Pharyngula

The War on St Patrick’s Day?

This fellow, Bob Averill, is a Portland atheist who was attending the Art Institute there. You won’t believe what happened to him recently.

In the classroom that day, Averill says one young woman was talking about her belief in energy layers and astral beings.

“I jokingly asked her if she believed in leprechauns. It turns out, she does. They live on another energy layer,” Averill wrote in notes to himself later that day. “In the interest of bringing my own view to the discussion, I began to ask her how she knew these things. Again I know all too well that people can be sensitive about their spiritual beliefs, so I was pretty much walking on glass as I did so.”

Averill says he wasn’t trying to disprove the other student’s religious beliefs, but “to convince her not to insist that they were scientifically proven.”

The student, apparently offended, complained to the teacher. Averill was called into a meeting that evening, he says, with the Art Institute’s dean of education, associate dean, and the dean of student affairs.

According to Averill, he was told the meeting was “because of my altercation with [the other student].” Averill says he pointed out that he’d “only offered a different viewpoint in a discussion that [my classmate] had started.”

“They didn’t respond well,” Averill told the Mercury. “Their mantra was ‘no discussing religion in school,’ which is fine except that I did not initiate the conversation, she had.” Averill was suspended for four days, until a judicial hearing with the dean of student affairs.

The end result: Averill has been expelled. We mustn’t offend people who believe in leprechauns, after all.

The authorities have muddled the issue by saying he was kicked out for being “rude and belligerent”, although the report does say that the woman who complained backed up Averill’s story, and she has said that she didn’t want him expelled. Too late, but the sentiment is nice…for a leprechaunist.

That’s right. This is a case of discrimination against an aleprechaunist. I’m proud to say that I too am an aleprechaunist, and I stand in solidarity with Bob Averill. It’s about time we took a stand against this leprechaunistic foolishness—they demand an undeserved respect, they have no evidence at all for their crazy beliefs, and now they’re using their clout in the culture of leprechaunism that pervades our society to oppress rationalists for simply questioning their superstition.

I’m sure some of my fellow sciencebloggers will consider this dangerous and vile, and out of a desire to placate the leprechaunist lobby, will dissociate themselves from me for it, but I have to say it: leprechaunism is bullshit. There is something wrong with you if you believe in leprechauns, and we sure shouldn’t be letting people run colleges on the basis of their belief in the little people, or worse yet, making policy decisions to keep the leprechaunists happy. And maybe it’s about time our schools did make time to criticize leprechaunism.

I’m an evangelical, fundamentalist, militant aleprechaunist. Get used to it, we aren’t going away.

(I sincerely hope that the ACLU helps Bob Averill out—being expelled from a college for arguing and for disbelieving in energy layers, astral beings, and woo-woo spiritual bafflegab is out of line.)

Comments

  1. #1 usagi
    November 26, 2006

    At a guess, they were already looking for a reason to show him the door. One hopes. It’s still the sort of insufferable stupidity that gives academic administrators a bad name, but it makes a whole lot more sense than what they’re saying.

  2. #2 Unstable Isotope
    November 26, 2006

    Put me in the camp of the aleperechaunist.

    Doesn’t this incident just reinforce Sam Harris’s arguments from Letters to a Christian Nation? His argument is that we are a little too tolerant of some religious beliefs when we should be arguing against them.

  3. #3 Harry
    November 26, 2006

    You say:

    The authorities have muddled the issue by saying he was kicked out for being “rude and belligerent”, although the report does say that the woman who complained backed up Averill’s story, and she has said that she didn’t want him expelled.

    What the article actually says:

    According to an emailed letter from Engeldinger, Averill had violated the student conduct policy. The decision to dismiss Averill was “not the result of a single action on your part, but a series of actions. I believe that, in several instances, your actions have been aggressive, demeaning, and threatening and that this demonstrates a pattern of inappropriate and unacceptable behavior,” Engeldinger wrote.

    The student who complained on November 8 wished to remain anonymous, but her account backs up Engeldinger’s letter. Her complaint was not the only reason he was sent into the Dean’s office. The teacher even told me that my complaint was the ‘last straw’ as SEVERAL other complaints were stated before mine.”

    However, she says she “did not wish for him to be expelled or get in trouble and I had no idea that it was going to happen until after the fact.”"

  4. #4 Dave Carlson
    November 26, 2006

    I was really hoping that the link to the story in question would take me to the Onion. It didn’t. Count me in the ranks of the aleperechaunists (although whether or not I’ll end up being from the “Neville Chamberlain School of Aleperechaunism” or not is still in question).

  5. #5 Mike Fox
    November 26, 2006

    You are so mean sometimes! Arguing with people like this is like beating up a blind, midget, quadrapalegic, nun without teeth. You need to learn when to pull your punches. So does Mr. Bob Averill. :-P

  6. #6 cooper
    November 26, 2006

    Come on, they guy might be an asshole, but you don’t get expelled for being an asshole.

    Beside, wouldn’t it be nice to have one person with an art degree that isn’t a crystal wearing, Choprah reading, thinks-Shirley-McClane-is-anything-other-than-clinically-insane freak?

  7. #7 dveej
    November 26, 2006

    Mike says: “…beating up a blind, midget, quadrapalegic, nun without teeth…”

    Is there a video available?

  8. #8 Greco
    November 26, 2006

    So… no more comparing El/YHWH/Whatshisname to leprechauns?

  9. #9 Graculus
    November 26, 2006

    Beside, wouldn’t it be nice to have one person with an art degree that isn’t a crystal wearing, Choprah reading, thinks-Shirley-McClane-is-anything-other-than-clinically-insane freak?

    We’ll get one of those the same time that we get an engineer or computer scientist that isn’t into ID.

  10. #10 Greco
    November 26, 2006

    Continuing with the “What the article actually says” line, then:

    “I expressed that I felt discriminated against as an atheist, and he informed me that mine was not a protected class of people,” Averill says…
    “He offered to re-admit me if I underwent–get this–psychiatric evaluation.”…
    “I can say that we have never suspended or terminated or disciplined or otherwise troubled any student at any time about religious issues. It’s never even come up as an issue,” says Goldman, who also teaches a comparative religion class at the school. Given the Art Institute’s liberal arts curriculum, there is no policy against discussing religion or philosophy, “or any other subject as far as I know. We have an academic community in which people are free to explore ideas.”

    I’m sure “religious issues” are not a problem there… as long as you are religious, or just stays in the closet, instead of doing like the uppity atheists who want to discuss religious beliefs like they are different flavors of ice cream.

  11. #11 Kristjan Wager
    November 26, 2006

    We’ll get one of those the same time that we get an engineer or computer scientist that isn’t into ID

    I am fairly sure that Tim Lambert and Mark Chu-Carroll aren’t into ID….

  12. #12 A lemur
    November 26, 2006

    Cooper said,

    Hey, watch those remarks. I’ve got an MFA in painting, am reasonably literate scientificaly, and have argued for evolution against insane religious freaks of all stripes.

    –ok, the fact that I worship a small rock whose markings uncannily resemble a cephalopod with reading glasses should in no way be held against me. We geo-cephalists have rights too you know. And followers. Lots of followers. Well, one follower but he’s very devout, and soon there shall be more. Oh yes. —

  13. #13 A lemur
    November 26, 2006

    Ok, the above post would have made a little more sense if the quote I pasted in from cooper had actually shown up. Why oh why has my rock failed me? Is it because I have cavorted with shale? Oh, lamentation.

  14. #14 Russell Blackford
    November 26, 2006

    Oh dear, I’m not sure that anyone involved comes off well – either of the students or any of the academics. However, it’s obviously ridiculous to expel someone over this incident, even if he was actually a lot more aggressive than he makes out. I just hope there was some pattern of really nasty behaviour before this to back up the institute’s decision, because right now it stinks like a dead leprechaun.

  15. #15 Dan P
    November 26, 2006

    I don’t know any Computer Scientist or Engineers that are IDiots, some of them go to church, but then use devilish Darwininian evolutionary algorithms too design products and solves problems on Monday.
    It is full blown creationists or rationalists not really much in between, the ID movement is 100% money and PR, the majority of them doesn’t even believe it, but they get paid for it.

  16. #16 PZ Myers
    November 26, 2006

    Oh, please…tell me more about this cephalopodian rock, that I may also join you in worship.

  17. #17 Shelley
    November 26, 2006

    Actually, disagree with you on this one PZ.

    It sounded like the young woman was having a conversation with other people and he jumped in and started pushing the young woman on her beliefs. It also sounds like he makes a habit of this, and he’s confrontational. How many other incidents and problems did he have with teachers? Three? How many times has he been reported? Sounds like several.

    I don’t have a lot of sympathy for anyone who aggressively pushes ANY belief on others, and that includes atheists.

  18. #18 craig
    November 26, 2006

    “…uppity atheists who want to discuss religious beliefs like they are different flavors of ice cream.”

    but ice cream actually exists.

  19. #19 Chris
    November 26, 2006

    Belief exists, too. That doesn’t necessarily make it accurate.

    And Shelley, you’re drawing a pattern from one incident? Or are you just assuming that if he’s an atheist he must be an asshole?

    The number of “incidents” is irrelevant if he cannot be clearly established to be at fault for them. I’m sure there were a lot of “incidents” surrounding the first black children at white schools, but that doesn’t mean the black children deserved to be expelled for causing them.

  20. #20 PZ Myers
    November 26, 2006

    Shelley: you leprechaunist!

    It’s hard to tell what happened, since we only have that one account. If the guy was standing there screaming at this naive young woman, that’s one thing; if it was a vigorous discussion on both sides, that’s another.

    Personally, I think that someone who believes leprechauns exist as astral beings living on another energy layer really needs a good loud argument. There’s a serious critical thinking deficit going on there.

  21. #21 Andrew
    November 26, 2006

    Um… maybe the guy is just a jerk and may have real problems as well. Sounds to me that the leprechaun thing is incidental and Mr. Averill is just digging for support.
    Reminds me of a guy kicked out of my school who was prone to espousing on morality and gods role. He turned out to be really sick and had to be asked to leave.

    As Cooper suggested being a jerk may not be grounds for kicking someone out, but a repeat asshole who has made enemies among the teachers may very well be asking for it.

  22. #22 bpower
    November 26, 2006

    That’s just nuts.

  23. #23 Richard Harris, FCD
    November 26, 2006

    We’ll get one of those the same time that we get an engineer or computer scientist that isn’t into ID.

    Posted by: Graculus

    As an engineer, I find this offensive. I admit I’ve come across a few very religious engineers, but they’re in a minority. There was one guy I worked with, a Dutchman, who gave up a good career to go rewrite the Bible. I’ve often wondered what happenned to him. After reading the bible in depth, he must’ve ralized what a load of crap it is, & come to his senses, surely? But if he wanted to get back into engineering, what would he put on his resume?

  24. #24 Peter McGrath FCD
    November 26, 2006

    As anyone knows, you find a leprachaun and spare its life, it will tell you where a crock of gold is to be found. At first I spared many leprachauns but always being disappointed, I have since made it my business to kill the lying little gobshites on sight. Portland, tell your bonkers friend there ain’t any left. Certainly not on my energy level.

  25. #25 Shelley
    November 26, 2006

    Chris, “And Shelley, you’re drawing a pattern from one incident? Or are you just assuming that if he’s an atheist he must be an asshole.”

    On the contrary, I don’t believe atheists are assholes. My proof:

    PZ is an atheist.
    PZ supports Cephalopodmas.
    People who support Cephalopodmas can’t be assholes.
    Therefore, PZ is not an asshole.

    I have met assholes from all beliefs, and I imagine there are people who believe in Leprechauns who are also assholes (though the mental imagine of an asshole leprechaunist does give me pause).

