Pharyngula

Foot soldiers who lack vision

The NCSE is an excellent organization, and I’ve frequently urged people at my talks to join it. However, it’s also a limited organization, and this post by Richard Hoppe at the Panda’s Thumb exposes their flaws. It’s blind. It’s locked in to one strategy. It’s response to people who try to branch out in new directions is to discourage them, often in a rather patronizing way. This is not a good approach to take when we’ve been deadlocked for years and they offer no prospects for future victory.

I’ve been making the argument for some time that the NCSE is our defensive line, and they are great at that…we don’t want to lose them. In fact, they are so good that we haven’t lost a creationist court case since Scopes, in recent years thanks to the invaluable assistance of the staff at NCSE, and we’ve built up such a body of legal precedent that we can feel fairly secure that they creationists are going to consistently get their butts kicked in the courts (it also helps that the creationists are incompetent at both science and the law). With that success, however, comes complacency and overconfidence and a belief that their approach is is the One True Way…and now, a gradual drift into identifying more with the opposition than with a significant percentage of their own team and their own fans. They also seem determined to ignore reality — we live in a country that is split in the middle on the topic of evolution, and the creationists are not in decline. Victories in the courtroom are not the same as victories in the minds of the population.

Here’s our big problem: we have had no offense at all, and we’re never going to make any progress without one. Keeping the other team from scoring is important but doesn’t win us any games if we can never carry our arguments forward — we’re always being told to stop at the point where we are drawing the logical implications of science and evolution and told to back off…it might alienate the other team. Worse, our defense is then rushing to help the apologetics of the opposition. This is all done in the name of what they call political pragmatism. Always, they say, they have to mollify the religious people on school boards, in government, and the electorate if they want to get anything accomplished; they can’t possibly state outright that evolution refutes most religious views of creation, that science reveals a universe dominated by chance and necessity and natural processes, because, well, they’ll throw science out then.

How patronizing. How condescending. If true, this means that our so-called allies in this fight are actually not — they don’t ultimately want to support science as it actually is, but are instead fishing for scientists willing to use their authority to support the continued dominance of religious thought. And our defenders are happy to give it to them. Is it any wonder that we are making no progress in changing American culture? The ruling ideology would like nothing better than to perpetuate the stalemate, and the leadership of the opposing minority willingly cedes them all kinds of ground in order to maintain what little we’ve got, and never takes a step forward.

How are we succeeding if the only way we can promote our ideas is by hiding the implications of those ideas, and pretending that the antithesis of scientific thought is fully compatible with science? Collaborating with our opponents is not the same as making allies.

And when real allies in the cause of science do show up and try to make a difference, we are misrepresented in order to discredit us. This doesn’t help, either.

I did a 3-Sunday series of talks on religion, evolution, and morality in a local Protestant church recently. Had I walked in there and opened with “OK, folks, in order to understand and accept evolution as I’ll present it today, you have to deconvert” I’d have lost my (overflow) audience in the first five minutes. That would have robbed me of the opportunity to introduce religious people to the power and breadth of the theory and to describe the misconceptions that the fundamentalist Christians have been feeding children and adults in my community.

I’ll have to remember that line. I’ve never started a talk that way myself, even though I have also spoken in churches. Funny thing is, in those situations (as well as in the classroom) I just focus on telling the story of the evidence. That is our strength, right? I don’t have to announce that the Book of Genesis is wrong and silly, but I also don’t have to go out of my way to tell them some pretty excuse to allow them to continue to believe in talking snakes. And if I’m asked, I tell them straightforwardly that literal religious accounts are falsified by the evidence.

I’ve also told them that one factor in my loss of faith was the promulgation of bad interpretations of the Bible that contradicted the evidence of science, and that they were going to drive more intelligent people out of their congregations if they insisted on adherence to falsified ideas. That often seems a more effective and pragmatic approach than pretending they can believe whatever they want and still remain true to science.

I am also amused by the asymmetry of these situations. Francis Collins and Ken Miller can build reputations as public speakers on pronouncements of their faith, yet somehow the atheists in their audiences don’t go running for the doors when they mention god. Are we to assume that Richard Hoppe’s audiences are all weak and stupid, and incapable of coping with anything less than an affirmation of their faith?

I have a little more confidence in them. I wouldn’t start with the ridiculous line he suggested (it’s false, for one thing), but I wouldn’t be at all reluctant to say that science contradicts many interpretations of the audience’s religion, and that if anyone needs to do any accommodation to reality, it’s not us, it’s them. I don’t think anyone would flee; I might get more argument in the Q&A, though, which would be a fine and enlightening thing. I also don’t think that honesty about our differences necessarily makes enemies. I also think that ultimately, it is far more — and here’s a word you’ll rarely hear from me in regards to the foes of science — respectful.

Speaking of respectful, there’s another tactic that the allies of the NCSE have often used against the outspoken atheists in their midst, and it is one guaranteed to piss me off. It is the condescending attitude that they alone are actually doing any work; that the real people are the True Americans of the heartland who don’t have the fancy-schmancy educations and get their hands dirty in the nitty-gritty of the day-to-day work.

I’m one of the foot soldiers in this battle, a sergeant operating in a conservative rural county far from the ethereal heights of the University of Chicago. I’ve been at it (off and on, mostly on for the last 6 years) for more than 20 years. I published my first article on the political nature of the evolution/religion conflict in 1987. I am engaged at the local and state levels, the former on a weekly basis (search this blog on “Freshwater” for local stuff and see here for just one example of State BOE stuff). My political experience goes back to 1968, when I was a big city Democratic party ward officer. I have a hell of a lot better view of what’s pragmatically necessary and what is effective at the level of the local school board and the local church than Coyne can even imagine. Coyne (and Myers and Moran and Dawkins) are not engaged at that level on anything approaching a regular basis. They lead their congregations from high pulpits. They sit above the choir preaching a message that is disconnected from — indeed, sometimes antithetical to — the reality on the ground. They’re the generals who argued against air power, courtmartialed Billy Mitchell, and then watched ships sink at Pearl Harbor. Coyne wants to argue philosophy in a political war. That’s not a tactic, it’s a politically lethal red herring.

Whew. I’m lucky that he didn’t rail against the ethereal heights of Morris, Minnesota, and chose instead to sneer at a great university in a mere working class midwestern city. I might have felt picked upon. I’m also glad he chose not to hurl his contempt using that frequently vilified term, the “elites”, or I might have mistaken the Panda’s Thumb for World Net Daily for a moment. Isn’t it such an American thing, to treat all but the lowest, most local level of action as a liability? To scowl at intellectual expertise as if it were a scarlet letter marking the bearer as worthy of ostracism?

This is another failure of the NCSE. Rather than taking advantage of those voices like Dawkins and Coyne, they neglect them as dangerous and corrupting to their One True Message of the compatibility of science and religion. It’s a shame, too. I have nothing against Richard Hoppe and would agree that his work on the ground is invaluable, but he will not get the audiences and the media attention or spark the discussion and thinking of those “high pulpit” luminaries — and I doubt that he even gets the crowds of the lesser glimmering of a PZ Myers.

A while back, I got the same attitude from Ken Miller in a podcast we did together. At one point he accused me of doing nothing to help science education, and bragged that he was busy criss-crossing Kansas doing talks while I was sitting at my little blog (and also teaching college biology courses, although he didn’t mention that). It was remarkably condescending, and it also ignored the facts: people like Hoppe and Miller and the staff at NCSE have also been busily promoting the idea that atheists like me or Dawkins or Coyne are anathema in the public discourse, since we don’t preach the message of compatibility. I was not giving lectures in Kansas because I was not asked. It was not because I somehow think I am above the fray, or do not value public education as much as Ken Miller; I would enthusiastically take on the foot-soldier role if voices of my kind were not squeezed out of the forum by our own allies. This is why some of us are beginning to express our resentment of the approach taken by the NCSE and its friends: they have chosen as their preferred face of science spokespeople who are not representative of the majority of scientists, and who are definitely not at all representative of the significant fraction of even more militant atheists among us.

Another part of our message is also being ignored and misrepresented, all, apparently, as part of a campaign to make sure atheist voices are kept out of the much-valued “foot soldier” role. As Jerry Coyne has repeatedly said, our grievance is not that the NCSE is an insufficiently atheistic organization. We are most definitely not arguing that pro-evolution, pro-science promoters must be atheists — we are not urging a reversal of the current situation with a boycott of religious speakers, and we do not want NCSE’s help promoting atheism (we are doing a phenomenal job of that already, I can say smugly). We are asking that this pretense that religion and science are compatible, and that the only way to get political support is for the majority of scientists to sit back and shut up about their rational views while the scientists who endorse superstition are propped up as our façade, has got to end. If the national science organizations want to be pragmatic, then stop speaking only favorably of religion. Stop bringing religion up altogether, and stick to the science. Or let godless voices join the chorus.

Richard Hoppe’s complaint did make me laugh aloud at one point, with his analogy to the atheists being the generals who tried to stop air power. He got it backwards. He’s representing a view that wants to keep doing the same thing over and over again, fighting the last court case endlessly, disdaining those radicals who want to shake things up with innovative approaches. I’m sorry, Richard, but the atheists are your air force. We’re going forward with a bold new offense against the regressive forces that have kept this country locked in a stalemate — we are going to change the culture with an aggressive promotion of rational ideas and our ongoing opposition to religious superstition. We like your slow old boats and your foot soldiers, and think they have an effective, even essential, role to play, too — but we’re going to fly with your support or without it.

Get used to it. Of course, we’d be even more effective if we coordinated, rather than that you constantly refused to take advantage of our potential.

Comments

  1. #1 Dr. Strangelove
    April 26, 2009

    I agree. The NCSE may not be perfect, but we really, really don’t want to lose them.

  2. #2 PZ Myers
    April 26, 2009

    If only the apologists for religion felt the same way about us. To reverse a common accusation, I often feel that they think coddling religion is more important than science education.

  3. #3 Dr. Strangelove
    April 26, 2009

    Poor P.Z., the NCSE is mean to him.

  4. #4 MosesZD
    April 26, 2009

    I have to agree. The “other team” is already offended. We need to compete for those in the margins, getting rid of these false “non-overlapping magisteria” and “science can say nothing about God” positions.

    Science can say a lot. Archelogy, a science, has shown so much of the Bible is made up or palagerized. It has shown us entire swaths of the Bible lack proof and the expected evidence, if the Bible was even remotely accurate on things such as the Exodus, does not exist.

    Also, who died and made only priests capable of talking about the Bible and “Gods word.” Who says some man in a funny hat or collar is the only one allowed to say anything about God? Who died and excluded the vast majority of us, including most scientists, from commenting on God?

  5. #5 deang
    April 26, 2009

    the real people are the True Americans of the heartland who don’t have the fancy-schmancy educations and get their hands dirty in the nitty-gritty of the day-to-day work

    That attitude is not only insulting, it’s delusional. I’ve known plenty of professors and other university faculty in my time and every single one of them was way overworked. They are not lazy people floating above the fray on a cloud, contemplating their navels. When will people quit believing these false characterizations? Do people think teaching even one class a semester requires no effort? That research requires no effort? Sheesh…

  6. #6 Glen Davidson
    April 26, 2009

    They might need to portray their approach as the One True Way. Which it is not.

    We just need people who say otherwise, like PZ did here. I’d say that the problem is not necessarily that they say such things, but that probably too many scientists believe them when they say it, that “playing nice” is the only way to go.

    I can’t critize them much, then. I did get a little annoyed at Nick Matzke’s arguments against the “New Atheists,” but for the most part they don’t bother attacking their allies, as far as I know.

    People need to realize that they have a stance that they have to defend, and that by no means is it the proper stance for all to take.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

  7. #7 Blake Stacey
    April 26, 2009

    What percentage of the United States population has to go nontheist before public intellectuals like these start bending over backwards to avoid offending it?

  8. #8 David Wiener
    April 26, 2009

    I was fairly sure of my position until I read this latest post. Now, I’ve changed my mind: The NCSE should just focus on the science and ignore non-scientific opinions. The point that really tipped me over was the fact that the non-rationalist need to accommodate reality; rationalist do not have to accommodate their irrational beliefs.

    That what I believe and I was not being true to it when looking at the NCSE.

    However, we do need a voice out there that is polite. It is ok to be respectful of other people’s right to believe something and still not respect their beliefs. In other words, the NCSE can be our shield, and you and other New Atheists can be the sword. In the end, we have to get along with the theists as they are not going away. However, you are right that we do not and should not back down and whitewash our arguments to appease them.

    The NCSE can communicate the facts, be respectful, and let the intelligent folks examine the evidence. We already know we cannot win over the irrational with rational arguments. Lets work on the rational and politely disagree with irrational (as long as they do the same…)

    Meanwhile, you can continue to poke a metaphysical finger in the bleary eye of religion.

    Regards,

    David Wiener

  9. #9 Prof. Henry Armitage
    April 26, 2009

    I’d like the NCSE (et al) to ignore religion completely, and just concentrate on educating people about science, but if Miller* (for instance) did a talk to a church-load of believers and didn’t mention religion, the pastor could make use of that vacuum and tell the parishioners that what they just heard was incompatible with their beliefs. If Miller can sugar-coat the science in such a way as to prevent it from being so easily rejected, I’d tell him to go for it (as long as he didn’t misrepresent the science, of course).

    *I’m assuming Miller sometimes speaks on behalf of the NCSE.

  10. #10 Richard Harris
    April 26, 2009

    Jumpin’ Jeezus, I realized as a kid of twelve that there was no compatibility of science and religion, so I tore up my ‘holy’ book, for the crap that it was. And that was over fifty years ago, & nothing I’ve read or heard since has changed my mind on this point.

    We should promote PZ’s stance on this, (& mock religion, & the deluded believers, too).

  11. #11 Robert
    April 26, 2009

    How adorable that Ass.Prof Myers* (that’s shorthand for assistant professor, which Myers is at a not-very-good university in a not-very-important state) romanticizes himself and his quest as a war! He even adopts war-like imagery of airplanes and soldiers; how quaint!

    I agree that I wouldn’t be offended to hear you state your beliefs even if they directly contradict mine. The problem is that you state your beliefs so distastefully and with such a lack of eloquence that you annoy people. We want you to shut up not because you speak the “truth” but because you so aggressively reject the social and communication graces that most humans outside of the science world are lucky enough to possess and employ properly. You’re a soldier of annoyance.

    *Perhaps if Ass.Prof Myers learned the difference between its/it’s (see his fifth sentence of “It’s response to people…”) as a possessive pronoun/contraction, he could get a better position, get more funding for his low-impact research, and spend his time trying to publish better than online. :-/

  12. #12 Holbach
    April 26, 2009

    If only we could impress upon the NCSE that the word “Science” is in their descriptive title and should be paramount in all their endeavors and discourses with dispensing that most meaningful of disciplines to the public as well as the professionals. Religion or any reference or inference thereof is not embodied in that title and therefore should be alluded to in any manner or be even denoted. Let the Templeton Foundation proffer their phony science behind religion; the NCSE should not stoop to such flagrant misuse of a word that denotes all that is alluded to religion. Science above all.

