism.org forum, which was set up in response to the demise of the old RDF forum. A thread about this topic in which Josh is currently active can be found here; http://www.rationalskepticism.org/news-politics/dawkins-sues-josh-timonen-t14455.html

  17. #17 Pareidolius
    October 24, 2010

    Foundations need to bite the bullet and hire professionals with a track record. Preferably with actual companies that do business with other entities so they can get references. This transatlantic marriage was ripe for infidelity. Who was doing the bookkeeping? Who was doing the accounting? It should never be the same person . . . ever. Hire professionals.

    If I were a superstitious sort, I’d say it was Karma for that tacky scarlet letter logo. What the hell kind of designer uses Zapfino?

  18. #18 titmouse
    October 24, 2010

    Sad news. A million dollars in a trust could fund annual scholarships for a lot of kids to attend skeptical summer camps, stuff like that, for many years to come.

    I’d like to see some non-profits set up with nearly full transparency –e.g., bank transactions viewable on line, with perhaps the names of individual doners who want to remain anonymous listed as aliases.

    Too many charities today have very high overheads. Donations are used to get more donations, essentially.

    A really transparent charity would do well, I think.

  19. #19 CanadianChick
    October 24, 2010

    True, you can pursue both avenues, but there are good reasons for not doing it. First, the courts frown on forum shopping. The reason *I* wouldn’t pursue criminal charges, were I Dawkins (and keep in mind, I’m a real law-n-order kinda gal) is a matter of expense. Pursuing criminal charges of fraud can be an expensive endeavour. Sure, it’d be nice to believe that the police cover the costs of pursuing the charges, but the foundation would still need to hire an attorney, pay for record production, etc if they wanted a relatively speedy trial . None of that money gets reimbursed, which would eat into the foundations currently slender resources.

    On a purely pragmatic level, I’d be following the same course as Dawkins, as much as I’d like to see the guy in jail too. It most emphatically does not mean that there is more to the story. Frankly, I’m impressed that it’s going this far – the vast majority of employee fraud or embezzlement are NEVER taken to either court. Usually the employee is terminated without a reference and never reported at all.

  20. #20 youngskeptic
    October 24, 2010

    It happens. All charities and foundations have to deal with this and as new comers we can’t expect to have everything magically work out for us. However noble our ideals and goals might be they can’t shield us from something everyone has to deal with.

    Hopefully everyone learns from this and, if Mr. (not sure what to address him as anymore) Dawkins allegations are true, the stolen money is returned and goes to some worthy cause.

  21. #21 G.Shelley
    October 24, 2010

    In The God Delusion, he denies any role for genetic drift in evolution.

    Having read The God Delusion, and several of Dawkin’s other works, that doesn’t strike me as likely.

  22. #22 Adam C.
    October 24, 2010

    @G. Shelley: The exact words are something like “there is much debate over whether genetic drift has any role in evolution”, as a casual dismissal followed by him pretty much dismissing it in favur of a natural-selection-only view. I think it’s chapter… maybe 2-4 I don’t have my copy to hand, and am not sure if I still own it, to be honest, since I was so disgusted by that bit. It was simply insane.

  23. #23 Adam C.
    October 24, 2010

    Should read “pretty much dismissing it completely in favour of a natural-selection-only view”.

    Perhaps it can be argued that he just over-simplifies for the general public. However, given how much space he gives to off-topic musings in every book, I think he could have managed somewhere to fit in a brief statement about genetic drift’s role, as has been known since 1920s studies that lead to the modern synthesis.

  24. #24 Fitz
    October 24, 2010

    Adam C, are you talking about this?

    “Biologists acknowledge that a gene may spread through a population not because it is a good gene but simply because it is a lucky one. We call this genetic drift. How important it is vis-a-vis natural selection has been controversial. But it is now widely accepted in the form of the so-called neutral theory of molecular genetics. If a gene mutates to a different version of itself which has an identical effect, the difference is neutral, and selection cannot favour one or the other. Nevertheless, by what statisticians call sampling error over generations, the new mutant form can eventually replace the original form in the gene pool. This is a true evolutionary change at the molecular level (even if no change is observed in the world of whole organisms). It is a neutral evolutionary change that owes nothing to selective advantage.”

    What is it about this that strikes you as nonsense/nuts/insane/disgusting?

  25. #25 William
    October 24, 2010

    Embezzlement and fraud can be a problem for any organization. I’ve heard a few stories from family members who work with small/medium-sized businesses; one story involved a sum similar to that in the OP. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of doctors are defrauded by their bookkeepers.

  26. #26 Johan
    October 24, 2010

    For all we know Dawkins has filed a report with the police. Considering that they probably received the report recently I do not find it all that surprising that they have not had time to take any action yet.

  27. #27 Mark P
    October 24, 2010

    It’s not just skeptical organizations – Embezzlement is probably the number one Church-related crime as well .

    And schools, especially PTAs and the like.

  28. #28 Nefzeni
    October 24, 2010

    Something more than meets the eye appears to be going on here.

    Do we really need to start speculating about possible conspiracies on the basis that there have been no arrests? Then again, there was the whole authorship of some articles on RD’s site changing authorship from Timonen to RDF and back to Timonen after Tmonen pointed it out in his blog post (he posted a google cache to prove it). Still, that’s no reason to start thinking in terms of conspiracies.

    I mean, Dawkins has showered so much praise onto Timonen, even dedicating his latest book to him, and jumping rather ferociously to his defense when the forums were shut down. I think it’s safe to say that for Dawkins to have so suddenly turned around and sued Timonen there has to be a very good reason, especially seeing as how it threatens to reflect poorly on atheists as whole (even though it of course shouldn’t).

  29. #29 ERV
    October 24, 2010

    A situation tangentially ‘like’ this is a reason I had nothing to do with atheist organizations for a couple of years (to the point where Im still wary of even subscribing to the big groups magazines).

    The ‘best’ cure Ive seen is to have division and overlap of responsibilities. No one person ever is 100% in charge of any one thing.

    We have this with OKC Atheists (along with regular elections), and when I spoke at the TX Freethought Convention, I had no less than six people double-check that I had been paid (I didnt know I was going to get paid anything. someone could have just pocketed the cash and no one would have been the wiser).

  30. #30 Gopiballava
    October 24, 2010

    Not everybody gets satisfaction knowing that a person is in prison. I haven’t had a large sum of money stolen from me, but I think I’d be a lot more interested in getting money back and a lot less interested in jail time for the thief.

    I wouldn’t at all be surprised to find that a significant percentage of humanists wouldn’t be interested in pushing for criminal charges. (Obviously, the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago doesn’t share this view)

  31. #31 Chris
    October 24, 2010

    Mark P.:

    And schools, especially PTAs and the like.

    And museums: Woman Sentenced For Embezzling Money From Bellevue Museum.

    I have helped audit a PTA, and another group… both were very painful, but necessary. I am presently a treasurer for a parent group, and it would be incredibly easy to skim off some of the donations. Though with the total funds being less than a thousand dollars, it is not worth it … and it is not in my nature (I actually kick in my own money to bring amounts like $21.45 to $25).

  32. #32 Wehaf
    October 24, 2010

    I don’t have much to say on the topic in general, but am I the only one who finds it weird that the complaint not only mentions that Timonen’s girlfriend is “significantly older”, but puts it in scare quotes?

  33. #33 Treppenwitz
    October 24, 2010

    I don’t have much to say on the topic in general, but am I the only one who finds it weird that the complaint not only mentions that Timonen’s girlfriend is “significantly older”, but puts it in scare quotes?

    It might be an actual quotation, though it hardly seems relevant either way.

  34. #34 wotty
    October 24, 2010

    The allegedly embezzled sum was $375,000. However, RD is demanding $950,000 plus punitive damages.

  35. #35 'Tis Himself, OM
    October 24, 2010

    I’m on the board of a local charity. When I was elected for the board I asked several questions including when the last financial audit was. It was ten years previously, just before the board’s treasurer was elected. I strongly recommended the board have an audit done immediately if not sooner. The only one not in favor of this was the treasurer. As might be expected, she was skimming several thousand dollars per year from an organization which was just scraping by.

    No criminal charges were filed but after the civil case she ended up owing almost $100 thousand in restitution. Plus we have annual audits by an accounting firm.

  36. #36 Melissa
    October 24, 2010

    #33 wotty: It is pretty much standard practice to sue for more than was embezzled, to cover court costs and compensate for damage to reputation, lost time, and of course (in a charity’s case) the loss of many potential donors. The court does not have to award all that was asked for afaik– they can settle on a number in-between.

    And I did not know he was American. Being an international case will indeed complicate things.

  37. #37 Robert S.
    October 24, 2010

    For those of you who don’t insist on regular audits.

    I’m remotely affiliated with a nonprofit that hadn’t made sure to spread the auditing and oversight responsibilities around properly. Luckily all that happened was that some filings got missed and everything was quickly, and fairly cheaply cleaned up. Unfortunately a huge amount of stress was involved, people blew up at each-other and friendships were strained. As nasty as it felt from the inside it was about as good as it gets when external, paid, auditors aren’t used.

  38. #38 Composer99
    October 24, 2010

    “but these issues with skeptical organizations seem to go beyond just that. Or is this just a problem with nonprofits in general?”

    I would say that embezzlement or other issues are most definitely not unique to skeptical organizations – any one can be vulnerable to that sort of thing if they don’t think to implement proper oversight from the outset.

    I know the church I attend audits the books more or less annually (I can’t quite confirm this as I can’t stand going to the annual Vestry meetings where the finances/budget are discussed) via an independent auditor.

    And the problem doesn’t have to be embezzlement, of course. You could run into trouble if the person put in charge of the finances turns out to be incompetent at the tasks involved, no matter how likeable or trustworthy he or she is, or how competent in other fields.

  39. #39 Scote
    October 24, 2010

    “6

    Josh has joined the RationalSkepticism.org forum, which was set up in response to the demise of the old RDF forum. A thread about this topic in which Josh is currently active can be found here; http://www.rationalskepticism.org/news-politics/dawkins-sues-josh-timonen-t14455.html

    Posted by: HughMcB | October 24, 2010 1:12 PM”

    Well, following your link we discover that:

    “MODNOTE
    Members please be advised that joshtimonen joined as a member here during the course of this thread and he is therefore now protected under the Forum Users Agreement.”

    Which agreement states:

    “You may not:

    * Start critical threads about other members”

    Nice web forum. All you have to do to preclude negative threads is to join and you are magically insulated from criticism. Maybe the Catholic Church should join? And Mike Adams? And…well, with such a stupid policy I can’t really think of “RationalSkepticim.org” as worthy of its name. Skepticism that applies only to non-members–a move right out of the crank playbook.

    But, as to the OP here, it think it is silly to lump your dislike of Dawkins support for Bill Maher with his organization allegedly being a victim of criminal embezzlement. It is a non sequitur. You are basically saying you don’t like the guy thus anything bad that happens to his organization is somehow related–but it isn’t. I think you would rightly tear apart anybody who tried such a feeble connection for their own purposes.

  40. #40 Pablo
    October 24, 2010

    #33 wotty: It is pretty much standard practice to sue for more than was embezzled, to cover court costs and compensate for damage to reputation, lost time, and of course (in a charity’s case) the loss of many potential donors. The court does not have to award all that was asked for afaik– they can settle on a number in-between.

    I’d sure bloody hope it costs more than simple restitution. If not, then basically there is no penalty for getting caught.

    “You don’t get to keep the money you stole” is not a penalty. It is the obvious starting point. A penalty means it actually costs the perp something, as opposed to just not getting to keep the booty.

  41. #41 AnthonyK
    October 24, 2010

    Meh, sorry, but really, who effing cares?
    T’aint medicine, t’aint rational thinking. t’aint anything but a spat.
    Why are you bothering with this?

  42. #42 Calli Arcale
    October 24, 2010

    One other possible reason for Dawkins selecting civil court rather than criminal court (and, as others have noted, it’s possible that criminal proceedings could still happen) is that he may be hoping to persuade Timonen to settle out of court with the threat of a civil trial. Even a civil court would end better for Timonen than a criminal one, despite the higher standard of evidence — it doesn’t look good on employment applications when you have to say “yes” when asked if you have ever been charged with a felony.

    Pablo: not getting to keep the money is a nice thought, but sadly, often impractical. It is very rare for an embezzler to still have the money to return; the majority spend it immediately. Efforts can be made to recover it, but these efforts are themselves costly, and there is no guarantee that the recipients of the stolen money will be persuaded to give it up. Here in Minnesota, the Tom Petters case (massive financial fraud case) has been particularly painful for the many charities that he gave generously to. This one investigator has had the unpleasant job of calling up each of those charities and asking them to return the money. Some have been able to; most have already spent it, and since they had no way of knowing it was the proceeds of a Ponzi scheme, it’s hard to fault them for it and punish their worthy causes.

    Full restitution in many of these cases is simply not possible. It’s worse when the thief turns out to be a compulsive gambler; the money pretty much evaporates at that point, and the only way they can hope to repay is to work to earn the money back, and if they’ve stolen more than a few thousand, their odds of that are poor at best — especially as they may now have a felony conviction for a financial crime. Who wants to hire somebody who stole huge amounts of money from his last employer?

  43. #43 monado
    October 24, 2010

    And of course there’s interest that the money could have been earning if the legitimate owner had received it… the money being paid back has lost value due to inflation and so it should be a larger amount just to be equivalent to what was stolen—to say nothing of punitive damages. Perhaps the girlfriend might be forced to contribute some of the profit from her renovated house if someone can prove that it was renovated with profit from a crime.

  44. #44 Tort
    October 25, 2010

    In non-profits you tend to get a lot of work done by volunteers or people working for less money than they normally would get paid. This means you generally get a few people doing a lot of the work. It makes it easier to embezzle. Also I think (but have no evidence) that perhaps people feel more entitled to the money, feeling that since they are giving their time to the organisation without pay or for less than their time is worth that it balances out somewhat.

    Dawkins has made it clear that he does not agree with Maher’s views. How often do we see scientists working with religious people who support their cause but have bizarre anti-science beliefs in other areas. Very few of those scientists are so upfront about. I know Dawkins award was for science but how many awards for science has Francis Collins won? How many of those people who introduced him made a point to disagree with his view that humans could not have evolved without god?

    I’m not saying you are wrong just be aware that the choices available are that we avoid giving out accolades to those who hold unscientific beliefs (which means most religious scientists are out) or we acknowledge them but maintain clearly that the scientific community disagrees with these people. Those who oppose giving the award to Bill Maher but don’t have a problem with giving awards to religious people particularly when their bizarre beliefs are not questioned are being philosophically inconsistent.

  45. #45 Pieter B
    October 25, 2010

    Tort:

    [H]ow many awards for science has Francis Collins won? How many of those people who introduced him made a point to disagree with his view that humans could not have evolved without god?

    As far as I know, atheism was not a criterion for any of the numerous awards that Collins has won, but promoting “increased scientific knowledge” is a criterion for the Dawkins Award. I submit that despite his evangelical beliefs Collins has a record of doing lots of good science over the years. Maher, despite his on-again off-again atheism (perhaps anti-religionism is a better label) has a record of promoting medical misinformation and quackery.

    For Orac and myself, good science is the primary concern; for others in the skeptical movement, atheism appears to be the primary concern, to the point of making excuses for irrational people like Bill Maher. Orac and I are in the minority, I fear, and I don’t think that bodes well for the future of the skeptical movement.

  46. #46 Pam Smith
    October 25, 2010

    It’s pretty much standard in charitable organisations – including many churches, and also apparently the RDF – to operate on trust, because you share a common aim to which you are committed. And sometimes this will break down, particularly if remuneration arrangements are not clear.

    If I read it right, Richard Dawkins handed over the running of the commercial arm of the RDF to Josh Timonen because, as a UK charity, the RDF was not permitted to have a commercial arm, with the understanding that JT would hand back the profits as a charitable donation.

    If this arrangement was a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ rather than an official one, and if the nature of the alleged embezzlement is that JT didn’t give as large a donation out of the earnings he generated as was expected, it may be hard to demonstrate that he owes this amount.

  47. #47 Ender
    October 25, 2010

    I’m not saying you are wrong just be aware that the choices available are that we avoid giving out accolades to those who hold unscientific beliefs (which means most religious scientists are out) or we acknowledge them but maintain clearly that the scientific community disagrees with these people. Those who oppose giving the award to Bill Maher but don’t have a problem with giving awards to religious people particularly when their bizarre beliefs are not questioned are being philosophically inconsistent.

    As Pieter says, atheism was not a criteria for any of the awards Collins has won.
    It is absolutely not philosophically inconsistent to oppose giving a science and atheism award to an atheist who actively opposes real medical science, while accepting that a well respected scientist who has actively contributed to science deserves a scientific award which refers not at all to either atheism nor philosophical naturalism.

  48. #48 DLC
    October 25, 2010

    I like Richard Dawkins, although I may not always agree with him on everything. I’m often amused by Bill Maher, although I don’t agree with him much at all, and think some of his opinions are wrong to the point of dangerousness.
    Finally, I know next to nothing of the accused in this case, and so I really have to say that, while the little I’ve heard of him is negative, I really cannot form an opinion at this time. I guess I’ll wait and see.

  49. #49 Drivebyposter
    October 25, 2010

    Nice web forum. All you have to do to preclude negative threads is to join and you are magically insulated from criticism. Maybe the Catholic Church should join? And Mike Adams? And…well, with such a stupid policy I can’t really think of “RationalSkepticim.org” as worthy of its name. Skepticism that applies only to non-members–a move right out of the crank playbook.

    That was probably added to prevent people from starting threads that are nothing but bitchfests.
    I think you are taking the interpretation of that rule much too literally and you expanded on it way too much.
    Besides, you can make a thread critical of someone’s ideas and actions without being directly critical of that person. (Even though I feel connecting those actions directly to the perpetrator of said actions is totally fair)

  50. #50 Tort
    October 25, 2010

    Peter B:
    Thankyou for proving my point, I actually was a bit worried posting this because I haven’t heard Orac make the bad science argument I talked about and though I had heard it before I didn’t have a link handy to show that I was not making a straw man argument.

    If you actually opposed bad science, then you should oppose giving Francis Collins an award for the promotion of science (I don’t actually know whether he has won any) because he is promoting bad science, the example I gave (though there are others) is that the evolution of humans required divine intervention. That is bad science. I’m not saying only give science awards to atheists, I’m saying religion is not a defence to making a bad scientific claim.