    I think PZ’s further comment is the right one: we don’t have enough facts to make a judgment one way or another. I can’t help thinking, though, that a school, especially an art school, would be very hesitant about expelling a student, and certainly wouldn’t do so because he engaged in thoughtful debate about whether leprechauns are real or not.

    Where PZ and I may differ on this one is: if the young woman’s belief was not causing her or anyone around her harm, who cares what she believes? If she wants to have a discussion on the topic, then of course, people have a right to disagree. Strenuously in fact (as she has a right to defend her position, strenuously). But no one has the right to berate her.

    None of us have the right to berate others for their beliefs. Only for the actions they take based on those beliefs, if said actions impinge on others.

  26. #26 Shelley
    November 26, 2006

    “I have since made it my business to kill the lying little gobshites on sight.”

    Funny! Made my day.

  27. #27 Orac
    November 26, 2006

    According to the rest of the story:

    According to an emailed letter from Engeldinger, Averill had violated the student conduct policy. The decision to dismiss Averill was “not the result of a single action on your part, but a series of actions. I believe that, in several instances, your actions have been aggressive, demeaning, and threatening and that this demonstrates a pattern of inappropriate and unacceptable behavior,” Engeldinger wrote.

    The student who complained on November 8 wished to remain anonymous, but her account backs up Engeldinger’s letter. Her complaint was not the only reason he was sent into the Dean’s office. The teacher even told me that my complaint was the ‘last straw’ as SEVERAL other complaints were stated before mine.”

    However, she says she “did not wish for him to be expelled or get in trouble and I had no idea that it was going to happen until after the fact.”

    On Monday morning, November 20, Averill met with the school’s president, Dr. Steven Goldman, to appeal his dismissal. “He upheld the dean’s decision to throw me out,” Averill says. “He offered to re-admit me if I underwent–get this–psychiatric evaluation.”

    Whether this is the Art Institute administration making things up or exaggerating things after the fact to cover its posterior or whether Averill really does have a problem is impossible to say from this story, but it does sound as though there’s more going on here than this one incident. Whether that more is enough to justify expelling him or whether it is indeed discrimination against him for being an atheist is similarly impossible to say from this story. I’m sure a lawsuit would bring out the facts.

  28. #28 Caledonian
    November 26, 2006

    There may have been other complaints, but how many of them were baseless? A tendency I’ve noted among people who have problems with critical thinking skills is that they have serious problems administring rules to communities of people. If enough people complain about an individual, regardless of whether those complaints have merit or the individual in question was actually violating rules, authority figures in these thinking-challenged places will often seek to get rid of the “troublemaker” simply to reduce their own workload, instead of clarifying the rules or moving against the people making invalid complaints.

    I must concur. If this student was truly discriminated against, let him bring a lawsuit.

  29. #29 plunge
    November 26, 2006

    Shelly, even if he was berating someone, does that really qualify for expulsion? I mean, that’s ridiculous. I’ve been annoyed and harassed by countless proselytizers on campus: I never once ever even considered reporting them or imagined that they could get expelled for it. If being obnoxious were against college rules at a liberal arts college, College Republicans basically wouldn’t exist on campus. :)

  30. #30 bernarda
    November 26, 2006

    The head of the school perhaps needs to see this clip from the “Lucky Louie” series.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l56b60FT1iw&mode=related&search=

    “Jim Norton Debates the Existence of God”

    WARNING: language that some might consider offensive.

  31. #31 MYOB
    November 26, 2006

    So I guess the ‘moral’ to the story is that it doesn’t matter what you believe in, just as long as you believe in something?
    Sort of goes against what Thomas Jefferson said.

    “He is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.

    Honestly though, if this kid was a confrontationist in an art school class then maybe he is a problem student. Although I agree that he should not have been judged too harshly since he did not start the conversation.
    Nevertheless if he’s the kind of kid who can’t let an issue slide by without trying to argue it then he probably is arrogant and confrontational, perhaps even rude.
    He probably should have been given a warning first rather than being dismissed.

    MYOB’
    .

  32. #32 Hank Fox
    November 26, 2006

    ” … if the young woman’s belief was not causing her or anyone around her harm, who cares what she believes?”

    Yeah. Except the things you believe DO make a difference. Hell, a lot of us thought the conservative Christians were relatively harmless, until they got their own president. And the rest of us got 9/11, Iraq, Katrina, Homeland Security, an Enron-steered energy policy, an 8-year gap in dealing with global warming, and a deficit about to go stratospheric — not to mention Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.

  33. #33 George
    November 26, 2006

    “In the classroom that day, Averill says one young woman was talking about her belief in energy layers and astral beings. I jokingly asked her if she believed in leprechauns….”

    The article fails to mention that she was posing naked at the time and that Bob, delicately dabbing his brush in a squib of prussian blue, was only trying to take his mind off of other things.

    Give the guy a break!

  34. #34 quork
    November 26, 2006


    None of us have the right to berate others for their beliefs.

    **** you. Who put you in charge and allowed you to take away my right to free speech? I wish to spit in your general direction. Can you give me a rough regional location so I may do so?

    I’ll be the one to say the obvious: the woman who believes in leprechauns is the one who needs to undergo psychiatric evaluation.

  35. #35 MarkP
    November 26, 2006

    Caledonian hit the nail on the head. In too many places, reducing complaints, regardless of merit, is the goal, not actually enforcing the rules. It isn’t too far fetched to think that class was full of such nitwits, since it seems reasonable to conclude that he barged into the conversation for lack of criticism of the Leprechaunism. I’ve spent a good deal of time around woo-woos, and they as a rule do not take criticism of their positions well at all. Something as innocent as “how do you know that?” or “what is your evidence for that?” are perceived as serious personal attacks. If he did this on several occasions, even if he did so entirely politely and by invitation, they still would have reacted badly.

    He did barge in however, and that’s rude.

    But let’s get to the crux of the issue here. [sarcasm alert]. We can’t disprove leprechauns. We can gather no data on leprechauns, pro or con. No one has found Peter McGrath’s corpses (see post above, and thanks for the belly laugh Peter). So no one has any business saying Leprechaunism is wrong. We must be agnostic on the topic of leprechauns. It is beyond science.

    Besdes, moderate Leprechaunists could be allies on issues like global warming. After all, they don’t want the leprechauns to die. So why alienate them? Do they cite the opinions of leprechauns in their scientific papers? If not, then why not make them heads of science departments? What’s the harm? People like PZ are just as bad as those pushing Fundamentalist Leprechaunism. PZ and his ilk just want to stamp out all religion. The Leprechaunists are just the target this time.

    Sorry, couldn’t resist.

  36. #36 Sod
    November 26, 2006

    Quotes Cooper:
    “Beside, wouldn’t it be nice to have one person with an art degree that isn’t a crystal wearing, Choprah reading, thinks-Shirley-McClane-is-anything-other-than-clinically-insane freak?”

    Aaa! Please, allow me to defend myself against this. I’m an art student, working toward my BFA, and I’m happily atheist (though non-confrontational about it). The loonies are a little more common at my sort of school but there are rational people around.

    Have no fear, there are rational artists around, you just have to look for us.

  37. #37 speedwell
    November 26, 2006

    OK! My fiance is an Art Institute double graduate (computer animation) who is a lifelong atheist, and I am an engineering student who is an atheist. So there.

    Now about the Art Institute thing… The Art Institutes are not so much an altruistic institution of higher learning as they are a for-profit business that regards its students as customers. I feel sure they had little interest in the source of confrontation or even in who was right. I really don’t think they thought farther than “here’s this one participant who’s generating a lot of customer complaints, and that’s bad for business.” That would be typical behavior for them, based on our six-year experience with them.

  38. #38 nemo ramjet
    November 26, 2006

    “…Beside, wouldn’t it be nice to have one person with an art degree that isn’t a crystal wearing, Choprah reading, thinks-Shirley-McClane-is-anything-other-than-clinically-insane freak?…”

    Hey, I’m a fine arts student! But I know what you’re talking about. I’m practically surrounded by clueless people who think evolution, physics etc are all capitalist, phallocentric (insert post-modern bogeyman here) fallacies that need to be brought down… somehow. I recently had a painting about hypotethical sentient dinosaurs rejected because “it was not in line with contemporary thinking.” When the same painting was featured in a popular British weblog however, it was gobbled back up, faster than you could say “hypocrites.”

    The fine arts world is full of egocentric jerks with a tenous grip on reality.

  39. #39 George
    November 26, 2006

    “So why alienate them?”

    People are a lot more resilient than we sometimes give them credit for.

    The proper solution would have been: have the offended student, Bob, his teacher, and the student affairs person discuss the issue openly and come to an understanding.

    Instead, three Deans ganged up on Bob and ultimately came up with a draconian solution.

    Way to go, Art Institute.

  40. #40 llewelly
    November 26, 2006

    Public mention of various woo-woo beliefs is pervasive at colleges. If a student took it into his head to respond to each statement of woo-woo belief with a disparaging remark, within about a week, 10 or more people would be convinced that student was rude and abrasive. If said student kept this up for a full semester, there would be some in the faculty who would want him kicked out, and they would believe his areligious beliefs had nothing to do with their desire to expell him.

    From the story, I suspect Bob emulated my hypothetical student closely.

  41. #41 Scott Hatfield
    November 26, 2006

    Mr. Averill, based on the evidence presented here, has grounds for legal action. Particularly troublesome is his claim that administrators asserted (falsely) that atheists were not a protected class. If they said that, then went ahead and expelled Mr. Averill, then he was discriminated against, pure and simple….SH

  42. #42 Pierce R. Butler
    November 26, 2006

    So why is it there are PYGMIES + LEPRECHAUNS?

  43. #43 Orac
    November 26, 2006

    I’ve spent a good deal of time around woo-woos, and they as a rule do not take criticism of their positions well at all. Something as innocent as “how do you know that?” or “what is your evidence for that?” are perceived as serious personal attacks.

    Oh, this is very true indeed. My blog specialty is applying skepticism, science, and critical thought to the claims of alternative medicine, such as homeopathy. Believe me, just asking woos for evidence for their claims and pointing out that personal anecdotes do not constitute good scientific evidence will sometimes send them into paroxysms of hostility. Even if you do it politely, it is often perceived as a personal attack, and the usual response is to attack the skeptic and attack the shortcomings of evidence-based medicine, even though that’s an obvious tu quoque fallacy and the shortcomings of EBM are not arguments for woo.

    Frighteningly enough, I’ve recently attracted the attention of a physician who took umbrage at my criticism of woo that’s infiltrating medical school curricula these days. He used a whole bunch of fallacies to defend his use of acupuncture and his use of woo in his practice. I find it truly frightening that fellow physicians fall for this stuff. Worse, as it infiltrates medical school curricula, those who criticize it as unscientific and without a basis in evidence are accused of being “close-minded” and “intolerant” of the alternate belief systems behind these “therapies.”

  44. #44 Orac
    November 26, 2006

    Forgot to add:

    One reason that (I suspect) woo is infiltrating medicine is because insurance companies don’t pay for it, meaning that patients have to pay for it cash on the barrelhead. Consequently, woo is very lucrative, and it doesn’t require all that frustrating, bureaucratically intensive, and painful dealing with insurance companies to get reimbursed for it.

  45. #45 Shelley
    November 26, 2006

    As to the student: I agree with the others, if he feels he was discriminated against, then he should consider filing a discrimination lawsuit. IF,he hasn’t signed an arbitration agreement with the school when he registered.

    Someone mentioned about belief and harm. I personally don’t believe in any of the beliefs,and that includes atheism. I don’t believe in a God, I don’t not believe in a God, I frankly don’t care. Other than an intellectual and historical interest in religious beliefs, I frankly could care less.

    I do make decisions based on facts that impact me. For instance, I’ve seen too much evidence of evolution, and I’m also aware of evolution’s impact on biology and medicine. Therefore I believe that evolution is real, enough to support it. But I’m not going to find someone who doesn’t agree with me and argue them into the ground until they do.