  13. #13 Zmidponk
    April 26, 2009

    On this whole ‘science and religion are compatible’, I kinda get the point that’s trying to be made, but the wrong word is being used. You see, if you’re restricting yourself solely as to the question what is or is not science, or can be considered scientific, or what fits into the scientific method, then religion fails utterly.

    However, if you widen that a bit to say, ‘what is your personal view as to X’, then a religious answer is perfectly compatible with science in areas where the answer that properly conforms to the scientific method is currently ‘there is insufficient data to form a hypothesis’ – but only in those areas where that is the case, and only for as long as that remains the case, and this can in no way be considered ‘scientific’, only the subjective, personal opinion of the person or people saying this. Of course, this means that, when it comes to things like teaching it in science classes, then it’s not science, so it doesn’t belong.

    This makes the usage of the word ‘compatible’ inaccurate, as, for all you computer nerds out there, it would be the same thing as saying a dual-boot system of Linux and Windows proves that Windows and Linux are compatible with each other. They’re not, really – but you can use both on the same PC.

  14. #14 SAWells
    April 26, 2009

    Oooh, Robert is jealous again.

  15. #15 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    April 26, 2009

    Robert do you have a point or are you just interested in showing us what a petulant child you are?

  16. #16 Owlmirror
    April 26, 2009

    How adorable that Ass.Prof Myers* (that’s shorthand for assistant professor, which Myers is at a not-very-good university in a not-very-important state) romanticizes himself and his quest as a war!

    Does a Catholic really need to be reminded of the whole “Church Militant” thing? “Onward, Christian Soldiers”, anyone? II Timothy 2:3?

    Really, if you don’t want to be labeled a hypocrite, don’t have and use double standards.

    The problem is that you state your beliefs so distastefully and with such a lack of eloquence that you annoy people.

    Like you, in other words. Hypocrite.

    Sheesh.

  17. #17 Ed Darrell
    April 26, 2009

    I can quibble with your tone a little bit, but let me say you’re absolutely right. We need a good offense, and we need to make it sing and sting.

    I’m in Texas, as some of you know. I’m Christian. I’m wrapping up my second term as chair of the board of our local congregation (Disciples of Christ), and I’ve served two terms as active elder (in our congregation, once an elder, always an elder — but we have a dozen people on active duty at any time in three-year terms). I grew up in Idaho and Utah, in the shadow of Brigham Young University in Utah. I was dissuaded from joining the Mormons at an early age when a well-intentioned but sadly misinformed church teacher told me dinosaurs were fictional (I knew better – I had fossils on my dresser at home; I’d been to the museums and seen the bones). It turns out that the Mormons have no teaching against evolution, I discovered many years later, and in fact if one takes the science courses at BYU one gets the full discourse in evolution, in geology or biology, or anywhere else it fits. I majored in biology, though it was one of two fields and I didn’t graduate with the science degree. I’ve had to defend evolution in policy discussions when I staffed Congress, and I usually give the Texas State Board of Education what-for when they get into their creationist follies.

    Except for Genie Scott and NCSE, evolution would have been taken out of Texas biology books in 2003. NCSE has been the center of defense for evolution in Kansas — and I think it’s fair to note that NCSE’s careful work made Judge John Jones’ decision in the Pennsylvania case possible, and easy. If you’re not a member of NCSE, sign up today (which reminds me, I need to renew).

    We need another organization to chase creationism out of the churches, to hunt it down wherever it appears, and to stamp it out like we would imported Argentinian fire ants, or boll weevils, or American apple maggots, or mosquitoes that carry malaria. It wasn’t enough to win World War II to let the Russians keep hammering Germany on the Eastern Front — the Allies had to invade from the west and stamp out German aggression in Italy, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Eastern Europe. It’s not enough to let NCSE keep doing its sterling job and do it well — we have to open another front.

    I’ve seen creationism take good Christians and make lying denialists out of them. I’ve seen creationism suck the wits out of children who could have been great scientists. I’ve seen creationism take school boards who were campaigning for great academics, and make them fold as if they had surrendered to Nikita Khruschev or Osama bin Laden. We are now watching the creationism denial virus hammer our policies in environmental protection and auto building.

    Even hard core racists today generally will not confess to it, because racism is widely recognized as ill-informed and damaging to our society and political structures. We need to have creationism perceived in that same light. Any preacher who preaches creationism should get the same tomatoes he’d get if he preached separation of the races, and for the same reasons.

    Think of the history here. Modern creationism — the Morris and Gish variety — was a reaction to the efforts of the National Science Foundation to beef up science education after 1957 and the Soviet Union’s beating the U.S. into space with Sputnik. NSF looked at U.S. science education and found a lot of holes, including an almost complete absence of serious education on evolution. Gish and Morris looked at NSF’s efforts as a threat, and they began what is now a 50-year campaign against science education.

    Remember why NSF got involved? We needed scientists, then, to fight the Soviet threat as we perceived it. In 2009, we need scientists more. The Soviet Union is gone, but the threats we need scientists to beat are more serious, more grave. It will remain a mystery to me why Gish and Morris were not investigated for their aid to the Soviet Union back then, but it’s pure folly to let them continue to hammer at the foundations of science education today, even if the Soviet Union is gone. I don’t think for a moment that creationists understand their actions are anti-American, but that’s part of the problem. They don’t think the evidence is convincing, they don’t understand the science and how critical good theory is to fighting disease and improving life in other ways — the stupidity, the pure unreason, is dangerous all by itself.

    So, what do you propose, P.Z.? I think we need a John T. Scopes Institute for Teaching Science, probably at Scopes’ alma mater, the University of Chicago — but maybe somewhere else. We need a National Association for the Advancement of Science, we need a national honor society for science students, and maybe a national science academy (from some reports, maybe we should replace the seminary at the campus of what once was the Air Force Academy with this science school — they already have the labs).

    But what else? Where do good, reasoning, flag-waving Americans go to enlist in the fight against unreason? NCSE is the best we have right now. Who will organize the S-Day invasion?

    So, when do we organize?

    It’s not

  18. #18 Remilia Scarlet
    April 26, 2009

    “Poor P.Z., the NCSE is mean to him.”
    Or are they more mean to a particular idea (like branching out, &c.)?

  19. #19 Ed Darrell
    April 26, 2009

    Sheesh! There were only seven comments when I started to type, quickly, and 10 more showed up before I could hit the send button!

    Ignore that last line on my last post — editing glitch.

  20. #20 Holbach
    April 26, 2009

    Robert @ 11

    “You’re a soldier of annoyance”. You bet, if it annoys religion, then a soldier I will be.

  21. #21 Sili
    April 26, 2009

    Dear Robert,

    Plz to be reading the Hoppe post. At the risk of sounding like a year five kid: he started it.

    And if not mixing up “it’s” and “its” is enough to qualify for a full professorship where you come from, you have my sincerest condolences on the state of your public intellectuals. Let me guess – your choice of people for public office is based on their not splitting infinitives and ending sentences with prepositions.

  22. #22 Holbach
    April 26, 2009

    Ed Darrel @ 17

    Ha, don’t make them too long as you will find your commnet lost in the rush!

  23. #23 Matt Heath
    April 26, 2009

    I’ve also told them that one factor in my loss of faith was the promulgation of bad interpretations of the Bible that contradicted the evidence of science, and that they were going to drive more intelligent people out of their congregations if they insisted on adherence to falsified ideas. That often seems a more effective and pragmatic approach than pretending they can believe whatever they want and still remain true to science.

    IIRC one of the revolving set of quotes up there on the left has “Saint” Augustine saying something similar (about astronomy)

  24. #24 Andre
    April 26, 2009

    While I certainly agree with the thrust of this post, I think the metaphor of “defence and offence” is obscuring what is actually happening here to the detriment of understanding.

    This is is not a war. You do not “beat the other guy” by killing more people, or dropping more bombs, or shooting more bullets, or even capturing more territory. You “win” by convincing other people, people who don’t initially agree with you, that you’re right.

    With that in mind, “appeasement” stops sounding like such a terrible crime. Most people will have difficulty listening to someone who disparages or mocks their beliefs, regardless of the content of those beliefs. That’s basic human psychology. Teaching the skill of accepting criticism (the first step towards dismantling an individual’s religious mindset) is something that has to be done subtly, through example-you’ll never get anywhere hitting them over the head because they’ll just hunker down and believe even harder.

  25. #25 CJ
    April 26, 2009

    What’s with the general condemnation of outspoken atheists as all being from some “elite”, “educated” portion of society that is somehow totally disconnected from ‘real’ people?

    I copy-paste news from the internet for a living, for pity’s sake. I attended maybe one out of five science lessons at school. I don’t speak from any pissing ‘pulpit’ and during the brief time I spent loathing my university experience, you know what? I don’t remember any of the religious students being attacked by some slavering uber-elistist professor type.

    If my mates and their mates and the people at the next table can put up with my occasional segues into frothing incredulity over a Wiccan friend’s insistence in the existence of evil spirits then they are unlikely to get their supernatural lovin’ knickers in knots over some dude who does awesome science stuff telling them they’re bonkers for watching Most Haunted like it’s a documentary.

    I value my brain so I never thought I’d be so insulted to be classed as an intellectual. But I am, because I guess while I’m one of the ‘elite’ because I read books and once was in the same room as Stephen Hawking I’m also one of the ‘real’, stupid, and over-sensitive people who gets their hands dirty and doesn’t have the time or money for the whole formal education thing and would fly into an hysterical panic at having my viewpoints questioned by someone with a diploma.

    There are atheists in the hoi polloi too nutjobs, whatcha gonna do now, huh? HUH?

  26. #26 Marcus Ranum
    April 26, 2009

    Those of us who are complete, unapologetic, mockers and scoffers-at religion are doing our bit to open the overton window of political discourse about religion. Think how reasonable NCSE is, compared to me. If given a choice, creos will prefer to talk to NCSE than me, I’m quite sure. They think they’re not getting respect from “evangelical atheists”? The “evangelical atheists” are warm and cuddly compared to how I want to see the creos’ precious beliefs treated.

  27. #27 edw
    April 26, 2009

    The problem is that you state your beliefs so distastefully and with such a lack of eloquence that you annoy people.

    But PZ might counter with the “taste of semen” post. That was tasteful, and sure to win over many Christians.

  28. #28 RBH
    April 26, 2009

    I’ll respond to just a couple of points now — it’s a beautiful day outside and there’s a lot of Multiflora rosa to be hacked down. PZ wrote

    Funny thing is, in those situations (as well as in the classroom) I just focus on telling the story of the evidence. That is our strength, right? I don’t have to announce that the Book of Genesis is wrong and silly, but I also don’t have to go out of my way to tell them some pretty excuse to allow them to continue to believe in talking snakes. And if I’m asked, I tell them straightforwardly that literal religious accounts are falsified by the evidence.

    And I tell them precisely the same thing in precisely the same way. But that’s not what Coyne argued for.

    PZ wrote

    Here’s our big problem: we have had no offense at all, and we’re never going to make any progress without one. Keeping the other team from scoring is important but doesn’t win us any games if we can never carry our arguments forward ? we’re always being told to stop at the point where we are drawing the logical implications of science and evolution and told to back off?it might alienate the other team.

    When the offensive players diss their teammates on the defensive side of the ball, as Coyne systematically did, it’s a sign of a dysfunctional team.

  29. #29 Matt Heath
    April 26, 2009

    Incidentally, I seem to remember that there is a rather high profile counter-example to the idea that a lecturer from the ethereal heights of the University of Chicago can’t be active organising in communities. Skinny guy, big ears… no it’s gone.

  30. #30 Marcus Ranum
    April 26, 2009

    The problem is that you state your beliefs so distastefully and with such a lack of eloquence that you annoy people.

    We’re not talking to the grow-ups. Their minds are already shot. But everytime some young person sees/hears an educated-sounding adult trashing religion for its stupidity, cowardice, and un-coolness, we’ve offered that seed of an alternative. I’ve noticed that the current generation of kids in online communities are very skeptical about religion. When they grow up, it’ll be half over. Just watch.

  31. #31 Michael Fonda
    April 26, 2009

    A truly righteous, kick-ass entry, PZ. My sincerest unmitigated compliments. You are exactly right (which is just my way of saying that that was already my own opinion too). Applause.

  32. #32 Citizen of the Cosmos
    April 26, 2009

    I don’t see how science and religion can be compatible as ways of understanding the world. They are entirely different things as methods. Religions can say lots of things about the world, but it’s only with science that we can test them, if they actually happen to be falsifiable and testable at all.

  33. #33 Oliver
    April 26, 2009

    @Robert
    What a pedantic wanker you are.

    Since your “argument” seems to revolve mainly around identifying minor infractions of spelling and grammar, I should point out to you that the correct contraction of Associate is Assoc, you can’t simultaneously call PZ an “Ass.Prof” whilst calling him out on the misuse of “its” unless you are an Ass.Clown.

  34. #34 Robin
    April 26, 2009

    TrollRobert @11:

    If you weren’t so busy picking on an apostrophe on a *blog* post, you might’ve noticed the difference between an “Assistant Professor” and an “Associate Professor” – a non-trivial difference. But hey, not every troll can be good at it.

  35. #35 Marcus Ranum
    April 26, 2009

    On this whole ‘science and religion are compatible’, I kinda get the point that’s trying to be made, but the wrong word is being used.

    Science and religion are compatible. In the same way that “awake” and “asleep” are compatible. Unfortunately for one, the “compatibility” is that the other is inherently destructive of it.

    Science destroys religion. Utterly. It’s obvious to anyone who looks closely at the results of science and the recent history of technology. Trying not to accomodate people’s religious beliefs is like feeling bad for telling them there’s no santa claus. “Sorry, buttercup; you’re not special. Now, move along.”

  36. #36 bobxxxx
    April 26, 2009

    From the NCSE website:

    Can I accept evolution as the most compelling explanation for biological diversity, and yet also accept the idea that God works through evolution? Certainly.

    Of course this is bullshit. It’s as stupid as saying God works through gravity.

    A big problem with this country is the vast majority of Americans who accept evolution invoke their magic fairy to invent, guide, or use evolution. It’s disgraceful that a pro-science organization implies this idea is not childish and idiotic.

  37. #37 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    April 26, 2009

    Matt Heath

    Skinny guy, big ears… no it’s gone.