    I agree that Dawkins has put atheism ahead of medical science here. I think he is entitled to, as long as he is clear about it and he has been. What I am saying is that the two choices you have are:

    1. Exclude those who push unscientific views
    2. Allow them to be recognised for their work in some areas (Maher does a lot for atheism) but be clear about what you disagree with

    Those are the choices, you don’t get a special allowance for religion or any other craziness you have a soft spot for. The problem I have had with this is that while I do disagree with Dawkins and giving the award to Maher it’s a personal preference of mine. He is still being intellectually honest, many of the people who I have argued with about this have been quite happy to differentiate bad science based on religious belief and that is not intellectually honest.

  51. #51 Ender
    October 25, 2010

    His name’s Pieter B and he proved nothing about your point.

    You said nothing about “giving Francis Collins an award for the promotion of science”, you said “how many awards for science has Francis Collins won?”

    That’s for “science”, not “the promotion of science”. Undeniably Francis Collins has done a lot of “science” and deserved his awards, whatever you think about his religious views.

    The only person giving a special allowance for anything here is you when you try to equivocate between Maher winning an award he only half-qualified for and Collins winning awards he actually deserved. Presumably because you support Maher’s non-wacky views.

  52. #52 Tort
    October 25, 2010

    First off I’d like to apologise to Pieter B for my typo, in this I’m genuine although there is a fair amount of sarcasm to come.

    Ender, wonderful.
    I notice you didn’t address the point and accused me of being a cancer quack, truly a crapulent performance. I talked about the philosophical difficulties surrounding Maher, you decided that therefore I must hold his views, either this is because you believe people only hold philosophical positions when they agree with the person they are defending or you are just being an arsehole. Actually scratch that you’re acting like an arsehole either way.

    My point stands either way whether giving an award in general for science or for the promotion of science. I did a quick google search, we can pick his National Medal of Science for biology. I’m happy to give him this award provided we say that some of his views particularly on evolution of humans and abiogenesis are not supported by science. They are directly applicable to the award. If you want to be intellectually honest, if you want to be philosophically consistent and your reason for saying Maher should not win an award for science because of his promotion of unscientific views then you have to oppose that and other awards given to Collins and other religious kooks.

  53. #53 Andreas Johansson
    October 25, 2010

    @Tort: Ender suggested you agree with Maher’s non-wacky views. Quackery is among Maher’s wacky views.

  54. #54 Tort
    October 25, 2010

    You’re right I misread that, sorry. I still stand on the point that if you only only hold a philosophical position when you agree with the person you are defending then you are an arsehole.

  55. #55 Alan
    October 25, 2010

    Newton was perhaps the greatest polymath that ever lived but he wrote more words in his role as a theologan than he did as a natural philosopher. The fact that he claimed “Jesus was sent to Earth to operate the levers of gravity” or the fact he wrote almost a million words on the numerology of 666 does not detract one iota from his achivements. The principa is, and will remain, one of the greatest intellectual feats of all time.

    Dawkins is not in the same league as Newton but the same principle applies, nothing he does will change the fact that “the selfish gene” will remain a classic piece of scientific litrature for generations to come. Nothing he does will make “Unweaving the rainbow” less of an eye-opener to people who believe the feeling of religious awe is something only religious people can feel. Some other great works from Dawkins include, Climbing mount improbable and The blind watchmaker, every one of his books are brilliant examples of scientfic communicator in the tradition of Sagan, Bronowski, Feynman, et al.

    Sure Dawkins has his faults and foibles as we all do. But before you write him off just because he associates with someone you don’t like, ask yourself this; how do your own achievments stack up against his?

  56. #56 Anthony McCarthy
    October 25, 2010

    What is it about rationalist/skeptic groups that make them seemingly have such a hard time running their organizations well from a financial standpoint? Orac

    Perhaps it’s because they’re not genuinely rationalist or skeptical. Or maybe it’s because nihilism mixed with ego driven arrogance doesn’t tend to promote a sense of morality.

  57. #57 Anthony McCarthy
    October 25, 2010

    every one of his books are brilliant examples of scientfic communicator in the tradition of Sagan, Bronowski, Feynman, et al.

    Mentioning Bronowski and Feynman along with the other two is a pretty insulting. Brownowski and Feynman never practiced evidence free science, as far as I can recall. And Feynman was, as someone recently said, only ten-times smarter than just about anyone else. Dawkins, especially, has had an unfortunate effect on biology, popularizing the introduction of the standards of the so-called sciences into what used to be a far more rigorous interpretation of actual data and physical evidence, turning it into story telling. And that practice has infected all kinds of academic fields, economics, one of the more disturbing. Though since his adaptationist religion began with Malthus, it’s a development that has some interesting features. It’s too bad that modern evolutionary science, which lacks narrative appeal, is at a disadvantage over that story telling. It will suffer from it, which is unfortunate.

  58. #58 Ender
    October 25, 2010

    Thanks Andreas.

    Tort:

    I still stand on the point that if you only only hold a philosophical position when you agree with the person you are defending then you are an arsehole.

    And who could disagree with that? It’s unarguable.

    However, no one here is doing that.

    All that has been said so far is:

    Award for performing science : Collins fulfills this whatever his other beliefs are.

    Award for promoting science and atheism : Maher does not fulfill this as he actively promotes pseudoscience.

    You might think that awards for performing good science are in fact awards for performing good science and having the correctly vetted philosophical naturalist beliefs that are clearly not necessary for performing good science, and that no matter your scientific achievements you shouldn’t win a scientific award if you’ve also engaged in the thoughtcrime of being religious, but no-one else does. That’s stupid.

  59. #59 augustine
    October 25, 2010

    And Atheism has to do with Science Based Medicine how?

    And why do science bloggers care about what Atheist Alliance International does with it’s awards?

    Because Science Blogs is an atheist website with atheistic interests and an atheistic agenda. Science is a tool not a psuedoreligion whose purpose is to bash out religion through passive aggressive techniques.

    I believe Harriet Hall showed the sentiments of SBMers when she said: “If science is not the best way to determine what’s moral, what is the best way?”

  60. #60 mikerattlesnake
    October 25, 2010

    @Ender

    What makes religion different from other pseudoscience? As far as I can see, all Tort is saying is that religion shouldn’t get a pass, which makes sense. A scientist who promotes any form of intelligent design is just as deserving of an award as someone who promotes any form of germ denialism, however deserving that those in charge determine them to be.

    You could make the point that Bill Maher isn’t a scientist, and is therefore less deserving than Collins because he doesn’t actively contribute to a scientific field through published studies, but you don’t. Instead, you argue that Maher’s woo is unforgivable but Collins just doesn’t have the “correctly vetted philosophical naturalist beliefs” and is being accused of “thoughtcrime,” which is silly. Tort is just pointing out that if one is going to be accomodationist about religion, they gotta be accomodationist about any wacky, unevidenced belief held by those who are presumably helping the cause in some other way.

  61. #61 Sigmund
    October 25, 2010

    Anthony McCarthy, Dawkins has had a big effect on the public understanding of evolution. In terms of actual scientific research, not so much. He was never a prolific researcher and is best known for the promotion of the ideas of other scientists (notably RA Fisher). I work in genetic myself and don’t see Dawkins own research as having any major influence on the work of fellow geneticists (apart from encouraging some of them to write their own books).

  62. #62 Ender
    October 25, 2010

    Nothing makes it different mikerattlesnake, the difference is in the award:

    The one Maher got was for promoting science and atheism – 50% of which he fails.

    The ones Collins has got are (probably) for doing science – none of which he fails.

    Tort is just pointing out that if one is going to be accomodationist about religion, they gotta be accomodationist about any wacky, unevidenced belief held by those who are presumably helping the cause in some other way

    If he was doing that then he was just being silly.

    No-one is suggesting that the reason Collins deserves his awards for science because we must accommodate the religious – we are saying he deserves his awards because he’s done the science!

    To suggest that you do not deserve your award for ‘doing science’ when you have done the science, but also believe in God, is indeed to suggest that you don’t deserve your award for thoughtcrime.
    What else but his thoughts disqualify him from the awards he deserves?

  63. I still respect many of the things Dawkins has said, but my key problem with him is that he appears to value anti-religiousness (not just atheism) above critical thinking and science, and his anti-religiousness skews his perspective on, for lack of a better word, evil.

    In the God Delusion, he pretty much states that the psychological abuse of children via religious indoctrination is a worse crime than what he seems to consider a little harmless buggery.

  64. #64 Anthony McCarthy
    October 25, 2010

    Sigmund, the widespread belief among non-scientists and even some scientists, that invented, explanatory myths about the entirely unobservable , entirely undocumentable, entirely unknown common behavior of our human and pre-human ancestors, is reliable enough to constitute sound science is directly attributable to Richard Dawkins. That dishonest and self-serving idea has spread, quite literally, throughout the social sciences and even into a lot of biological writing. If you doubt that it’s socially and politically effective, go read David Brooks and other right-wing pillars of Republican reaction.

    I had been aware of the popularity of evidence free science among the “skeptics” and the new atheists but it wasn’t until I’d read Hawking’s latest stuff that I came to realize that it was ubiquitous. I’d known that much of the orthodoxy around cog-sci and behavioral sci constituted a kind of materialism in the gaps but I hadn’t realized how serious that problem was until just a few weeks back. I think it’s a real danger to the integrity of science and a danger to democratic politics. I’m also beginning to understand why so many of the popular figures of those fads turn out to be right wing libertarian crackpots. It’s a deeply anti-intellectual movement, in contradiction to its claims.

  65. #65 Vicki
    October 25, 2010

    Many years ago, I worked for a 501(c)3 organization. One day, one of the top people in the accounting department just wasn’t there anymore. (I don’t remember if he was the comptroller or not.)

    I heard via the rumor mill that he had been fired for embezzling, and that they weren’t suing because he had gambled away the money so there was no point.

    What got to me is that they were also avoiding all publicity (hence, office rumor mill and I have no idea if the members were told anything). Apparently lawyers are so expensive that they had agreed to simply give him the minimal “This person was employed here in $job during these dates. Company policy is not to provide more detailed references,” leaving him free to find another job, and embezzle and gamble away more money.

  66. #66 mikerattlesnake
    October 25, 2010

    @60

    To make it clear: I don’t think Maher deserves the award. The point that Tort was making is that you seem to make some distinction between woo-ey beliefs and religious beliefs, and that that distinction is false.

    I would agree that Maher hasn’t done the science, but mostly because he’s not a scientist or any sort of researcher, and less because he has some woo-ey beliefs. Taking it from Dawkins point of view, presumably he thinks that promoting Atheism has scientific value because there is no evidence for god any plenty of evidence for a godless universe, making “no god” the most scientific conclusion (I disagree that this merits an award for “promoting science” but generally agree with the conclusion). If this is his justification, you can’t take issue with his germ denialism (as it is in an irrelevant field) if you don’t take issue with someone in another field who does good work, but promotes religious nonsense outside of his/her work in that field.

    Personally, I am critical of both religious and woo-ey folks, but I don’t think a few woo-ey/religious beliefs should disqualify anyone from this sort of award. I would argue that the stridency with which Maher pushed his particular beliefs combined with a dearth of published research disqualifies him, but the actual beliefs are no worse than religious ones.

  67. #67 Anthony McCarthy
    October 25, 2010

    I’ll give Maher his due for exposing Christine O’Donnell’s wackiness. Other than that, I don’t really take him seriously or think he’s especially reliable. He wouldn’t get work in network TV if he was.

  68. #68 Mu
    October 25, 2010

    I’ll wait this one out. The nice thing with US lawsuits is, we’ll see the documents the claim is based on. So we’ll see if it’s a case of “the guy embezzled the money he was supposed to raise for charity” or “the charity wrote a lousy contract that left most of the money with the fund raiser”. Since fundraisers keeping 75% of the money raised isn’t unheard off (not to say common for commercial fundraisers) we’ll have to wait for the jury.

  69. #69 Ender
    October 25, 2010

    @mikerattlesnake
    That’s very interesting, but also completely unrelated to whether you can decry Maher’s Awards and accept Collins’s Awards while remaining philosophically consistent.

    Which you can.

    On what you said: Dawkins may well have decided that promoting Atheism was important enough that it merited throwing one of the criteria for the award under the bus, and not bothered to announce the change to the Award, but as you say, it does not change the fact that Maher was a bad choice.

    I would argue that the stridency with which Maher pushed his particular beliefs combined with a dearth of published research disqualifies him, but the actual beliefs are no worse than religious ones.

    Well in general… wait, what does in general mean? Fuck it, lets compare Collins and Maher.

    Collins: Believes in and practices good science except he believes in a Creator God

    Maher: Believes in good science except where he advocates wholesale skepticism of ‘Western’ medicine, acceptance of pseudoscientific pseudomedicine, and other anti-scientific beliefs.

    Well, Maher’s definitely not as bad as a creationist, but he’s a whole lot worse than Collins, and anyone else who accepts all current science but also believes in a God.

    Simply put –

    A belief in a God that does not contradict science = less bad than Belief in pseudoscience that does contradict science.

  70. #70 WScott
    October 25, 2010

    For Orac and myself, good science is the primary concern; for others in the skeptical movement, atheism appears to be the primary concern…Orac and I are in the minority, I fear, and I don’t think that bodes well for the future of the skeptical movement.

    Agreed on both points.

    The one Maher got was for promoting science and atheism – 50% of which he fails.

    I’ve never really enjoyed Maher. But to be fair, he has promoted science in many areas: evolution, 911 conspiracy, etc. Medical quackery seems to be his only failing. I’ll grant you it’s a BIG failing, and I’m not excusing it. But human nature being what it is, if we only give awards to people everyone agrees are 100% rational 100% of the time, it’ll be a pretty short list of awardees.

    As for the embezzlement story, as has been pointed out, it’s far from uncommon in the non-profit world.

  71. #71 Ender
    October 25, 2010

    Hey, I’ve replied but it’s held for moderation, so you should see it soon enough.

  72. #72 Ender
    October 25, 2010

    I don’t know WScott, would you give a humanitarian award to someone who has promoted peace and harmony in over twenty countries, except for the Congo where they promoted wholesale slaughter and rape?

    Medical science is a huge part of science, and if you fail at that you can’t possibly hold yourself up as a supporter of “Science”.

  73. #73 Ray
    October 25, 2010

    Maher is an easy call. He is not a skeptic, he’s a contrarian, whose opposition to authority is on automatic pilot.

  74. #74 mikerattlesnake
    October 25, 2010

    @ender

    But “science” is a huge field. If we assume that Dawkins gives award for promoting specific kinds of science and not science in general and that he considers promotion of atheism to be a scientific endeavor, that’s enough for Maher to meet the criteria. A religious scientist who makes great strides in physics, but is an avowed creationist still could deserve a “science” award, though I’d definitely want it worded more specifically.

    Shorter: I disagree with Maher getting any science awards, but I also disagree with your compartmentalizing of religion and woo as two seperate entities. In other words, Collins is more deserving of an award because of degree, not type, of woo.

  75. #75 Anthony McCarthy
    October 25, 2010

    Woo. Such a useful word if you don’t really care about intellectual honesty. Is M-theory “woo”?

  76. #76 Travis
    October 25, 2010

    mikerattlesnake,
    Just one thing. I do agree with you but if my memory is correct I do not believe Dawkins gives this award out, it is just named after him but given out by another group.

  77. #77 Dan Weber
    October 25, 2010

    What is it about rationalist/skeptic groups that make them seemingly have such a hard time running their organizations well from a financial standpoint?

    I know a number of churches that explicitly put non-church-members in charge of the church’s finances. One reason is that there’s no “we can trust this guy because he believes like us” to blind them to the need to audit their books. So the donors know that their funds will be handed professionally. And the people running the ministry never know who is and isn’t giving, shielding them from ignoring their small donors.

  78. #78 mikerattlesnake
    October 25, 2010

    @Anthony McCarthy

    You’ve wasted a lot of words in this thread without actually saying what you mean very often. Make a point of being a bit clearer, please. If you’re going to accuse people of being intellectually dishonest, you might want to have some evidence to back that up.

    @travis

    Given his later endorsement of the award, I found it easier to refer to it in those terms.

  79. #79 J. J. Ramsey
    October 25, 2010

    Melissa: “#33 wotty: It is pretty much standard practice to sue for more than was embezzled”

    I don’t think that wotty was suggesting that there was something wrong with RD demanding $950,000 in compensatory damages, but rather indicating why Orac would have thought that Timonen had embezzled about $1 million rather than $375,000 cited in the article.

  80. #80 Travis
    October 25, 2010

    @mikerattlesnake,
    Fair enough, I was disappointed by his wishy washy support of the award after it was made public, but I think it important to be accurate about such statements. Though I do certainly understand why you would phrase it that way.

  81. #81 mikerattlesnake
    October 25, 2010

    @Anthony McCarthy

    On second thought, nevermind. I just did a search for your name and got a bunch of boring, familiar, accomodationalist drivel. You seem to see a lot of merit in coming up with convoluted ways to avoid actually having evidence for your beliefs.

    To paraphrase:

    Science changes a lot, so I would be surprised if evolution/natural selection is the dominant paradigm in a few hundred years. Therefore beardy sky man.

    Liberals aren’t hard-line atheists and are turned off by their stridency. Therefore everyone has an invisible dad.

    Stuff happened a long time ago, and none of us were there. Therefore magic ghosts and zombies.

    Our perception is not perfect and our brains create constructs and metaphors. Therefore unicorn farts.

  82. #82 Richard Dawkins
    October 25, 2010

    Personally, I went off Dawkins when I read him writing nonsense about evolution. In The God Delusion, he denies any role for genetic drift in evolution. …This is just nuts. The role was elucidated in the 1920s.
    Posted by: Adam C. | October 24, 2010 12:43 PM

    This is an outrageous slur. Here is what I actually wrote about genetic drift in The God Delusion:

    Even on an evolutionary model, there doesn’t have to be any natural selection. Biologists acknowledge that a gene may spread through a population not because it is a good gene but simply because it is a lucky one. We call this genetic drift. How important it is vis-à-vis natural selection has been controversial. But it is now widely accepted in the form of the so-called neutral theory of molecular genetics. If a gene mutates to a different version of itself which has an identical effect, the difference is neutral, and selection cannot favour one or the other. Nevertheless, by what statisticians call sampling error over generations, the new mutant form can eventually replace the original form in the gene pool. This is a true evolutionary change at the molecular level (even if no change is observed in the world of whole organisms). It is a neutral evolutionary change that owes nothing to selective advantage.

    I think Adam C should apologise.