    Now, if they try to make the study of it illegal, then that impacts on me, and I will push back. I will also write about my views on my weblog, or debate such when the issue arises elsewhere.

    But I don’t enter into a person’s private sphere, tell them they’re wrong on their beliefs, and then stick in their face until they come to their senses and believe me. Yes, this is rude. More than rude, though.

    If this young man was aggressive in manner, as well as larger than the young woman, then what he did could have been seen as intimidation. I would assume no one on this list supports anyone who uses intimidation to get them to stop believing in fairies.

    As to whether this is what happened, we don’t know, because we don’t have the full story. If it’s wrong though to assume that he’s automatically at fault because he’s atheist, it’s equally wrong to assume that he’s automatically right because he’s atheist.

    (Quick note on this: I did want to apologize to PZ earlier for implying he would do this, because I don’t _believe_ he would. I believe PZ would give a hell of a debate, but I would never see him berating anyone.)

    As for freedom of speech, boy I wish people would get this right. No one has the freedom to be abusive. NO one, regardless of belief.

    Freedom of speech in this country guarantees that we can speak out against the government, and not be oppressed,jailed, or killed by said government. This does not give you a right to be an asshole in school or on our jobs. You don’t have a right to make everyone around you miserable.

    Now, there are laws that protect us based on religion and sex and race, and I support these. But these laws do not mean I can go into a job or a school and be rude and offensive and intimidating, and then when I get kicked out, cry out “Sexist!” Well, I can say it, it doesn’t make it true. Or right.

    You don’t even have a ‘right’ to be an asshole in comments. Well, unless you’re reading Little Green Footballs and then not only do you have a right, you have an obligation.

    Sorry for long comment.

  46. #46 Rikard
    November 26, 2006

    Actually, Shelley, then you are an atheist…

  47. #47 Ithika
    November 26, 2006

    Nevertheless if he’s the kind of kid who can’t let an issue slide by without trying to argue it then he probably is arrogant and confrontational, perhaps even rude.

    Arrogance, a huge ego and unfailing belief in your own abilities are all properties selected for by art schools. Whether we like it or not, those are the people that get first class degrees.

  48. #48 Shelley
    November 26, 2006

    No, Rikard, I am not. I am indifferent.

  49. #49 Tyler DiPietro
    November 26, 2006

    We’ll get one of those the same time that we get an engineer or computer scientist that isn’t into ID

    I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that this comment is an ironic illustration of the fact that a lot of art students are quite and skeptical and rationalistic, as there are probably just as many engineers and computer scientists who aren’t into ID as art students who aren’t into woo. I agree, this is an intelligent comment.

    But in the event that you mean this literally: FUCK YOU!

  50. #50 Caledonian
    November 26, 2006

    But I don’t enter into a person’s private sphere, tell them they’re wrong on their beliefs, and then stick in their face until they come to their senses and believe me. Yes, this is rude. More than rude, though.

    If this young man was aggressive in manner, as well as larger than the young woman, then what he did could have been seen as intimidation. I would assume no one on this list supports anyone who uses intimidation to get them to stop believing in fairies.

    So if a person talks about their beliefs in public, and another person asks a critical question, and this second person is physically larger than the first, it’s intimidation.

    For some reason, your belief that you’re “different” from everyone else doesn’t surprise me in the least.

  51. #51 Blake Stacey
    November 26, 2006

    Mike Fox wrote:

    You are so mean sometimes! Arguing with people like this is like beating up a blind, midget, quadrapalegic, nun without teeth.

    Why worry? God was obviously mean to them first. Are we now obligated to be kinder than God?

  52. #52 llewelly
    November 26, 2006

    What did Shelley say?

    If this young man was aggressive in manner, as well as larger than the young woman, then what he did could have been seen as intimidation.

    (Emphasis mine.)

    What did Caledonian say?

    So if a person talks about their beliefs in public, and another person asks a critical question, and this second person is physically larger than the first, it’s intimidation.

    It seems to me Shelley defined intimidation in terms of how the target
    was affected. But Caledonian pretends she defined it in terms of the
    actor’s physical size. Strawman.

  53. #53 Caledonian
    November 26, 2006

    No, reason. If we define what intimidation is based on how others react, then anything can be construed as intimidation.

    The implicit claim is that a person who perceives another as being intimidating if they ask a hostile question while being physically larger can meaningfully be said to be a victim of intimidation, which is insane.

  54. #54 bPer
    November 26, 2006

    Shelley said:

    I personally don’t believe in any of the beliefs,and that includes atheism. I don’t believe in a God, I don’t not believe in a God, I frankly don’t care.

    Rikard correctly pointed out:

    Actually, Shelley, then you are an atheist…

    Shelley obstinately replied:

    No, Rikard, I am not. I am indifferent.

    Ok, Shelley, let’ try this again. Atheism is a lack of belief in any gods. You admitted that, therefore you are an atheist, whether you care to admit it or not. Just because your society treats atheists as worse than lepers is no justification for denying a simple fact.

  55. #55 llewelly
    November 26, 2006

    The implicit claim is that a person who perceives another as being intimidating if they ask a hostile question while being physically larger can meaningfully be said to be a victim of intimidation, which is insane.

    Are you saying you believe it is ‘insane’ to use the target’s perception to determine if they were a victim of intimidation? If so, why do you believe that?

  56. #56 Ed Darrell
    November 26, 2006

    ACLU? Why not Kelly Shackleford and Liberty Fund? Why not the Thomas Moore Center? Why not the ACLJ? Let those who claim to be for religious freedom stand up now.

    ::sigh::

    Yes, I see the point. Mr. Averill should put his stock in the ACLU, the group that really will stand up for religious freedom.

    [Somebody get over to Telic Thoughts and smoke out Mike Gene on this -- shouldn't we put them in the camp of the Leprechaunists until they make a defense of aleprechanism and send money to Averill's defense fund? Isn't that what MG is asking scientists to do for animal research?]

  57. #57 sam
    November 26, 2006

    Not to go too much more off topic than Rikard and bPer actually have, why does it matter so much to you that you insist that Shelley is an atheist? How do you know more than she does what she feels and believes? This sort of atheistic insistence on being right could quite easily be the reason the young man was expelled from the art school, and it is something that I continue to see atheists doing.

    I claim atheism for the reasons mentioned above, my lack of belief in god or gods. However, I am quite willing to admit that, having no proof for my belief, I’m as likely to be wrong as to be right. Am I less of an atheist because I accept that leprechauns and god just might exist? Am I somehow making your own belief/lack of belief somehow more tenuous?

    I would personally wager, with no more proof than has already been mentioned in regards to the article, that the young man is an example of atheist fundamentalism that must insist loudly and often that they are right. This same atheist feels the need to demean people because of their beliefs in things unprovable. Is the disbelief in something that is neither provable nor unprovable any less irrational than the belief?

    Your right to be what you see as rational is not greater, bigger or more valuable than my right to be what you see as irrational.

  58. #58 Shelley
    November 26, 2006

    Actually, atheism is just as much a ‘belief’ as any belief in some form of supreme being.

    I said I don’t believe in a god. I also said I don’t not believe in a god. And before you label me agnostic, I also said, I don’t care.

    Now, I do have beliefs. I believe in people who give up their seats for the elderly, who have a sense of humor, fairplay, and perspective, and who celebrate cepholopodmas.

    I don’t believe in leprechauns, but sometimes I still wish I did.

  59. #59 Shelley
    November 26, 2006

    PS and what Sam said

  60. #60 Tukla in Iowa
    November 26, 2006

    Am I less of an atheist because I accept that leprechauns and god just might exist?

    No, of course not. If you’re not a theist, you’re an atheist. That’s what the word means. Shelley, however, is under the all-too-common misapprehension that atheism is a belief system. What’s wrong with correcting her?

  61. #61 Caledonian
    November 26, 2006

    Actually, atheism is just as much a ‘belief’ as any belief in some form of supreme being.

    Wrong. Atheism implies only that a person lacks a belief in god.

  62. #62 yonatron
    November 26, 2006

    If we call P the proposition “I don’t believe in God”,
    then saying “I don’t believe in God, and I don’t not believe in God” is the same as (P ^ ~P), which is a contradiction. So either P or ~P, Shelley, and you said P first.

    If what you meant to imply by the second half of your statement was “I can’t state with 100% certainty that there is no God”, well, congratulations, you’re in agreement with lots and lots of atheists.

  63. #63 yonatron
    November 26, 2006

    PS and what Caledonian and Tukla in Iowa said

  64. #64 Ken Cope
    November 26, 2006

    Shelly, are you without theism in your personal beliefs? If not, then there must be some variety of theism to which you subscribe, or else you have no theistic beliefs. You are without theism. When the subject of theism comes up, you have none to declare. Among theists especially, you would be considered an atheist.

    Shelly, you went so far as to claim that you reject all beliefs. I’m waiting for you to defend the reasons for your curious belief that atheism is a belief. Be prepared for the typical response at this point, which would be along the lines of “right, and abstinence is a sex act, fasting just another kind of food, vacuum a variety of air, etc.”

  65. #65 Belathor
    November 26, 2006

    having no proof for my belief, I’m as likely to be wrong as to be right.

    Haven’t we gone over this enough?

    The fact that there is no proof either way as to the existence of leprechauns doesn’t imply that the existence and nonexistence of leprechauns are both equally likely.

  66. #66 Ed Darrell
    November 26, 2006

    Oh, and did you catch the associate dean’s take on the issue? When Mr. Averill stood up for his Constitutional rights and tried to lend facts to help decide the issue, he was adjudged “rude and belligerent.”

    So, when ACLU comes in, the Portland Art Institute should be expected to ask the court to exclude them as “rude and belligerent.” The Head Leprechaun only knows how they’ll typify the Constitution, or Oregon’s constitution.

  67. #67 MHB
    November 26, 2006

    Shelley, please explain how atheism is a belief as much as any belief in a supreme being. Does that mean that everyone who does NOT believe in leprechauns, alien anal probes, thetans etc. has defined a belief system in that non-belief? If that’s the case, you’re an atheist by your own definition – you said don’t believe in THEIR supreme being and therefore… If that’s not the case, you’ll have to explain what makes the belief in a supreme being different from belief in leprechauns etc.

    Also, free speech does not exist if unpopular speech is not protected. Assume this guy is a total jerk. Do you think he would have been expelled under these circumstances if he had been arguing christian v lepechaun?

  68. #68 Laser Potato
    November 26, 2006

    About 65% of the population of the Netherlands believes in elves and trolls.
    I’m just sayin’.

  69. #69 Shelley
    November 26, 2006

    I’m concerned that I’ve sidetracked the comments with a discussion on what I’m supposed to label myself with. PZ, hint if this is so. I do think, though, that the discussion related to me is germane to the greater topic as a whole.

    And besides, I imagine that most people have moved on to the other topics. I couldn’t believe one post: went from 0 comments to 71 in I think, less than ten minutes. I’m envious. I’d say green with envy, but that might make me seem a leprechaunite.

    According to the dictionary on belief: “Something believed or accepted as true, especially a particular tenet or a body of tenets accepted by a group of persons.”

    I would say this describes atheism, no?

    Let’s look at the behavior that accompanies some beliefs. We’ve seen examples of bigotry and intolerance associated with most major religions. But we’ve also seen it associated with atheism.

    Wouldn’t you say that an atheist who perhaps treats another’s belief with derision to be both bigoted and intolerant? I’m not talking about a neutral debate, or even meeting one person’s silliness with silliness of our own: I’m talking snide remarks, sneers, humorous asides, guffaws of disbelief, and various other remarks meant to deride, when all a person does it say what they believe.

    An example: you overhear someone talk about astral projection. You know its a bunch of hooey. You say, “You can’t be serious” and they say they are. You say, “What’s your proof”, and perhaps they answer with whatever fact they consider proof.