    Yeah, I think I remember reading about him in the newspaper. He was always introducing himself to people, recent job change too…

  38. #38 Dboy
    April 26, 2009

    “One True Message of the compatibility of science and religion”

    Agree! I have never liked this tactic. It’s dishonest (science and theism are NOT compatible), and it’s like offering a draw when it is not required. There’s no reason to play nice. Also though, note that there is a difference between religion and theism. I believe that this planet needs a replacement for the currently mostly-theistic religions, in favor of philosophical systems that will serve to discipline the mind and raise levels of consciousness. Something along the lines of Buddhism, but without all of the attachments that were created so that it would be embraced by primitive populations. Much of this planet is still thinking at a tribal level (including the US). The current set of religions has NOT managed to raise the general level of consciousness, and since they have had many hundreds of years to attempt it I think it’s safe to say that religion will NEVER manage it. What philosophical system will assist the coming generations in thriving in an extraordinarily complex world?

    To me, the christian/atheist battle has been fought AND WON. I am MUCH more interested in WHATS NEXT. And THAT’S what I never hear being discussed. There should be no NEED to proclaim yourself an atheist…atheism should be OBVIOUS. The question is: “OK, there is no God (duh!) NOW what do we do??” That is a MUCH more interesting question. God’s do not exist, but WE do. Now that we are no longer wasting energy contemplating talking snakes nailing people to trees, what are our minds and bodies capable of?

    dboy

  39. #39 xenthral
    April 26, 2009

    “I’m sorry, Richard, but the atheists are your air force. We’re going forward with a bold new offense against the regressive forces that have kept this country locked in a stalemate”

    I would actually underline and maybe rewrite this
    the ‘loudmouth’ atheists don’t really represent an air force, their attitude and the things they say and present – the more dichotomous view generates more uncompromising atheists, who tend to care very much about keeping church and state separate and tend to fund places like NCSE.

    the frontline assault tank / factory?

    There are off course people who don’t want the dichotomy to be presented and want the haze put up, so you don’t have to push people out of their inertia and make them think about their catholicism or whatever truly means to them. Those people are not our allies in the grand battle.

  40. #40 Patricia, OM
    April 26, 2009

    Standing O for you PZ! I feel the same way.

    Marcus Ranum @30 – Exactly right. When young people talk to me, usually they are astounded to hear my opinions on religious nonesense. They want to hear adults and seniors telling the truth.

  41. #41 mothwentbad
    April 26, 2009

    Oliver @ 33 FTW!

    And a kickass main post, too.

  42. #42 Marcus Ranum
    April 26, 2009

    Patricia, OM writes:
    When young people talk to me, usually they are astounded to hear my opinions on religious nonesense. They want to hear adults and seniors telling the truth.

    Yup. My little way of making religion’s lifespan shorter is to be as caustic as possible about its ridiculousness, in public forums where lots of young people go. For example, I post images on deviantart.com that include hot topless chicks (yay! woot!) and deconstructionist comments about the silliness of religion. Or (I’m particularly proud of this one – it’s gotten me death threats) hot topless girls in burqas.
    NSFW links:
    http://mjranum.deviantart.com/art/The-Burqa-42813211
    http://mjranum.deviantart.com/art/Why-arent-there-more-67329376

    I agree with something Wowbagger said in a thread yesterday – a lot of people nod to religion because of its historic propensity for violence. Showing kids that we can laugh at the priests and mullahs is powerful, indeed. As a card-carrying nihilist anarchist, if gives me a big happy monkey.

  43. #43 ygyzys
    April 26, 2009

    This is all you guys can find to do on a beautiful Sunday?

    How pathetic is that??

  44. #44 Peter Klaver
    April 26, 2009

    Maybe some data on belief among scientists would be helpful:

    http://kspark.kaist.ac.kr/Jesus/Intelligence%20&%20religion.htm

    By taking the accomodationist stance, NCSE is not representing what most scientists think, particularly in the area of biology.

  45. #45 Pierce R. Butler
    April 26, 2009

    … the real people are the True Americans of the heartland …

    Careful now – you don’t want to interfere with the NCSE’s recruitment of Sarah Palin!

  46. #46 mothwentbad
    April 26, 2009

    Oliver @ 33 FTW!

    And a kickass main post, too.

  47. #47 C. M. Baxter
    April 26, 2009

    I think the good cop, bad cop strategy is very effective as long as both cops concentrate on pulverizing the enemy?s position rather than one another.

  48. #48 Thomas Lee Elifritz
    April 26, 2009

    This is all you guys can find to do on a beautiful Sunday?

    So naturally since you are of the opinion that it is a beautiful Sunday where you are located, that naturally everyone else will agree with you that’s it’s a beautiful Sunday where they are located as well, and certainly then they should agree with you the appropriate way to enjoy Sundays.

    How pathetic is that??

  49. #49 mothwentbad
    April 26, 2009

    I’m sorry for the double post. My connection is acting slow and funky. I’d delete the repetition now if I could.

  50. #50 arachnophilia
    April 26, 2009

    I’ve also told them that one factor in my loss of faith was the promulgation of bad interpretations of the Bible that contradicted the evidence of science,

    on the contrary, PZ, those are the good interpretations. it’s the ones that try not to make the bible NOT contradict science that are bad, because they frequently betray both in the process. the torah was written around 600-900 BCE, by people who were necessarily unaware of modern science. it was not written to be a science text book, only to loosely explain the mythological history of a people. which included some etiology for the world around them, but only as it pertains to their people. the book is not scientifically accurate, and we shouldn’t expect it to be.

    you’re well aware of the incompatibility. but i’d like to suggest that it’s the apologists on the religious side that are doing the most damage. the fundies, at least they know the two are incompatible. they’ve just picked the wrong side.

    and that they were going to drive more intelligent people out of their congregations if they insisted on adherence to falsified ideas.

    but isn’t that a good thing? :P

  51. #51 CJ
    April 26, 2009

    This is all you guys can find to do on a beautiful Sunday?

    How pathetic is that??

    Though I’m sure I would personally love to hear your theories on what is the appropriate use of my time at past ten on a Sunday night, the world is a little bigger than you realise. Just a little pro-tip from me to you, friend!

  52. #52 Feynmaniac
    April 26, 2009

    Robert,

    Perhaps if Ass.Prof Myers learned the difference between its/it’s….

    This, along with your attempt to “correct” someone’s lolspeak, reminds me of the following quote:

    “A slavish concern for the composition of words is the sign of a bankrupt intellect. Be gone, odious wasp!”

  53. #53 Cyberguy
    April 26, 2009

    PZ wrote:

    Here’s our big problem: we have had no offense at all, and we’re never going to make any progress without one. Keeping the other team from scoring is important but doesn’t win us any games if we can never carry our arguments forward

    PZ, this is one of your best blogs yet in my opinion, because it highlights again why appeasement doesn’t work. Attempting to mollify our opponents makes atheism appear weak, when in fact it isn’t – we have all the facts on our side!!!

    Andre is 100% wrong in saying:

    This is is not a war. You do not “beat the other guy” by killing more people, or dropping more bombs, or shooting more bullets, or even capturing more territory. You “win” by convincing other people, people who don’t initially agree with you, that you’re right.

    This way of thinking is demonstrably false. This is a full-on culture war, a take-no-prisoners meme war if you like. And it is not the accomodationists who are making inroads, but the vocal radical atheists who have had a gutsful of “magical thinking” dominating our politics and social discourse, and want to see this religious privilege crushed like a bug.

    You will never persuade the majority of religious people to deconvert. Most older religious believers are lost causes – their minds are already made up. It is the younger generation we have to influence, in order to generate a complete paradigm shift in how religion is perceived.

    On the subject of paradigm shifts, Thomas Kuhn said, using a quote from Max Planck: “a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”. Likewise, this is how atheism will overcome theistic thinking.

    Younger people are more influenced by how others see them. In this case, public ridicule and deliberate contempt of an idea, combined with mocking insults to those who hold the idea to be true will definitely cause young people to think twice about subscribing to the same concept.

    In a meme-war, blunt messages work. Accomodationism doesn’t.

  54. #54 Marcus Ranum
    April 26, 2009

    This is all you guys can find to do on a beautiful Sunday?

    I just finished planting a dozen rose bushes around my outdoor bathtub. Took a break to come in for a shower, lemonade, and to laugh at creos. How about you?

  55. #55 CJ
    April 26, 2009

    @ Feynmaniac – you have made my night with that quote. *sniff sniff* What’s that? Ah, the ripe smell of decaying syllables.

  56. #56 Patricia, OM
    April 26, 2009

    Marcus – Couldn’t open your links, but I get the idea. *wink* Being caustic is something I also do. My advantage in being a frontline attacker is that I look and sound like the sweet little church lady, they never see the punch coming. *smiles innocently*

  57. #57 Cyberguy
    April 26, 2009

    Posted by: ygyzys | April 26, 2009 4:53 PM

    This is all you guys can find to do on a beautiful Sunday?

    How pathetic is that??

    It’s actually Monday right now in New Zealand. And, FYI, the weather is not identical at every place in the world.

    Your thinking needs adjustment. Try science.

  58. #58 Pierce R. Butler
    April 26, 2009

    Robert @ # 11 earns the Poe of the Week award, even if inadvertently, for irony above and beyond the scope of measurement.

    If I may gild the lily: don’t say anything offensive to Robert!

  59. #59 Patricia, OM
    April 26, 2009

    Are you sure he deserves Poe of the Week? He’s one of the most piss poor trolls we’ve had here in months. PZ must have got him on the buy one get one free rack. ;)

  60. #60 The Chemist
    April 26, 2009

    I wasn’t aware the NCSE was an Atheist organization in spirit, unless there’s some hidden agenda I’m not aware of. Of course they’re not going to suceed in the ends you mention. They’re not working towards them! You’re spending a lot of time and energy here to tell us cats don’t bark.

    We know.

    What I’m trying to understand is your motivations for criticizing them. To me it’s akin to a car company’s minivan division criticizing the SUV part of the company for selling big cars. It just strikes me as petty.

  61. #61 David Marjanovi?, OM
    April 26, 2009

    Archelogy, a science, has shown so much of the Bible is made up or palagerized.

    Archeology, plagiarized. Read those words again, one letter after another.

    He even adopts war-like imagery of airplanes and soldiers; how quaint!

    No, the guy he quotes did that. PZ just took it and turned it on its head.

    Perhaps if Ass.Prof Myers learned the difference between its/it’s (see his fifth sentence of “It’s response to people…”) as a possessive pronoun/contraction, he could get a better position, get more funding for his low-impact research, and spend his time trying to publish better than online. :-/

    You’ve never tried to get anything published, have you?

    Earlier today I read a pretty good paper by a Slovak. In English, of course. Impeccable spelling, but the grammar… <sigh> lots and lots of missing articles, several wrong articles (“the” where “a” should be, and vice versa), and a few sentences that must have been composed with the help of a dictionary and that I didn’t understand at all. Peer-reviewed and published.

    I’ve also seen errors like “tuberocity” published in Nature. Nature, mind you. Nature!!! The most prestigious science journal at all, as you probably didn’t know.

  62. #62 David Marjanovi?, OM
    April 26, 2009

    I wasn’t aware the NCSE was an Atheist organization in spirit

    Read the post again.

    Just… read… the post… again.

  63. #63 tsig
    April 26, 2009

    Let me congratulate you on your promotion General Myers.

    Can we still call you PZ or are you going to go all formal on us poor ilk(minions?)

  64. #64 SC, OM
    April 26, 2009

    Yup. My little way of making religion’s lifespan shorter is to be as caustic as possible about its ridiculousness, in public forums where lots of young people go. For example, I post images on deviantart.com that include hot topless chicks (yay! woot!) and deconstructionist comments about the silliness of religion. Or (I’m particularly proud of this one – it’s gotten me death threats) hot topless girls in burqas.

    Yes, I’m sure that’s really helpful in showing young women who’ve faced sexism and misogyny in their churches that atheists are much more welcoming of their intellectual contributions. Sounds like a very rational appeal, too.

    By the way, PZ, looking over your posts the past month or so, I’m not seeing many about women in science or politics, and of those very few that are positive, and (virtually?) none linking to a written piece by a woman on any subject.
    :(

  65. #65 tsig
    April 26, 2009

    Your post:this topic

    have nothing to do with each other.

  66. #66 SC, OM
    April 26, 2009

    Your post:this topic

    have nothing to do with each other.

    You’re addressing…?

  67. #67 'Tis Himself
    April 26, 2009

    This is all you guys can find to do on a beautiful Sunday?

    I spent six hours today sailing in a 39 foot sloop. Is that acceptable to you?

  68. #68 SC, OM
    April 26, 2009

    I spent six hours today sailing in a 39 foot sloop.

    Proof that Walton won’t find any sensitivity around these parts. How cruel do you have to be to keep bringing that up amongst jealous people?

    (Hope you had a nice sail. :))

  69. #69 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    April 26, 2009

    By the way, PZ, looking over your posts the past month or so, I’m not seeing many about women in science or politics, and of those very few that are positive, and (virtually?) none linking to a written piece by a woman on any subject.

    Sounds like a Wednesday/Thursday thread by Mary and/or Skatje is needed. Or by one of our other regulars on the OM list.

  70. #70 Marcus Ranum
    April 26, 2009

    SC writes:
    I’m sure that’s really helpful in showing young women who’ve faced sexism and misogyny in their churches that atheists are much more welcoming of their intellectual contributions.

    (eyeroll) Sorry if I wadded up your +5 feminist panties.

    It’s only the particularly stupid ones who think that a picture’s got something to do with the subject’s intellectual prowess or abilities. Or, more to the point, that a picture of another person says something about you, or your gender. That would be a ridiculous overgeneralization. More to the point, you’re implicitly assuming that an artist somehow has responsibility for the feelings and actions of people who look at the art – that’s a difficult position to argue. Are you sure you want to try?

  71. #71 PZ Myers
    April 26, 2009

    Much of what appears here is a reflection of the flood of stuff pouring into my mailbox. If you want more posts on a particular topic, you need to send them to me!

  72. #72 doctorgoo
    April 26, 2009

    meh… for some, promoting science is enough… for others, promoting atheism is the worthier goal.

    Didn’t we go through this a few Decembers ago here on dramablogs.com?

    *shrugs shoulders*

  73. #73 Irene Delse
    April 26, 2009

    Funny that Hoppe berates the “generals” Myers, Coyne et al. for not engaging the folks in Kansas, but forgot the recent (and much publicized) incursion of Dawkins in Oklahoma…

  74. #74 Patricia, OM
    April 26, 2009

    SC,OM – I’ll show Walton some sensitivity when he shows that he’s capable of doing the same. That seems fair. :)

    Until then he can get stuffed.

  75. #75 'Tis Himself
    April 26, 2009

    They’re the generals who argued against air power, courtmartialed Billy Mitchell, and then watched ships sink at Pearl Harbor.