    Richard Dawkins

  83. #83 Anthony McCarthy
    October 25, 2010

    mikerattlesnake, don’t believe that the new atheist blog clique say, they seem to be about as bad at reading comprehension as they are with science. I’ve always held that science is unable to accommodate anything but rigorously obtained physical evidence and that the wall of separation, as well, was an absolute bar to introducing topics of religion into public school science classes. Though, since like “woo” “accomodationism” is a word that seems to mean whatever a new atheist wants it to mean, without logical restraint or intellectual honesty, I don’t really expect that will impress you.

    I’ve never expected that the crowd that thinks “unicorn farts” is a good debating point was going to be in the audience I try to address.

  84. #84 spurge
    October 25, 2010

    Hey Anthony

    Why don’t you slink back to the Intersection with all the other bottom feeding Gnu Atheist haters.

  85. #85 Pieter B
    October 25, 2010

    The Richard Dawkins Award is granted by Atheist Alliance International; Dawkins presents the award at their convention. I do not believe that he is either on the AAI Board or the Dawkins Award selection committee. Dawkins’s repeated defense of giving Maher the award indicates to me that for him, promoting atheism is the #1 priority, so much so that it trumps someone loudly proclaiming views that are a danger to public health. Maher considers Barbara Loe Fisher and Jay Gordon authorities on vaccination, for cryin’ out loud. According to him, Fisher has “devoted her life” to studying vaccines. [eyeroll]

    Collins is a self-identified evangelical christian who nonetheless specifically rejects creationism and its avatar intelligent design. I don’t see that that is anywhere close to the danger level of Maher’s promotion of outright quackery. If nothing else, the fact that under his leadership the Human Genome Project came in ahead of schedule and under budget qualifies him for both a science and a cat-herding award.

  86. #86 Anthony McCarthy
    October 25, 2010

    suprge 2:59 PM

    Yet more brilliant repartee from the “Brites” of the new atheism.

  87. #87 mikerattlesnake
    October 25, 2010

    @anthony mccarthy

    I didn’t listen to what other people said (the search returns comments not articles), I just read a few of your recent posts. I was bored. Your arguments are all fantastical constructs to help you avoid the obvious: there is no evidence for god (and especially any particular god), overwhelming evidence for a naturalistic universe, and no reason as a scientifically minded person to accept the former over the latter. You seem like someone who has a beef with atheists because they say things that make you uncomfortable, so you lash out as ineffectually as you can (but with LOTS OF WORDS). I have no problem with the religious (as long as they keep it mostly to themselves and in the realms it belongs in), but you lot are unbearable.

  88. #88 Anthony McCarthy
    October 25, 2010

    mikerattlesnake, I hope people remember that you were the one who went off topic on to me. I’ve never made an argument for the existence of God in a post or outside of a post.

    “”LOTS OF WORDS, what’s the matter, too many of them for you? Maybe if I resorted to the short hand of “unicorn farts” I could have been more succinct, though the topics I write about don’t tend to accommodate such rhetorical genius.

    Don’t remember where I wrote it recently, but I said that I’ve always figured boredom was a sign of stupidity. You confirm my point.

  89. #89 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawmqD_mcUIrSfOTlK3iGVsnEDcZmI43srbI
    October 25, 2010

    1. Frankly, I’ve never understood the love affair with Dawkins. I don’t find his writing particularly compelling, and he seems to have an uncanny knack for inserting foot in mouth at very odd moments. He often speaks before considering the downstream implications of his pronouncement, and then has to back-pedal.
    2. That said, I don’t think that has anything to with whether or not he’s justified in suing Josh. I would say that’s a private matter between the two parties.
    3. If Dawkins is in the right, and Josh did embezzle, that would not affect my appreciation of lack of it for Dawkins.

    It’s been pointed out that whenever money is involved, mischief follows. My personal experience was many years ago — my high school reunion chairperson collected upward of $20,000 from the class and then absconded with the funds. We never saw her again; and have yet to have a reunion. No one’s willing to even try to organize such a thing.

  90. #90 wfjag
    October 25, 2010

    A copy of the actual Complaint can be found at The Complaint is at http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/upload/2010/10/RDFvTimonen.pdf

    Most interesting allegations. They seem to demonstrate the accuracy of the truisms of: (1) a fool and his money are soon parted; and (2) if either party to litigation had exercised the least bit of common sense, there would be no need for lawyers, but since they didn’t, see truism #1.

  91. #91 James Fox
    October 25, 2010

    I’ve been on three 501(c)3 nonprofit boards and have been the president of a nonprofit for the past six years. The first two had financial problems when I joined their boards and I tried to get the organizations to change their practice, cut costs and pay off debt. I had little success and eventually had to leave the boards to keep from hitting my head against the wall of tradition and unfounded optimism that often happens when nice folk want to do worthwhile things but forget that the numbers must add up at the end of the day. I’m now going into my sixth year as the president of a nonprofit youth symphony. This organization had accounts with half a dozen different businesses for purchasing symphony scores and fund raising items. In my first year I was able to get the board to agree to close all these accounts and operate on a cash basis and commit to not spending if there was no money. People get involved with nonprofit organizations and charities because they have hopes and dreams; hopes and dreams often preclude rational thinking about money.

  92. #92 J. J. Ramsey
    October 25, 2010

    @wfjag #90: I noticed a couple interesting things about the complaint:

    1) The information about the alleged embezzlement came from financial records that Timonen volunteered when the RDF store ownership was being transferred to the RDF proper.

    2) There appears to have been no written contract between Timonen and the RDF, but rather an oral agreement between the two parties.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Timonen and Dawkins had different understanding about what the oral contract was supposed to have been, and that Timonen thought (wrongly) that he was entitled to the raw revenues from the RDF store.

  93. #93 Azkyroth
    October 25, 2010

    Josh has joined the RationalSkepticism.org forum, which was set up in response to the demise of the old RDF forum.

    Given that, by all reports, Josh almost singlehandedly KILLED it, that’s kind of a disingenuous characterization.

  94. #94 Tort
    October 25, 2010

    Ender, try actually reading what I have written, Collins promotes pseudo science, my argument is very clear I’m not making it again. You are arguing against a straw man.

    Everyone else: I agree that Bill Maher’s pseudo-science is more dangerous. Dawkins doesn’t, he has reasons for this, the problem being so widespread, religion causing people to question so many areas of science and he is no doubt influenced by the religious campaigns against evolutionary biology. The question of what is more dangerous depends on what rubrics you use. I think you can rank your priorities differently and still be true to the skeptic/pro-science movement which is what Dawkins has done.

  95. #95 TheBlindWatcher
    October 25, 2010

    I’m all for getting at the truth and cracking into falsities, but it actually disturbs me the way some, such as Adam C. (#9), go about it.

    He starts by deriding an author for something which he may not have said directly but maybe/probably something like it. He says: “Personally, I went off Dawkins when I read him writing nonsense about evolution”

    Never mind actually checking the source or conveying any sense of doubt about the actual quote… just deride someone as foolish – it’s on the internet, nothing can really happen.

    And when it’s obvious he’s wrong, he’s never heard from again. No apology or acknowledgment.

    I find this behavior insidious and disturbing in a way that probably deserves a blog topic on its own.
    (I apologize to Orac for getting off-topic)

    Here’s the thread I’m referring to:

    Adam C.
    “Personally, I went off Dawkins when I read him writing nonsense about evolution…
    “In The God Delusion, he denies any role for genetic drift in evolution. …This is just nuts. The role was elucidated in the 1920s.”

    “The exact words are something like “there is much debate over whether genetic drift has any role in evolution”, as a casual dismissal followed by him pretty much dismissing it in favour of a natural-selection-only view”

    Fitz replies:
    What is it about this that strikes you as nonsense/nuts/insane/disgusting?:

    “Biologists acknowledge that a gene may spread through a population not because it is a good gene but simply because it is a lucky one. We call this genetic drift. How important it is vis-a-vis natural selection has been controversial. But it is now widely accepted in the form of the so-called neutral theory of molecular genetics. If a gene mutates to a different version of itself which has an identical effect, the difference is neutral, and selection cannot favour one or the other. Nevertheless, by what statisticians call sampling error over generations, the new mutant form can eventually replace the original form in the gene pool. This is a true evolutionary change at the molecular level (even if no change is observed in the world of whole organisms). It is a neutral evolutionary change that owes nothing to selective advantage.”

  96. #96 Anthony McCarthy
    October 25, 2010

    Tort, specifically, in his own words, with citations of where to find them does Francis Collins promote pseudo-science? You will be able to do that with Francis Collins’ words and not those of his critics because they have such a habit of distorting his positions, won’t you?

  97. #97 SC (Salty Current)
    October 25, 2010

    Tort, specifically, in his own words, with citations of where to find them does Francis Collins promote pseudo-science?

    Please! Stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to!

  98. #98 Anthony McCarthy
    October 26, 2010

    SC, I don’t understand you reference or your meaning. You don’t mean that the mighty Brite are above little things like accurate and honest attribution, I hope, because being an atheist doesn’t mean you get to make it up to suit you. Though an honest representation of reality does seem to be a novel concept to most of the new ones I’ve encountered.

  99. #99 Julian Frost
    October 26, 2010

    Anthony McCarthy,
    The reference is to a song by the group tlc. I think SC recently saw the film “The Other Guys”.
    Tort,
    By your logic, Albert Einstein should have his Nobel Prize rescinded as he believed in God. Uh, oh. Suddenly your argument doesn’t look so strong.

  100. #100 Anthony McCarthy
    October 26, 2010

    The reference is to a song by the group tlc. I think SC recently saw the film “The Other Guys”.

    In other words, what’s held in new atheist circles to be the higher learning. Citing Douglas Adams would have clinched it for him, you’d think.

  101. #101 SC (Salty Current)
    October 26, 2010

    The reference is to a song by the group tlc. I think SC recently saw the film “The Other Guys”.

    The first sentence is correct; the second is not. I had never heard of that movie until you mentioned it.

    In other words, what’s held in new atheist circles to be the higher learning. Citing Douglas Adams would have clinched it for him, you’d think.

    I’m female. It was a joke, McCarthy. I would never bother to engage you seriously. You’re ridiculous. Why can’t you stick to the Intersocktion and stop trolling good blogs?

  102. #102 Sigmund
    October 26, 2010

    Anthony McCarthy said:
    “Sigmund, the widespread belief among non-scientists and even some scientists, that invented, explanatory myths about the entirely unobservable , entirely undocumentable, entirely unknown common behavior of our human and pre-human ancestors, is reliable enough to constitute sound science is directly attributable to Richard Dawkins.”
    What?
    Richard Dawkins personally invented the entire field of evolutionary psychology?
    I presume you can back up this claim with some specific examples – or perhaps you would prefer to withdraw your charge?

  103. #103 Anthony McCarthy
    October 26, 2010

    Sorry, SC, I generally think of new atheists with gender neutral pseudonyms as boys because most of them are and I usually figure women are less prone to frat style behavior.

    If Orac wants me to stop commenting here all he has to do is ask me to, in private, by e-mail, and I won’t comment here.

    Sigmund, I said he was directly responsible for popularizing evo-psy’s mythologizing. If you have a candidate for most widely read exponent of it, I’ll consider them as another example.

    You aren’t denying that he has popularized the idea that behaviors of our ancestors in the remote past, expressions of our genes which are favorable adaptations which survive and are still expressed today, are you? Because I’m wondering, considering your mentioning his sparse publication in formal science, what else his fame and former chair at Oxford were all about.

    I’d suggest The Selfish Gene to be sufficient to back up what I said. I believe it’s been republished in recent years. If Richard Dawkins would like to deny the idea, he might begin by repudiating this:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Dawkins:_How_a_Scientist_Changed_the_Way_We_Think

  104. #104 Sigmund
    October 26, 2010

    Come on Anthony. We both know you can do a lot better than that. You have made the accusation. Either back it up with some specific examples in Dawkins own writing of the promotion of evolutionary psychology (not others like that book you linked) or admit you were wrong.
    No book titles please or wikipedia articles about other topics, just specific writings of Dawkins, quotes etc, that back your original point.

  105. #105 mikerattlesnake
    October 26, 2010

    The Anthony McCarthy theory of Debate: take yourself seriously enough and bloviate long enough and no one will notice that you haven’t actually made a solid point, just empty jabs at a particular group you’re not fond of. Anyone who deviates from this formula by making fun of you, not taking you particularly seriously, or just expressing a personality that is not so intellectually insecure as yourself is not to be listened to (lest they topple your fragile self-image).

  106. #106 Anthony McCarthy
    October 26, 2010

    The accusation I made was that Richard Dawkins was responsible for popularizing the idea that we know anything about the behavior of our pre-historic ancestors and our pre-human ancestors in order to introduce suppositions about that into science. You know, as well as I do, and as well as many of the writers in that festscrift do, that in order for that scenario to be true, what I said is essential for any defense of evo-psy aka, human sociobiology would be a prerequisite.

    I’m working on the election campaign (for the progressive Democrats in my state) for most of the next week. If you want to get into a back and forth, quote duel, on the very well known, very obvious career in science of Richard Dawkins, it will have to be on that schedule.

    As Richard Dawkins seems to be aware of this discussion I’d think he could clear it up by stating that we,in fact, know nothing about the behavior of any of our pre-human ancestors, certainly not in enough detail to determine 1. the identification and the measurement of the frequency of any discrete “behavior” in even one of the populations of our remote ancestors, 2,the number of offspring that anyone exhibiting that “behavior” left as compared to those who didn’t, 3. that behavior’s prevalence in intervening generations up to and into today 4. the reliable identification of that “behavior” as being the same, despite asserted variations and modifications of it over time and in different circumstances. I’d also like an explanation of how anything relating genes and behavior, in an evolutionary context, could avoid making assumptions containing the belief that science has that information in that detail or that it can reliably reconstruct it from what is available today.

    Though this is a fairly fast comment. I’m sure I could ask a better series of problems with it given more time.

  107. #107 Anthony McCarthy
    October 26, 2010

    Though I’m not prepared to conduct any discussion in tweet sized bites vulgar enough to be comprehensible to the mikerattlesnakes in the audience.

  108. #108 mikerattlesnake
    October 26, 2010

    “Don’t remember where I wrote it recently, but I said that I’ve always figured boredom was a sign of stupidity.”

    Extended boredom perhaps, but I solved it by reading more interesting things than your posts.

    As for my problem with “LOTS OF WORDS” it’s not just that there are lots of them, it’s that they are wasted on nothing. I read paragraph after paragraph and none of it actually says anything meaningful or compelling. It’s all self-constructed scaffolding to hold up a rickety set of beliefs that would be better left to fall. The only thing stopping that from happening is that you dismiss any critics out of hand because they don’t meet your standards for intellectual rigor (y’know, because they don’t take you seriously).

  109. #109 Sigmund
    October 26, 2010

    Anthony, it is rather disrespectful of you when asked a genuine question to merely throw up a smokescreen of obfuscation and bid a hasty retreat. Stop avoiding the point. You made the accusation.
    Back it up with evidence.

  110. #110 titmouse
    October 26, 2010

    So what if Dawkins is wrong about something? Scientists are wrong all the time.

    Anthony McCarthy, #106 was a long walk for, “Were you there to watch the dinosaurs evolve? No? Ah, therefore [insert personal bias] is true.

  111. #111 Anthony McCarthy
    October 26, 2010

    Smokescreen, nothing. I told people on the blogs I was going to skip work all week to work on the election.

    If Richard Dawkins wants to distance himself from the rest of evolutionary psychology I’d certainly be interested in being corrected. His books are are, I’m pretty certain, the most widely circulated, most widely translated and most widely cited, literary promotion of it. I’d rather deal with other people in these arguments but it’s rare to find a blog fan of the idea who’s familiar with anyone else who promotes it, other than his version of T. Huxley, Daniel Dennett.

    If Mr. Dawkins is still paying attention I’d like him to either affirm or deny that he believes that behaviors of our pre-human and early human ancestors are known sufficiently to back up assertions made about whether or not they conferred an adaptive advantage to individuals who performed the behaviors and in enough detail to be treated with the normal procedures of science. Since a behavior actually had to have happened to exist, I’d think that just figuring out whether or not they ever happened would be a neat
    trick. I’d also like citations of his criticism of the widespread practice of making assertions about the entirely unobserved behaviors of our ancestors within the literature of science.

    I’ve talked about the new, evidence free, science but unless definite assertions are made about that, it would appear that it’s far less more amorphous than even that.

    I’d imagine his many critics would also be interested in knowing if they’ve not understood him all these years. Unless that comment with his name on it is a fraud, I’m wondering why he didn’t take issue with my original statement, himself.

    I’ll probably be able to take another break at noon time EDT.

  112. #112 Todd W.
    October 26, 2010

    @Anthony McCarthy

    If you want answers from Dr. Dawkins, ask him directly via e-mail or something rather than a blog post that he may only have tangentially passed by.

    You’ve made a lot of argument by assertion without providing any actual evidence and coupled it with priggish disdain for anyone that has the gall to question you or demand that you back yourself up with evidence. Stop being such an ass.

  113. #113 Sigmund
    October 26, 2010

    Anthony, you are just repeating yourself, again while avoiding getting anywhere close to an actual point. Dawkins addressed a specific claim about something he was supposed to have said in ‘The God Delusion’. You, on the other hand have only given vague generalizations of something he might, or might not think!
    Give a specific quote of Dawkins that backs up your accusations, not another waffling example of what can most charitably be seen as typing practice.

  114. #114 mikerattlesnake
    October 26, 2010

    If Dawkins is an adamant proponent of evo-psych, the quotes from him should be easy enough to find and post here. Andrew has a tendency to be a bit dishonest when presenting the views of those he disagrees with, though, so I’m definitely not taking him at his word.

    I’ve never actually read much Dawkins, but from what I’ve read and watched he seems pretty knowledgeable about evolution and I can’t picture him proposing evo-psych hypothoses that are not prefaced with a caveat that they are mere speculation. If he has, that’s fine, like I say I’m not a fan and neither my atheism nor my views on science have much to do with the man, nor does it particularly affect his claims in other areas of evolution nor does it have much to do at all with the validity of atheism or the gnu atheist “movement”.

  115. #115 mikerattlesnake
    October 26, 2010

    Andrew = Anthony up there for anyone who was confused.

  116. #116 Anthony McCarthy
    October 26, 2010

    Sigmund, why shouldn’t I repeat myself? I said that Richard Dawkins is the foremost popularizer of evolutionary psychology in the world and the beliefs it contains. You know that and I know that, though mikerattlesnake apparently doesn’t.