    You sense blood in the water–this fool is a just asking to be humiliated in front of her friends. You then ask if she believes in leprechauns. Perhaps she answers yes, because she finds you to be an annoying get who will not get out of our her face. Perhaps she answers yes, because she lives in a world where believing in leprechauns is the same as believing in the stars, and the goodness of man.

    You don’t hear this, though. What you hear is, “Yes, I believe in leprechauns”, and you proceed to tear down her beliefs, and as a consequence tear down her–doing so implacably with your logic and your science and your knowledge, regardless of how embarrassed she is, and how demeaning your behavior.

    This is just an example. Any similarity to real life is just a coincidence. But no, I don’t want any part of this.

  70. #70 Caledonian
    November 26, 2006

    Translation: if you ask a simple question about someone’s ridiculous beliefs, particularly if that question reveals just now ridiculous those beliefs are, you’re automatically harassing that person.

  71. #71 llewelly
    November 26, 2006

    About 65% of the population of the Netherlands believes in elves and trolls.

    I don’t believe in elves, but, like most people with significant online experience, I do believe in trolls.

  72. #72 david1947
    November 26, 2006

    I think we all here know how corrosive the “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” attitude is, given the political atmosphere of the last five years.

    yonatron:
    First, atheism != ~theism. -ism or -ist, the suffix implies subscription to a philosophical position or belief. I am with Shelley’ here – I do not engage in discussions on either side, since such discussions are equally irrelevant to me. Whether or not my internal philosophies could be seen as either is as irrelevant to the rest of the world as is their public argument on the subject to me. But (a)theists consider the subject relevant enough to discuss it as though there were some kind of consensus reality involved. (There isn’t. There are only mis-matched semantics. Or in other words the sound of one hand clapping.)

    Second, P ? ~P = 0, and is not a contradiction. However assuming that Shelley’s statements asserted both ~(P) and ~(~P) is at base fallacious itself. Propositional calculus, AFAICR, does not deal with “irrelevant”, and therefore does not apply in domains where irrelevance is pertinent. (I’ve wanted to say that for years!). “~P” is not the same as “P is irrelevant”. Neither is “P”.

    I suspect you are thinking of proof by contradiction, in which one assumes ~P rather than P and then seeks to show that P ? ~P = 1 (or equivalently P == ~P). Which is a contradiction.

    And finally, the reason for this thread? Not enough information. The only significant possible fact revealed that may dictate discrimination action is the “atheism is not a protected class” statement. And remenber, the 1st only applies to federal response to speech about the government, as pointed out earlier. Extending it beyond that is convention, not law.

  73. #73 Stanton
    November 26, 2006

    Personally, I believe in leprechauns, if only because I hope to acquire my own pot of gold, metaphorical or literal.
    The former would be preferred, as acquisition of the latter tends to be difficult to explain on one’s income tax.

  74. #74 llewelly
    November 26, 2006

    I think we all here know how corrosive the “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” attitude is, given the political atmosphere of the last five years.

    No we don’t. Here, that attitude is still used on people like Shelley all the time.

  75. #75 Numad
    November 26, 2006

    The mind boggles at people insisting that they don’t have an opinion on a question, and that’s the right opinion to have.

  76. #76 Coragyps
    November 26, 2006

    I can’t believe this! PZ, who I thought was a rational scientist, is an aleprechaunist despite the proven existence of Lucky Charms! Auugh!

  77. #77 Caledonian
    November 26, 2006

    No, the attitude used on people like Shelley is that if they’re against us, they’re not with us.

  78. #78 Ken Cope
    November 26, 2006
  79. #79 MarkP
    November 26, 2006

    Yes Numad, it’s intellectual laziness in a cheap suit.

    Someone earlier asked why it is so important for Shelley to call herself an atheist. It is because there is still considerable discrimination against that group in the world, certainly in the U.S., and much of that is driven by misrepresentations of atheists from the pulpit, and a lack of real experience of the flock with real atheists.

    The only way to fight that is for all of us who are atheists to get comfortable with that term, and to apply it in public where appropriate. The more people see well-behaved, kind, intelligent, giving, hard-working atheists with their own eyes, the less effective the pious propoganda will be.

    You’re an atheist Shelley. You were taught there was something wrong with that. You were taught wrong. You believe in no gods. You are an atheist. Congratulations.

  80. #80 Tukla in Iowa
    November 26, 2006

    Llewelly, if by “people like Shelley” you mean people who use words without understanding what they mean, then yes, that happens here all the time. I’m still waiting for Shelley (or David) to explain how being “indifferent” allows her to maintain two mutually contradictory positions, as she explicitly claimed she does.

  81. #81 sam
    November 26, 2006

    If, as asserted above, atheism is merely a lack of belief in deity, then perhaps atheist isn’t the proper word description for many people here. I’d say that many people actively practice a belief in there not being a deity as opposed to the simpler lack of belief, whereas lack of belief is passive. Perhaps Shelley is an atheist while those claiming to be atheist are actually antitheists. This active disbelief is in fact a belief in there being no deity, so we are back to those claiming to be atheist are in fact a type of believer. This in no way lessens the offensive nature of many people who deride others for their personal beliefs merely because the derisive party believes or disbelieves differently.

  82. #82 Caledonian
    November 26, 2006

    Well then, sam, I have good news for you: we don’t make fun of people because they have different beliefs here.

    We make fun of people because their beliefs are stupid.

  83. #83 Numad
    November 26, 2006

    Sam,

    A similar distinction already exists.

    There is ‘strong atheism’ and ‘weak atheism’. Still, making an equivalence between people who are ‘strong’ atheists’ and religious believers is still asinine, for the most part, and the term ‘antitheist’ seems superfluous.

  84. #84 Caledonian
    November 26, 2006

    While I’m sure there are any number of people who believe in the nonexistence of deities on faith, the vast majority of antitheists I know hold that position because of reasoned arguments. The lack of valid reasoned arguments for the existence of deities is what causes most atheists I know to be atheist.

    They have beliefs, but they generally do not support those beliefs by faith. There really aren’t any grounds to compare their beliefs and religious doctrines.

  85. #85 Tukla in Iowa
    November 26, 2006

    Sam, atheism isn’t a matter of degrees. It’s true that some atheists are anti-theists, but they’re still atheists because they still don’t believe in gods. There’s no spectrum of “atheisity”.

    I don’t really care if Shelley is or isn’t an atheist, though I do care if she uses the word correctly. I am, however, curious how she can simultaneously believe and not believe in gods.

  86. #86 Shelley
    November 26, 2006

    Why do I feel like someone is sprinkling tenderizer on me?

    I wrote: I don’t believe in a God; I don’t not believe in a God. I don’t care.

    Some mistook this to mean I was somehow afraid to admit being atheist. Is this like a coming out party, but rather than admit one is gay, one is supposed to come out of the religious closet? So am I being outed? How silly.

    I find that atheism, regardless of word root and any linguistic interpretation, is adopting all of the behaviors of the other belief systems–with its own intolerances and bigotry. This demand–demand!–to affirm one’s membership in any one group or another; to be pigeonholed into one belief over another. No, no! You can’t go without being classified!

    I feel like a form of pea.

    If I believe in a god, then I’m forced to be part of one group or another: Judaism, Muslim, Christian, Hindu, and so on. If I don’t believe in a God, then I’m forced to be part of another group: agnostic or atheist.

    Bother it.

    So therefore, I don’t believe in a god. I don’t not believe in a god. And if you don’t like it, well, I don’t believe in you, either.

  87. #87 oldhippie
    November 26, 2006

    “You’re an atheist Shelley. You were taught there was something wrong with that. You were taught wrong. You believe in no gods. You are an atheist. Congratulations.”
    Posted by: MarkP

    Mark P if you continue to belligerantly berate Shelly and bully her into saying she is an atheiest, the adminsitration may have to expel you along with the aleprechaunists. Which brings me to ask if an aleprechaunist is someone who does not believe in leprechauns, what do you call someone who is not sure and does not care about them one way or another?

  88. #88 Caledonian
    November 26, 2006

    Among other things, Shelley doesn’t seem to understand the distinction between lack of belief and disbelief.

    Agnosticism is a kind of atheism – it’s the kind where disbelief is explicitly renounced. Shelley is an agnostic atheist.

  89. #89 Ken Cope
    November 26, 2006

    I had a hunch (especially after the prescriptivist use of a descriptivist dictionary definition) that she might be one, but after this post there can be no doubt: Shelly is a Humpty Dumptyist.

    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

  90. #90 Tukla in Iowa
    November 26, 2006

    Obviously, being reasonable doesn’t work with Shelley because Shelley defines words however she wants, and to heck with anybody trying to understand what she’s talking about. After all, words only mean things if Shelley isn’t indifferent about them, and she both does and does not believe in dictionaries.

    I wonder how many vocabulary tests Shelley flunked because her teachers were trying to pigeonhole her.

  91. #91 Caledonian
    November 26, 2006

    She’s basically the incarnation of the negative stereotype of an art student, isn’t she? Ironic – before her, I’d never actually met such a person, despite knowing several successful art students.

  92. #92 Russell Blackford
    November 26, 2006

    For what it’s worth, there’s no contradiction involved in saying: “I don’t believe in God & I don’t not believe in God.”

    I may simply suspend belief on a question, e.g. where I have insufficient evidence or I am just not interested. If pressed on a question I can reply that my belief in the probability that a proposition is true is vague across a range that straddles the 0.5 mark. Thus Shelley could assign a range of probabilities to the existence of God that is vague from, say, 0.4 to 0.6 or even from, say, 0.1 to 0.6 (leaning towards disbelief), etc. The point is she was telling us something non-contradictory about her state of mind, not asserting that it is a fact that God both does and does not exist.

    There would be a contradiction only if she had said: “God exists & ~(God exists)”. Shelley has not made that claim; she has simply told us that she asserts neither part of it. She hasn’t even denied that one or the other part of the claim is true; she’s simply said that she has no definite belief as to which part. Of course, it’s trite logic that IF she formed the belief “God exists” she would be committed to believing “~~(God exists)” on pain of self-contradiction, but nothing interesting arises from that because she has simply not formed that belief.

    I, too, would classify Shelley as an atheist, since she has no actual belief in any god(s), but that is a matter of semantics. If she wants to self-identify as an agnostic, I don’t see the big problem.

  93. #93 Stogoe
    November 26, 2006

    All of you stop bugging Shelley. If she wants to not believe in the magical power of crystals, and not not believe in the magical power of crystals at the same time, that’s her choice.

  94. #94 bPer
    November 26, 2006

    Look, everyone, this is starting to look like piling-on on Shelley, and I don’t think that’s helpful. Her position (and that of Sam too) is all too prevalent in our community, and if we get overly aggressive, we are likely to alienate her, and we need all the non-theists we can get!

    Shelley, I am in no way trying to demean your belief (or non-belief) system; I am merely trying to point out that you are an atheist, because you do not believe in any gods. That is not being aggressive or bigoted or intolerant. If you called your Mac a PC, and I pointed out that a Mac is not a PC, would it be bigoted of me to do so? No, at least not in the normal sense of the word.

    You may have reasons not to self-identify as an atheist in public (as MarkP pointed out, the Church is gunning for us with all its strength), but around here, I would hope that you can feel comfortable using that descriptor.

  95. #95 Joshua
    November 26, 2006

    Oh, I am so a militant aleprechaunist. I’m going to invade the local Irish pub tomorrow and preach my evangelical aleprechaunism! If copious amounts of Guinness and Jameson’s are consumed in the process, consider them collateral damage in my war on leprechaunism. Now who’s with me? (If you’re not, you’re with the leprechanists.)

  96. #96 Caledonian
    November 26, 2006

    If she wants to self-identify as an agnostic, I don’t see the big problem.

    All squares are rectangles.