    Billy Mitchell’s court martial was for a political, not a military, offense. In 1925, when the Navy dirigible Shenandoah crashed in a storm, Mitchell publicly accused generals and admirals of “almost treasonable administration of the national defense.” President Coolidge ordered his court martial, Mitchell was found guilty of insubordination, and he was allowed to resign his commission.

    By the time of Pearl Harbor, everyone knew that planes could sink ships. On the night of November 11-12, 1940, the British Royal Navy launched the first all-aircraft naval attack in history, flying a small number of aircraft from an aircraft carrier and attacking the Italian fleet at harbor in Taranto. Three Italian battleships and two cruisers were damaged (one battleship, the Conte di Cavour, required extensive salvage work and its repairs were incomplete when Italy left the war in 1943), two destroyers were sunk and two more were damaged. Incidentally, the British aircraft were Swordfish biplanes, two of 21 being shot down.

    The Japanese studied the Taranto attack while planning their attack at Pearl Harbor.

  76. #76 Don
    April 26, 2009

    Great post PZ. A zinger.

  77. #77 Anonymous
    April 26, 2009

    When the offensive players diss their teammates on the defensive side of the ball, as Coyne systematically did, it’s a sign of a dysfunctional team.

    Once more, moron:

    The “New Atheists” have been getting attacked, left and right, for ages for “hurting” the “cause.” Guess you haven’t heard of Matt Nisbett? That is what Coyne was arguing against. That is what PZ has been arguing against. Do you think PZ pulled those remarks out of thin air?

    Yes, you probably did.

    MORON.

  78. #78 SC, OM
    April 26, 2009

    (eyeroll) Sorry if I wadded up your +5 feminist panties.

    Fuck you, asshole.

    It’s only the particularly stupid ones who think that a picture’s got something to do with the subject’s intellectual prowess or abilities.

    What a doofus you are.

    Or, more to the point, that a picture of another person says something about you, or your gender.

    No, nothing sexist about “hot topless chicks (yay! woot!).” Can’t imagine why any women – especially one who’s faced sexism and misogyny in a religious environment – wouldn’t respond positively to such an appeal.

    More to the point, you’re implicitly assuming that an artist

    Pretty full of yourself. You sound like a sorry excuse for an artist.

    somehow has responsibility for the feelings and actions of people who look at the art – that’s a difficult position to argue. Are you sure you want to try?

    If you’re doing political art (and I use the term loosely in your case), you’re attempting to conveying a message. You said yourself: “My little way of making religion’s lifespan shorter is to be as caustic as possible about its ridiculousness, in public forums where lots of young people go.” The point is that the only group you care about speaking to (in the stupidest fashion possible) is males, and you don’t care if this is at women’s expense.

    PZ:

    Much of what appears here is a reflection of the flood of stuff pouring into my mailbox. If you want more posts on a particular topic, you need to send them to me!

    Ah. OK, will do!

  79. #79 Aquaria
    April 26, 2009

    And Robert, the typical fundie nitwit, doesn’t seem to understand the difference between football (Am.) and war.

    What a douchebag that his first thought when he sees the words “offense” and “defense” is of war–not sports.

    But is that really a surprise?

  80. #80 Patricia, OM
    April 26, 2009

    Hey Tis – When will you be sailing up the Columbia River? Put in at Hood River and I’ll buy you a beer at Full Sail Ale microbrewery.

    /beer bribery

  81. #81 Anonymous
    April 26, 2009

    This is all you guys can find to do on a beautiful Sunday?

    Fuck off.

    It’s cloudy and rainy where I am, which is beautiful enough to me (I hate sunny days), but I don’t have to go stand outside in it and get sick, thanks very much.

    Moron.

  82. #82 SC, OM
    April 26, 2009

    SC,OM – I’ll show Walton some sensitivity when he shows that he’s capable of doing the same. That seems fair. :)

    Until then he can get stuffed.

    Patricia,

    See the end of the “I am Pro-Test” thread for the context of that remark.

  83. #83 Patricia, OM
    April 26, 2009

    SC – OK, for you I’ll go look… But you should remember Waltons comments to me about my husband loosing his job & our health care.
    *puts on wading boots*

  84. #84 SJ
    April 26, 2009

    So, which is more important? That more people understand and accept that evolution is an basic underlying tenet of science or that people stop believing in a god of any kind? Seems to me that the latter is more important to you; the former is what I am after. And, no, you do NOT have to accept both.

  85. #85 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    April 26, 2009

    This is all you guys can find to do on a beautiful Sunday?

    Says the person commenting on the blog… on this Sunday.

  86. #86 SC, OM
    April 26, 2009

    SC – OK, for you I’ll go look… But you should remember Waltons comments to me about my husband loosing his job & our health care.
    *puts on wading boots*

    I don’t think I read those. Yikes (though not really all that surprising). But I’m not saying you should be more sensitive – you have to read the other posts to get the gist.

  87. #87 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    April 26, 2009

    We’ve had wave after wave of thunderstorms roll through my area for the last 36 hours. Hard to take down storm windows and put up screens in a storm, or when I’m asleep.

  88. #88 Marcus Ranum
    April 26, 2009

    SC, OM writes:
    Fuck you, asshole.

    Oh, good, lets shriek and throw poo at eachother!!! Happy monkey!!! (squaaaak! squaaaaak!) Um, now, what were you saying?

    No, nothing sexist about “hot topless chicks (yay! woot!).” Can’t imagine why any women – especially one who’s faced sexism and misogyny in a religious environment – wouldn’t respond positively to such an appeal.

    I guess I wasn’t clear. I think the whole notion of “sexism” is silly. So your comments sound a lot like “nonny gloop gloop blargh” to me. Assuming I thought that there was something wrong with treating people of other genders differently because they’re – uh – different – so what? The question is how you treat them differently, and its effect. (And, yes, I sometimes point my camera at guys, too. woot!) So if I’ve got it right, you’re criticizing me for possible second order effects of something that someone else is probably going to think, anyway? Wow, your moral landscape must be very very complicated – unless it’s just that you pick and choose based on your own ideology and complain about everyone who does something you don’t like. Have I got that about right?

    Pretty full of yourself. You sound like a sorry excuse for an artist.

    I am. Wow. You’re really mad aren’t you? You sound pretty thin-skinned, to me. It’s always fun and games until your own ox gets gored, isn’t it?

    Anyhow, I do my art to have fun. And follow whatever agenda suits me. So, if you don’t like it, why don’t you take a large pile of sand, a funnel, and a mallet, and pound it?

    If you’re doing political art (and I use the term loosely in your case), you’re attempting to conveying a message. You said yourself: “My little way of making religion’s lifespan shorter is to be as caustic as possible about its ridiculousness, in public forums where lots of young people go.” The point is that the only group you care about speaking to (in the stupidest fashion possible) is males, and you don’t care if this is at women’s expense.

    Aside from your asserting so, I still don’t see anything convincing me that it’s at “women’s expense” Are you one of those left-over mckinnon/dworkinites from the 80s? I thought they’d all dried up and blown away by now. It’s nice to see there are still “living fossils” of political correctness swimming in the deep waters of Lake Stupid. How nice!

    If my “art” is as trivial and bad as you try to make it sound – it shouldn’t bother you. Or, since you’re so wadded-up about it, I guess I’ve managed to make a point (whatever that may be). You can’t have both. But I know you’re just saying stuff like that in hope of hurting my feelings. Good luck; if you can find any, you may be able to hurt them eventually.

  89. #89 Patricia, OM
    April 26, 2009

    SC – Looks like I’m really insensitive, because once again I see Walton whining about himself. He got good advice about his troubles, but I’d guess he won’t act on it.

    His advice to me about having no job or health care anymore was “not to personalize it”. In other words he didn’t want to hear it. He got skewered for that by several commenters. I’ll stop with this as it’s off topic by a mile.

  90. #90 Newfie
    April 26, 2009

    Hit them over the head with it:

    God – Untestable, Unprovable, Improbable, Impossible.

    Merry Christ Myth

    Take it for Gospel?

  91. #91 SC, OM
    April 26, 2009

    I guess I wasn’t clear. I think the whole notion of “sexism” is silly. So your comments sound a lot like “nonny gloop gloop blargh” to me.

    Oh – you’re a total moron. I suspected as much from some of your earlier posts, but now I’m fully certain that you’re a waste of time.

    Anyhow, I do my art to have fun. And follow whatever agenda suits me.

    You’ve already acknowledged above that you created these images in the hopes of contributing to social change.

    If my “art” is as trivial and bad as you try to make it sound – it shouldn’t bother you. Or, since you’re so wadded-up about it, I guess I’ve managed to make a point (whatever that may be).

    That you’re a sexist ass. I doubt that was what you were trying to convey.

    But I know you’re just saying stuff like that in hope of hurting my feelings.

    No, just calling it like I see it (from your inane description – I wasn’t about to sign up for that site just to view it). Your art sounds like it’s at the level the dumbest advertisement. There are plenty of artists here whose work and thoughts I like and appreciate (Rev. BDC, Ken Cope,…). You’re an idiot with delusions of talent. And it’s pretty obvious that it did strike a nerve, or you wouldn’t be whining about it so. Sad.

    Anyway, as I said, you’re a waste of time.

  92. #92 SC, OM
    April 26, 2009

    SC – Looks like I’m really insensitive,…

    Patricia,

    I was pointing you to that thread to show you that my (and others’) point to Walton there was that he wasn’t going to find sensitivity here, and shouldn’t expect it, especially if he continues to behave the way he has. I wasn’t saying that you’re insensitive or should be more sensitive or anything of the sort.

  93. #93 Tomecat
    April 26, 2009

    SC, I’m totally with you regarding the sexist comments. I killfiled him a long time ago because the occasional entertaining comments he makes aren’t worth the triggering from the (far too frequent) sexist ones.

  94. #94 Anonymous
    April 26, 2009

    “they can’t possibly state outright that evolution refutes most religious views of creation,”

    Of course they can’t. That is a religious claim. You may choose to believe, and even insist, that the success of the theory of evolution makes God unlikely, but you cannot claim that it makes God impossible. And, yes, I realize that this position requires what you might consider a ‘loose’ conception of the term ‘impossible’, as it must be when potentially dealing with the ‘super’-natural.

    And if you are going to admit the possibility that God COULD exist, regardless of whether any particular believer’s creation myths in any way correspond to the activity of said God, then you have to, as Hoppe explained, respect the beliefs of others. Now, if you can show any evidence that these putative beliefs in supernatural entities inhibit or mitigate the science they’re doing, you would have a point.

    But, yeah, the New Atheists definitely have to get over this impression they have that just because they are right they’re allowed to start telling other people what they are allowed to believe.

  95. #95 Patricia, OM
    April 26, 2009

    SC – No, no – I know you weren’t pointing at me. But I missed the drift to Walton.
    Damn, I still missed it, even looking a second time. Good thing I never had any children. :D

  96. #96 Walton
    April 26, 2009

    To clarify: I never really expected sensitivity here (though it would be nice).

    And Patricia: I apologise. I didn’t realise that I caused offence. In the context of that discussion, we were talking about the objective merits and demerits of state-provided healthcare; and I intended to avoid making it a personal matter, but I shouldn’t have been so dismissive of your personal perspective. I’m sorry.

  97. #97 Newfie
    April 26, 2009

    Robert at #11 needs a kick in the nuts, barring that, banned from this site. He’s a disrespectful piece of steaming shit. I bet Jesus loves him.

  98. #98 SC, OM
    April 26, 2009

    SC, I’m totally with you regarding the sexist comments. I killfiled him a long time ago because the occasional entertaining comments he makes aren’t worth the triggering from the (far too frequent) sexist ones.

    I guess I’ve never paid much attention to his comments – I had suspected he was a moron based on other comments completely unrelated to sexism!

    :)

  99. #99 AmericanGodless
    April 26, 2009

    I have not joined NCSE, and I won’t, because its leadership is hypocritical.

    And PZ is wrong when he says that atheists won’t walk out in the middle of an accomodationist talk. Well, it wasn’t in the middle, it was at the end of Eugenie Scott’s acceptance speech for an American Humanist Association award. She had introduced the theological notion of “methodological naturalism” to justify opposing a public statement that would contend that evolution is “unsupervised.” It was clear that no questions would be allowed on that subject, and I was too angry to stay in the room.

    It was a few years later that I had the opportunity to ask her a question after another of her speeches. It is significant that it was after the formal question session, as a few people surrounded her near the lecturn. I asked if naturalism as used in science was not a theory, rather than either a philosophy or “methodology.” She agreed, and further agreed that it has been very well tested and confirmed, and becomes better confirmed every day. But she won’t say so in a public speech!< \EM>< \B>.

    Some say that the conflict between evolutionary science and religion is a culture war; some say it is a political campaign that must be fought with PR. But ultimately it is a question of intellectual integrity, and, unfortunately, NCSE has no such integrity. Richard Hoppe thinks that it is a benign restating of mere facts when NCSE cites how many theologians accept science (that they largely don’t even want to try to understand) and how many scientists affirm a faith in a creator God, yet can do very good science (in fields where their religious beliefs can be set aside). But it is not benign, because they fail to mention that these theologians and scientists cannot show how their viewpoint can be anything but incoherent.

    To promote evolution as something that may be supernaturally “supervised,” while evoloution itself is the only known source of anything that could do any “supervision,” is to portray evolution as a joke that certain scientists tell themselves just to pass the time. When naturalism (as a well confirmed probability) is left out of evolution, we should not be surprised when creationists dismiss it as incoherent dogma, because that is exactly what it becomes. Science “education” without integrity will only make things worse.

  100. #100 Patricia, OM
    April 26, 2009

    Walton – I accept your apology, and will dismiss your former comments from my mind. You seem to have learned from this. Well done.

  101. #101 Oliver
    April 26, 2009

    But, yeah, the New Atheists definitely have to get over this impression they have that just because they are right they’re allowed to start telling other people what they are allowed to believe.

    Not so!

    Take the example of same sex marriage: the objections raised are always religious in origin because there is no other justification for denying people the legal rights and advantages it confers other than the appeal to biblical authority. Remove that crutch and it reveals itself for the bigotry is really is.

    The demand of the New Atheism is not “believe X” but “defend your belief in X without an appeal to the imaginary”.

  102. #102 Kausik Datta
    April 26, 2009

    Patricia, OM: Your earlier reference to the Columbia river and the Hood river in a message to ‘Tis Himself: Are you in Oregon, particularly near Portland? If yes, I wish I had known that during my eight month stint at OHSU!!

    Oliver at #101:

    The demand of the New Atheism is not “believe X” but “defend your belief in X without an appeal to the imaginary”.

    Is this your own? I would love to make it into a bumper sticker, or display it in my blog or facebook or somewhere.

  103. #103 Marcus Ranum
    April 26, 2009

    SC, OM writes:
    Oh – you’re a total moron. I suspected as much from some of your earlier posts, but now I’m fully certain that you’re a waste of time.