    Evolutionary psychology can’t exist without assertions made about the behaviors of our ancestors in the lost past. If it didn’t make assertions, both overt and implied, about that then there wouldn’t be any evolutionary implications in their assertions about contemporary behaviors, or those genes they conjure up as their explanations of them. We’ll leave out the necessity of them conferring an adaptive advantage because it’s a more complex question and my time is limited.

    In order for my statement to be inaccurate one of three things would have to be true. 1. Dawkins might not be as influential as I assert he is, which would leave many millions of copies of several of his books, translated into a number of languages and widely cited, to be explained away. 2. That he doesn’t accept the idea that evolutionary psychology knows enough about behavior in the remote and lost past, unobserved, with no actual data recorded and analyzed – not to mention no videos to be reviewed by peers -, in which case we are left to wonder how evo-psy has any evo or psy in it. 3. I’ll just state that the idea that those behaviors are known is absurd on its face.

    I might add a fourth, that Dawkins has explicitly repudiated that practice, in which case a number of his friends and colleagues might find themselves to be in a rather embarrassing position.

    You might want to look at this, unless you’ve got that festschrift referenced above handy. I think a number of others, friends of Dawkins, share my view of his influence and the meaning of his books.

    “They are in you and me; they created us, body and mind; and their preservation is the ultimate rationale for our existence. They have come a long way, those replicators. Now they go by the name of genes, and we are their survival machines.”

    The words are from The Selfish Gene, by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins….

    …In 1976, a young zoology lecturer at Oxford University published his first book, from which those words are taken. Powerfully encapsulating a gene’s-eye view of life, The Selfish Gene rapidly became deeply influential both within biology and associated disciplines, and in wider intellectual debate.

    Thirty years and over a million copies later, The Selfish Gene has come to be seen as one of the defining books of the twentieth century. To commemorate this thirtieth anniversary, Oxford University Press has published a sparkling new edition, with a fresh introduction by the author and an extensive collection of reviews that are testimony to the book’s importance and influence.

    http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/selfish06/selfish06_index.html

    It’s well worth looking at the whole thing. If you find anything that contradicts what I said, please point it out. I’ll have no problem retracting, if the past thirty-four years aren’t as a lot of folks seem to remember them.

    I assume, since he didn’t block the republication and I can’t find that he protested the festschrift that Dawkins hasn’t withdrawn the ideas contained in it.

  117. #117 Vicki
    October 26, 2010

    That’s the selfish gene, not evo-psych. This is logic on the order of “Hawaii hasn’t been a state very long, therefore the president was really born in Kenya.” It doesn’t matter that you can show the antecedent, because there’s no connection between that and what you’re claiming it leads to.

  118. #118 Anthony McCarthy
    October 26, 2010

    Vicki, I’m finding this denial that Richard Dawkins is a proponent of evo-psy (formerly Sociobiology, E. O. Wilson is right that they’re pretty much the same thing) to be very instructive and entertaining, but I’m wondering why all those evo-psy folks don’t seem to have made that mistake continually over more than three decades. That is unless you want to say that any proponent of EP who believes that Dawkins has contributed to it doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

    If I was an EP proponent I’d wonder at the seeming erosion of the rabid support that it generally gets in the Scienceblogs. When did it become a category of stigmatization here?

    Don’t muddy the issue with the teabagger-birther junk because that’s got more in common with the argument you just made than what I said. Barack Obama was born in Hawaii after it became a state. He is the legitimate president of the United States, the first one we’ve had since Bill Clinton left office. I supported him once Hillary Clinton didn’t win the nomination and voted for him, though I’ve been disappointed at his inability to deliver things like a public option in health care and the AG defending the indefensible DADT law against the recent ruling finally declaring it unconstitutional. DOMA is an even more clear cut case of an unconstitutional intrusion of the federal government into an area reserved for the states. I could go on.

  119. #119 James Sweet
    October 26, 2010

    Here’s my impression of what happened:

    Timonen was essentially running the entire spinoff company that was the online store. He was more or less in charge of it — including salaries. Dawkins had apparently instructed Timonen to pay himself a certain amount, and Timonen seems to have paid himself more than that (though, I must say, not at all an absurd amount… $125k/yr for a webmaster in California — which I believe is what the amortized amount comes out to — is not outrageous by any means, though it would be unusually high for a non-profit to pay their webmaster, I should think).

    On top of what may either have been confusion, deception, or something in between, on the topic of Timonen’s salary, this was exascerbated by Timonen repeatedly insisting that the store was “just breaking even” — which was technically true, but that’s because the store was paying its webmaster top dollar.

    This is all just my outsider interpretation of course. It seems plausible to me, and also would explain why they are only pursuing a civil case — it sounds less like outright fraud to me than it does like bad faith business dealings. In fact, it doesn’t sound like Timonen was “cooking the books” at all — he was just overpaying himself and misrepresenting the situation to the UK foundation.

  120. #120 Todd W.
    October 26, 2010

    @Anthony McCarthy

    You have yet to establish in this thread that Dawkins is a proponent of evo-psy.

  121. #121 J. J. Ramsey
    October 26, 2010

    James Sweet: “Dawkins had apparently instructed Timonen to pay himself a certain amount”

    Although in clause (v) of paragraph 23 of RDF vs. Timonen, it looks like Dawkins had understood that Timonen would not be compensated for operating the store itself, since he was already otherwise compensated (for being the webmaster, I think). Or something like that.

  122. #122 Anthony McCarthy
    October 26, 2010

    You have yet to establish in this thread that Dawkins is a proponent of evo-psy. Todd W

    I’m not done with my research into the erudition of the new atheists here yet, in light of that recent PEW survey. I’m surprised, usually you guys have wikied up a storm by now. Or maybe you have and couldn’t use what you found there.

    Though, as can be seen above, he didn’t see fit to refute my assertions made at 57 and 64 above, though he did protest what someone else said at 82. I assume he’d have noticed them.

    I’ve had the impression for a long time that it’s one of the dirty secrets of the new atheism that a lot of the physical scientists regard evo-psy as a pseudo-science but are afraid to say so out loud. I know a number of biologists who do, some of whom aren’t afraid to say so.

  123. #123 titmouse
    October 26, 2010

    Anthony McCarthy, why on earth would you a priori reject the possibility of studying behavior from the viewpoint of natural selection?

    Your answer seems to be, “because no one was there to witness behavior in the deep past.”

    Have you not noticed that scientists can study many things that they do not witness directly?

    Do you have a problem with ethology? How about cosmology?

  124. #124 Anthony McCarthy
    October 26, 2010

    titmouse, as the Marc Hauser incident and a number of others in the behavioral sciences prove, even when there is a record of purported behavior for researchers to observe, the interpretation of behavior is extremely tenuous and open to everything from wishful thinking to outright fraud. And in that case, there was a video record of what it was asserted constituted behavior. There is none in the historical record, no one living today can see it, they have no idea if their purported “behaviors” ever happened, to begin with. That’s an absolute barrier. It is one that nothing will change. There will never be an observation of the behavior of our remote ancestors.

    It gets worse. When you want to put that “behavior” into a scenario in which it resulted in, not only an increased likelihood of leaving larger numbers of descendants, but that it in fact did. Then the fact that you don’t have that information, either, begins to multiply the problems. For all anyone can know, the “behavior” made up by the researcher could, if it existed in the environment and social context of those actual populations, have resulted in fewer offspring. Evo-psy doesn’t stop there, it goes on into turning those stories about conveniently constructed “behaviors” into genes. They propose to make their words flesh, as it were. And those are only a few of the ironies and logical disconnects in the effort.

    As seen in just about any week’s news cycle, those stories have become a mythological explanation for just about anything, attributing just about any asserted characteristic of women or men or other grouping. As popularly understood, it’s all in our genes and that argument has been made, either implicitly or explicitly as an excuse to stop trying to achieve political equality. Often with the encouragement of professionals who publish research, almost never with to their objection.

    Call me old fashioned but I like science with actual evidence to back it up. And I mean real evidence, not as a mantra used primarily as a polemical weapon in phony culture wars.

    The idea of natural selection might be useful to interpret some observations and data, but it can’t create either observations or data. Plugging in a story about natural selection when those aren’t available is dishonest. When you don’t have any information about something, filling it in with stories tells you nothing about what is there in that space where you can’t see and can’t take information from. It tells you about yourself and your expectations and preferences. That might be acceptable in many instances, it might be all right as a personal belief, but it’s not acceptable to call the results science. That is if you want science to mean something other than making up stories. Which is where the ID industry works.

  125. #125 Todd W.
    October 26, 2010

    @Anthony McCarthy

    Call me old fashioned but I like science with actual evidence to back it up.

    Call me old fashioned, but I like commenters who back up their claims with actual evidence.

    Thus far, you have merely argued by assertion.

    (And what’s up with the “new atheism” thing? Not everyone in this thread is atheist, y’know.)

  126. #126 Chris
    October 26, 2010

    The parent in me just wants both parties to play nice.

    (but then I remember sometimes I get a bit childish, and decide it is time to pour myself some wine, turn off the laptop, grab my book or see if a new Mythbusters was recorded on the DVR)

  127. #127 Anthony McCarthy
    October 26, 2010

    Todd W, you mean evidence that Richard Dawkins career as a science writer has the teensiest thing to do with evo-psy, Sociobiology?

    Anyone who doesn’t know that already or who couldn’t google it is out of their depth and doesn’t have any business discussing it. The links I provided to the article about the festschrift and that one at 116 are sufficient to prove that point as is the citation of The Selfish Gene.

    Now, where’s the evidence to back up the lie that Francis Collins promotes pseudoscience.

  128. #128 Sigmund
    October 27, 2010

    Anthony, Dawkins is criticized amongst evolutionary biologists for being an adaptionist – essentially he’s criticized for not giving sufficient weight to genetic drift compared to natural selection. As you can see from his comments above, he does not reject genetic drift, its just that biologists closer to Gould prefer genetic drift to get a much higher emphasis.
    THAT is the controversial aspect of Dawkins biology. He has only been seen as the father of evo-psych by one person. You. In this thread!
    The selfish gene hypothesis has nothing to do with eco-psych anymore than it has to do with eugenics.
    I noticed you’ve now abandoned all pretense of actually having any evidence to back your ridiculous claim and are resorting to the old ‘you should learn to use google’ ploy.
    Sorry Anthony but evidence free assertions from someone who cannot tell the difference between the selfish gene hypothesis and the problems of evolutionary psychology is nowhere near the basic level of rationality thats required to convince me of your point.

  129. #129 titmouse
    October 27, 2010

    Anthony I think you might be fighting strawmen.

    Scientists in any field, including the field of animal behavior, must generate predictive hypotheses that can be tested against competing explanations. What you describe –making up “just so” stories without any testing– is obviously not science.

  130. #130 Anthony McCarthy
    October 27, 2010

    Sigmund, you know very well that I’m aware of the controversy. What I said wouldn’t be possibly said by someone who wasn’t aware of it. And you know that adaptation in biology is relevant as an aspect of evolution. Adaptationism is an extreme, ideological belief in the supreme position dealing with that aspect of evolution.

    Now, you seem to want to conveniently put aside the fact that evolution, intrinsically, is about aspects of species in the pre-historic past, exactly that enormous period of life for which the only available information available is the physical record, including what genetic information that can, actually, be discerned.

    The incredibly good job that various species of biologists and paleontologists and others have done of finding and studying the PHYSICAL record has made evolution the most documented phenomenon in science. Gould was right about that. Which is one of the reasons that I try to never call it “the theory of evolution” because that quibble of classification doesn’t take into account its unique and massive foundation in physical evidence. Calling evolution a “theory” is also a rather foolishly sustained instance where fussy classification obfuscates for the majority of the population instead of clarifying the actual situation. The role that plays in the political strife around it is too obvious to lose in that technicality.

    However, that is the physical record, aspects of which at least one Scienceblogger has complained that Dawkins has pooh-poohed:

    http://scienceblogs.com/laelaps/2010/04/in_defense_of_paleontology.php

    The situation with the behavior of the prehistoric period, of which there is absolutely no record, is an entirely different matter. As that forever lost record is exactly the one which evolutionary psychology would need to make any reliable statement about the possible adaptive advantage or disadvantage of alleged “behaviors” and any possible “genetic” component of that behavior which could be acted on by natural selection, you can’t even begin to do evo-psy without asserting things about that behavior. If you want to blame some other proponent of evo-psy for the popular misunderstanding of science which has become like a disease in Western culture in the past forty years, including its use by the proponents of political inequality, you can make your nominations. I look at Dawkins as, by far, the foremost popularizer of evo-psy and its associated ideas and believe he is the primary culprit. Daniel Dennett, his Huxley, would be my candidate for second place. Though Pinker might, actually, be their chief rival in that position.

    When I became aware of the use of the term evolutionary psychology” and noticed that the use of “Sociobiology” had disappeared I wondered why. About the only reason I could see was the enormous criticism about Sociobiological methods which made extravagant assertions about alleged, usually observable, “behaviors” in present day species and the alleged links clear across the taxonomy and especially their application to the extremely complex phenomena of human behavior. I saw evo-psy as a retreat into an invented past as a means of escaping that criticism. You might think that’s harsh of me, but I believe it now more than I did then. When there’s no actual “behavior” for your critics to review, then you’re far freer to make extravagant claims about what you want to say happened.

    I usually call the field “evo-psy” because muddying the use of the word “evolution” for what I think is a basically ideological position missing more than one essential part of its foundation, is as likely to be damaging to a real part of science, and, so, all of science. I’m impressed at how many of those who attack the science around climate change, a far more vitally important part of science than looking at the past retrospectively, have swallowed creationism. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

  131. #131 Anthony McCarthy
    October 27, 2010

    titmouse, if I had a dollar for every time a new atheist has pulled out the phrase “straw man”, incoherently in an argument I’d be rich.

    Identify exactly what you mean by “straw man” in the arguments I’ve made and explain how it is a “straw man”. “Straw man”, in the new atheist-”skeptic” vocabulary seems to mean “an argument or citation that is inconvenient to the NA-”skeptic” position”.

    You boys need to find some new lines, those ones are becoming meaningless under your use of them.

  132. #132 triskelethecat
    October 27, 2010

    @Anthony McCarthy: DO you have a point regarding the subject of the post? Or do you plan to just continue on your derailment regarding your own thought and beliefs about Richard Dawkins (which are irrelevent to the post).

    Why don’t you go to some thread where they are talking about eve-psy and bring it up there?

    By the way, as has been pointed out to you before in this thread, not all the posters here are atheist. So, why bring it up in your reply to titmouse?

    From dictionary.com (definition # 3) Straw Man:

    a fabricated or conveniently weak or innocuous person, object, matter, etc., used as a seeming adversary or argument: The issue she railed about was no more than a straw man.

    Your use of atheists in the discussion IS a straw man.

    MI Dawn

  133. #133 triskelethecat
    October 27, 2010

    I hate the fact that I find typos AFTER I hit post, even after using preview…

    EVO-psy

    MI Dawn

  134. #134 Anthony McCarthy
    October 27, 2010

    triskelethecat, and the rest of the people commenting on this thread are strictly on topic, aren’t they. I was addressing what other people said here, blog discussions are known to develop and go in different directions. How many of the comments other people have made are strictly about the alleged embezzlement, which is going to be the subject of a trial and about which we don’t have much information?

  135. #135 Todd W.
    October 27, 2010

    @Anthony McCarthy

    you mean evidence that Richard Dawkins career as a science writer has the teensiest thing to do with evo-psy, Sociobiology?

    Your claim that he is a proponent of evo-psy and largely responsible for its popularity, yes.

    Anyone who doesn’t know that already or who couldn’t google it is out of their depth and doesn’t have any business discussing it.

    It is not incumbent upon us to do your homework, namely, providing the proper citations.

    The links I provided to the article about the festschrift and that one at 116 are sufficient to prove that point as is the citation of The Selfish Gene.

    The quote from The Selfish Gene says absolutely nothing about evo-psy or prehistoric behavior. The link at 116 has nothing of Dawkins promoting evo-psy, but other people’s thoughts on his contributions to the subject. I haven’t had time, yet, to look through the festschrift stuff, but if it’s more third-party interpretations, then you still have failed to provide any evidence in support of your claim.

    Now, where’s the evidence to back up the lie that Francis Collins promotes pseudoscience.

    Well, since I didn’t make any claims about that (nor do I particularly care), I’m under no obligation to provide any. Perhaps you should address your question to Tort. Personally, if Collins is conducting good science, then he deserves whatever science awards he receives.

    Now, come down off you high horse and talk to us in a civil manner. If you drop the condescending boorishness, perhaps people might take you a bit more seriously.

  136. #136 Sigmund
    October 27, 2010

    “that is the physical record, aspects of which at least one Scienceblogger has complained that Dawkins has pooh-poohed:”
    Anthony, if you bothered to read what Brian Switek is annoyed about you will notice that it is not a question of Dawkins discounting the physical proof of fossils, rather he is pointing out additional sources of physical evidence. Indeed the amount of physical evidence available to modern evolutionary biologists – in particular genomic sequences – renders the fossil record a minor player in the evidence for evolution. It is an argument FOR physical evidence.
    In other words it’s exactly the opposite point to what you are arguing!
    How on earth did you get it so wrong?
    By the way, if you are looking for prominent individuals who have made evo-psych arguments as part of their writings I can suggest a few; Nicholas Wade, David Sloan Wilson, Robert Wright, Satoshi Kanazawa, Frans de Waal, Jared Diamond.
    Dawkins is not well known for publishing on human evolution and anthropology – he is an ethologist – someone who studies animal behavior and it is with animal evolution that his work tends to concentrate. He’s only a prominent evo psych proponent in one place – your mind.

  137. #137 mikerattlesnake
    October 27, 2010

    @Anthony Mc-doesn’t-bring-evidence

    Firstly, you assert that most gnu atheists accept evo-psych, this is simply not true. I have never once in any discussion on pharyngula (which I would assume represents a pretty good sample of the gnus) seen someone bring up an evo-psych hypothesis that is not either presented as pure speculation or is criticized by other posters for not being presented as such. Skeptics in general find evo-psych to be a bastion of wild speculation and justification of cultural predjudices that can only provide some interesting discussion and hypothoses (much like some fields of philosophy).

    Evo-psych is a very tricky field. It can be useful to use what we know about development, behavior, environmental conditions, and physiology to hypothesize about where our behaviors come from. We can even bring together multiple lines of evidence to come up with hypothoses that are very compelling. The point of divergence between most of us and evo-psych proponents is that the latter tends to treat their hypothoses as theories and their logic and speculation as evidence.