  97. #97 Tukla in Iowa
    November 26, 2006

    I just realized: Shelley is Shroedinger’s cat. If we collapse her wavefunction, she might be dead!

    I apologize for trying to measure you, Shelley. I’ll leave you in your box.

  98. #98 Lettuce
    November 26, 2006

    Actually, disagree with you on this one PZ.

    It sounded like the young woman was having a conversation with other people and he jumped in and started pushing the young woman on her beliefs. It also sounds like he makes a habit of this, and he’s confrontational. How many other incidents and problems did he have with teachers? Three? How many times has he been reported? Sounds like several.

    I don’t have a lot of sympathy for anyone who aggressively pushes ANY belief on others, and that includes atheists.

    And you believe that your belief that nobody should “push” thier beliefs on another is sufficient to remove someone from a school?

    How tender your sensibilities are.

    Let me know if you take a position as an administrator at a school that I may avoid that institution.

  99. #99 Tukla in Iowa
    November 26, 2006

    If pressed on a question I can reply that my belief in the probability that a proposition is true is vague across a range that straddles the 0.5 mark.

    I’ll have to try that next time my supervisor asks me if I can meet a deadline.

  100. #100 Shelley
    November 26, 2006

    I owe apologies to PZ and others for derailing the discussion here. I have exhibited some behavior of a troll–saying things that act as trigger, but I think PZ is familiar enough with me to know that it wasn’t an intention.

    bPer, I can accept that you (or anyone else) sees me as atheist because one of the statements I made is I don’t believe in a god or gods. I’m just not sure why it was so important.

    I must admit to feeling a certain level of discomfort at times that I’ve not experienced since the days just before I left the Children of God, many years ago. At that time, though, I was surrounded by people demanding that I prove my belief, not my disbelief. This thread had a form of surreal deja vu.

    I did want to say I enjoyed Mr. Blackwell’s, David1947, and Sam’s defense, which were far more eloquent than anything I can say myself. As such, I will only bring down the level of discussion by continuing to respond.

  101. #101 Caledonian
    November 26, 2006

    What an idiot.

  102. #102 Shelley
    November 26, 2006

    And Caledonian, you are? Your name is? Your weblog is? Your identity is?

    You have been offensive and insulting and degrading and pretty much everything that the young man that was the focus of this post had been accused of being. Frankly, I have more sympathy for the school now, because I can’t imagine anything that could sour a learning environment more than your pedantic intolerant, belligerent, behavior.

    At a minimum, I put my name with my words — what’s your excuse? In fact, a lot of the folks here demanding that I put down my beliefs in black and white sure aren’t willing to put their names to their own beliefs.

    So boys and/or girls: you’re so proud of your beliefs, than what’s your name? Who are you?

  103. #103 Numad
    November 26, 2006

    In light of Shelley’s latest “challenge”, I’m afraid I have to second Caledonian’s judgment.

  104. #104 Shelley
    November 26, 2006

    Why numad?

    Several people are demanding that I say, “I’m an atheist”, to be ‘proud’ of my belief, or should I say disbelief. Yet they themselves hide in anonymity, refusing to tie their names with their beliefs.

    What makes me an idiot for saying this?

  105. #105 Shelley
    November 26, 2006

    Forget the question.

    Thank you all for showing how atheists ‘debate’ their views.

  106. #106 Tukla in Iowa
    November 26, 2006

    At that time, though, I was surrounded by people demanding that I prove my belief, not my disbelief. This thread had a form of surreal deja vu.

    No one here was trying to make you prove your disbelief. We took your statement that you lack belief in gods at face value. What was bizarre is how you spent the the rest of the thread running horrified from the word “atheist”, even after we tried to explain that “atheist” doesn’t mean what you seem to think it means. You ignored what we said and simply insulted us because of your morbid fear of a word.

    I’m glad I don’t live in your world, where nothing is ever certain. In my world, day is day, and night is night. Morality is a huge gray area, but what I believe, I believe. I may change my mind later and no longer believe that. But I simply can’t comprehend both believing and not believing something at the same time.

  107. #107 Numad
    November 26, 2006

    “What makes me an idiot for saying this?”

    Because it’s empty posturing. What do pseudonyms have to do with this?

    “Thank you all for showing how atheists ‘debate’ their views.”

    That cliché is getting seriously overused. So overused that you already used it in this same thread, declaring how other commenters had made you feel sympathy for the school, even though you held basically the same position at your first comment.

    The same goes for this “now I realize how mean atheists really are!” moment. It doesn’t seem very sincere at all.

  108. #108 llewelly
    November 26, 2006

    What an idiot.

    Whatever your intent, Caledonian, your present function is to lend the appearance of validity to the mediocre Parker / Stone parody of atheism.
    Your brand of reflexive factionalism is not going to win atheists respect.

  109. #109 Caledonian
    November 26, 2006

    Considering that this is almost certainly the kind of person who made the complaints against Bob Averill, I think the chance that there was injustice done just went up.

  110. #110 Patrick
    November 26, 2006

    > Thank you all for showing how atheists ‘debate’ their views.

    This has not been about “views”. This is about your refusal to call a horse a horse. You said you do not believe in god. Atheism is the lack of theism – it’s pretty cut and dry. People are ticked off that you seem to be prejudiced against using the word to describe yourself. Your aversion for the word mirrors a general prejudice that many of us see in American society, and some of us are pretty fed up with it.

  111. #111 bPer
    November 26, 2006

    Shelley said:

    bPer, I can accept that you (or anyone else) sees me as atheist because one of the statements I made is I don’t believe in a god or gods. I’m just not sure why it was so important.

    Let me explain why I piped in. I saw in your words (and those of Sam too) the way I was 30 years ago when I finally gave up believing in gods. I was loathe to call myself an atheist because of what the Church said that meant. I called myself ‘agnostic’ for lack of a better word. It was such a revelation when I learned the real meaning of ‘atheist’, rid of the bigoted, fearful, false meaning the Church had applied to it. It is a word that states a single, simple fact, just like ‘tall’ or ‘left-handed’. It doesn’t mean ‘devil-worshipper’ or ‘baby-killer’ or ‘arrogant’ or ‘rude’; it just means that we believe in one less god than Christians do. That was truly liberating.

    I am not what has been called a ‘strong atheist’, which I understand to mean someone who asserts that gods do not or cannot exist. I can’t see how you can say that, as it would require omniscience. I can say, however, that it is highly unlikely that any god exists, and that I will not believe in anything for which there is no evidence. If you want to call that an ‘agnostic atheist’ position, I’m fine with that.

    The way you described your beliefs made me think that you (and Sam) are pretty close to a position I held once, and if so, I wanted to help you avoid the false dilemma I found myself in.

    Shelley went on to say:

    I must admit to feeling a certain level of discomfort at times that I’ve not experienced since the days just before I left the Children of God, many years ago. At that time, though, I was surrounded by people demanding that I prove my belief, not my disbelief. This thread had a form of surreal deja vu.

    Nobody challenged you to prove your disbelief. We were just “calling a spade a spade”.

  112. #112 MarkP
    November 26, 2006

    Ignore the nasty guys Shelley, focus on those of us who aren’t being so nasty (hand slap Caledonian). Consider this quote of yours:

    “I must admit to feeling a certain level of discomfort at times that I’ve not experienced since the days just before I left the Children of God, many years ago. At that time, though, I was surrounded by people demanding that I prove my belief, not my disbelief. This thread had a form of surreal deja vu. ”

    Has anyone here asked you to prove your disbelief? I have not seen it, and I have certainly not done so. You told us what you believed, and what you didn’t, and we took you at your word and applied the appropriate label. I sense in you a general distrust of labels and being a member of a group. This is uncalled for. It is what the basis of the group is, and what it does, and which labels accurately describe it, that matter. Some groups are better than others, same as most things in life.

    There is nothing wrong with calling that parralellogram over there with the four 90 degree angles, a “square”. That’s what it is. It is a member of many groups: polygons, parralellograms, and rectangles. No judgement involved, just an application of a definition and a recognition of reality. Did you vote for Kerry in the last election? If so, then you voted Democrat. No judgement, just a fact. It makes little difference if you don’t want to be in the “Group that Voted Democrat in 2004″. Your actions put you there, so since you chose your actions, you should be proud of your membership in that group.

    You do not believe in any gods. You said so. I take you at your word. That makes you an atheist. A weak atheist perhaps, as I am. Welcome, and again, congratulations. What you have done takes intellectual guts. Be proud.

  113. #113 Caledonian
    November 26, 2006

    Your brand of reflexive factionalism is not going to win atheists respect.

    Fortunately, I don’t participate with the intention of increasing the perceived social status of atheism among idiots. Demostrating quality judgement and skilled discernment tends to earn respect among intelligent and rational people, and they’re the ones I care about – but I never attempt to “win” anything. I expect to be given what I deserve, nothing less, nothing more, and that’s what I give in return.

    And what Shelley’s comments have earned her is scorn and derision. I discern that her arguments are weak, incoherent, emotional in the most pejorative sense, and uninformed by the feedback of others. I evaluate her as being an idiot, and that it what I will call her until evidence is found to justify another position.

  114. #114 Numad
    November 26, 2006

    I’m really not sure “idiot” tops Shelley’s style of rethoric on the offensive-meter, but it’s certainly not ‘nasty’.

  115. #115 Tukla in Iowa
    November 26, 2006

    “whois tukla.net” What’s your phone number, Shelley?

    BTW, we quit debating when you decided to ignore everything we said and insult us instead. It’s impossible to debate someone who invents definitions for words as she goes along and who holds mutually exclusive beliefs about reality.

    You should go to Uncommon Descent. You’d fit right in, and talking to you has been about as bizarre and head-bangingly futile as debating DaveScot.

  116. #116 bybelknap
    November 26, 2006

    I have a question. Did they taser the guy when they expelled him?

  117. #117 rainbows4dinosaurs
    November 26, 2006

    Wow. I wished I had seen that PZ went ahead and posted this sooner (THANKS PZ!!!!) – been preoccupied.

    Anyway, I graduated from The Art Institute of Portland about a year and a half ago. I was VERY vocal about my atheism while attending. I got into many discussions, sometimes heated, with both teacher and student. I introduced atheism in my artwork. I even made posters of a skull wearing a crown of thorns with the caption “Get Over It” and posted them all around the school. I never once felt my freedom of expression threaten – I mean, it was art school!! You’re supposed to challenge each other’s ideas!

    So when I heard about Bob getting expelled for ‘discussing religion’ it just totally floored me. I still can’t believe it. And for those of you who (rightly) harbor a bit of skepticism – who suspect that Bob may have ‘just been an asshole’ – well all I can say is that I’ve spent the last few days getting to know the guy and so far he’s been super polite, gracious, and reasonable. He’s a very easy-going guy. spend a few minutes reading through his myspace blog and you may get a sense of what I mean:
    http://www.myspace.com/bobaverill

    I don’t think this is the case of someone being too ‘rude and belligerent.’ My experience has been that there are many people who respond to a well constructed critique of their opinion as if it were a personal attack. This is simply another case of belief, even leprechaun belief, getting a free pass – no criticism allowed.

    Oh, and Engeldinger is a fucking prick. I can vouch for that.

  118. #118 PZ Myers
    November 26, 2006

    Shelley, you can’t possibly sidetrack a thread here. I start ‘em, I go away, and a few hundred comments later I usually don’t have the slightest idea how it got where it went.

    You should commiserate with John Wilkins on this — he got run through the ringer on this one a while back, too, and he’s still absolutely convinced he’s an agnostic.

    Here’s the thing: a lot of us have a very simple, straightforward, clear vision of what an atheist is: it’s simply someone who doesn’t believe in gods. Personally, I can’t stand the stuff you’ll sometimes hear about “weak” and “strong” atheism — it’s just too overwrought. People like you and Wilkins try to add layers of nuance to it, and don’t want to be labeled with the term “atheist”. That bothers many of us, because clearly you don’t believe, so what we actually hear is that you find it uncomfortable to be associated with those thugs and rascals who call themselves atheists.