    Sophisticated argument. If I’m a waste of time, why are you condescending to call me names?

    You’ve already acknowledged above that you created these images in the hopes of contributing to social change.

    Yep. I hope I make a few creos heads explode in rage. (shrug)

    But you utterly fail to address the point that you’re on weak ground if you’re trying to blame me for someone else’s actions, which I have no control of. That’s just stupid. I know you don’t care but that’s why I reject a lot of the “sexism” ideology. It doesn’t hold water – if we simply demand social equality and work to uphold it wherever possible, race/religion/gender issues fall out in the process.

    That way, the responsibility for action lies where it properly should: if someone is a sexist or racist, judge them by their actions. What you’re attempting to do is judge me by how my self-expression might affect unknown third parties. I haven’t seen anything like an argument from you explaining how that could possibly be a moral position. Do you also support “free speech” but simultaneously support “anti hate speech” laws? What about blasphemy?

    That you’re a sexist ass. I doubt that was what you were trying to convey.

    OOooh! Oooh! I got labelled!!! Wow. I’m honored.

    You’re an idiot with delusions of talent.

    Thanks. I can see that, since you have no idea what I actually do, and yet are willing to judge, that you’re just the epitome of dogmatism. I expect that kind of thing from a bible-thumper but it’s always surprising to find it here. And, because I don’t nicely line up with your precious little ideology I’m just a target for name-calling. Scratch some rationalists in the right place and they reveal themselves to be just what they profess to hate: ideology-spouting true believers who offer nothing but name calling and proof by vigorous assertion.

    And it’s pretty obvious that it did strike a nerve, or you wouldn’t be whining about it so. Sad.

    I’m not whining. I’m fucking with you. It’s a whole different vibe. And, in the process, I’m hoping that possibly you’ll have a few clues wend their way into your thick skull, but that doesn’t seem to be happening.
    Anyway, as I said, you’re a waste of time.

    Do you realize that you’re doing nothing but name-calling? Sheesh, did you win your coveted “OM” for lame, or what?

  104. #104 yoyo
    April 26, 2009

    Yes PZ and I say again yes! It’s crazy that this debate even has to happen, wtf is a scientific organisation doing even supporting relion in a tacit way? It’s not like religion has done science or science education any favours.

    I think it is time for atheists to be loud and vocal about it, my children proudly support FSM tshirts to school and debate the fundie kids. No other field of human endevour demans such obsience from a non- related field as religion, they have their own spokes people you know the men (and they are almost all men) funny dresses and head gear, shiny buildings

  105. #105 Anonymous
    April 26, 2009

    @Kausik
    Thank you. Yes it’s “mine” in that I’m not quoting anyone else, but I’m standing on the shoulders of giants when I said so: at best it’s a half-baked paraphrase of what Dawkins, Dennett, PZ, et al have been saying for years.

    But I’m glad you liked it.

  106. #106 Oliver
    April 26, 2009

    @Kausik
    oops… #105 is me responding to your #102

  107. #107 Anonymous
    April 26, 2009

    That way, the responsibility for action lies where it properly should: if someone is a sexist or racist, judge them by their actions.

    But it is your actions that are sexist. How is this different to posting a piece of “art” with Obama and watermelons? You are buying into a very dominant and lazy peice of sexism eg: women are just their boobs and boobs are somehow subversive and naughty.

  108. #108 Orac
    April 26, 2009

    So, which is more important? That more people understand and accept that evolution is an basic underlying tenet of science or that people stop believing in a god of any kind? Seems to me that the latter is more important to you; the former is what I am after.

    Indeed. The attitude displayed in PZ’s post is exactly why, after a brief flirtation with a Dawkins/PZ-style atheism a couple of years back, over the last year or so I’ve come back much more to an NCSE style approach–because I, too, consider it more important to educate about science than to fight religion.

  109. #109 'Tis Himself
    April 26, 2009

    Hey Tis – When will you be sailing up the Columbia River? Put in at Hood River and I’ll buy you a beer at Full Sail Ale microbrewery.

    Unfortunately, I’m at the other end of the country, otherwise I’d be happy to accept your generous offer. Thank you.

  110. #110 yoyo
    April 26, 2009

    Orac, maybe it’s just an American thing but I always thought you could do both.

  111. #111 PZ Myers
    April 26, 2009

    I am rolling my eyes strenuously right now.

    Personally, I find it far more important to educate about science than to mollycoddle people’s superstitious beliefs.

  112. #112 Patricia, OM
    April 26, 2009

    Kausik Datta – Yep, I’m a tad less than 100 miles from Portland, OR. During Saturday Market season I work in front of Full Sail Ale peddling herbs and eggs, while the wind howls.

  113. #113 Patricia, OM
    April 26, 2009

    Tis Himself – Dang! That was my best beer bribe too. I’ve only got to sail once in my life. The Lady Washington came up the Columbia after filming in Pirates of the Caribbean and I bought a ticket to go out on her. The highlight of the trip was when a barge hailed us and called the ship a motor vessel. The crew was outraged and fired the cannon across the barges bow. :D We all jeered heartily. Arrgh!

  114. #114 SC, OM
    April 26, 2009

    I can see that, since you have no idea what I actually do, and yet are willing to judge,

    Yes, I’m obviously unable to appreciate the artistic and political sophistication of “hot topless chicks.”

    That way, the responsibility for action lies where it properly should: if someone is a sexist or racist, judge them by their actions.

    What a fool. That’s exactly what I’m doing, as Anonymous explains in #107. (And that’s an interesting suggestion from someone who thinks “the whole notion of ‘sexism’ is silly” in the first place.)

    I’m not whining. I’m fucking with you. It’s a whole different vibe.

    Looks a lot like whining. But I guess you’re as much of a hack at “fucking with” people as you are at art.

  115. #115 Marcus Ranum
    April 26, 2009

    Anonymous writes:
    But it is your actions that are sexist.

    I see. Because I posted a photo with tits? In the same portfolio where I posted photos (albeit fewer) of cocks? Would I have been being less “sexist” if I had called them “mammaries”? Or “penii”?

    How is this different to posting a piece of “art” with Obama and watermelons?

    If I chose to, why would it be any business of yours? But that’s not the main point – the question here is whether my doing so makes me somehow responsible for making the world a worse place if it inflames someone else’s stupid. That was the original argument I was presented with.

    I’m not attempting to defend bad or offensive art. (shrug) Everything can/will offend someone. You’re either stuck in an endless hell of trying to avoid offending anyone, or you need to just accept that some people are going to be offensive, and move on from there.

    You are buying into a very dominant and lazy peice of sexism eg: women are just their boobs and boobs are somehow subversive and naughty.

    EXCUSE ME it appears to be YOU that is buying into that idea. I never said anything of the kind, nor do I live my life in accordance with the principle that “women are just boobs” You’re jumping to assumptions all over the place! Talk about “lazy”!

    Before you have anything like enough basis to say anything about what I am “buying into” you need to know me a whole lot better than you do. You’ve stereotyped me, right there, a whole lot more than I’ve stereotyped women.

    That’s why I think the whole ideology of “sexism” is nonsensical – it’s simply cultural stereotyping of the grossest kind, applied in a direction believed to be morally superior.

    Now, you could argue that I am somehow aiding and abetting, or encouraging other people to adopt stereotypes (which would be ironic, coming from you!) – but you’d have to convince me that I should assume a moral burden for a complete stranger’s behavior as a tenuous consequence of my speech/actions. There are good reasons why even “hate speech” legislation touches on “incitement” – I think that if I were posting images saying “treat women like !(*#*!” (you know: the kind of crap the bible does) then you might have a point.

    Of course, I support your right to stereotype me, call me names, and make moral judgements about me while knowing nothing about me whatsoever. I even support your right to make those observations in a public forum. But I’m not really impressed, if you’ll pardon me for saying it.

  116. #116 SC, OM
    April 26, 2009

    Orac:

    Indeed. The attitude displayed in PZ’s post is exactly why, after a brief flirtation with a Dawkins/PZ-style atheism a couple of years back, over the last year or so I’ve come back much more to an NCSE style approach–because I, too, consider it more important to educate about science than to fight religion.

    Educating about science is more than teaching people about a single biological process, however important that may be. It is teaching and encouraging a rational, scientific, evidence-based approch to the world. Religion is not compatible with this.

  117. #117 Marcus Ranum
    April 26, 2009

    Yes, I’m obviously unable to appreciate the artistic and political sophistication of “hot topless chicks.”

    Yes. And you’re also incapable of defending the position from which you rain shit down on others. So you leap to ad hominem and dodging.

    At this point, you’ve made it clear that you’ve got no more “time to waste” on me, and that your opinions aren’t worthy of respect. So, I’m willing to call it a day if you are.

    Or you could do some more chimp screeching and throw poo at my back, if you prefer.

  118. #118 Patricia, OM
    April 26, 2009

    Kissing up to the religious fuckwits gets us nowhere. Coddling them got Matthew Sheppard what? Oh yeah, dead.

    No holds barred, no mercy. When they are stupid, tell them. When they lie point it out. When it’s crap they’re expounding rub their nose in the glittery turd.

    I’m very disappointed to hear these opinions about Eugene Scott. She has become a hero to me. But if she won’t stand up in public and call bullshit what it is, then I will have to rethink my own opinion of her.

  119. #119 SC, OM
    April 26, 2009

    How is this different to posting a piece of “art” with Obama and watermelons?

    If I chose to, why would it be any business of yours?

    It would, except under very specific circumstances, be a racist image – perpetuating racist stereotypes, encouraging people who view it to have racist attitudes. That’s everyone’s business, especially if you were bragging about it as an example of how you were contributing to social change and linking to it here.

    But that’s not the main point – the question here is whether my doing so makes me somehow responsible for making the world a worse place if it inflames someone else’s stupid.

    Of course it fucking does. Are you unaware that you’re producing images in a culture characterized by racism and sexism?

    That was the original argument I was presented with.

    No, it wasn’t. It wouldn’t be stupid in the slightest for women to be alienated by your images or for men to find their sexist attitudes reinforced.

    I’m not attempting to defend bad or offensive art. (shrug)

    Of course you are.

    Everything can/will offend someone. You’re either stuck in an endless hell of trying to avoid offending anyone, or you need to just accept that some people are going to be offensive, and move on from there.

    I’m not having this ridiculous conversation again, which I’ve had numerous times over language. You know what you’re doing, and you know you’re not working in a cultural vacuum. You’re responsible for your own actions. And if you’re claiming “My little way of making religion’s lifespan shorter is to be as caustic as possible about its ridiculousness, in public forums where lots of young people go,” you should fucking be prepared to defend your choices.

    EXCUSE ME it appears to be YOU that is buying into that idea. I never said anything of the kind, nor do I live my life in accordance with the principle that “women are just boobs” You’re jumping to assumptions all over the place! Talk about “lazy”!

    You’re a tremendous imbecile. I don’t care what principle you live your life according to. You described your art as featuring “hot topless chicks (yay! woot!).” That sends a message. You don’t get to create from scratch the cultural context in which your work is viewed, asshole.

    That’s why I think the whole ideology of “sexism” is nonsensical – it’s simply cultural stereotyping of the grossest kind, applied in a direction believed to be morally superior.

    You have no idea what you’re talking about.

    Now, you could argue that I am somehow aiding and abetting, or encouraging other people to adopt stereotypes (which would be ironic, coming from you!) [no, it wouldn't - you haven't the slightest idea what a stereotype is] – but you’d have to convince me that I should assume a moral burden for a complete stranger’s behavior as a tenuous consequence of my speech/actions.

    Right – a tenuous consequence. Just like calling black people the n-word and women cunts carries no inherent meaning or connotations. Everyone’s reaction is completely individual and personal, and you have no responsibility for what you say or make.

    I think that if I were posting images saying “treat women like !(*#*!” (you know: the kind of crap the bible does) then you might have a point.

    What makes you think you’re not?

    Of course, I support your right to stereotype me, call me names, and make moral judgements about me while knowing nothing about me whatsoever.

    No one has judged you on anything other than what you’ve presented here.

  120. #120 Jafafa Hots
    April 26, 2009

    “I think the whole notion of “sexism” is silly.”

    I’ve known some people who thought the whole notion of racism was silly.

    They were assholes too.

  121. #121 Jafafa Hots
    April 26, 2009

    Incidentally, I DID sign up for that site. I have no problem with erotica, beautiful human bodies, etc.
    I checked out one of Marcus’ photos.

    A woman in a skimpy shirt and shorts marked “Hooters.”

    Idiot.

  122. #122 Jafafa Hots
    April 26, 2009

    “Idiot.”

    (I should clarify that I’m referring to the “artist.”)

  123. #123 SC, OM
    April 26, 2009

    Incidentally, I DID sign up for that site. I have no problem with erotica, beautiful human bodies, etc.

    Nor, for the record, do I. In any way. But his words in describing them – problematic in and of themselves – hinted at a certain kind of image.

    I checked out one of Marcus’ photos.

    A woman in a skimpy shirt and shorts marked “Hooters.”

    Yup, that’s about the level I pictured.

  124. #124 Russell Blackford
    April 26, 2009

    I’ve had yet another go at this issue over here:

    http://metamagician3000.blogspot.com/2009/04/pz-on-accommodationism.html

    What I don’t get is how hard people seem to find the very simple concept that Jerry Coyne, PZ, I, and others are defending. We think that science organisations should be neutral about philosophical issues such as whether there is some sort of incompatibility between science and religion. Just talk about the science and the law. Why is that so hard for so many intelligent people to get their heads around?

  125. #125 MosesZD
    April 26, 2009

    On the subject of paradigm shifts, Thomas Kuhn said, using a quote from Max Planck: “a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”. Likewise, this is how atheism will overcome theistic thinking.

    It’s also what makes societies progress — the forceful shift of what is “right/moral” and it’s adoption by the young. Followed by a greater adoption by their young. And so on… And, of course, the die-off of those that can’t make the change…

    Even after all the civil rights reforms of the 60′s, you rarely saw mixed-race couples until the 70′s/80′s. Now, I see them all the time among the 40-and-under crowd, especially in the 25-and-unders. Not so much in my crowd. Rarely in my parents crowd and almost unthinkable in my grandparents.

    My grandparents are dead, my parents in their 70′s. Their time is, by-and-large, past and my generation is getting ready to assume the “oldster” place in society. And, I think, most of us are okay with mixed race marriages, even if we were conditioned otherwise.

    Even as we live today, gay marriage is going to happen. No matter how many religious goofballs oppose it. My grandparents, if they were alive, would be scandalized. My parents, and most of their generation, are against it.
    In my generation, most of us that are progressive at least, support gay marriage. Even lots of moderates.