    I would imagine that your biggest beef is with the gnus who speculate about the development of pattern and agency recognition in early humans related to the formation of religious ideas. No one would say for sure that we know where religion comes from, but this seems fairly plausible. In general, religion makes more sense as a psychological phenomenon than a supernatural one, regardless of the specific mechanism.

    The problem is that you haven’t actually bothered to tell us about a point that you disagree with or cite statements from an actual person, and you only speak in generalities leaving us to guess(notice I use “imagine” at the beginning of the last paragraph, I truly do have to imagine what your point is because you fail to illuminate it for us). You also have failed to provide even one statement from Richard Dawkins to prove that he has anything more than a speculative stance towards evo-psych (unless that quote from the Selfish Gene was supposed to prove something, though it seems like a non sequitor to me).

    And yet you keep telling me that I’m to thick to understand your arguments. Again, you go on and on without answering the simplest question: what the fuck are you talking about?

  138. #138 Joe S.
    October 27, 2010

    Embezzlement is much more common than you would think in nonprofits and small businesses, especially ones where there’s not enough people to have adequate separation of functions. If your book keeper is also a check signer and also the person who does the bank reconciliations, there’s a real temptation. Usually cases that are only pursued civilly are handled that way because the victim does not want publicity about the case, which is likely to shake the confidence of donors, doing even more long term damage to the organization. That’s obviously not the case here. There’s no issue with parallel criminal and civil cases going on. These cases do tend to be complicated, and police departments don’t always, or even usually, have the expertise in-house to do the forensic accounting needed to assemble the evidence. Using the victim’s accountants and their work undercuts the credibility of the evidence, as they are not independent. A good defense lawyer could raise reasonable doubts based on the sometimes subjective nature of some of the judgment calls made and the obvious bias inherent in the expert witness being paid by the alleged victim. So it is likely the police are working with outside accountants to piece this all together, which will take time. The international aspect of the case may make it more complicated, as it may not be clear where the crime was committed, and which courts have jurisdiction. If the crime was committed in the UK, there is a sometimes lengthy process needed to get the defendant in custody and extradited to the UK for trial. So criminal charges may be forthcoming, but not imminently.
    BTW, In most jurisdictions in the US, unless you are suing for an amount capable of exact computation, like a suit for non-payment of a promissory note, the rule is that the complaint does not specify an actual dollar amount sued for, but merely requests judgment in an amount sufficient to compensate the plaintiff for the loss incurred.

  139. #139 ildi
    October 27, 2010

    James Sweet:

    Dawkins had apparently instructed Timonen to pay himself a certain amount, and Timonen seems to have paid himself more than that (though, I must say, not at all an absurd amount… $125k/yr for a webmaster in California — which I believe is what the amortized amount comes out to — is not outrageous by any means, though it would be unusually high for a non-profit to pay their webmaster, I should think).

    Out of curiosity I looked up webmaster salaries in L.A. on salary.com: the 10th percentile is $52,000 and the 90th percentile is $101,300 for 2010, so it appears that Josh way overpaid himself going by current market rates.

  140. #140 FrankenFish
    October 27, 2010

    OMG bestt comment of the thread!
    On second thought, nevermind. I just did a search for your name and got a bunch of boring, familiar, accomodationalist drivel. You seem to see a lot of merit in coming up with convoluted ways to avoid actually having evidence for your beliefs.

    To paraphrase:

    Science changes a lot, so I would be surprised if evolution/natural selection is the dominant paradigm in a few hundred years. Therefore beardy sky man.

    Liberals aren’t hard-line atheists and are turned off by their stridency. Therefore everyone has an invisible dad.

    Stuff happened a long time ago, and none of us were there. Therefore magic ghosts and zombies.

    Our perception is not perfect and our brains create constructs and metaphors. Therefore unicorn farts.

    Posted by: mikerattlesnake

  141. #141 Anthony McCarthy
    October 27, 2010

    Sigmund, I will bet you that less than one half of one percent of the population could identify anyone else on that list, I will bet you that not more than one percent of the college educated could. I’d add Cosmides and Tooby as being more significant in the formal literature of it, such as that is. Though, again, I’ll bet not one person in a hundred would know those names.

    For you to pretend that Richard Dawkins is not a major figure in the dissemination of evo-psy among the college educated is amazing. It’s been one of my purposes in this to see how far you would go with that line. I wonder, since he’s obviously aware of what I originally said here, he hasn’t disavowed his role in it, relying on the Todd W’s and mikerattlesnakes to do that for him.

    I’d like to hear it from him. Does he disavow evolutionary psychology/Sociobiology and the criticisms I’ve made of it here?

    I’d be glad to get into his proposed patch, “memes” on another occasion, though he seems to have stepped back pretty far from that idea himself. As can be seen on many blogs the superstition has taken deep root in the middle to higher brow popular culture of the United States.

    In the meantime, some of you guys might want to go expunge Dawkins’ name from the relevant articles at Wikipedia and see how long before it takes before it’s put back by people who aren’t trying to deny his role in it for the purposes of this blog brawl. Though I’d imagine a lot of the youngsters here won’t understand that a lot of that will be under “Sociobiology”, which is the discontinued name for it. You might have a harder time expunging it from numerous standard reference works because those use fact checking and professional editing.

  142. #142 Anthony McCarthy
    October 27, 2010

    Sigmund, see Frankenfish @140. Great intellectual movement you guys have got going there.

  143. #143 Todd W.
    October 27, 2010

    @Anthony McCarthy

    Do you really think that Dawkins is actively following this thread? Even if he is, do you think that you are really that important?

    If you want his opinion on it, as I suggested earlier, why don’t you contact him directly, instead of posting on a blog, the main focus of which is not evolution.

    And if you want to convince anyone else in this thread, then deliver the goods. All your bloviating just comes off as being a thick-headed, pompous blowhard of a broken record. Repetition does not make your assertions true.

    So, again, put up or shut up.

  144. #144 Anthony McCarthy
    October 27, 2010

    Todd, Dawkins seems to have cared enough to ask one person for a retraction. I posted my comment in two forms before he did that so I’m within my rights to believe he would have seen it.

    You seem to be remarkably unconcerned for setting the record straight on the slander against Francis Collins for something he never said or did as compared to getting me to deny that Richard Dawkins is famous for one of the things he’s famous for. Though, apparently, that’s news to some of his biggest fans on the Scienceblogs. I’m just curious about that phenomenon at this point, considering how much of a fuss was made over the supposed erudition of the atheists in that recent Pew survey. Though they conflated atheism with agnosticism. I’ve always figured you had to have thought about a few things through to be an agnostic.

    Why don’t you go correct Wikipedia. A lot more people are going to read that Richard Dawkins is a major proponent of evo-psy/Sociobiology there than will ever read this blog thread. To tell the Wiki masters to shut up and see what happens.

  145. #145 Todd W.
    October 27, 2010

    The reason that I did not get involved with the whole Collins bit was because I thought others handled it rather well, pointing out that his particular religious beliefs have not appeared to play any significant role in the quality of the science for which he won awards.

    My only reason for addressing you, really, is that you have, from the beginning, come off as a pompous ass who likes nothing more than to hear himself talk. Now, that may not be the case in reality, but all I have are your words here to go by.

    It would really be quite simple for you to get people to shut up. All you would need to do is to show that Dawkins himself (not other third parties interpreting him) is promoting evo-psych. You have been asked for such numerous times, yet you never, ever answer the question. Instead, you simply repeat your arguments and complain about “new atheists” as if that had any actual bearing on the conversation or that it actually applies to anyone here.

    In my own round-about fashion, I’m really just trying to help you form a more concrete argument. Instead of actually heeding anything I’ve said, however, you just take a condescending attitude and complain about everyone else.

    You made a claim. You need to back up that claim. It really is as simple as that.

  146. #146 istanbul toursg
    October 27, 2010

    I like Richard Dawkins, although I may not always agree with him on everything. I’m often amused by Bill Maher, although I don’t agree with him much at all, and think some of his opinions are wrong to the point of dangerousness.

  147. #147 Vicki
    October 27, 2010

    Nice dodge, Anthony.

    I pointed out that there was no connection between the premise and the conclusion of your apparent syllogism, and you responded only to my analogy. Shall I conclude that since you agree that the claim about President Obama is nonsense, and you didn’t object to the analogy, that you are withdrawing your claim that the selfish gene equals evo-psy?

    Or would you care to try actually either supporting that claim, or otherwise showing that Dawkins supports evo-psy?

  148. #148 Sigmund
    October 27, 2010

    OK, have I got this right;
    Anthony’s big beef with Dawkins is Anthony’s belief that Dawkins makes claims without backing them with evidence?
    Anthony, have you ever been struck on the head with an irony bar?

  149. #149 spurge
    October 27, 2010

    Anthony’s beef with Dawkins is that he is an Atheist that dares speak out.

    He hates all the Gnu Atheists.

  150. #150 mikerattlesnake
    October 27, 2010

    Eight more paragraphs from Anthony without a shred of evidence for his position. As I already pointed out, evo-psych has a complex relationship with actual evolutionary study and it’s not unusual or out of line for a biologist to make speculations on evolutionary psychology. If Dawkins had done as much, I wouldn’t be particularly surprised or concerned. If you want to prove that Dawkins is a proponent of some hard evo-psych then you have to bring the goods. Every post where you fail to do that makes you look more and more like a loser, so either put up or shut up.

    Again, I’m not a big fan of Dawkins. I’ve read excerpts and articles and I’ve watched some videos of him speaking, but I’m not defending the man. If the evidence is there, I’ll gladly paint him as a rabid evo-psych proponent.

    So far, though, you haven’t brought much to the table and you don’t really seem to have a good grasp on the burden of proof and what constitutes evidence. You seem to think the most important thing in a debate is to prove that you’re the most intellectual by mocking anyone who dares to use casual language in a blog comment section.

    To summarize (for when you consider posting you “evidence” again):

    1) Just because someone makes fun of you or uses slang does not make them less of an intellectual than you.

    2) What an editor of a semi-obscure wikipedia article writes about a man does not constitute truth or evidence. Follow the citations and post a link to some actual evidence.

    3)Failure of Richard Dawkins to give a shit about you doesn’t constitute evidence. Your posts up until recently were vague jabs that weren’t worth anyone’s time, nevermind RD himself. So he responded to someone else and not you, big whoop. You clearly think very highly of yourself and seem to think people give a shit about you. They don’t. Yer just a dude on a blog.

  151. #151 ildi
    October 27, 2010

    Here’s an interview with Dawkins from 1997 from the evolutionist:

    the evolutionist: Well, one area that’s experienced a lot of resistance is evolutionary psychology. What do you think of that method of applying evolutionary theory to human behaviour?

    Dawkins: Well, I’m all for it. Given that you accept Darwinism at all, it seems to me to be obviously a sensible way to think about it.

    the evolutionist: Are there any areas of it which you’ve found particularly interesting?

    Dawkins: Not particularly, no. I like most of the stuff by Daly and Wilson, I think it’s very good. But I wouldn’t like to single out anyone in particular.

    the evolutionist: Do you think that’s likely to have the same kind of problems getting its message across as you’ve had getting basic evolutionary theory across?

    Dawkins: Yes, I think so. Not just the opposition from religious people, but also the political opposition. It’s had opposition since the mid-70s; from then on Wilson and his colleagues, including me, have been attacked by misunderstandings from the Left.

    the evolutionist: Surely there’s quite a difference between the way evolutionary theory is used in evolutionary psychology, than the kind used in the less sophisticated areas of sociobiology?

    Dawkins: So you say; it’s not obvious to me. Sounds like just a new name for the same subject. What do you think’s the difference?

    the evolutionist: The main difference is surely the emphasis on psychology. While there’s always been some connection between genes on the one hand and psychology on the other, evolutionary psychologists have got a big brain in the middle which is ‘doing’ the behaviour…

    Dawkins: I think that was always there. If you read On Human Nature, or Sociobiology itself actually, I think there’s been a brain in the middle all along.

    the evolutionist: I remember reading On Human Nature and being mentally jarred by the leap from one to the other: “This behaviour is adaptive… so there must be a gene for it.”

    Dawkins: It would have been mad to suggest that the intermediary between the genes and the behaviour was anything but the brain, so it’s not a major advance to stick it in explicitly. I don’t see how you could have made a behavioural genetics argument remotely plausible without going via psychology. What I detect as slightly new to me, in people who call themselves evolutionary psychologists, is the idea of the brain as a composite of semi-separate psychological organs or modules. Again, it had to be like that, but I find that shift of emphasis moderately helpful. But I think it’s awfully easy to exaggerate the difference between evolutionary psychology and sociobiology. I’ve always assumed the reason for the new name was public relations. A whole lot of people have been brought up to think that sociobiology is a dirty word, so we’d better have a new word. The phrase “behavioural ecology” was invented for exactly the same reason: to distance the subject from sociobiology, which in ignorant circles has been taken up as a sort of red-rag word.

    the evolutionist: The subtitle of The Adapted Mind is “evolutionary psychology and the generation of culture”. Do you think there’s any kind of analogy between the notion of culture being an expression of these type of psychological mechanisms, and your idea of the extended phenotype?

    Dawkins: I’d rather not push it I think.

    the evolutionist: Then what do you think are the differences? Surely the argument is that there are various genetically based bits of brains that do things which the rest of us are witness to.

    Dawkins: I find that my kind of paradigm examples are things like beaver dams and birds’ nests, where I’m trying to shake people into realising that you could have a “gene for” a certain shape of birds’ nest, just as surely as you could have a certain shape of beak. You could selectively breed for nest shape. You could do a Mendelian experiment. You could do an artificial selection experiment. You could take a hundred generations to breed weaver birds that make nests of a different shape. But if you take a cultural thing — say different styles of architecture around the world — I doubt very much that they are due to genetic differences, and I wouldn’t find it persuasive to suggest you could breed for different styles of architecture. Whereas I do think you can breed different styles of birds’ nests.

  152. #152 Anthony McCarthy
    October 27, 2010

    Vicki, the Republican-fascist lie that Barack Obama was not born a citizen of the United States, in a state in the United States bears no relation to the denial that Richard Dawkins is one of the major, public figures of evo-psy. Though when he wrote his famous book, it was generally called Sociobiology, which seems to be confusing a number of the Brites in the audience. But, then, new atheists don’t have much use for history, not even the history of science and the so-called sciences, apparently. Your analogy is a false one. I am, however, interested in the similarities between the two ideological efforts.

    I don’t have any problem with atheists in general, just the fundamentalist kind. I’ve long admired Richard Lewontin who is among the most honest and brilliant scientists I’ve ever had the honor to meet.

    I’ve also said that Richard Dawkins was a good writer, even though I reject most of what he writes. I think his success has been mostly due to his skill as a writer, I don’t think he’s been a real benefit to science or the culture in general. Though I think the far more obnoxious new atheist, Jerry Coyne, who, if anything I dislike more than I dislike Richard Dawkins, is a better writer and a better scientist. I don’t have to like someone to agree or disagree with them.

    Sigmund, if you think by purpose the past two days has anything to do with defending what I said against the hilarious denial of the nature of Richard Dawkins career in science by some of his fans, you couldn’t be more wrong. That’s a matter of public record. I just wanted to see how far you could go in denying it without anyone stepping in on a Scienceblog to correct you guys. Apparently very far.

    I’m interested in the intellectual integrity of your movement as a topic. I always find it interesting to see the state of that.

  153. #153 Prometheus
    October 27, 2010

    Anthony McCarthy seems very persistent in his assertion that Richard Dawkins is a/the prime mover behind the “evolutionary psychology” movement, based (apparently) on his reading of The Selfish Gene. Having read The Selfish Gene (admittedly, many years ago), I find myself not agreeing with Mr. McCarthy. Perhaps this is because my memories of what the book contains are selective or faulty, or perhaps it is because Mr. McCarthy has read too much into Dr. Dawkins’ book.

    When I read The Selfish Gene, I took it to be an attempt to form a plausible (if somewhat difficult to test) hypothesis explaining the altruism (or apparent altruism) seen in some animals. In fact, there have been some studies trying to test the predictions made in The Selfish Gene, although my recollection is that their results were rather ambiguous.

    Dr. Dawkins cannot help if some of those who believe in evolutionary psychology point to him and his book as the source of their inspiration (if that is true). Beyond that, I am not aware of anything that Dr. Dawkins has said that unambiguously supports evolutionary psychology. If Mr. McCarthy could point to some unambiguous passages in the books or public statements by Dr. Dawkins, perhaps I could better understand the source of his belief.

    As a molecular biologist, I find the hypotheses of evolutionary psychology to be intriguing but largely untestable. However, they do make for interesting discussion and have, on occasion, indirectly led to some interesting and useful research. It would also be helpful – for me, at least – if Mr. McCarthy would more fully expound on his distaste for evolutionary psychology.

    Finally, I’d be interested in hearing Mr. McCarthy explain his basis for apparently despising atheists, especially “new atheists”. Does he also dislike “old” atheists? What is it about atheism he finds so offensive, disturbing or threatening?

    Now, I fully expect that Mr. McCarthy might reply with a stinging fusilade of insults and disparaging remarks, referring me to “Google” and claiming that I cannot participate in this discussion if I don’t know the answers to my questions. However, I hope that he will take my inquiries as an opportunity to clarify, expand and support the assertions he has made on this ‘blog.

    Prometheus

  154. #154 Anthony McCarthy
    October 27, 2010

    Prometheus, I only said he was responsible for popularizing it. As even one of his admirers said, his publication in science and the formal would-be science literature doesn’t seem to be very extensive.

    I’d have thought something being largely untestable would be a big problem for something purporting to be science. But that seems to be an old fashioned idea in the evidence free science world of today.

    Maybe my mockery seems stronger than the mikerattlesnake, spurge stuff because it’s based in reality. It’s pretty funny to be held up on account of rudeness on one of the Scienceblogs. You ever visit PZ’s place?

  155. #155 triskelethecat
    October 27, 2010

    Why yes, Anthony, I post over at Pharyngula quite often. People aren’t afraid to point out errors over there either, nor are they shy about asking for citations. Just like here. Now, why don’t you give Prometheus and the others the references that they have been asking you for?

    And would you STOP with the atheist strawman already? As I said before, many of the posters here are NOT atheist. Heck they aren’t even all atheists at Pharyngula. But the theists at Pharyngula at least can construct decent arguments.

  156. #156 spurge
    October 27, 2010

    I don’t care if you are rude Anthony.

    Your only agenda is to “get” any new atheist any way you can.

    That is why you are here.