    It’s like a personal rejection. It’s also worrisome because we have more than enough trouble getting freethinkers to agree on anything, and the Semantics Wars are just another symptom of that ongoing problem.

    One other problem: sometimes the people who refuse the label “atheist” do so because they’ve assigned a whole load of baggage to the term that just isn’t there. When someone says “atheists are people who are absolutely certain there is no god” it’s annoying, because atheism isn’t about certainty. That’s the gripe I have with Wilkins, who will no doubt come along soon and tell me how I’m full of it in obscure philosophical language.

  119. #119 Tukla in Iowa
    November 26, 2006

    Thanks for the inside poop, R4D.

  120. #120 Numad
    November 26, 2006

    PZ,

    “Personally, I can’t stand the stuff you’ll sometimes hear about ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ atheism — it’s just too overwrought.”

    I thought it was a pretty harmless and useful distinction, but I probably should stop bringing it up.

  121. #121 Russell Blackford
    November 26, 2006

    I have not seen anywhere where Shelley has expressed any mutually exclusive beliefs about reality. Once again “(X does not believe p) & (X does not believe ~p)” does NOT entail “X believes (p & ~p)”. To assume this entailment is to make a logical error.

    More generally, I expect a higher degree of courtesy from intellectual sceptics of whatever stripe (whether they call themselves atheists, agnostics, or whatever they call themselves) than I do from the irrationalists out there who have only emotion to rely on. Can we all show a bit of courtesy and charity, please?

  122. #122 PZ Myers
    November 26, 2006

    I think the distinction is a nuisance. If we want to keep the idea simple (atheism is just a lack of belief in gods) adding all these fussy little details just clutters the whole thing up. Let’s leave the hairsplitting to theologians.

  123. #123 faux facsimile
    November 26, 2006

    I don’t see how self-righteous atheism gets us a lot farther than self-righteous leprechaunism (or as seems to have been the case here, self-righteous bureaucratism – the belief in the existence of a supreme paper-pusher).

    And I hardly see why a disagreement as to the definition of the word ‘atheism’ merits name-calling. Words often DO mean different things to different people. Deal.

    I’m curious what the free-speech advocates upthread would think about being picketed by leprechaunists? Protected free speech? Harrassment? Or just a further descent into surrealism.

  124. #124 Caledonian
    November 26, 2006

    Once again “(X does not believe p) & (X does not believe ~p)” does NOT entail “X believes (p & ~p)

    The error is in claiming that “X ~believes p” does not imply “X is an atheist”, which it most certainly does.

  125. #125 rainbows4dinosaurs
    November 26, 2006

    Oh, and I too am an aleprechaunist.

  126. #126 Shelley
    November 26, 2006

    PZ, what I said was nothing more than a statement of my own beliefs and choices, not meant as insult to anyone here.

  127. #127 Chinchillazilla
    November 27, 2006

    Disbelief = the belief that something does not exist. This can be justified when it comes to most gods; I’ve been denouncing Zeus for years and have yet to be struck by lightning, so it’s reasonable to assume that he doesn’t exist.

    Lack of belief = neither believing nor disbelieving. This is the attitude most atheists have when it comes to “a god”.

    Somehow I’m not sure this will help, but it made me feel better.

  128. #128 Phil
    November 27, 2006

    I did a satirical post about the war on st. patrick’s day earlier this year. http://typical-liberal.blog-city.com/the_war_on_saint_patricks_day.htm. for a moment, I thought somebody read my blog.

  129. #129 sam
    November 27, 2006

    Sorry to have to keep up with this, but I went out of my way to look up the word atheist using a number of sources. An agnostic is someone who doesn’t believe, while an atheist is someone who actively disbelieves. Atheism is a form of belief, and considering the fact that it is a belief in a thing neither provable nor unprovable (like god and the tooth fairy) it also requires some amount of faith. Faith, by the way, indicates something that is believed and is generally accepted to mean a belief in something unprovable. So, atheism is a belief system that requires faith.

  130. #130 Skarn
    November 27, 2006

    If you want to know what the word atheist means to atheists… maybe you should try asking atheists sam. Or even wikipedia will do in a pinch:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism

    It should also be noted that believing something does not exist is not necessarily an act of faith. If a thing is defined as having properties that are logically contradictory, one can quite rationally assert that it does not exist.

    There are other ways as well. For example, the tooth fairy is trivally disprovable. Put a tooth under your pillow, go to sleep. Still there in the morning? Great, tooth fairy disproven. Of course anyone who actually believes in the tooth fairy will immediately try to move the goalposts by changing the definition of the toothfairy to approach the holy grail of the unassailable tautology.

  131. #131 Tristram Shandy
    November 27, 2006

    Richard Harris:
    There was one guy I worked with, a Dutchman, who gave up a good career to go rewrite the Bible.

    Sounds like a good idea to me. Consider this passage:

    For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Rm 10:13)

    There are thousands more like that–page after page all in the emphatic voice. God needs a copy editor desperately.

  132. #132 Martin Wisse
    November 27, 2006

    The point is simple: you do not get to decide what Shelley wants to call herself, no matter how strongly you disagree with what she calls herself. To keep on doing so is just rude. Guys, it is possible to be an atheist and not be an asshole, you know.

    The great white elephant in this thread: gender. Shelley started by setting out her position, somebody asserted that no, she was an atheist, she explained why she didn’t call herself that, more people piled in with why she’s WRONG without listening to her arguments, people started to congratulate themselves for how clearheaded they were and she wasn’t, Shelley got angry and in response got labeled “stupid” and “än asshole” and all but hysterical.

    It’s an unfortunately typical downwards spiral in online discussions in a largely male context when some female poster disagrees with the status quo.

    It doesn’t help that the alpha male here, PZ his own bad self, does nothing to correct the more egrious assholes but instead piles in on Shelley.

  133. #133 Caledonian
    November 27, 2006

    An ‘agnostic’ is one who claims that no knowledge about the existence or lack thereof of gods is possible. An ‘atheist’ is one who is without a belief in god/gods.

    These are not arbitrary word-labels. They’re composed out of Greek and Latin words and prefixes, and their meaning is not up for negotiation. ‘A-’ means ‘without’ or ‘lacking’. ‘-gnostic’ refers to a type of knowledge. ‘-theism’ is the belief in a god or gods or a religious faith structured around a god or gods.

  134. #134 Observer
    November 27, 2006

    Caledonian can be a jerk sometimes, but he is so right on this one. Start straying too far away from the meaning and roots of words and everything gets so nebulous that the words lose their impact. There is a marked difference between “agnostic” and “atheist.” That some people think atheism implies certainty is nonsense – one has to ask each atheist their degree of certainty or lack of it. Atheism isn’t the belief – what I believe is that gods are human constructs of the mind. And that’s not taken on faith, but on observation.

  135. #135 Caledonian
    November 27, 2006

    The great white elephant in this thread: gender. Shelley started by setting out her position, somebody asserted that no, she was an atheist, she explained why she didn’t call herself that, more people piled in with why she’s WRONG without listening to her arguments, people started to congratulate themselves for how clearheaded they were and she wasn’t, Shelley got angry and in response got labeled “stupid” and “än asshole” and all but hysterical.

    It’s an unfortunately typical downwards spiral in online discussions in a largely male context when some female poster disagrees with the status quo.

    Is this meant to be a parody of art college-level thinking? If so: ha ha ha ha! That’s hilarious!

    Note to everyone else: this is the kind of stuff that helps define the public conception of ‘liberal’ – just like Chopra on Huffington.

  136. #136 Austin Cline
    November 27, 2006

    Sam: would you mind citing which sources, exactly, you used which say all that?

    Chinchillazilla: That’s not how “disbelief” is typically defined in comprehensive, unabridged dictionaries. Instead, they define “disbelief” as “lack of belief” and “disbelieve” with passive and active senses: “not believe or credit” and “refuse to believe” some alleged fact. Some people treat “disbelieve” as the same as “deny,” but that’s an error.

    This is why it’s incorrect to say that one both doesn’t believe in gods and doesn’t not believe in gods. Believing and disbelieving exhaust all of the possibilities: one either has a belief in the existence of some sort of god, or one does not. The first is a theist; the second is an atheist. One might not be sure if they *should* believe or not, and one might waffle back and forth as they work through the issue, but at any given moment a belief is there or it is not. Being “indifferent” isn’t a way out of that (if most people were atheists, most would be indifferent – just as most are indifferent about elves and leprechauns); neither is being agnostic because that’s a separate question completely.

  137. #137 Melissa
    November 27, 2006

    “Beside, wouldn’t it be nice to have one person with an art degree that isn’t a crystal wearing, Choprah reading, thinks-Shirley-McClane-is-anything-other-than-clinically-insane freak?”

    Leaving this comment way too late after the conversation has moved on, I realize, but I’ve got an art degree and am in fact a professional artist, and I’m an atheist who reads physics textbooks in my spare time.

    I try not to read Chopra, as it clouds my aura. ;)

  138. #138 quork
    November 27, 2006

    If this young man was aggressive in manner, as well as larger than the young woman, then what he did could have been seen as intimidation.

    Now you’re just making stuff up, the article says nothing about the size of any of the students. I can make stuff up too. If the Leprechaunist student was waving a handgun and laughing wildly, other people present had every right to think she was insane, and the atheist student was very brave and altruistic to try to talk her down and defuse a violent occurence. Now, how is your making stuff up and more relevant than my making stuff up?

    You don’t even have a ‘right’ to be an asshole in comments.

    You didn’t answer my question. Which direction?

    So boys and/or girls: you’re so proud of your beliefs, than what’s your name? Who are you?

    She also wants to know which route your children take to school.

  139. #139 Shelley
    November 27, 2006

    Martin: “The great white elephant in this thread: gender. Shelley started by setting out her position, somebody asserted that no, she was an atheist, she explained why she didn’t call herself that, more people piled in with why she’s WRONG without listening to her arguments, people started to congratulate themselves for how clearheaded they were and she wasn’t, Shelley got angry and in response got labeled “stupid” and “än asshole” and all but hysterical.

    It’s an unfortunately typical downwards spiral in online discussions in a largely male context when some female poster disagrees with the status quo.”

    I work in the technology field, so am used to this in most tech debates. I must admit to expecting more tolerance in PZ’s comments. I forget, though, that one can have just as much of a obsession with atheism, as one can have with fundamentalist Christianity. I refused to ‘become one’; therefore I am ‘outsider’. Worse, I’ve played loose with the English language and therefore deserve the worst that can be dished out.

    I will admit to being surprised at the level of anger, though. My mistake was to continue. However, not continuing would probably also have been a mistake, so it was a lose/lose no matter what. My best bet is just not return.

    But that’s not why I’m commenting. I’m responding to the comment from rainbows4dinosaurs, since no one else is pointing out the obvious:

    “Anyway, I graduated from The Art Institute of Portland about a year and a half ago. I was VERY vocal about my atheism while attending. I got into many discussions, sometimes heated, with both teacher and student. I introduced atheism in my artwork. I even made posters of a skull wearing a crown of thorns with the caption “Get Over It” and posted them all around the school. I never once felt my freedom of expression threaten – I mean, it was art school!! You’re supposed to challenge each other’s ideas!”

    You realize that you’ve pretty much killed any possibility of your friend suing the school with this statement, don’t you?

    You just said that you virtually spray painted the school with your atheism and never once received any pushback from the school. Not only did you not receive any pushback, but you graduated.

    If I were the school lawyer, you just became my star witness.