    In my children’s generation, more support it than don’t, and those that don’t almost all come from harsh, judgemental Christianity. And while they don’t, you can be sure many of their children will…

    And so it goes…

  126. #126 Rorschach
    April 26, 2009

    Orac missing the point once more @ 108,

    The attitude displayed in PZ’s post is exactly why, after a brief flirtation with a Dawkins/PZ-style atheism a couple of years back, over the last year or so I’ve come back much more to an NCSE style approach–because I, too, consider it more important to educate about science than to fight religion.

    And whats this attitude you speak of?Care to elaborate(for once)?
    And it should be clear to everyone who is not blind and deaf that,to educate about science,and nature,and rationality,you will have to fight religion,and its irrationality,superstition and brainwashing effect.
    The 2 are just not compatible,being nice will get you nowhere,the religious are certainly not playing nice,they let us have a few crumbs as long as we smile and nod and are tolerant and dont offend them,but IMO it’s time to tell a fool a fool and a liar a liar.

  127. #127 Thomas Lee Elifritz
    April 26, 2009

    Re : #11 Robert :

    We want you to shut up

    Says it all.

  128. #128 Marcus Ranum
    April 26, 2009

    SC, OM writes:
    It would, except under very specific circumstances, be a racist image – perpetuating racist stereotypes, encouraging people who view it to have racist attitudes. That’s everyone’s business, especially if you were bragging about it as an example of how you were contributing to social change and linking to it here.

    Please note that the “watermelon image” example was from “Anonymous” and I had nothing to do with it.

    I understand that such an image would be considered “racist” and “contributing to stereotypes” but there’s a logical flaw in that premise. Those stereotypes would already have to be in the viewer’s mind for them to have any meaning, and they’d have to already carry weight. For the image to be meaningful as a “racist” image, the viewer would already have to be a “racist” or attuned to “racism”. (I suppose one could be a “counter-racist” but in order to be one, they’d have to have adopted all of the same memes as the “racist” just put a “not( )” around them)

    That’s why I have always been puzzled that people take this stuff seriously. You’re not going to convince someone to be a “racist” or a “sexist” through a picture any more than you’re going to break their faith or lead them to enlightenment. Imagery is a one-way communication, at best, and sometimes it’s not even that.

    Anyhow, it’s something of a moot point, since I didn’t post an image of Obama with a watermelon – if anyone in this thread can be said to have done so, it’s “Anonymous.” That idea had utterly failed to cross my mind until now. And, in fact, the idea that my photos of a girl (or a guy) somehow says something about their intelligence — I’m sorry, but that concept comes entirely in your mind, not mine.

    If you could step back from your self-righteous indignation, those of you who are busy jumping on me for being a sexist idiot might realize that you’re accusing me of a thought-crime and your only justification is self-referential circular reasoning.

    Are you unaware that you’re producing images in a culture characterized by racism and sexism?

    Of course not. Are you trying to say that the culture I was born into is somehow my moral responsibility? Or that I need to lead my life in accordance with other people’s brain-damage and irrational beliefs?

    I’m not having this ridiculous conversation again, which I’ve had numerous times over language. You know what you’re doing, and you know you’re not working in a cultural vacuum. You’re responsible for your own actions.

    Of course I am. Are you also making me responsible for some “sexist” retard’s actions? Or a “racist” hater’s actions?

    If I’m responsible for my own actions (I accept that) then YOU’RE being utterly unfair by imputing all sorts of thought-crimes to me, when you know apparently nothing about my actions. If you were, for example, to present a single one of my former employees who would say that I was ever anything but sex-blind and utterly professional, then maybe you’d have something to talk about. If you were to present a single model that I’ve worked with that I treated unfairly, then maybe you’d have a leg to stand on. Or, perhaps, if you were to search these intrawebs and find a single place where I talk down to (or up to) someone because of their gender – hell, throw in race, while you’re at it – then you’d have a point. Perhaps you might find the exercise of reading every post I’ve ever made on Pharyngula, vainly searching for anyplace where I have been anyplace but gender-blind – you might learn something. But, no, what you’re doing is leaping to conclusions about a picture that you haven’t even looked at, and jumped in my shit and called me “sexist.” Pardon me for calling you off your high horse but you are blowing nonsensical ideology and are too stubborn to admit that you haven’t a leg to stand on.

    No, it wasn’t. It wouldn’t be stupid in the slightest for women to be alienated by your images or for men to find their sexist attitudes reinforced.

    Wow, what a load of pop psychology psychobabble.

    I see: an image is “sexist” if it reinforces a “sexist”s existing attitude. I don’t know about “alienation” but I’m willing to bet that if you tried to argue that one, you’d wind up saying that “people with existing self-image problems might make them worse.” Why don’t you spare your righteous wrath for those who made them that way in the first place?

    if you’re claiming “My little way of making religion’s lifespan shorter is to be as caustic as possible about its ridiculousness, in public forums where lots of young people go,” you should fucking be prepared to defend your choices.

    Which is exactly what I am doing, in case it escaped your notice. And all I’m getting from you is ad hominem arguments and begging the question (“it’s sexist if it reinforces sexist attitudes, and you’re sexist if you produce something that can be interpreted as sexist”)

    Maybe you should defend your position a bit instead of just flailing away at me.

    You’re a tremendous imbecile. I don’t care what principle you live your life according to.

    I see. So I am “sexist” only based on the fact that I posted a specific phrase to this blog. None of my actions count as highly as those little words? You have a very strange moral sense. You’re willing to excoriate me and chimp screech and fling poo at me based on that??

    Do you realize how nonsensical you seem? Honestly, you strike me more as a case of someone who simply cannot admit that they’re not 100% right, and are simply going to keep amping up the volume and hand-waving until I eventually get bored and drift off. That strategy might work, BTW. But it won’t make you right.

    I wrote:
    That’s why I think the whole ideology of “sexism” is nonsensical – it’s simply cultural stereotyping of the grossest kind, applied in a direction believed to be morally superior.

    SC, OM replies:
    You have no idea what you’re talking about.

    Wow, that’s sophisticated argumentation. I’m impressed. You’ve clearly got a handle on these things.

    Right – a tenuous consequence. Just like calling black people the n-word and women cunts carries no inherent meaning or connotations. Everyone’s reaction is completely individual and personal, and you have no responsibility for what you say or make.

    If you find one instance, one person, who will ever say that I called them either of those words, you can waterboard me. Deal?

    What I find fascinating and ironic is that you and your friends in this thread are the ones throwing all the racial and sexual stereotypes around – not me. Does that tell you anything?

    As far as responsibility for what I say or make – absolutely. That’s why I am defending my words and actions here. Because I do accept responsibility for what I say. What I don’t accept is responsibility for what someone else thinks and does. What I don’t accept is responsibility for your cultural baggage. And I absolutely am not going to allow you to convict me of thought-crime.

    Your “argument” appears to be that doing certain things encourages or amplifies negative social attitudes and therefore I shouldn’t do them. Is that correct? OK, let’s try a little reasoning based on reality: there’s more “sexist” pornography in the US right now than ever before, and kids are probably getting access to it at earlier ages. If “sexist” art/porn/”stereotypes” were making “sexist” attitudes worse, why is it that the incidence of sexual assault continues to drop, females are increasingly successful in business, gender pay disparity continues to improve – in short – social equality is on the rise?
    Let me anticipate one possible line of objection “but you’re still making things worse” – that’s irrelevant, as long as things are getting better it’s evidence that there are more important factors at play.

    I offer facts, you offer thought-crimes, pop psychology, red-faced table thumping, ideology and name-calling. This is not your finest hour.

    I write:
    I think that if I were posting images saying “treat women like !(*#*!” (you know: the kind of crap the bible does) then you might have a point.

    SC, OM writes:
    What makes you think you’re not?

    (eyeroll) Back to the circular logic. Someone who is already predisposed to treat women like crap is going to see what I do as further justification for treating women like crap. That’s as rational as saying that they might smoke dope, have visions, and have their world-views reinforced, therefore the dope bears a moral burden for their stupid.

    No one has judged you on anything other than what you’ve presented here.

    So, you’re saying that I am a “sexist” because I typed the words:
    “hot topless chicks (yay! woot!)”

    You’re ridiculous, did you know that?

  129. #129 Owlmirror
    April 26, 2009

    I’m very disappointed to hear these opinions about Eugene Scott. She has become a hero to me. But if she won’t stand up in public and call bullshit what it is, then I will have to rethink my own opinion of her.

    Well, I haven’t rethought my opinion, because I am not really surprised: She thinks of herself as a diplomat, so of course she’s going to phrase things diplomatically. I don’t condemn her for it. The whole point of the Overton window effect is having blunt and rude folks like us make the diplomatic types sound even better when they make soothing and accommodationist noises — along with emphasizing the very valid science, of course. You need a range of messages for that to work.

    Science is in the minority. There’s a vast population of people who don’t like or understand science, and even when they do, don’t like following the implications of scientific thinking applied to their pet ideologies — sometimes even when they are scientists.

    I try a range of messages myself, depending on who I’m talking to. Some get the full double-barrels of contempt; some get the carefully nuanced analytical breakdown. Sometimes I’m trying to think of what will work; sometimes I’m just venting.

    You can never know for certain what will get through, sometimes on the hundred-and-first repetition of what you’ve been saying all along.

  130. #130 Marcus Ranum
    April 26, 2009

    Jafa writes:
    A woman in a skimpy shirt and shorts marked “Hooters.”

    Idiot.

    I’m not saying that it’s always a good idea to read artists’ comments on images, but – heh – you really pwn3d yourself on that one. You may agree or disagree with the concept but that whole image series was a play on a certain restaurant chain’s use of pseudo-revealing clothes. The last frame of the set has the relevant comment.

    Actually, you’d probably read the comment and conclude that it’s “sexist” no matter what so don’t waste your time. After all, any picture with a pretty girl in it is “sexist” because I defined her as pretty and that plays to stereotypes, apparently, and causes people to go out and commit rape and atrocities.

  131. #131 Rorschach
    April 26, 2009

    SC and MR,
    I suggest you swap email addresses and tell yourself this stuff face-to-face,that’ll put an end to it pretty quickly.

    I’m most astonished(I know,I shouldn’t be anymore),that the “argument from missing local/rural grassroots authenticity” came up,this is so typically american,and so transparently BS,that one wonders how it could possibly be brought up in a serious discussion about any topic,let alone in one about the best way to promote science and rationality.
    Amazing.

  132. #132 defective robot
    April 26, 2009

    Funny thing about anti-elitism: it’s still elitism. It’s just not as smart as my elitism!

  133. #133 Sastra
    April 26, 2009

    Orac #108 wrote:

    Indeed. The attitude displayed in PZ’s post is exactly why, after a brief flirtation with a Dawkins/PZ-style atheism a couple of years back, over the last year or so I’ve come back much more to an NCSE style approach–because I, too, consider it more important to educate about science than to fight religion.

    I think that PZ’s stance on whether scientists should try to appeal to the religious on their own terms is similar to the stance of the science-based medicine advocates on whether scientists should try to appeal to the alternative medicine advocates on their own terms. You can look at both religion and alt med and see that there are reasonable aspects to both.

    So do you play up this area of ‘overlap?’ Should we try to convince alt med fans that science is perfectly compatible with alt med — if we’re talking good nutrition, exercise, and some successfully tested herbal remedies? Guide them in that direction, and hope they eventually come around to scientific thinking?

    There’s a science-friendly ‘version’ of alt med! Just as there are science-friendly versions of religion! Let’s work with the other groups, instead of against them! And ignore the benign but worthless forms of alt med — concentrate on the really bad stuff. Homeopathy doesn’t hurt anyone.

    I think the ‘accomodationist position’ is strangely similar to the position of “complementary medicine.”

  134. #134 Religion? Brand Brain Staples
    April 27, 2009

    You ever have one of those moments where you wish something was a conspiracy?

    I’m having one of those right now.

    I wish this denouncement was all a put on to lend the apologists at the NCSE credibility enough to win people to rational thought before helping them dispense with religion altogether.

    If only.

    Dissent is fine, it’s part of what being a free society is all about… but I can see why the attitude is irksome.

    And for the record, this “little blog” has done more to further my education than anything the whole of NCSE has done lately.

    PZ, you’re more than just a militant atheist. You’re an educational vigilante. A superstition fighter, out bringing bad ideas to justice.

    Someone get this man a cape.

  135. #135 Nanu Nanu
    April 27, 2009

    “Someone get this man a cape.”

    made of tentacles

    and he’d have a harpoon and ride a giant squid

    He’d be captain Ahab and fight ken Ham who would battle in a giant robotic piglet.

  136. #136 Patricia, OM
    April 27, 2009

    Owlmirror @129 – Thank You for your thoughts on Eugene Scotts position. Probably I am disappointed because I am still fairly fresh from having the church door hit me in the ass. There are so few women leaders in this controversy that I want her to be a hammer, like Hitchens or PZ. I’ve been judging her by her YouTube appearances, which are all I ever get to see. She has always looked good there.

  137. #137 Pierce R. Butler
    April 27, 2009

    If I were a Real Scientist?, I’d test this proposition (but I ain’t/won’t): the debate above will probably earn this thread a high Google ranking for the search “hot topless chicks”. Welcome to Pharyngula, anatomy students!

    (ahem) As I was about to say, it seems a number of people here have missed that the RBH of # 28 is the Richard B. Hoppe whose rant provoked our host’s response in the first place.

    Therefore, his message deserves a closer look:

    When the offensive players diss their teammates on the defensive side of the ball, as Coyne systematically did, it’s a sign of a dysfunctional team.

    When the offense players suggest that the defense squad should not merely stop the opponents’ ball but kick it back the other way, and the defense throws a tantrum and calls their critics incompetents who don’t belong on the field – yeah, there are problems.

    Unfortunately, in the absence of anyone/thing who could be called a coach, the metaphor dies, miserably, alone, in the rain.

    In his PT post, RBH rather ironically compares the “New Atheists” to armchair generals unaware of what actual warfare is like, and himself to a grizzled sergeant in the trenches. Sgt. Hoppe: you are aware that it’s not due to a deficiency in mathematics that Gen. Myers has lost count of how many death threats he’s received, right?

  138. #138 Ranger_Rick
    April 27, 2009

    We are asking that this pretense that religion and science are compatible, and that the only way to get political support is for the majority of scientists to sit back and shut up about their rational views while the scientists who endorse superstition are propped up as our fašade, has got to end.

    The statement above nails it, IMHO.

    Wow, PZ, this entire post blew me away. It’s what I’m thinking and I’m sure most here are thinking as well…it’s what we’ve all been waiting for…delivered crystal clear.

    Yes, yes, yes, this must move to the political arena and move forward on its own merit. And this post was, I feel, a significant step in the right direction to solidify that happening.

    Your stating the end to kow-towing to religion made my day! -big twinkles in my eyes-

    We can make no excuses for accepting reality! And hiding behind psuedo-science or facades is kow-towing. None of us need to kiss-ass…I’m done kissing religion’s ass!