    Funny that you would bring up PZ. It just proves my point about your motives.

    Still think you are banned from his blog?

  157. #157 Vicki
    October 27, 2010

    Fine. You win.

    You have shown as much connection as there is between “I have a computer, therefore you should feed your pet iguana.” Now, what the *Y(P*)*(^()& connection is there between the selfish gene and evo-psy?

  158. #158 mikerattlesnake
    October 27, 2010

    It seems from ildi’s quote that Dawkins has, as I expected, a nuanced and reasonable view of evolutionary psychology. He makes the distinction (as one should) between genetically controlled behaviors and culturally derived behaviors. He seems interested in the scientific study of evolutionarily controlled behaviors for which one can produce evidence and he seems to dismiss out-of-hand those which one cannot.

    Do you read that differently, Anthony? And more importantly, can you make one post that sticks to the topic without going off on gnu atheists as a whole?

  159. #159 mikerattlesnake
    October 27, 2010

    @anthony

    I’m curious about your stance on Coyne: you say he’s a good writer and a scientist, but you strongly dislike him because he speaks out about atheism. This makes you sound like a bigot (you like atheists just fine as long as they shut up about it, sounds a bit like someone who likes gay people as long as they don’t “act all faggy”). Any thoughts on that?

  160. #160 Pablo
    October 27, 2010

    And would you STOP with the atheist strawman already?

    Oh oh, you accused Anthony of creating a strawman. You must be an Evil New Atheist. They accuse him of doing it all the time, too, he says.

    Or maybe, just maybe the problem is that he creates a lot of strawman arguments.

  161. #161 Anthony McCarthy
    October 27, 2010

    I’m just going to read the brilliant rhetorical moves now. The Power Rangers of Sagan.

    I could use a chuckle or two.

  162. #162 Mathew
    October 27, 2010

    A scientific instrument can be any type of equipment, machine, apparatus or device as is specifically designed, constructed and often, through trial and error, ingeniously refined to apply utmost efficiency in the utilization of some well proven physical principle, relationship or technology to facilitate or enable the pursuit, acquisition, transduction and storage of repeatable, verifiable data, usually consisting of sets numerical measurements made upon otherwise unknown, unproven quantities, properties, phenomena, materials, forces or etc., preferably as those characterized over time by an increasing degree of accuracy and precision and, typically, those initially derived as isolated or dependent variable results from, or empirical observations made during, the course of such experimental procedures as are firmly based upon the scientific method and long accepted tenants of experimental design. http://www.scientific-instruments.net/diffusion.html

  163. #163 Prometheus
    October 27, 2010

    Mr. McCarthy responds:

    “Prometheus, I only said he [Richard Dawkins] was responsible for popularizing it [evolutionary psychology].”

    OK, fine. Then, could you expound on where Dr. Dawkins unambiguously popularises evolutionary psychology?

    “I’d have thought something being largely untestable would be a big problem for something purporting to be science.”

    If I recall correctly, The Selfish Gene was a popular book, not a textbook or a peer-reviewed paper. I didn’t assume that it was established science simply because it was shelved in the “Science Books” section at the bookstore.

    “Maybe my mockery seems stronger than the mikerattlesnake, spurge stuff because it’s based in reality.”

    Your “mockery” is neither stronger or weaker than anyone else’s – you just seem to use it as a first resort rather than trying to answer legitimate – if pointed – questions, much as you have with my fairly polite questions.

    A bit of unsolicited advice: you might find your ideas receive a more sympathetic hearing if you don’t insult your audience as you present them. I’m trying to understand why you make the claims you do and you’ve done little apart from repeating your assertions and trying (unsuccessfully, I might add) to belittle my questions.

    Like most people, I have little surplus time to spend trying to understand someone who refuses to communicate. If you have a point, make it. If not, well, continue to insult people and marvel at their inability to see the radiant logic of your pronouncements.

    Prometheus

  164. #164 intercostal
    October 27, 2010

    My biggest issue with Dawkins’s science is the gene-centered-view-of-evolution stuff; it’s not strictly wrong, in the sense that that sort of evolution does happen and pretty commonly, but it’s certainly not a complete view — a lot of really important stuff (endosymbiosis, paleopolyploid events) and some stuff whose significance is unknown but maybe major (hybrid speciation) simply doesn’t happen on a gene-as-unit level; the organism or whole-genome is here the unit of evolution. It’s a seductive view for a certain sort of evolutionary biologist, since it’s much easier to model, but it can’t be considered really a good explanation of evolution-as-a-whole since it doesn’t seem to account for some of the most important events in evolution (eg origin of eukaryotes).

  165. #165 Anthony McCarthy
    October 27, 2010

    If I recall correctly, The Selfish Gene was a popular book, not a textbook or a peer-reviewed paper. Prometheus

    I specifically, from the first time I mentioned Dawkins’ role in this as being a popularizer of it at comment 57

    “Dawkins, especially, has had an unfortunate effect on biology, popularizing the introduction of the standards of the so-called sciences into what used to be a far more rigorous interpretation of actual data and physical evidence, turning it into story telling. And that practice has infected all kinds of academic fields, economics, one of the more disturbing. Though since his adaptationist religion began with Malthus, it’s a development that has some interesting features. It’s too bad that modern evolutionary science, which lacks narrative appeal, is at a disadvantage over that story telling. It will suffer from it, which is unfortunate.”

    That entirely pedestrian statement was what got this going and what Dawkins apparently wasn’t sufficiently upset with that he scolded me to apologize for it, something he did with a comment made by another person here.

    I wonder why you are singling out what I said as being sarcastic when there were things said by a number of people which are at least and in some cases more insulting and sarcastic than what I said. I’m not especially upset about it knowing that if you’re going to participate in blog discussion, that’s just something that happens. I decided a long time ago to not accept a double standard that new atheists try to establish in their favor.

    Refuses to communicate. If there’s one thing I’ve never been accused of it was failure to communicate. Sigmund saw my challenge to tort to produce the evidence that Francis Collins promotes pseudo-science and he believed he could use it to get me into a duel with quotes, pretending to not know the role that Richard Dawkins has played in Sociobiology/evo-psy for at least thirty-four years. That role couldn’t be more widely known and obvious nor could his enormous influence in the culture and some branches of science and near science in, as the festschrift put it, “How a Scientist Changed The Way We Think”.

    After a number of his obvious admirers here showed that they’re not especially aware of his claim to fame, I became curious to see how extensive their ignorance of him was. Which is a lot more interesting to me than getting into another futile contest in which, no matter how many quotes are produced, I’d be accused of “quote mining” “cherry picking” and the eternal dodge, mounting “straw men”. If there’s something predictable about the “skeptics” and new atheists, it’s how an argument against their position, based in fact, that doesn’t go their way will proceed. And I thought there was something more interesting to investigate.

    I have to admit I was also curious to see if Dawkins would refute what I said or even just demand an apology. He doesn’t seem to have found what I said seriously inaccurate.

    intercostal, that’s where a lot of Lewontin’s criticism of Dawkins’ work is based but I wouldn’t try to discuss it here because it would be even more difficult to explain to many of the commenters above. Though you are certainly right that his radical reductionism is rather problematic.

  166. #166 Anthony McCarthy
    October 27, 2010

    mikerattlesnake, I don’t like Coyne because, despite his writing ability and his impressive science he is an obnoxious bigot who isn’t above being dishonest in his polemical activity.

    Being gay, openly so for more than forty years, I would have no problem with someone finding a gay bigot obnoxious and saying so. No more than I would an anti-gay bigot.

  167. #167 ildi
    October 27, 2010

    Dawkins, especially, has had an unfortunate effect on biology, popularizing the introduction of the standards of the so-called sciences into what used to be a far more rigorous interpretation of actual data and physical evidence, turning it into story telling.

    …and that’s still bullshit, no matter how many times you repeat it.

  168. #168 Todd W.
    October 27, 2010

    @Anthony McCarthy

    I’m curious, who are these “new atheists” to whom you refer? Could you please name the individuals in this thread that are, by your estimation, “new atheists”? Also, state your reasons for thinking such. I only ask because it seems to be a bit of a hang-up for you, bordering on obsession.

    Also, who are Dawkins’ admirers here? You claim there are a number of them. Please likewise state who they are and why you think they are his “obvious admirers”.

    As to not communicating, here’s a brief summary of the discussion so far:

    You: “I state X!”
    Others: “Okay. And what’s your evidence for that?”
    You: “Grumble-new-atheist-blarg! I said I state X!”
    Others: “Yes, I get that. But what’s your evidence?”
    You: “Wharrrgarbl! I state X, I say!”
    Others: “Uh…yeah. You’ve said that a few times now, but what the hell is your evidence?”
    You: “Stupid new atheists!”

    Granted, I’ve taken a bit of poetic license, but that’s the gist of the conversation and your contributions to it. As you can see, you aren’t communicating. You are simply asserting something, repeatedly, and anyone who does not immediately kowtow to your celestial wisdom is clearly an idiot.

  169. #169 Anthony McCarthy
    October 28, 2010

    ildi, go lecture the authors of that festschrift, then. I’ve seen nowhere that Richard Dawkins rejected that view of his career when expressed by them. You guys seem to be upset because I’m taking what they said seriously.

  170. #170 Anthony McCarthy
    October 28, 2010

    Todd W.

    Well, Prometheus? Your chance to make two standards of conduct into one.

  171. #171 Sigmund
    October 28, 2010

    “You guys seem to be upset because I’m taking what they said seriously.”
    Anthony, do you realize that the book you are linking to says virtually nothing of what your claim.
    Have a look at the list of essay titles.
    For a book about someone who is apparently (according to you) the founding father of evolutionary psychology and the aim of which is to show how he has influenced the world one might imagine that evolutionary psychology would be a major theme.
    Alas no, only 5 out of 25 essays discuss topics that are even partially relevant to that field and some of those are either tangential or even directly opposing Dawkins ideas!
    So the only evidence you are prepared to provide (and none of it actual first hand accounts of anything Dawkins has himself written about the field) demonstrates that evolutionary psychology is only a minor player in the topics influenced by Dawkins.

  172. #172 ildi
    October 28, 2010

    Sure I will, Anthony, as soon as you provide the citation(s) in the festschrift upon which you’re basing that statement. (You have actually read it, right?)

  173. #173 Sigmund
    October 28, 2010

    “I don’t like Coyne because, despite his writing ability and his impressive science he is an obnoxious bigot who isn’t above being dishonest in his polemical activity.”
    I don’t suppose you would care to provide some evidence of…
    Wait a second… Never mind. (What was I thinking!)

  174. #174 Anthony McCarthy
    October 28, 2010

    Five days before an important election, trying to prevent John Boehner becoming Speaker of the House, I don’t have any time to play. Watch this instead.

    http://internalism.blip.tv/file/812402/

  175. #175 Prometheus
    October 28, 2010

    Mr. McCarthy, again:

    “Dawkins, especially, has had an unfortunate effect on biology, popularizing the introduction of the standards of the so-called sciences into what used to be a far more rigorous interpretation of actual data and physical evidence, turning it into story telling.”

    Funny thing, I’ve been in the biology “biz” since about the time The Selfish Gene was published, yet I haven’t seen the standards of the field decline into “story telling”. Perhaps this is because, as a friend once told me, “You can’t see the picture when you’re inside the frame.” However, I’d ask Mr. McCarthy to have pity on me and provide me with some indication, some tiny bit of evidence that the scientific standards of biology have been so altered.

    I can’t speak to the “scientific standards” of economics, since it seems to be all story telling to me – both before and after Dr. Dawkins’ book was published. That’s probably a consequence of the old “hard sciences” vs “soft sciences” rivalry.

    “I wonder why you are singling out what I said as being sarcastic when there were things said by a number of people which are at least and in some cases more insulting and sarcastic than what I said.”

    I wasn’t aware that I had singled you out for being sarcastic. There are plenty of people more sarcastic than you on this ‘blog – occasionally, I am one of them. What I did say is that you seem to attack your questioners instead of informing them. A number of people – my humble self included – have asked you to support your claims with more than your assertions, but your response was to ridicule them for asking.

    Again, if you have a point, make it; if you have answers, give them. If you’re just out to bask in the glow of your incandescent intellect, continue on your current path.

    “If there’s one thing I’ve never been accused of it was failure to communicate.”

    Past performance is never a guarantee of future achievements. You are certainly putting a lot of words onto this ‘blog, but it doesn’t appear to me that you are communicating your ideas very well. At the very least, you haven’t communicated them well to me, and I’m a sympathetic audience – I really want to know why you think Richard Dawkins supports/promotes/popularises evolutionary psychology.

    If you would approach my questions as questions (which they are) instead of challenges to your authority, that might help you in framing your answers. I’m not saying that Richard Dawkins isn’t a supporter etc. of evolutionary psychology, I just don’t see that you’ve supported your assertions that he is. Help me to see the logic of your position.

    “…the role that Richard Dawkins has played in Sociobiology/evo-psy for at least thirty-four years. That role couldn’t be more widely known and obvious nor could his enormous influence in the culture and some branches of science and near science in, as the festschrift put it, ‘How a Scientist Changed The Way We Think’.”

    Again, just because someone is inspired to action by another’s writings doesn’t mean that those writings support that action. The writings of Charles Darwin have been cited as “inspiration” for any number of unsavory (and occasionally outright evil) actions, yet I doubt that Darwin would have supported – or approved of – any of them. At any rate, saying that evolutionary psychologists were inspired by Dr. Dawkins does not support the claim that he supports their position.

    Also, saying that something is “widely known” isn’t much of an argument, especially to someone – like me – who apparently doesn’t know about this “widely known” fact. Again, it is entirely possible that I’ve neglected this area of public knowledge – would you be so kind as to show me how and where Dr. Dawkins has – again, unambiguously – been in active support of evolutionary psychology?

    Oh, and a quick note: generally, when people claim that a “fact” in question is “widely known”, it is assumed that they are trying to shame their questioner into silence by indirectly accusing them of gross ignorance. This is a common high-school debating club tactic – one that is universally disallowed by the moderators. While it is true that some facts are so widely known that it is hard to find citations to support them, it is almost always a failure to use that argument to prove something that is in question.

    “If there’s something predictable about the “skeptics” and new atheists, it’s how an argument against their position, based in fact, that doesn’t go their way will proceed.”

    If you would provide the source of your “facts”, it might be more apparent that your critics are incorrect. Regrettably, the onus is on you to provide the data supporting your position, not the other way ’round. If you tell people to go out and dig it up on their own, they’re likely – based on a great deal of prior experience – to assume that it doesn’t exist.

    This also points up your tendency to dismiss people’s argument based solely on their philosophy. Whatever “new atheists” means in your lexicon, you seem to automatically assume that their objections to your argument are based in bias rather than reason – a claim that leaves you open to the charge of “projection”.

    So, Mr. McCarthy, you can either engage in a rational discussion – which would include “showing your work” – or you can simply marvel at the ignorance of those who dare to disagree with you. Your choice.

    Prometheus

  176. #176 Anthony McCarthy
    October 28, 2010

    Prometheus, you are mistaken if you think I came here expecting to “win” a debate. That wasn’t my motive at all. It was sort of research. I found out what I wanted to. Not exactly but also not far off from what I expected.

    “new atheists” Why don’t you ask Jerry Coyne, Jason Rosenhouse and John Schook, among many others, what they mean by it, all of them are on record as using the term.

    Did you like the movie? A really great lecture. I wish they’d post of of Lewontin’s work online.

  177. #177 mikerattlesnake
    October 28, 2010

    “It was sort of research. I found out what I wanted to. Not exactly but also not far off from what I expected.”

    What a shock.

    Dude shows up with sarcastic jabs at atheism, fails to engage with critics over the course of a discussion instead belabouring the same points without answering clear and pointed questions, leaves in a huff declaring his mission a success and his biases confirmed. Pretty much par for the course with the intellectually dishonest.

  178. #178 Todd W.
    October 28, 2010

    @Anthony McCarthy

    “new atheists” Why don’t you ask Jerry Coyne, Jason Rosenhouse and John Schook, among many others, what they mean by it, all of them are on record as using the term.

    Uh, because you, not they, are the one using the term in this thread. So, again, what are “new atheists” and who in this thread is one?

  179. #179 Anthony McCarthy
    October 28, 2010

    mikerattlesnake, a huff? No, I’m not leaving in a huff because I’m not emotionally involved in this argument, it was merely a matter of curiosity and idle amusement. And I’m not interested in what you guys think of me.

  180. #180 Prometheus
    October 28, 2010

    Ah! So Mr. McCarthy had no point, no information and no interest in converting other people to his opinion. It was all an “experiment”.

    Right.

    In the words of Macbeth:

    “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

    So, after practically begging Mr. McCarthy to support his assertions, he chooses to “bravely run away” to protect his easily bruised ego.

    This is why I have come to expect so little from people who present themselves in the manner of Mr. McCarthy. They are long on arrogance and insults, yet short on facts.

    Farewell, Mr. McCarthy – better luck next time!

    Prometheus

  181. #181 mikerattlesnake
    October 28, 2010

    Brave, brave sir Robin.

  182. #182 ildi
    October 28, 2010

    it was merely a matter of curiosity and idle amusement.

    fucking bloviating troll.

  183. #183 Anthony McCarthy
    October 28, 2010

    Prometheus, you do know the irony of your resorting to Macbeth is that in that speech Macbeth is, essentially, denying a Christian conception of life in favor of something a lot closer to Hitchens’ or Randi’s or Jillette’s apparent philosophy of life. But, I tell a lie, I don’t think you know that.

    Brave Sir Robin… geesh, you guys never get a new line do you.

  184. #184 Todd W.
    October 28, 2010

    Huh. Mr. McCarthy sees atheism everywhere, it seems. Why such fear? And you still haven’t answered my questions, to wit:

    who are these “new atheists” to whom you refer? Could you please name the individuals in this thread that are, by your estimation, “new atheists”? Also, state your reasons for thinking such. I only ask because it seems to be a bit of a hang-up for you, bordering on obsession.

    Also, who are Dawkins’ admirers here? You claim there are a number of them. Please likewise state who they are and why you think they are his “obvious admirers”.

  185. #185 Anthony McCarthy
    October 28, 2010

    Envoi to Richard Dawkins: They don’t seem to be very eager to defend radical adapatationism, do they. I think maybe you were right to bail out into a side line, though E. O. Wilson’s decision to try, try to preserve biological diversity was a far more useful and worthy one. It’s all the rage now, but, then, so was behaviorism within living memory.

  186. #186 AnthonyK
    October 29, 2010

    Oh, did I miss a tiresome anti-atheist troll?