  140. #140 quork
    November 27, 2006

    Sorry to have to keep up with this, but I went out of my way to look up the word atheist using a number of sources. An agnostic is someone who doesn’t believe, while an atheist is someone who actively disbelieves. Atheism is a form of belief, and considering the fact that it is a belief in a thing neither provable nor unprovable (like god and the tooth fairy) it also requires some amount of faith. Faith, by the way, indicates something that is believed and is generally accepted to mean a belief in something unprovable. So, atheism is a belief system that requires faith.

    Well sam, my sources disagree with yours. Theo Hobson says, “What distinguishes the atheist from the agnostic is his belief that religion ought to be eliminated, that the world would be radically better off without it… Atheism is more than the rejection of religion as false: it is the belief that religion is an evil that holds back human history.” I hope it’s not necessary to point out that I disagree with Hobson’s redefinition of words for his convenience.

    Tell me sam, does it also take faith to not believe in Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, the tooth fairy, invidible pink unicorns and orbiting teapots?

  141. #141 quork
    November 27, 2006

    You just said that you virtually spray painted the school…

    Either you’re making stuff up again, or this is some new definition of ‘virtually’ with which I am not familiar. Maybe you could get together with sam, and the two of you could publish a dictionary of your new language.

  142. #142 Austin Cline
    November 27, 2006

    “I must admit to expecting more tolerance in PZ’s comments.”

    Tolerance for what, exactly? Tolerance for misunderstanding what atheism is (which you did by saying that atheism is a belief)? Tolerance for misunderstanding logic (which you did by claiming that it’s possible to hold some alternative position between believing the truth of a proposition and not believing the truth of the same proposition)? Is it really “intolerant” to correct an error in definition and categorization? Even if atheists’ broad definition of atheism were mistaken, such that the label wouldn’t technically apply to you after all, saying that is simply a matter of being wrong rather than intolerant. If I tried to define Judaism broadly, and told a Christian they were “really” Jewish, I’d be wrong rather than intolerant.

    Either the definition of “atheist” does or does not apply to you; whether you want it to or not is ultimately irrelevant because you have no control over that definition. What you control is what words you personally use based on what is relevant to you – there must be lots of labels which apply to you, but which you don’t use because you don’t care about them. Lots of atheists ignore that label in favor of something else, like “humanist,” because that describes what they do believe rather than what they don’t. They are justified in considering the “atheist” label unimportant, however accurate it might technically be. If it weren’t for the fact that atheists tend to be reviled because they are atheists, regardless of what positive beliefs they may have, I suspect that most of them would adopt a similar position. In an ideal world, not believing in gods would be as important as not believing in elves.

  143. #143 JS
    November 27, 2006

    The point is simple: you do not get to decide what Shelley wants to call herself, no matter how strongly you disagree with what she calls herself. To keep on doing so is just rude.

    I second that motion.

    - JS

  144. #144 Robin Levett
    November 27, 2006

    Quork:

    You just said that you virtually spray painted the school…

    Either you’re making stuff up again, or this is some new definition of ‘virtually’ with which I am not familiar. Maybe you could get together with sam, and the two of you could publish a dictionary of your new language.

    In the admitedly unlikely event that you meant this comment seriously, could I tentatively suggest you look up the word “metaphor”?

    More seriously, do you agree or disagree with the substance of Shelley’s comment? It seems to me that she’s right on the money that any attempt to sue the school on the basis of institutional discrimination against atheism would founder on rainbows4dinosaurs’ evidence.

  145. #145 Victoria Velinski
    November 27, 2006

    Bob is welcome to come here to the wonderful Art Institute of Chicago. I don’t think they care one way or another if you believe in leprechauns. Bob – if you are reading this – let me know and I will teleport an application over to you.

  146. #146 Observer
    November 27, 2006

    You just said that you virtually spray painted the school with your atheism and never once received any pushback from the school. Not only did you not receive any pushback, but you graduated.

    If I were the school lawyer, you just became my star witness.

    Shelley, that’s a good point if the school were to try to prove it was the student’s behavior not his ideas that led to the suspension. I don’t know – back in high school we would have called the girl who complained a “wuss,” unless she was physically threatened in some way. Makes you wonder…

  147. #147 Robin Levett
    November 27, 2006

    Martin Wisse said:

    The point is simple: you do not get to decide what Shelley wants to call herself, no matter how strongly you disagree with what she calls herself.

    Absolutely right – just as she doesn’t get to decide what others call her. They are perfectly entitled to explain to her that her choice of label is Humptydumptyist.

    I think PZ is incorrect about John W; I read him as accepting the label atheist (as meaning he holds no belief in a god) although he prefers agnostic.

  148. #148 Mary
    November 27, 2006

    Beside, wouldn’t it be nice to have one person with an art degree that isn’t a crystal wearing, Choprah reading, thinks-Shirley-McClane-is-anything-other-than-clinically-insane freak?

    Raising hand over here:
    BFA, Kent State University, 1991, atheist.

    We’re around, don’t worry!

  149. #149 WookieMonster
    November 27, 2006

    “I’m not an atheist, but I don’t belive in any gods.”
    Reminds me far too much of.
    “I’m not a feminist, but…(followed by opinions straight out of feminism 101 such as women having rights to education and jobs just like real people, i.e. men),”
    too much to just leave it alone. I would argue with the clueless feminist just as I would argue with the clueless atheist. Claim your position, stake it out, support it instead of being a sniviling backstaber to the movement because you listen to some anti-feminist or theist says feminism or athiesm is a bad word.

    (The above quotes are not actual quotes of people, just setting of the statements vs. my commentary.)

  150. #150 BJNicholls
    November 27, 2006

    BFA, University of Utah, 1981, atheist.

    Can the sterotypes. I shouldn’t have to start of list of the great scientific minds who were/are artists.

  151. #151 rainbows4dinosaurs
    November 27, 2006

    Shelly:

    You realize that you’ve pretty much killed any possibility of your friend suing the school with this statement, don’t you?

    Well first of all, Bob is actually rather hesitant to sue the school or get back at AI in any way. He believes this to be a case of a few bad apples not giving him a fair chance to present his side of the story (namely the associate dean and the dean of student affairs). Second: Would you have thought it more prudent if I had lied about my experience at AIPD? I’m just pointing out a contradiction in their policy. Also, I forgot to mention all the times I was proselytized to by several instructors (one Mormon, a few New Agers, and, dar I say, a Libertarian.) I suppose I could’ve complained to the higher ups about these incidences, but that’s just not my style (nor is it Bob’s, apparently.)

    You just said that you virtually spray painted the school with your atheism and never once received any pushback from the school.

    Ha. Nice strawman you’ve built there. It was not uncommon for students to express themselves through their art. There were many religious views expressed as well. Yet the school specifically cites a supposed ban on religious discussion as the reason for Bob’s expulsion. If you ask me, my example helps his case, at least publicly. Given the history of constitutional law with regards to atheists and the fact that this is a private school, Bob doesn’t have many legal options anyway. His best bet is that public outcry will shame the school into readmitting him, and I fully intend to help him achieve that aim.

    Victoria:

    Bob is welcome to come here to the wonderful Art Institute of Chicago. I don’t think they care one way or another if you believe in leprechauns. Bob – if you are reading this – let me know and I will teleport an application over to you.

    That’s very generous of you, Victoria. I will tell him.

  152. #152 TheBowerbird
    November 27, 2006

    I too feel the need to jump on the anti-Shelley thinking bandwagon. I find the sorts of attitudes she expresses appallingly banal. It seems to me that she is stating that any firm discussion with those expressing faith in various fairies or flying spaghetti monsters, that could in the least way make the faith based person emotional or uncomfortable is to be avoided. Here’s the thing though… If the person is intelligent or capable that is being questioned, then this wouldn’t be an issue. They could debate their issue, and stand toe to toe with the challenger. If the person is suffering from a lack of critical thinking skills, or intelligence, and you ask them the question, then it is suddenly wrong? I’m sorry, but these kinds of dull people NEED to be hammered at. Their lunacies and private logical disasters almost always carry over into all facets of their life. They are prey to con-men, medical frauds, and financial servitude to religious organizations. Your questioning their beliefs firmly is perhaps their only chance of being a bit ashamed, a bit embarrassed at how inactive their mind really is. While being petulant and espousing assery for assery’s sake is to be avoided, the showdown over lunacy is not. When did people like you stop living, and just where the hell did your passion about life and the wellbeing of other people cease to exist? Think of this like a festering wound on society that needs dabs of critical thinking applied to prevent further infection.

  153. #153 Jason
    November 27, 2006

    http://www.penny-arcade.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=25052021&highlight=#25052021

    Bob Averill is a poster on the Penny Arcade forums and had a thread that revealed this story bit by bit over the past couple weeks. He’s been met with a lot of skepticism, especially since it’s been discovered that he was previously known there under another name and was banned for being rude or innappropriate. He just posted another description of what happened to the forums, which might be of interest to people.

    The original thread documents his decision to go to the paper in the first place.

  154. #154 WayBeyondSoccerMom
    November 27, 2006

    “Saying atheism is a religion is like saying not collecting stamps is a hobby.”

  155. #155 Sterling Camden
    November 27, 2006

    Since you all seem to be so enamored of logic, let me point out one logical flaw:

    If your tooth is still under the pillow in the morning, that does not disprove the tooth fairy. It merely shows that a tooth fairy did not remove your tooth that night, for whatever reason (including its possible non-existence).

    Likewise with divinity. Just because you can disprove any of the myriad stupid things humans believe about god does not disprove god.

    And even if it is very bad for humanity to believe in god, that proves nothing about god’s existence. To think that it would reveals an optimism about the construction of the universe that almost requires a, um, divine benevolence.

    I sit with Shelley on this one. Don’t tell me what I believe or don’t believe. I’m decidedly undecided, and I plan to stay that way. Your rabid insistence on including people under the atheist label merely puts me off.

  156. #156 bPer
    November 27, 2006

    Sterling Camden said:

    Just because you can disprove any of the myriad stupid things humans believe about god does not disprove god.

    I don’t believe anyone here said that you can disprove the existence of any god. In fact, I expressly stated above that saying that gods do not exist would require omniscience. You are swinging at a strawman.

    {An aside – ever notice how often the use of ‘disprove’ in an argument signals the presence of strawmen?}

    Sterling went on to say:

    And even if it is very bad for humanity to believe in god, that proves nothing about god’s existence.

    Again with the strawmen. Nobody here claimed that god does not exist simply because religion is a bad thing.

    And finally:

    I sit with Shelley on this one. Don’t tell me what I believe or don’t believe. I’m decidedly undecided, and I plan to stay that way. Your rabid insistence on including people under the atheist label merely puts me off.

    Nobody told you or Shelley what to believe. Shelley said “I don’t believe in a God”. That makes her an atheist. If you don’t believe in any gods either, you’re an atheist. If that makes you uncomfortable, tough. Deal with reality, chum. Perhaps you should ask yourself, as was pointed out above, why you insist on denying a simple fact.

  157. #157 Caledonian
    November 28, 2006

    I’ve been to the Penny Arcade forums, and if anything they’re worse than this art school seems to be.

  158. #158 Caledonian
    November 28, 2006

    Since you all seem to be so enamored of logic, let me point out one logical flaw:

    If your tooth is still under the pillow in the morning, that does not disprove the tooth fairy. It merely shows that a tooth fairy did not remove your tooth that night, for whatever reason (including its possible non-existence).

    1) The existence of a Tooth Fairy that always comes and replaced teeth with coins was just disproven, and

    2) there’s a little thing called Occam’s Razor that possibly you should familiarize yourself with before ranting about logic.

  159. #159 MHB
    November 28, 2006

    Geez, this is still going on?

    Picketing by leprechaunists should be protected free speech and would certainly indicate further descent into surrealism…

    Shelley can call herself whatever she wants, but its pretty funny to watch her and a couple of others get testy when people here disagree with her posts and call her stupid. She couldn’t see that coming, having apparently read the blog before this?