    Screw-em…they need to wake-the-f*ck-up to the fact that believing in 1800 pages of a 2000 year old How-To manual of sky-fairy worship is not only destroying education here and abroad…it’s a huge mother-fricken fraud!

    Your a fricken great soldier, PZ! And I’ll soldier with you any fricken day. This post was very, very well said!

  139. #139 Scott Hatfield, OM
    April 27, 2009

    This is why some of us are beginning to express our resentment of the approach taken by the NCSE and its friends: they have chosen as their preferred face of science spokespeople who are not representative of the majority of scientists, and who are definitely not at all representative of the significant fraction of even more militant atheists among us.

    Hmmm. I hesitate to reply, PZ. In an earlier post, I may have been guilty of misrepresenting your views. I want to be scrupulous on that point here, lest I face once again the unfettered wrath of that strangely truthful machine, Nothing’s Sacred (shudders in recollection of recent degree of pwnage).

    Having said that, I feel that the objection you raise is only partly answerable in pragmatic terms. I think you are right that their preferred spokespeople tend not to be truly representative of the scientific community. I’m not sure, however, that this is a meaningful objection. After all, neither Ken Miller nor Michael Behe could be said to be a typical Catholic with respect to evolution, much less representative of Christianity in general. Are Howard Dean or Michael Steele truly representative in every sense of the Democratic and Republican Party? Or, as seems more likely, well-known for their past work and thus (it is hoped) able to inspire confidence in their ability to work for an organization’s future goals?

    I therefore think the question turns on not whether NCSE spokespeople privately have beliefs representative of scientists in general, but whether or not they are effective at advancing NCSE’s agenda. And it is here that I think that your critique is a little more solid:

    I wouldn’t be at all reluctant to say that science contradicts many interpretations of the audience’s religion, and that if anyone needs to do any accommodation to reality, it’s not us, it’s them. I don’t think anyone would flee; I might get more argument in the Q&A, though, which would be a fine and enlightening thing. I also don’t think that honesty about our differences necessarily makes enemies. I also think that ultimately, it is far more ? and here’s a word you’ll rarely hear from me in regards to the foes of science ? respectful.

    I agree. It is one thing to assert, as I do, that evolution can be accepted by a person of faith. It is another to pretend that this approach doesn’t have problems (it does), or that we are obligated to hold hands and sing ‘Kum Ba Yah’ (we aren’t), or that (most insultingly) all believers are so high-strung that they can’t countenance honesty on this topic and must be placated with elisions, half-truths and insincere and misplaced pieties. There should be a way to present the full range of views that does not condescend to the science nor privilege religion.

    We are asking that this pretense that religion and science are compatible…

    The terms here seem unnecessarily broad and likely to cause more unrest than satisfaction at the grass roots. Why not take the tack of PBS’s ‘Evolution’ series, which acknowledges a diversity of views on this question? I am perfectly happy to sign on to a statement of absolute neutrality on this point. Here’s my suggestion:

    “Individuals privately hold a range of views on the question of the correct relationship between science and religion, debating the question of how they can be compatible, if at all. But scientists themselves have no question about how science should be conducted: by careful measurement, experiment and reasoning based on evidence, rather than faith.”

    Stop bringing religion up altogether, and stick to the science.

    PZ, based upon what you’ve shared in the past about your pedagogy on this topic, you and I have much in common. We both provide some historical context on evolution, including the influence of religion. I’m assuming that you think this is a good way to teach this, and that you are not actually advocating a curriculum that lacks this context.

    (gulps) Hopefully, I’ve stated where I agree or disagree without any inadvertent straw people. Comments are welcome.

  140. #140 Scott Hatfield, OM
    April 27, 2009

    Robert:

    How you think that your comments can possibly be a reasonable and moderate response eludes me.

  141. #141 CatBallou
    April 27, 2009

    Uh-oh, Robert. You had a dangling modifier in another post! The horror! The shame!
    I don’t know how you can face yourself in the mirror after this. Your life is no longer worth living.

  142. #142 Ranger_Rick
    April 27, 2009

    Blake wrote…

    What percentage of the United States population has to go nontheist before public intellectuals like these start bending over backwards to avoid offending it?

    “public intellectuals?”

    I say, forget that part…public officials are who we should be gene graphin’ on! Go after the Michelle Bachmanns of the world…and embarass the f*ck out of them. (well, she maybe too stoopid)
    -grins-

    Actually, all of us have the key to get this going…perhaps something like a “We Science Your Sky-Fairy Day” Or maybe a “Tea-Baggin’ for Science Day” could help.

    Or maybe something more militant like having ALL atheists, biological scientist, physicists, archeologists, paleontologists, geneticists, history profs. (i.e. the enlightened), etc…go on “strike” for 24 hours…and volunteer that time at a school to wake folks up about the dangers inherent with sky-fairy worship or something? We could then gather around the flag-poles at high schools and educate!

  143. #143 Robert
    April 27, 2009

    To Scott, writer of “Robert: How you think that your comments can possibly be a reasonable and moderate response eludes me”:

    You’re words are like daggers, Scott! My dearest ambition in life is to be reasonable and moderate (more easily summed up in a single word, bland), for anything unreasonable and immoderate just ought not be! I am trying to think about the most reasonable and moderate means of consoling myself after being so terribly humiliated by your words, but none spring to mind. Thus, I shall weep inconsolably.

    I’d also like to make a note on the tenor of all of your comments since we’re talking “moderate.” Most of the comments about how religion/science are incompatible, how you need to be more aggressive in your campaigns, etc. are decidely extremist. I would say that we have a bell curve of religious attitudes in this country (deeply pious at one end, virulently atheistic at the other), but it’s not true. Survey after survey show that the vast majority of people in America pray (most every day!) and are spiritual/religious. Thus, this blog attracts the miserable, wretched few who decide that their grand goal in life is to tell people “I’m right and you’re wrong about how the universe works.” Great! That’s terribly useful and accomplishes a lot, primarily stroking all of your own egos (e.g., “These people must be educated, and I shall do it!”) and attacking institutions that attempt to make people better and more noble in favor of those that describe humans as leading base, deterministic, ultimately meaningless lives. How thoroughly moderate of y’all.

    God bless!

  144. #144 ChrisZ
    April 27, 2009

    Come on now Orac, surely you can see that that’s both a false dichotomy and a straw man you’ve set up.

    PZ isn’t arguing (at least I don’t think he is), that we should be going out with the explicit purpose of deconverting people. He’s saying we shouldn’t be pandering to people’s desire to forgo logic and reason in certain parts of their lives. What we want to be promoting is not just science education in the science classroom, but logic and reason in all aspects of life. Those tools obviously don’t rule out any non-falsifiable god (or anything else non-falsifiable), but what the NCSE is doing is encouraging people to create non-falsifiable gods to make them feel better. Doing so is silly, it’s off point (promotion of science education), and I think it’s detrimental overall to the greater goal of promoting reason.

    Anyway, it’s clear that’s it not science or atheism, pick a side. It can be both, and a single individual can work towards both simultaneously, or both at different times as he sees fit. I think it’s important not to lose sight of the larger goal though, which is scientific and skeptical thinking throughout our culture. I think the NCSE has lost sight of that larger goal in favor of the much more limited goal of keeping creationism out of science classrooms. Wouldn’t it be nice not to have to worry about that happening? If we can get to a society that is primarily secular (like Sweden’s, for instance), we won’t need an NCSE because creationists won’t have any traction. That’s what it means to go on offense, make it so we aren’t scraping by to keep the creationist/antivax/kevintrudeau types at bay.

  145. #145 Michael Hawkins
    April 27, 2009

    The most important point here, I think, is that science should be conducted for the sake of science. Of course, it has implications that best lends itself to atheism, but that isn’t as important as the fact that science is the best representation of truth that we have. For that reason it should be held in high regard.

  146. #146 Glenn Davey
    April 27, 2009

    Call me paranoid, but I don’t like this NCSE mob. I don’t believe we “really, really need them” as one commenter said.

    In fact, if you squint, they look like the very, very thin end of the Discovery Institute’s “Wedge Strategy”.

  147. #147 Rorschach
    April 27, 2009

    Robert,mindless troll,unintendedly raising an interesting point @143,

    Thus, this blog attracts the miserable, wretched few who decide that their grand goal in life is to tell people “I’m right and you’re wrong about how the universe works.”

    Ignoring the foul language and the strawman,so yes,why do we care?Why should we care and not just leave mindless braindead religious zombies like Robert to themselves?

    Because they infect their children with the same god virus,because they ultimately want to take our liberties from us(Dawkins in Oklahoma,anyone?),they want to lie to kids in school,they want to abuse the position of power they find themselves in within organized religion,and,most of all,because religion kills,breeds killers and fundamentalists,and creates differences and conflicts between fellow human beings.
    Religion is holding mankind back and causes killing and suffering.

  148. #148 John Morales
    April 27, 2009

    Good post, great thread.

    Robert:

    Thus, this blog attracts the miserable, wretched few who decide that their grand goal in life is to tell people “I’m right and you’re wrong about how the universe works.”

    I see you’ve been attracted to this blog.

  149. #149 SC, OM
    April 27, 2009

    Please note that the “watermelon image” example was from “Anonymous” and I had nothing to do with it.

    You’re so stupid it’s making my head hurt.

    I understand that such an image would be considered “racist” and “contributing to stereotypes” but there’s a logical flaw in that premise.

    The flaw is in your brain.

    Those stereotypes would already have to be in the viewer’s mind for them to have any meaning, and they’d have to already carry weight.

    Which they do. That’s the cultural context. That’s what culture is. Just words like n***** and c*** have cultural connotations.

    For the image to be meaningful as a “racist” image, the viewer would already have to be a “racist” or attuned to “racism”. (I suppose one could be a “counter-racist” but in order to be one, they’d have to have adopted all of the same memes as the “racist” just put a “not( )” around them)

    Of all of the self-justificatory “arguments” I’ve read on these subjects, this has to be the dumbest. “If you recognize racism, that means you’re a racist!” I found it so stupid during the discussion of the Obama-monkey t-shirts that I still joke about it.

    (That extensive discussion contains the responses to this line of “reasoning.” To everyone else: HELP! I CAN’T FIND IT! It’s extremely frustrating. The guy selling them was Mike Norman, but I can only find another, shorter thread about him. It’s bothering me immensely. If anyone can locate it, I would really appreciate it.)

    That’s why I have always been puzzled that people take this stuff seriously.

    You appear to be puzzled about a number of things. Hardly surprising, as you’re both stupid and ignorant.

    You’re not going to convince someone to be a “racist” or a “sexist” through a picture

    Idiotic strawman.

    any more than you’re going to break their faith or lead them to enlightenment. Imagery is a one-way communication, at best, and sometimes it’s not even that.

    For someone with pretenses to art, you have a simplistic view of artistic communication.

    Anyhow, it’s something of a moot point, since I didn’t post an image of Obama with a watermelon – if anyone in this thread can be said to have done so, it’s “Anonymous.” That idea had utterly failed to cross my mind until now.

    You really are a buffoon, Ranum. But it’s fun watching your little self-justification dance.

    And, in fact, the idea that my photos of a girl (or a guy) somehow says something about their intelligence — I’m sorry, but that concept comes entirely in your mind, not mine.

    Yes, this is exactly what’s being argued. *rolls eyes* Read my initial comment again. Try to grasp what I’m saying.

    If you could step back from your self-righteous indignation, those of you who are busy jumping on me for being a sexist idiot might realize that you’re accusing me of a thought-crime and your only justification is self-referential circular reasoning.

    We’re criticizing your “artwork” and your description thereof.

    Of course not. Are you trying to say that the culture I was born into is somehow my moral responsibility?

    The images you produce and put out in public within that culture are your responsibility. That culture is sexist. If you choose to ignore that or, worse, use it in your imagery, that’s your responsibility.

    Or that I need to lead my life in accordance with other people’s brain-damage and irrational beliefs?

    No, by all means, continue to cater to and encourage sexism and racism and other irrational beliefs whenever possible.

    Are you also making me responsible for some “sexist” retard’s actions? Or a “racist” hater’s actions?

    I’ve answered this, but those scarequotes say a lot.

    If I’m responsible for my own actions (I accept that) then YOU’RE being utterly unfair by imputing all sorts of thought-crimes to me,

    Another tiresome but predictable dodge. I’m talking about your words and your images.

    when you know apparently nothing about my actions.

    I know what you’ve done and said here.

    I see: an image is “sexist” if it reinforces a “sexist”s existing attitude. I don’t know about “alienation” but I’m willing to bet that if you tried to argue that one, you’d wind up saying that “people with existing self-image problems might make them worse.”

    Don’t bet on anything when it comes to arguments. You’re obviously not bright enough to make sense of anything at a level beyond “hot topless chicks.”

    Maybe you should defend your position a bit instead of just flailing away at me.

    My position is clear. And you are a moron.

    I see. So I am “sexist” only based on the fact that I posted a specific phrase to this blog.

    What you are is evident in everything you’ve posted on this thread. (And I’ve now been informed of other previous examples – I’m not surprised.)

    I wrote:
    That’s why I think the whole ideology of “sexism” is nonsensical – it’s simply cultural stereotyping of the grossest kind, applied in a direction believed to be morally superior.

    SC, OM replies:
    You have no idea what you’re talking about.

    Wow, that’s sophisticated argumentation. I’m impressed. You’ve clearly got a handle on these things.

    Yes, I do. It’s my profession, in fact. But I’m not being paid to teach a class here, especially to someone so deeply confused and hostile to learning.

    If you find one instance, one person, who will ever say that I called them either of those words, you can waterboard me. Deal?

    Will you at least try to fucking understand what is being said to you? To think abstractly for a moment?

    What I find fascinating and ironic is that you and your friends in this thread are the ones throwing all the racial and sexual stereotypes around – not me. Does that tell you anything?

    People are pointing out to you that you are producing images in an existing cultural context. That context is sexist. You are using and promoting that.

    Your “argument” appears to be that doing certain things encourages or amplifies negative social attitudes and therefore I shouldn’t do them. Is that correct? OK, let’s try a little reasoning based on reality: there’s more “sexist” pornography in the US right now than ever before, and kids are probably getting access to it at earlier ages. If “sexist” art/porn/”stereotypes” were making “sexist” attitudes worse, why is it that the incidence of sexual assault continues to drop, females are increasingly successful in business, gender pay disparity continues to improve – in short – social equality is on the rise?
    Let me anticipate one possible line of objection “but you’re still making things worse” – that’s irrelevant, as long as things are getting better it’s evidence that there are more important factors at play.

    And when life spans were increasing in the 20th century, it was right to encourage people to continue to smoke like chimneys, since clearly that has nothing to do with negative health outcomes. F.

    Really, this is all such pathetic, defensive tripe.