    So, again, what are “new atheists” and who in this thread is one?

    Me! I’m one! (though we go by the term gnu atheists now – we have a nerdy sense of humour, see). We’re a bunch of unbelievers in gods who’ve been particularly inspired by the recent spate of clever books pointing out that religion is nonsense.
    However, RI is not an atheist blog: no one except the tiresome troll augustine ever brings this up, and Orac isn’t interested in it.
    So what are you going on about?
    I note with pleasure that you’ve been slapped down beautifully by the other posters here – prometheus particularly – and that finally you’ve been reduced, as all purveyors of nonsense on rational blogs are, to self-arguing.
    May I respectfully request that you find a more appropriate place for this? Experience would suggest that your nearest town’s bus shelters are an appropriate venue….and they have the advantage that when you’re horse through shouting nonsense to the winds, they provide a modicum of shelter, free of charge, through the night

  187. #187 Anthony McCarthy
    October 29, 2010

    AnthonyK, Orac is familiar with me and he knows that if he asks me not to post on his blog I won’t do it. Perhaps, as he’s clearly not troubled with the “unicorn farts” kind of discourse he’s willing to accept what I say. I’m not anti-atheist, having heartily endorsed a couple of atheists in this discussion. As can be seen in what I said about Coyne’s SCIENTIFIC work, I’m quite able to evaluate that without prejudice. His “Why Evolution is True, is a far, far better book than anything I’ve read of Dawkins or Dennett. But, then, he’s worked, actively, as a real biologist. I’m anti-bigot. Which is why I was mildly saddened to see he, himself, had used the same title for his bigoted, cookie cutter, bigotry filled, new atheist blog. Though, on this thread, I’ve mostly been anti- convenient fables-as-science.

    I see you share the non-reading habits of most of Dawkins’ fans on this page.

  188. #188 Anthony McCarthy
    October 29, 2010

    Four days before a crucial election in which the Republican-fascists might get control of the House, Senate and state governments and destroy the progress of the 20th and much of even the 19th and 18th centuries, making the United States a theocratic despotism, and I’m here wasting time instead of working to prevent that. So, not much time for fun today either.

    You might want to read this instead:

    http://bostonreview.net/BR21.3/Orr.html

    It’s by a real geneticist, not a fabulist, one of Jerry Coyne’s students who has published with him.

  189. #189 Sigmund
    October 29, 2010

    I suspect that most of those ‘arguing’ with Anthony McCarthy did so in the knowledge of his well deserved reputation amongst skeptics. His general arguments have as much substance behind them as Tom Johnson. Anthony seems to think that he is winning the debate simply on the weight of his argument. Unfortunately he is laboring under the misapprehension that this phrase has something to do with the physical mass of his typing were it printed out – rather than whether it contains an actual point. Debating anything with Anthony is like testing out a rather lousy beta version of a Turing test program. You occasionally get replies that are kind of related to something close to a possible version of the question at hand, but nothing that would make an unbiased judge assume that there was any thought behind it.
    Perhaps we have a new paradigm at hand to replace the Turing test-
    ‘The McCarthy Test’
    The objective is to pose a question that elicits a reply from Anthony that could fool an unbiased observer into thinking it came from something with a consciousness rather than from a bad computer program.

  190. #190 Anthony McCarthy
    October 29, 2010

    Ah, a friend of mine informs me that Sigmund has brought up the Turning Test and she knows that’s something I’ve written about, applying a high degree of skepticism to the whole idea. Not having time, I’d suggest reading this.

    http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/the-trouble-with-the-turing-test

    Since what intelligence actually is seems to be one of those unsolvable problems, and given Turing’s quite naively mid-century, British seeming conception of it (wish I had the time to go into that aspect of it), I’d recommend at least reading the part that deals with that aspect of the deficiencies in the concept.

    I’m no relation to John McCarthy, which I’m sure he’d have appreciated me making clear. And, though I’ve not had time to read it yet, “What Computers Can’t Do” looks like an interesting book.

    Just off to work on the campaign so I’ll be away from my computer until tonight so you can snark freely.

  191. #191 Jim Lippard
    October 29, 2010

    The Courthouse News Service story began with the sentence “Evolutionary biologist and best-selling author Richard Dawkins claims an employee of his Foundation for Reason and Science embezzled $375,000 from the online store he ran for Dawkins’ charity, by claiming it made only $30,000 in 3 years.”

    The complaint shows that sentence is false, since it says explicitly that Timonen was never an employee and always an independent contractor.

    The CNS story also says: “But Dawkins says anything Timonen created for the Foundation was ‘a work for hire, commissioned and paid for by plaintiffs.’ Dawkins says he and the Foundation own the rights to everything Timonen created for them.”

    But the complaint speaks only of oral contracts.

    This presents a problem for RDFRS–there is a work-for-hire exemption to the rule that copyright is retained by the creator only if the creator is an employee or there’s a written contract.

    Between the lack of a written contract and the admission in the complaint that RDFRS never saw any financial statement regarding the operation of their store until June 2010, despite only receiving a single payment in January 2008, how can anyone avoid inferring that RDFRS has been incompetently managed?

    I was on the board of directors of the Internet Infidels, a tiny 501(c)(3) that receives far, far less revenue than RDFRS, but when we hired a part-time executive director, we hired an attorney to write the employment contract and we paid a payroll company to make sure that appropriate taxes were withheld. It sounds like RDFRS did none of this. It had been my impression from prior RDFRS statements that they had created their own tax-exempt entity for U.S. operations–perhaps they did for donation purposes, but why didn’t they use that entity to contract the relationship with the store and exercise some oversight?

  192. #192 Sigmund
    October 29, 2010

    I said something along those lines on the discussion on the erv blog. It appears that Timonen got away with a lot but the legality or illegality of it is questionable, seeing as it’s based on oral agreements.
    I don’t even see a chance of recovering the money if Dawkins wins – the legal costs will probably bankrupt Timonen.
    Perhaps it was a threat designed to make Timonen hand over however much he had left rather than go to court. Ironically it is now in Timonens interests to fight it out since it turns him into a celebrity (rather than just the nerd who buggered up the forum on the RD website).
    Perhaps he should find Jesus and get himself hired by an evangelical group! I can see the headlines now: “Worlds Second most Famous Atheist Converts to Christianity!”)

  193. #193 mikerattlesnake
    October 29, 2010

    Fittingly enough, #190 looks like a post by a bot that picked up the phrase “Turing Test” (though the use of “Turning Test” in the post indicates that the subject may be human).

  194. #194 arvo
    October 29, 2010

    The Courthouse News Service story began with the sentence “Evolutionary biologist and best-selling author Richard Dawkins claims an employee of his Foundation for Reason and Science embezzled $375,000 from the online store he ran for Dawkins’ charity, by claiming it made only $30,000 in 3 years.”

    The complaint shows that sentence is false, since it says explicitly that Timonen was never an employee and always an independent contractor.

    The CNS story also says: “But Dawkins says anything Timonen created for the Foundation was ‘a work for hire, commissioned and paid for by plaintiffs.’ Dawkins says he and the Foundation own the rights to everything Timonen created for them.”

    But the complaint speaks only of oral contracts.

    This presents a problem for RDFRS–there is a work-for-hire exemption to the rule that copyright is retained by the creator only if the creator is an employee or there’s a written contract.

    Between the lack of a written contract and the admission in the complaint that RDFRS never saw any financial statement regarding the operation of their store until June 2010, despite only receiving a single payment in January 2008, how can anyone avoid inferring that RDFRS has been incompetently managed?

  195. #195 Anthony McCarthy
    October 29, 2010

    the knowledge of his well deserved reputation amongst skeptics. Sigmund

    Too skeptical for the “skeptics”, huh? I’d think Jim Lippard might acknowledge that we generally got along fairly well, not much screaming and name calling and the such. I commented at his place for a while back when I went by the pseudonyn olvlzl.

    mikerattlesnake, I didn’t post that link to the article criticizing the Turing Test with you in mind, it’s moderately longish.

    I’m going to really be interested in whether or not there’s a trial by jury, seeming to remember that’s one of those old fashioned things he wants to dispose of in favor of fiat by judges peering at MRIs.

    I am also rather shocked at the sloppy business arrangement but since no one who will starve to death seems to have been injured it’s all the same to me. He should count his, uh, blessings. Consider what happened to poor Madeline Murray O’Heir. I kind of miss her.

  196. #196 ildi
    October 29, 2010

    He should count his, uh, blessings. Consider what happened to poor Madeline Murray O’Heir.

    creepy fucking bloviating troll.

  197. #197 Anthony McCarthy
    October 29, 2010

    ildi, you’re right. That’s more PZ blog style commenting. But I was taking my cue from Sigmund.

    It’s always so interesting to be in the company of the Brights. No wonder science is in trouble.

  198. #198 Sigmund
    October 30, 2010

    “ildi, you’re right. That’s more PZ blog style commenting. But I was taking my cue from Sigmund.”
    By making creepy death threats?

  199. #199 Anthony McCarthy
    October 30, 2010

    Sigmund, elucidate your accusation that I made a death threat, who to and in my words.

    I’m used to new atheists lying and distorting but usually they don’t do it so baldly when you can see the evidence without scrolling up the page. Of course your lie will become part of the rap sheet on me kept by the Champions of Rationalism from now on. Change a few words and you could work for Andrew Breitbart.

  200. #200 Anthony McCarthy
    October 30, 2010

    Last three days to try to keep Mitch McConnell and John Boehner from controlling the legislative branch of the government and I’m not going to waste my time on my experiments here today.

    If you want to find out more about the problems with much of the absurd talk about genes and how they control everything, you might want to listen to this Hitchcock Lecture, given by by Richard Lewontin at UC Berkeley. It’s shorter than the one I posted to above.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=we4ZzjKxFHM

    The first twenty minutes or so is very good, covering what will be rather startling news to many, that DNA does a good deal less than is commonly believed. Later he uses some of the material he covered in the first one but most of you really didn’t listen to that one, did you. You might want to also listen to his lecture, The Concept of Race:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JvG1ylKhzoo&feature=channel

    He doesn’t say it, but it points out that even ideas firmly embedded in culture, politics and even science, can be quite illusory when looked at more carefully. Though even quite rigorous science doesn’t stop them from continuing to be a blight on all three. Which reminds me of a time I heard him confront the Nobel winning scientific racist, William Shockley, when the bright guy was setting up his infamous Nobel stud farm, seems the brilliant scientist hadn’t accounted for the deteriorating quality of sperm in geezers of Nobel age into his Brite idea. You youngsters won’t believe me, I hope that subject will motivate you to google at least that. Though the political struggle for equality under the law has made some progress, from time to time. Only to be undermined by people with an interest in the potential for bigotry to gain them power, some of them scientists.

  201. #201 Sigmund
    October 30, 2010

    Amazing Anthony!
    So now YOU are demanding evidence to back a claim!
    Perhaps I should direct you to google – isn’t that what you usually do when asked to substantiate an accusation – it’s certainly what you’ve done throughout this thread.
    Just a piece of advice, if you are ever involved in a thread where you are asking someone to answer your question, its never a good idea to make a creepy remark like your “consider what happened to poor Madeline O’Hair”.

  202. #202 Anthony McCarthy
    October 30, 2010

    Sigmund, I’m asking you to back up your obvious lie. Which anyone with an ability to read and the slightest interest in the truth could see is a lie. So that doesn’t cover a lot of the people on your side.

  203. #203 Seb30
    October 30, 2010

    @ Anthony

    He should count his, uh, blessings. Consider what happened to poor Madeline Murray O’Heir. I kind of miss her.

    You quote the name of an atheist who has been murdered, most likely for being an atheist, and you wonder why people you’ve been arguing with for more than 3 days think you are making death threats?
    I could agree it’s quite a jump, but if your posts were, um, easier to understand, you may be less likely to run into this sort of mis-assumptions. I frankly cannot make sense of your 3 last posts. More likely because I am the one lacking the background, but you are the one who decided to publish your opinion here.
    You know, that people don’t understand what you are saying is not a sign of your intelligence. It’s not that you are stupid either. Just that you are not clear.
    I was 12-y old when I learned this truth. The hard way.

    Seriously, what’s your point about Dawkins, evo-psy, life and the universe? So far, all you have done is resurrect the eternal debate about nature versus nurture, and not in a very clear way. I gathered that, according to you, Dawkins and theories about inherited behaviors are connected, atheists could be mean people, and not everything is encoded by DNA. Well, I agree on the last two (the 1st I have no idea about), but, so what? That’s not news.
    It’s a bit hard to follow what you are arguing about.

  204. #204 Anthony McCarthy
    October 30, 2010

    She and othere were murdered as part of a robbery and revenge by one of her followers who worked for American Atheists.

  205. #205 Anthony McCarthy
    October 30, 2010

    It’s probably futile to post the link but, here.

    http://www.austinchronicle.com/issues/vol18/issue40/pols.athiests.html

    I won’t post the link to something by her estranged son because it is heresay that can’t be verified, though you’ve got to wonder at her taste in employees.

    I did mean it when I said I missed her. She could be funny and was colorful, if bigoted and vulgar. Lots less pretentious than the current crew.

    Break’s over.

  206. #206 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    October 30, 2010

    Anthony McCarthy – Ah, so you were saying that it could be much worse. Someone could have stolen from the foundation AND kidnapped and murdered Richard Dawkins.

    It appears to have been unclear to many that this was the point of your original comment.

    Glad we’ve got that cleared up.

  207. #207 Anthony McCarthy
    October 30, 2010

    M O’B, I said what I said. Though I’m sure by the time you guys get done with it, I’ll have said what I didn’t say. Such is the integrity of fundamentalists of all stripe.

    You know there are some of us who can chew gum and walk at the same time.

  208. #208 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    October 30, 2010

    So just to be clear, what you said was “He should count his, uh, blessings. Consider what happened to poor Madeline Murray O’Heir. I kind of miss her.”

    Lots of things happened to Madalyn Murray O’Hair over the course of her life. The comparison you were trying to make was unclear without a bit more context.

    Suppose you told someone, “Have a good time at the theater. Consider what happened to Abraham Lincoln. I kind of miss him.” Now, the unstated part of that may be “His picture is on the five dollar bill” or “He was born in a log cabin in Kentucky.” On the other hand, you may be referring to the unfortunate incident involving John Wilkes Booth and saying “you could get killed by a secessionist actor.”

    So if someone misconstrues what you say, it might further the conversation if you took a moment to say what you really meant.

    Naturally, this is just a suggestion and you are free to ignore it at your peril.

  209. #209 Anthony McCarthy
    October 30, 2010

    M O’B, you are being silly. Read what the Austin Chronicle said about the one instance and what the post says about the other and if you still don’t get it you might need some help with remedial thinking.

  210. #210 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    October 30, 2010

    AMC – Ah, you’ve decided it’s my fault you’re unclear. Excellent – good persuasive technique. In what way is my summary of your point incorrect?

  211. #211 Anthony McCarthy
    October 30, 2010

    M O’B I’m faulting you for not having the research skills that a lazy 4th grader would have if you put the relevant material one finger click away. I’m not spending any more time coddling lazy Sci-blog dross.

  212. #212 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    October 30, 2010

    Golly, Anthony, I hope you carry that same attitude in your political activities as well. We all need more “Aqua Buddha” ads.

  213. #213 Anthony McCarthy
    October 30, 2010

    So, did you read the Austin Chronicle file?

    Maddy M. O’Hair her son and a grandaughter were done in by one of her crew at American Atheists over money and revenge, not because she was an atheist. Dawkins might have been ripped off by one of his associates, but that’s for a court to decide. I pointed out that Dawkins might have gotten ripped off but he’s still alive. Now, if only the new atheists here had bothered to know that much about the history of recent atheism you boys would not have assumed I meant any more than I said.

    History is a lot more effective in telling you about human affairs than behavior sci.

  214. #214 Seb30
    October 30, 2010

    @ Anthony McCarthy

    OK. Thanks for clarifying your position.
    The quick look I gave into Wikipedia was too quick and I did the wrong inference. Call me stupid if you want. But again, missing context is not helping.
    So you were referring to Dawkins in you post #195? This was really unclear, you were just talking about Jim Lippard, then about the Turing test, and suddenly this ‘count his blessings’ came out of nowhere, without a single mention of the post’s topic.

    So, an atheist could murder another atheist.
    But again, so what?

  215. #215 J. J. Ramsey
    October 30, 2010

    Anthony McCarthy, there’s an XKCD comic that notes, “Communicating badly and then acting smug when you’re misunderstood is not cleverness.”

  216. #216 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    October 30, 2010

    Actually, Anthony, I did read the Austin Chronicle story (indeed, it was where I pulled out the correct spelling of Madalyn Murray O’Hair). I certainly understand the article, and understand what happened to her. What was unclear was what you meant to say by the reference.
    Thanks for clarifying.

  217. #217 Anthony McCarthy
    October 30, 2010

    J.J.R. I wasn’t communicating badly, I assumed dedicated atheists would know the story of her murder. Not expecting them not to, I was curious about finding out about that. If people hadn’t made so much of that stupid Pew survey a few weeks back I probably wouldn’t be curious about it.

    We’ve seen enough of each other in places like this for me to be surprised that you’d think I expect people here to think I’m clever. I’m not even interested in thinking about that, myself.

  218. #218 J. J. Ramsey
    October 30, 2010

    Anthony McCarthy: “I wasn’t communicating badly.”

    You made a vague reference to O’Hair in conjunction with Dawkins. Whether that had to do with her murder or other matters involving her was as clear as mud. Indeed, what all this stuff about genetic drift and evo-psy has to do with this thread is beyond me.

  219. #219 Anthony McCarthy
    October 31, 2010

    JJR. I didn’t mention genetic drift or even allude to it, though I could have if I’d thought it was relevant. Dawkins’ citation of a mention of it raised a couple of interesting issues but I left that for now. I only alluded to evo-psy in response to someone else who compared Dawkins to Sagan, Bronowski and Feynman. I only pointed out that the comparison had problems since both Dawkins and Sagans’ communications largely dealt in speculations on the fringes of science and not science. Of course, in the case of Sagan I meant “exobiology (about which we, actually, know absolutely nothing since we have absolutely no physical evidence of even one, single, organism of “other life”. And Dawkins speculations about life here isn’t based in physical evidence but in speculations about the forever lost behavior of unknown populations of our own species the extinct species of our ancestors. Since one of the new atheist-”skeptics” started complaining early in the process that my comments were long enough to tax their abilities, to no objection by the self appointed defenders of science, I don’t see how going into more detail would have helped. You see, I’m used to people knowing things about what they’re talking about and if they don’t know to look things up, especially if convenient links are provided.