    Shelley sides with the administrator based on the limited description from the article… I guess she’d also side with the tasering cop at UCLA and the NYPD firing 50 rounds into a vehicle in which no one had a weapon despite department policy against shooting at a moving vehicle if the vehicle is the only threat… Yeah, we’ll just let the police conduct the impartial investigations and we’ve been doing fine with the congressional oversight of the executive branch so we don’t start any wars we shouldn’t and don’t – wait, am I getting off point here? But as long as they protect me from rude (especially black, muslim and non-english-speaking) people, empty a couple more clips!

    Shelley made it clear she was overly sensitive and depends on competent administrators to protect her, while Martin depends on the alpha male(!)… I can’t see where anyone called Shelley an asshole – that’s what Martin called – what, everyone that disagreed with him? (“It doesn’t help that the alpha male here, PZ his own bad self, does nothing to correct the more egrious assholes but instead piles in on Shelley.”) Did he mean egregious?

    And come on, you didn’t even smile at this one?

    Well then, sam, I have good news for you: we don’t make fun of people because they have different beliefs here.

    We make fun of people because their beliefs are stupid.

    Posted by: Caledonian | November 26, 2006 05:36 PM

    This is entertainment!

  160. #160 Caledonian
    November 28, 2006

    I sit with Shelley on this one. Don’t tell me what I believe or don’t believe.

    We’re not telling you what you believe, don’t believe, or disbelieve. We’re telling you what the beliefs you’ve admitted you have are called.

    If you don’t like that, change your beliefs. We’re not going to change the language to accomodate you.

  161. #161 Sterling Camden
    November 28, 2006

    I respectfully disagree with your static notions about language. Languages evolve through usage, and a large portion of their meaning is affective (connotation). In our culture, atheist connotes one who asserts that there is no god. I assert no such thing.

    If on the other hand, you want to use the term to indicate anyone who does not feel that they experience god in their life, I am still disqualified. I do not know whether certain of my experiences reflect the action of a god, or not.

    Occam’s razor is well and good for developing the best hypothesis. Personally, I don’t always need to settle on a single hypothesis.

  162. #162 Ken Cope
    November 28, 2006

    I respectfully disagree with your static notions about language.

    Yet another Humpty Dumptyist.

  163. #163 Sterling Camden
    November 28, 2006

    We make fun of people because their beliefs are stupid.

    Yet another Humpty Dumptyist.

    How open-minded of you.

  164. #164 Ken Cope
    November 28, 2006

    If, in order to be considered open-minded, I had to give equal weight to the propositions that a pack rat minded beatnik bitch with a need for your calcium who trades coins for milk teeth* does or does not exist, my brains would fall out too.

    Only a demented fuckwit would have the cupidity to bray his ignorance by telling atheists that they proclaim god to have been disproven, in a whinge about the proper use of the word atheist.

    *Robt. Williams, Malicious Resplendence (this once was a thread about a tempest in a character design class, after all)

  165. #165 PZ Myers
    November 28, 2006

    Uh-oh, Ken. Are you complaining about Nick Matzke now?

  166. #166 Ken Cope
    November 28, 2006

    I’ll complain about anybody who doesn’t know the difference between probabilities and proof– who hasn’t the wit to assault anything other than strawmen.

    Compared to Matzke, we can be grateful Sterling Camden appears to suffer less from logorrhea.

  167. #167 Austin Cline
    November 28, 2006

    “In our culture, atheist connotes one who asserts that there is no god.”

    In our culture, “theory of evolution” connotes a claim about the origin of life.

    Connotations can be wrong.

    As I demonstrated via the link above, unabridged dictionaries define atheism first and foremost as the absence of belief in gods. Denying the existence of gods almost always comes second. There is no good reason for putting erroneous connotations ahead of how a word is defined by dictionaries, by most specialized reference works, and by the people involved themselves.

  168. #168 Sterling Camden
    November 28, 2006

    Compared to Matzke, we can be grateful Sterling Camden appears to suffer less from logorrhea.

    I can tell when we’ve moved from discussion to insults.

    Adios.

    (yes, that was intentional)

  169. #169 yahmobgoi
    December 4, 2006

    Caledonian wrote: We’re telling you what the beliefs you’ve admitted you have are called.

    Thanks for admitting that atheism is a belief.

  170. #170 yahmobgoi
    December 4, 2006

    If you want to know what the word atheist means to atheists… maybe you should try asking atheists

    Okay. Let’s ask atheists.

    http://www.atheists.org/Atheism/

    Atheism is a doctrine that states that nothing exists but natural phenomena (matter), that thought is a property or function of matter, and that death irreversibly and totally terminates individual organic units. This definition means that there are no forces, phenomena, or entities which exist outside of or apart from physical nature, or which transcend nature, or are “super” natural, nor can there be.

    That’s not just some joe shmoe’s (like yours, by the way) idea of atheism. That comes from American Atheists. So go screw yourself with that “lack of belief” rabbit shit.

  171. #171 Ken Cope
    December 4, 2006

    One more word on this subject. Atheism is the vice of a few intelligent persons, and superstition is the vice of fools. But rogues! what are they? rogues.

    –Voltaire

  172. #172 The Nice Atheist
    December 7, 2006

    As founder and sole member of the Lighthearted League of Nice Atheists, I can speak with infallible authority on this matter:

    First of all, Shelly doesn’t know Averill personally. Only his fellow students would know if he is a boorish, aggressive jerk. If he is, then I submit that he’s not a true atheist. The only true atheists are members of my League. True atheists are nice. They don’t go picking fights with people about their beliefs. And they don’t play the “atheist card” and call the ACLU whenever their annoying behavior gets them into trouble. But if he is as nice as he portrays himself, then he could be a true atheist if he joins my League, and he deserves to be defended and reinstated to the art school.
    The problem is that nobody posting here knows him personally, from what I can see. (It’s too long to read all of them; give me a break.)

    Secondly, you self-styled “atheists” who are rudely jumping down Shelly’s throat on all kinds of irrelevant points aren’t playing nicely, so you’re not true atheists. Join the Lighthearted League of Nice Atheists, learn to be nice, and know the great liberation that comes from Nice Atheism!

    Finally, about all this banter whether atheism is a belief or not, (“Aha! So you admit that atheism is a belief! Now I have you! Mwhoohoohahaha!”)
    Get a grip. As The Great Tome of the Nice Atheist says: “Verily, is a vacuum an atmosphere? Is an empty box full of emptiness? No, I say unto you most beloved, that it is just frikkin’ empty. The absence of something is not the presence of the opposite of something. When my car runneth out of gas, it is not full of anti-gas.”
    Thus endeth the lesson.

    Send your checks and money orders to:
    Lighthearted League of Nice Atheists
    123 Main Street
    Anytown, USA

  173. #173 Raving Rationalist
    December 8, 2006

    This is all very amusing. For the record, and in defense of the offended young lady, Wikipedia (and many other sources generally) discloses the following:

    Donohue Syndrome (also known as Leprechaunism) is an extremely rare medical condition. It derives its name from the fact that those afflicted with the disease often have elfin features and are smaller than usual. Facial features indicative of Leprechaunism include protuberant and low-set ears, flaring nostrils, and thick lips. Physical features include enlarged breasts and clitorises in females and enlarged penises in males, as well as severe growth retardation. Sufferers are resistant to insulin. Early death is usual.

    Leprechaunism is an autosomal recessive genetic disorder. The mutations responsible for Leprechaunism are found on the short arm chromosome 19 (19p13.2) within the coding sequence of the INSR gene (insulin receptor) causing the production of inactive receptor molecules.

    Leprechaunism was first identified in 1948 by Dr. W.L. Donohue.

    So there!

  174. #174 The Nice Atheist
    December 8, 2006

    Thanks, Raving Rationalist,
    That would explain why I couldn’t get a crock o’ gold from that little guy.

  175. #175 Caledonian
    December 8, 2006

    Thanks for admitting that atheism is a belief.

    Cram it. Atheism is the absense of a particular belief. Her beliefs require that that belief be absent. Thus, she is an atheist because of her beliefs, not because atheism is a belief she has.

  176. #176 Brian Macker
    December 9, 2006

    Raving Rationalist, I thought you were kidding but then remembered some other weird disease, Williams syndrome, that left it suffererers childlike, elfin looking, and prone to fascination with whirling objects. So I went to wikipedia and looked it up and it’s real.

  177. #177 Brian Macker
    December 9, 2006

    Shelley is in denial on who used called who an asshole first (and last and everything in between). So I went over to her blog and gave a detailed analysis of her and Martin Wisse’s behavior.

  178. #178 Brian Macker
    December 9, 2006

    In Shelley’s defense it is possible to both be a non-theist and a non-atheist if you use the secondary meaning of atheist, which is “strong atheist”. This seems to be what she intended. However, that doesn’t mean she isn’t a “weak atheist” and that others aren’t correct in calling her an atheist.

    She is wrong to deny this in a forum where people are being precise, although I think it is perfectly acceptable for her to be afraid of being confused with a strong atheist in bad crowds, groups who are ingnorant of such subtlety. It’s perfectly acceptable to me that she not call herself an atheist around the ignornant. It’s up to her is she wishes to be cowardly about this or not. It certainly isn’t her responsibility to educate people.

  179. #179 Brian Macker
    December 10, 2006

    He, he. She’s moderating my comments over at her blog now. She can’t take the heat apparently. If that’s not the case then I should see my latest reponse to her pop up there. If not I will post it here.

    She never really understood why she was getting flak over here. Now shes over there calling literally all the commenters here names. It’s really funny. Apparently you guys are all a bunch of twits amoung other things. Every last one of you.

  180. #180 PZ Myers
    December 10, 2006

    Oh, come on…I like Shelley, and I can see that she’s getting exasperated with the aggressiveness that is more common here and not popular at all over there. Can you just lighten up?

  181. #181 Caledonian
    December 10, 2006

    Oh, come on…I like Shelley.

    We are not responsible for your poor taste. Shelley needs to be slammed, so slammed she shall be.

  182. #182 Brian Macker
    December 11, 2006

    According to Averill the leprechanist started the discussion about “energy layers and astral beings” and was only objecting to that she not “insist that they were scientifically proven”. This is totally at odds with Shelleys speculations.

    If anyone should be kicked out for discussing leprechauns it should be the girl who brought up this nonsense. If it counts as her religion then she should have kept her trap shut. From Averills position he wasn’t discussing religion at all. Just science and mythology. In fact there is no religion that believes in leprechauns that I’m aware of.

    I think what is most offensive about this is the rank speculation on the part of Shelley and the idea the being offended gives you the right to get somone else kicked out of school less than a year before they were going to graduate.

    If offense is what counts in Shelley’s book then I showed her we can play that game too. I’m totally offended by her even if I’m not. I’m certainly offended by this miscarriage of justice.

  183. #183 Stephen Schweizer
    December 18, 2006

    As someone pointed out above, it seems that this is a verbal disagreement, mostly, centering on the definition of “atheist”. Shelly is guilty of using language in a somewhat idiosyncratic way, and then expecting people to instantly cotton to it. That she got offended to the degree she did I find rather absurd. Clearly, she’s never been in a REAL internet mix-up. Also, changing the grounds of debate from neutral territory to ones own blog is a cowardly move. If there is a subject that you want to drop, just don’t feed it anymore. Fanning the flames with petty spite is certain to keep it alive longer.

    Shelly, maybe you can admit you were a little careless with language, and over-stepped the bounds of what was actually known about the case in your analysis.

    And to The Bad Ones, if you feel you owe Shelly and apology, maybe you should give it to her.

    Or you could all keep fighting; I’d find that far more entertaining.

    PS: I think the real trouble here might be the broken power structures at universities. The deans that handle affairs like this tend to be know-nothing bureaucratic flaks who glad-handed their way to authority over a whole host of their intellectual superiors (students and teachers alike). There’s got to be a better way to structure a university…

    -StS