    It’s generally my assumption that the people who get into these discussions are adults, many of whom have finished high school, some of whom have finished college. I might be naive but by the time I’d finished high school I had been taught that if you don’t understand something because you didn’t know enough about it and you tried to find out more. We used to have to use a card catalog with actual cards, no automatic links (though there were tracings) and looking at indexes in actual books, etc. When hypertext links and automated search came in it seemed like no work at all to check for RELIABLE sources of information. But I guess that its being as simple as could be doesn’t mean that people understand those lost arts.

    I mentioned my fascination about Dawkins’ fans in this discussion quite literally not knowing the first thing about his claim to fame, though I’ll bet many of them skimmed his God Delusion. Which had its problems with the scholastic arts, as well. In fact I revealed my motives in not getting into a “skeptics” style quote duel in favor of trying to knock information about that ignorance loose, well before this twist about the embezzlement and the murder of O’Hair and the others. When I was surprised to find out that the Brights here were in the dark about that as well and when they started flying off the handle, irrationally and baselessly saying I’d made death threats, I wasn’t in the mood to spoon feed it to them.

    There are some very basic problems with your movement, one of those is many of its most ardent followers are pig ignorant. If you think I’m going to pass up the opportunities that presents, I’m not under any obligation to do so. Not when you boys are always going on about how clever your kind are.

  220. #220 Rrr
    October 31, 2010

    @Mr McCarthy:

    There are some very basic problems with your movement, one of those is many of its most ardent followers are pig ignorant. If you think I’m going to pass up the opportunities that presents, I’m not under any obligation to do so. Not when you boys are always going on about how clever your kind are.

    Oh the irony. I seem to recall you claimed to be altogether too busy with some election campaign work to be able to post much at all in this discussion, yet here you are a hundred posts and almost a week later, only days before those ballots are cast if my understanding is correct — and this is still the best of all your “final” arguments? With all those long words and precious time invested, you didn’t find it prurient to distill your points succinctly and save everyone (including yourself) a lot of bother, enabling them to do something more important, instead of going on in endless running paragraphs about how it is incumbent upon everyone else to divine what you actually mean and do the research necessary for that inspired elucidation?

    If this is how your political campaigning is done, maybe it would be better for you to work for the opposition instead?

    Or is that what you have been doing here all along?

  221. #221 Anthony McCarthy
    October 31, 2010

    Rrr, I posted a number of links. I didn’t do that because the color contrast was interesting to look at.

    I’m becoming interested in the idea that what I’ve said is impeached because it’s not simple enough to fit into tweets. I’m unaware of a rule of logic, even in the abbreviated “skeptical”/ new atheist rules of logic, which says that the favorite whine of modern undergrads, “but that’s hard” constitutes a valid refutation. Though it might be fun to follow up on. Back in my day no self-respecting, first week Freshman would have made that plainte.

  222. #222 Freki
    October 31, 2010

    I’m becoming interested in the idea that what I’ve said is impeached because it’s not simple enough to fit into tweets.

    The complaint is that everything you’ve said IS simple enough to fit into tweets, but you are padding it like a 10th grader’s 500 word essay.

  223. #223 Anthony McCarthy
    October 31, 2010

    Freki, translate what I’ve said here into tweets Show us how it’s done.

  224. #224 Rrr
    October 31, 2010

    Because links are SO much easier than to state succinctly what you want to say.

  225. #225 Anthony McCarthy
    October 31, 2010

    Because links are SO much easier than to state succinctly what you want to say.
    Posted by: Rrr

    Are you 12?

  226. #226 Anthony McCarthy
    October 31, 2010

    Freki, translate what I’ve said here into tweets Show us how it’s done. 8:18

    Freki: *crickets*

  227. #227 llewelly
    October 31, 2010

    Anthony McCarthy | October 29, 2010 5:24 PM:

    Consider what happened to poor Madeline Murray O’Heir. [O'Hair, I presume] I kind of miss her.

    Bad analogy, used to construct an argument from consequences.

  228. #228 Freki
    October 31, 2010

    Just as soon as you provide any evidence for your various assertions, Anthony.

    *celery growing*

  229. #229 Anthony McCarthy
    October 31, 2010

    llewelly, I wasn’t making an argument for anything at that point except that Dawkins’ alleged embezzlement could have been worse. Anyone who could fail to see the two examples of embezzlement by employees of atheist non-profits, by the respective “most famous atheists” of their time, as analogous for that purpose would fail to see anything.

    “Bad analogy, used to construct an argument from consequences.”

    I wonder if anyone might collect this kind of stuff and issue a book of fractured logic.

  230. #230 Anthony McCarthy
    October 31, 2010

    I’m off for the afternoon here, so snark away. No links to lectures and articles because you boys don’t like hard and long stuff.

  231. #231 Rrr
    October 31, 2010

    I wonder if anyone might collect this kind of stuff and issue a book of fractured logic.

    Great idea, Anthony. You might begin by sourcing yourself for examples… But dont put aside your career in immensely important political work just yet — rather, you should continue to spout those biting, convincing one-liner soundbites that you do so well. I always said that links fit absolutely fantastically on placards, bumper stickers and cocards. Not to mention bullhorns.

    No links to lectures and articles because you boys don’t like hard and long stuff.

    “Indicate precisely what you mean to say. Yours sincerely, wasting away” /Beatles (No link, awfully sorry)

  232. #232 Anthony McCarthy
    October 31, 2010

    I’ve got my laptop with me and there’s a lull so, almost at random:

    Sociopaths are by definition selfish people. The phenomena of selfish and altruistic behaviors are of special interest in clarifying the sociobiological research program, because one’s first impression of how natural selection works is that it “helps those who help themselves.” Richard Dawkins (1976) introduced sociobiology with his infamous metaphor of ‘the selfish gene,’ which appeared to be a genetic gloss on ‘the selfish individual’ (see also Williams, 1966, for an early development of ‘genic selectionism’). This concept has continued to be a cornerstone of the field.

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/sociobiology/

    Richard Dawkins’s ideas, and those of other sociobiologists, then, provoke extreme reactions and misunderstanding because their critics believe them to be in conflict with the moral and political commitments that they hold.

    http://www.jeremystangroom.com/about/

    Well-known sociobiologists:

    * Edward Osborne Wilson
    * Richard Dawkins
    References

    * “Sociobiology: The New Synthesis” by Dr. Edward Wilson;
    * “The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature” by Steven Pinker
    * “The Selfish Gene” by Richard Dawkins

    http://www.wordiq.com/definition/Sociobiology

    A year later, in England, the science of sociobiology was given a further boost by the publication of a more popular‐directed work: The Selfish Gene, by biologist Richard Dawkins. Making his points succinctly through new metaphors, Dawkins backs Wilson’s general approach, arguing that social behavior is a direct function of selection. However, Dawkins shows more sympathy for cultural elements than does Wilson. At the end of his work, Dawkins introduces the very notion of a meme as a unit of cultural information that functions analogously to a gene. Whereas Wilson argues that human behavior (including human thought) is very much a product of direct biological factors, Dawkins, although no less a stalwart Darwinian, argues that in the human realm we find near‐autonomous processes that stand, as it were, on but above the purely biological.

    http://psychology.jrank.org/pages/2171/sociobiology.html

    But evolutionary psychology (an offshoot of sociobiology) really got rolling in the mid-1970s with E. O. Wilson’s “Sociobiology” and Richard Dawkins’ “The Selfish Gene.” In no time works of pop sociobiology made these already accessible works even more accessible.

    http://www.salon.com/books/it/1999/05/21/evolution/print.html

    [Susan McCarthy is no relation to me.]

  233. #233 Anthony McCarthy
    October 31, 2010

    Dawkins’ expertise as a young scientist and more recently as an explicator of evolutionary psychology so lucid that he occupies the Charles Simonyi professorship for the public understanding of science at Oxford University.

    http://richarddawkins.net/articles/4047

    I’ve got to get back to work, but if that longer list of citations gets out of moderation, I’ve got tons more. Notice this one is from Dawkins’ own website, in a debate between him and Francis Collins. You’d think he or his people would have corrected it.

    I do, however, seem to notice that just as “Sociobiology” was eclipsed as it became more controversial, that “evolutionary psychology” seems to be rather scarcer as time goes on in this record.

  234. #234 Anthony McCarthy
    October 31, 2010

    Still stuck in moderation, I see.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzJUCG7L9I4&feature=related

    Catch the adaptive stories.

  235. #235 ildi
    October 31, 2010

    So, as far as I can tell, Anthony’s main points are:

    Atheism is a tool for destroying decent morality and society.

    Evolutionary psychology is a tool for destroying decent government and science.

    Richard Dawkins is doubly a tool for being an atheist and popularizing evolutionary psychology.

    Francis Collins, however, is a good scientist because he loves God and hates evolutionary psychology.

    For those of you who find Anthony’s turgid opaque prose difficult to wade through, Massimo Pigliucci has an excellent podcast (25 minutes) of the problems facing evolutionary psychology:

    You’ve heard the claims: men are inclined to cheat on women because natural selection favors multiple offspring from multiple mates, especially if you don’t have to pay child support. Even rape has been suggested to be the result of natural selection in favor of “secondary mating strategies” when the primary ones fail. Welcome to evolutionary psychology, a discipline curiously situated at the interface between evolutionary science and pop psychology, where both wild and reasonable claims seem to clash against the wall of an incredible scarcity of pertinent data.

    The issue is not whether it makes sense to apply evolutionary principles to the study of human behavior. Of course it does, human beings are no exception to evolution. But the devil is in the details, and the details deal with the complexities and nuances of how exactly evolutionary biologists test adaptive hypotheses, as well as with the nature of historical science itself.

    The Stevens Institute of Technology’s Center for Science Writings gives the distinction of popularizing evolutionary psychology to Steven Pinker in their list of Stevens 70 Greatest Science Books :

    Dawkins, Richard, The Selfish Gene. Oxford University Press, 1976.
    In the most original and influential of his many books, Darwin’s icily eloquent defender and extender introduces the theory of selfish genes, which remains as compelling and disturbing as ever. Dawkins’s biggest flaw is his haughtiness; his sentences all seem implicitly prefaced with the phrase, “As any fool can see…”

    and

    Pinker, Steven, How the Mind Works. Norton, 1997.
    Thank God most scientists can’t write as well as Pinker, or we journalists would be out of jobs. Pinker popularized evolutionary psychology with this bestseller, which describes the mind as a grab-bag of adaptations designed by natural selection. But can you really know how the mind works without knowing how the brain works?

  236. #236 Anthony McCarthy
    October 31, 2010

    ildi, I see you’re able to come up with some explanatory fables too. Only, they don’t explain anything about what I said.

    Now, why don’t you address what was said instead of what you wish I had said because you’ve got some prefab answers to them.

    Stephen Pinker, gee, most of the scientists I’ve ever known who’ve talked about him, including one or two rather sarcastic atheists, aren’t impressed. But I’m not going to get into the guy with the hair in this thread.

  237. #237 Rrr
    October 31, 2010

    Hey Tony, don’t you have some very important election to promote, like you said? FYI, I am not eligible to vote in that one. To put it succinctly, like, that means it’s not mainly MY valuable time you have been wasting for the last week or so. Mmkay?

    Aww, so sowwy, maybe you don’t even have a proper job to look after? Nevermind voluntarily putting the Sabot into teh Cogs of Demoncrazy, eh? Well, a “man”‘s gotta do etc.

    Actually, you were quite thoroughly debunked a while ago by folks much smarter than you’n'me, in my humble opinion. So, what’s your next move — a whiff of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds? /Beatles

  238. #238 ildi
    October 31, 2010

    Now, why don’t you address what was said instead of what you wish I had said

    Like these gems?

    I had been aware of the popularity of evidence free science among the “skeptics” and the new atheists but it wasn’t until I’d read Hawking’s latest stuff that I came to realize that it was ubiquitous. I’d known that much of the orthodoxy around cog-sci and behavioral sci constituted a kind of materialism in the gaps but I hadn’t realized how serious that problem was until just a few weeks back. I think it’s a real danger to the integrity of science and a danger to democratic politics. I’m also beginning to understand why so many of the popular figures of those fads turn out to be right wing libertarian crackpots. It’s a deeply anti-intellectual movement, in contradiction to its claims.

    don’t believe that the new atheist blog clique say, they seem to be about as bad at reading comprehension as they are with science.

    You don’t mean that the mighty Brite are above little things like accurate and honest attribution, I hope, because being an atheist doesn’t mean you get to make it up to suit you. Though an honest representation of reality does seem to be a novel concept to most of the new ones I’ve encountered.

    The reference is to a song by the group tlc. I think SC recently saw the film “The Other Guys”.
    In other words, what’s held in new atheist circles to be the higher learning.

    I generally think of new atheists with gender neutral pseudonyms as boys because most of them are and I usually figure women are less prone to frat style behavior.

    I’ve had the impression for a long time that it’s one of the dirty secrets of the new atheism that a lot of the physical scientists regard evo-psy as a pseudo-science but are afraid to say so out loud.

  239. #239 Anthony McCarthy
    October 31, 2010

    Rrr, which point was debunked? That Richard Dawkins isn’t a figure in evo-psy/Sociobiology, because as his own website and his own YouTube channel show, that would seem to be news to him. The stuff about O’Hair’s murder? Because once I spoonfed the facts I’d linked to, that seems to have evaporated as a line of attack.

    The Beatles, give me a break. I’ve never owned one of their records and I’m their age. Besides, I thought it was Pinker who was supposed to be the groovy one.

    Richard Dawkins must be kind of dispirited if he’s aware of this thread, his adoring fans seem to be unfamiliar with his career in science and seem to want to get him away from his positions, despite hearing it in his own words. Apparently it’s a Just-so version of Richard Dawkins that they want so, so much to believe in instead of the real thing. Which should tell us a lesson about the gap between reality and desired reality. And that’s with abundant evidence that can be, not only observed but also articulated from the horses’ mouth. It’s quite possible to create an extended scenario that is way off. Unobserved behavior is so prone to achieving deceptive results, especially when the wider context, the constructed habitat, if you will, is also unavailable for close observation.

  240. #240 Anthony McCarthy
    October 31, 2010

    I could go on forever answering this silly stuff, I think I’ll just go do something useful. Though it’s been fun and I’ve learned three startling things I hadn’t known before.

  241. #241 Nibi
    October 31, 2010

    Anthony McCarthy writes:

    I could go on forever …

    Finally, a claim supported by evidence.

  242. #242 Anthony McCarthy
    November 1, 2010

    I’ll give Nibi as just one example of how the Bright boys are too lazy and/or ignorant to see and/or understand evidence when you put it right under their nose @232-234, even after you explain your rhetorical strategy of not giving that evidence, so abundantly available it’s amazing that Scienceblog readers haven’t run across it before, was to get an idea of how extensive the Brights ignorance was, twice, and the extent to which Scienceblog readers/owners who were aware of it – and I know many are – seem to be intimidated in informing their fans of that evidence.

    The news that not only the most famous current atheist- fundamentalist is largely unknown to what appears to be a significant part of their fan base, who also don’t seem to be curious to know why he’s famous, but that the immediate former, most famous atheist in the world as well seems to be largely unknown to them is also interesting. In the assertion that MMO was killed “because she was an atheist”, when she was rather infamously killed by an atheist in her employ and the obviously constructed version of a mythical character called “Richard Dawkins” who didn’t have the real ones career in science, maybe we see some of the dangers of telling stories in the absence of facts. Sort of like those somewhat tacit tales of pre-historic adaptation that the real Dawkins spun before an audience on that last You-Tube. Only I’d expect that the real Richard Dawkins is smarter than his fans and would make reference to the available historical record which any potential critic could also see.

    There, I think I’ve explained myself, though I’m sure the fan boys won’t bother to find that out and will keep on spinning those stories Just-so they can maintain their ignorance.

  243. #243 Anthony McCarthy
    November 1, 2010

    Oh, and, in a probably futile attempt at cutting them off at the pass, maintaining that the meta-adaptive tale of our pre-historic ancestors isn’t behind that string of bigotry in that last YouTube will only be evidence of the fundamental ignorance of so many of the fan boys of what evolution is. Some of them seem to be unaware that it didn’t begin with someone called Darwin but, actually, is about the actual living beings in the vast, pre-historic past. For so many of them it’s more in the nature of being a sports team supporter than it is in actually knowing much about it. But that’s for another blog brawl.
    So much of evo-psy and its practices have seeped into our thinking and those tales are so well entrenched that they go unsaid, though they are an intrinsic part of the logic of those adaptive fables. So much so that even Gould, on one occasion that I know of, lapsed into its near use, though H Allen Orr noticed it and called him on it in his review.

    http://bostonreview.net/BR24.5/orr.html

  244. #244 Sigmund
    November 1, 2010

    Although I originally only said it as a joke, I think the ‘bad Turing Test’ is probably the most logical explanation for the waffling stream of non-sequiturness that signs itself as Anthony McCarthy.
    Even if it isn’t really just a bot replaying nearly random twaddle upon picking up on certain key words I think we may have stumbled upon an algorithm for beating the notorious test. Instead of having a program that tries to reply with a seemingly intelligent and relevant answer to the Turing tester, perhaps we should design a program that answers back as a messageboard lunatic! Posting links that have either nothing to do with the point at hand or that directly refute what the program claims they prove, throwing random insults at all who try to engage the points at hand, claiming it is far too busy with important things to give a detailed reply and telling the questioner to simply use google. I think it would work!
    Thank you Anthony, you might finally have done some good for science.

  245. #245 Anthony McCarthy
    November 1, 2010

    Lazy Sigmund. Clearly you didn’t read that article pointing out problems with the Turning test, one of which was that neither the computers or the testers could handle issues of complexity in a wider context. NAs are often more of like an Eliza bot, as I used to tell one over in the Discovery blogs.

    I suppose, in keeping with “skeptical”/NA norms of rhetorical discourse I’m supposed to add a vulgar equivalent of, “So there!”

  246. #246 Josh Timonen
    July 17, 2011

    It seems interest in this case has died out here, but I wanted to alert readers to my new blog post about some new developments:

    THE DOG ATE MY HOMEWORK? DAWKINS AND FOUNDATION CLAIM THAT DOCUMENTS THAT SUPPORT THEIR CASE WERE “LOST FOREVER”

    http://joshtimonen.com/post/7749335533/the-dog-ate-my-homework-dawkins-and-foundation-claim