    You’re ridiculous, did you know that?

    Projection.

  150. #150 Naked Bunny with a Whip
    April 27, 2009

    This is all you guys can find to do on a beautiful Sunday?

    Ehm, it was windy and raining all day. Do you assume that everyone here lives in your town? How utterly self-absorbed.

  151. #151 Jacki
    April 27, 2009

    I personally have a wonderful relationship with NCSE, but my interactions with the organization make me agree with PZ. It is well past time to go on the offensive.

    Organizations like NCSE, BSCS, NABT, and NSTA have long been providing public school teachers (that?s where the real battle ground is) with the support they need to address the evolution/creationism (ID) debate. But to make their messages more palatable, these groups have always made accommodations for religion. That was the nature of the debate in America when these groups started to coordinate.

    But this ?everybody wins? environment has bred a growing population of young scientists that are so evangelical in their Christian beliefs that they often fail to recognize or deny creationism. How are we going to address the biases when these individuals become NIH/NSF program officers and education policy consultants? When is it finally going to be time for ONLY science to be taught in the science classrooms of this country without apology?

  152. #152 Bruce gorton
    April 27, 2009

    PZ and others:

    That, I understand – the thing is, I don’t think many of us really judge women based on one trait anymore. The slavering male who thinks of a woman as property seems to me to be if not a thing of the past, at least not something most of us would like to be identified with.

    We may like the naked female form, but it isn’t the entirety of the female in question – it is just one aspect. There are plenty of highly attractive people I don’t like – and plenty of unattractive people I would much rather spend my life with.

    One of my favourite bloggers is Greta Christina, and she apparently once worked in the sex industry – it doesn’t strike me as being all she ever was and all she ever did, and it seems strange to me that anybody would see it that way.

    The sort of loathing for pornogaphy seems to be an over-reaction, as if we can’t seperate fantasy and reality.

    And it seems weird that we act like whatever anybody thinks of a naked woman, whether it be “hot” or not, really means they are sexist. Finding naked women attractive is kind of part of being straight – it doesn’t make us anti-woman, if anything it may just make us the reverse.

    It is as though, because of some total pigs who haven’t advanced past the stone age we are somehow making male attraction to female, wrong. The very basis to the continuation of our species, is being made wrong because some men are pigs.

    Now the topless women, which I think sparked all of this: I can think of a very simple artistic reason for it being art against religion rather than against women – the taboo itself is objectification.

    By telling women that the female form is sinful, in some countries almost a crime, it tells women that being female is dirty.

    The topless woman in the burqa on the other hand, throws the insult in religion’s teeth.

    Now, my question is this: Is there anything wrong with an attractive naked female’s form? Is it degrading? Because I honestly cannot see it that way. Even in sexual poses, I cannot see it that way, because there is so much more to life than just sex, and sex is still a part of life.

    I think there is something wrong with viewing women purely as sex objects, I think that is repugnant, but sexual images of women aren’t all there are to those women, anymore than having a penis is all there is to any given man. The issue is not in the images themselves, it is in the response, so shouldn’t our aim be not at the images – but the people looking at them?

    And okay, I overgeneralised, I should have just adressed it just to SC, OM, but still, why do we have such a huge social taboo on this subject?

  153. #153 SC, OM
    April 27, 2009

    We may like the naked female form, but it isn’t the entirety of the female in question – it is just one aspect.

    Yes, the one ceaselessly promoted in our culture to the exclusion of others, and the only one appearing in Ranum’s “art.”

    One of my favourite bloggers is Greta Christina, and she apparently once worked in the sex industry – it doesn’t strike me as being all she ever was and all she ever did, and it seems strange to me that anybody would see it that way.

    I don’t think anyone here does.

    The sort of loathing for pornogaphy seems to be an over-reaction, as if we can’t seperate fantasy and reality.

    No one here was saying anything about pornography in any general way. And you can do a search for my (relatively few) comments on pornography and the sex industry, which do not fit with your preconceived notions of my position.

    And it seems weird that we act like whatever anybody thinks of a naked woman, whether it be “hot” or not, really means they are sexist.

    “We” don’t act like that. You’re simply flinging out unsubstantiated claims.

    Finding naked women attractive is kind of part of being straight – it doesn’t make us anti-woman, if anything it may just make us the reverse.

    These strawmen are ridiculous.

    Now the topless women, which I think sparked all of this: I can think of a very simple artistic reason for it being art against religion rather than against women – the taboo itself is objectification.

    No, it isn’t. Objectification is what he’s doing, not what he’s subverting. To use a more extreme example, women in Islamic countries may wish not to wear veils, but that doesn’t mean that tearing them off women in the streets is an acceptable poke in the eye to religious authorities. Ranum is objectifying “hot topless chicks” to make some religious people angry, without concerning himself with what message this objectification is sending to the young people who are its intended audience (especially women).

    By telling women that the female form is sinful,

    This is tiresome. No one here is telling anyone this.

    The topless woman in the burqa on the other hand, throws the insult in religion’s teeth.

    “Religion” is people, including women. Ranum is using their bodies to attack religion. He’s conveying that that’s women’s value.

    Now, my question is this: Is there anything wrong with an attractive naked female’s form?

    No.

    Is it degrading?

    Is what degrading? You’re spectacularly missing the point here.

    I think there is something wrong with viewing women purely as sex objects,

    Which is apparently the only way they’re portrayed in the “art” in question, statements scrawled along their bodies, so you evidently agree that there’s something wrong there, especially if women are included in the target audience.

    I think that is repugnant, but sexual images of women aren’t all there are to those women, anymore than having a penis is all there is to any given man.

    That is my point.

    The issue is not in the images themselves, it is in the response, so shouldn’t our aim be not at the images – but the people looking at them?

    Offense at seeing women objectified (and demeaned in language) for someone’s purpose is the reasonable and justified response. (See my comments above.)

    And okay, I overgeneralised, I should have just adressed it just to SC, OM, but still, why do we have such a huge social taboo on this subject?

    There is no taboo. You’re just confused.

  154. #154 Scott Hatfield, OM
    April 27, 2009

    Pierce Butler wrote:

    Even when the organization explicitly promotes books by its own staffers which advocate specific theological positions?

    Which books would that be?

  155. #155 Bruce gorton
    April 27, 2009

    a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    I am a very strange person, so I can’t claim to be representative of my gender, but I do not approach conversation as a prelude to bed, I am an okay actor but if I ever did do that I would get bored of the role fairly quickly. I approach conversation as something I want to engage in for its own sake.

    So when I speak to women, I don’t really change from how I speak to men – but there is still this point of how I don’t understand how pornography objectifies people. Maybe it is part of me not really understanding people in general.

  156. #156 SC, OM
    April 27, 2009

    Pierce Butler wrote:

    Even when the organization explicitly promotes books by its own staffers which advocate specific theological positions?

    Which books would that be?

    Scott, I’m unclear at this point as to what your position is. You’re advocating neutrality for the NCSE, but you don’t seem to be addressing the specific charges made by Coyne about how they have not been neutral in practice. Did you read the piece by Coyne that PZ linked to in the first post?:

    http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2009/04/22/truckling-to-the-faithful-a-spoonful-of-jesus-helps-darwin-go-down/

    If so, are you saying Coyne is misrepresenting the NCSE? How?

  157. #157 Bruce gorton
    April 27, 2009

    SC, OM

    I appologise for misunderstanding your criticism as being a general one.

    “Religion” is people, including women. Ranum is using their bodies to attack religion. He’s conveying that that’s women’s value.

    Religion, is ideas. If religion were people, then religious people proclaiming that by criticising their religious ideas that we are engaging in ad-hominems against them would be right.

    That said, one of the common factors in religion, particularly Abrahamic religion, is a focus on sexuality.

    And that sexuality itself is an idea – which can be demonstrated in artistic form – which is what I read as being MR’s intent with these paintings by pairing the two concepts together.

    He is not conveying that that is a woman’s value, he is conveying how religion’s great fear of sexuality, female or male, is silly.

    Or at least that is the way I see it.

  158. #158 SC, OM
    April 27, 2009

    Religion, is ideas. If religion were people, then religious people proclaiming that by criticising their religious ideas that we are engaging in ad-hominems against them would be right.

    It’s ideas held by people. You can only communicate with actual people. And if you attack ideas by objectifying a group of people (who may or may not hold those ideas), you’re disrespecting them. The history of imperialism is one in which cultural struggles have been fought using women’s bodies. It’s not saying “Religion’s wrong because it controls and objectifies women” but “It’s wrong to control and exploit women’s bodies the way you do it [or whatever other attack is being made] – let me show you by objectifying them my way.”

    That said, one of the common factors in religion, particularly Abrahamic religion, is a focus on sexuality.

    On control of (especially women’s) sexuality. This is a very important distinction, as it means that not every sexualized image subverts this control or is progressive.

    And that sexuality itself is an idea – which can be demonstrated in artistic form – which is what I read as being MR’s intent with these paintings by pairing the two concepts together.

    Aside from this being the sole focus of the images, he’s not appreciating women as sexual beings – only as objects of male sexual desire: “hot topless chicks.” There’s nothing subversive or challenging about what he’s doing.

    He is not conveying that that is a woman’s value, he is conveying how religion’s great fear of sexuality, female or male, is silly.

    He’s simply expressing another, different fear of women’s sexuality, via their objectification.

  159. #159 Bruce gorton
    April 27, 2009

    It’s ideas held by people. You can only communicate with actual people. And if you attack ideas by objectifying a group of people (who may or may not hold those ideas), you’re disrespecting them.

    However, if you are attacking an idea by creating a physical representation of it – then what you are doing is considered art.

    The history of imperialism is one in which cultural struggles have been fought using women’s bodies.

    No. The history of imperialism was fought by men for resources owned by other men. The Anglo Boer war, for example, was fought by men who were ordered by Queen Victoria to essentially swipe the Boers gold.

    That is not to say women didn’t play a role in emperialism, but it wasn’t about sex. It was about what amounted to mugging smaller countries and taking their stuff.

    Sorry, I come from a former colony so it is a bit of a sore point.

    Aside from this being the sole focus of the images, he’s not appreciating women as sexual beings – only as objects of male sexual desire: “hot topless chicks.” There’s nothing subversive or challenging about what he’s doing.

    He may be expressing female sexuality in terms of male desire, but that is a large part of what religion fears about female sexuality.

    Eve tempting Adam with the apple, the thou shalt not covet rules, Besheba, what stripped Essau of his father’s blessing. Woman, in Abrahamic religion, is a tempter of man. The basis of religion’s fear of women as sexual beings, is men as sexual beings find women attractive.

  160. #160 Deen
    April 27, 2009

    Bruce, a discussion about using (female) sexuality in art can definitely be had. But do you really want to defend a guy who started with “hot topless chicks (yay! woot!)”, continued with “(eyeroll) Sorry if I wadded up your +5 feminist panties.” and then descended to “I think the whole notion of “sexism” is silly.” within three posts? If he had started out with showing some understanding of the sensitivities involved, this discussion would have been completely different.

  161. #161 Marcus Ranum
    April 27, 2009

    Deen writes:
    If he had started out with showing some understanding of the sensitivities involved

    (eyeroll) The horror. I was insensitive. Excuse me – I thought this was a blog populated by insensitive people who don’t respect sacred cows, and that I’d be safely hidden within the pack.

    May I suggest where people shove their sensitivities?? It’s the first step to getting over them.

  162. #162 Bobber
    April 27, 2009

    May I suggest where people shove their sensitivities?? It’s the first step to getting over them.

    And to which historically or currently oppressed and disenfranchised group do you belong that you have earned the right to determine who may or may not be sensitive about certain things? If I might ask.

  163. #163 Bruce gorton
    April 27, 2009

    Deen

    I know a few people who are just like him – only they do it in real life.

    The first two were him trying to be jovial, the last was a poor attempt at the “don’t take it so seriously” defense, which is a sucky defense at the best of times. There was no real harm meant by any of it.

    The central point is the artwork, whether it and its message are sexist or not. I contend that it is not.

  164. #164 Deen
    April 27, 2009

    #180 Marcus Ranum: people here usually at least try to understand what they are being insensitive about, and why. You, however, don’t seem to get it at all.

    And what made you believe you’d be safe in the pack? Your stupidity makes you stand out like you were painted in bright neon colors.

  165. #165 SC, OM
    April 27, 2009

    However, if you are attacking an idea by creating a physical representation of it – then what you are doing is considered art.

    Or propaganda, or advertising, or suck-ass shit,…

    No. The history of imperialism was fought by men for resources owned by other men. The Anglo Boer war, for example, was fought by men who were ordered by Queen Victoria to essentially swipe the Boers gold.

    Oh, good grief. Of course I know this. In this context, I’m talking about the cultural aspects of imperialism, which continue, and has included battles over FGM, veiling, “white slavery,” etc. Again, you’re unfamiliar with me or my history of commenting here, so you’ll have to take me at my word that I have a broad appreciation of this history. The reason I’m bringing this up is to make the point – I’ll try again – that attacking a cultural position on women or female sexuality is not always subversive, useful, or good. It depends on who’s doing it from what position, who the audience is, and how someone’s going about it (especially whether the critique involves objectification). That religious people control and and repress women and their sexuality and make them cover their bodies doesn’t mean that all instances allegedly attacking this, of exposing their bodies or depicting them as “sexual,” are positive or unproblematic.

    That is not to say women didn’t play a role in emperialism, but it wasn’t about sex. It was about what amounted to mugging smaller countries and taking their stuff.

    I was talking primarily of women in colonized populations. (There’s a huge literature on this in history, anthropology, and cultural studies.)

    He may be expressing female sexuality in terms of male desire, but that is a large part of what religion fears about female sexuality.

    Eve tempting Adam with the apple, the thou shalt not covet rules, Besheba, what stripped Essau of his father’s blessing. Woman, in Abrahamic religion, is a tempter of man.

    Tempters driven by their own desires, and the power that this allegedly gives them.

    And you’re missing the point. He’s presenting women solely as objects of male desire – not only not in any other way, but not even as independent sexual agents. He’s portraying women in the role of sexual objects – not subverting it.

    Look, I can think of a lot of ways artists could subvert this culture. This isn’t one. Ranum’s a third-rate hack who’s objectifying “hot topless chicks” to attack religion. It’s lame, it’s sexist, and it’s annoying.

    This bears quoting:

    Bruce, a discussion about using (female) sexuality in art can definitely be had. But do you really want to defend a guy who started with “hot topless chicks (yay! woot!)”, continued with “(eyeroll) Sorry if I wadded up your +5 feminist panties.” and then descended to “I think the whole notion of “sexism” is silly.” within three posts? If he had started out with showing some understanding of the sensitivities involved, this discussion would have been completely different.

    Bruce, you seem to want to have this broader conversation (I don’t, particularly, at the moment – sorry), but desperately trying to defend this sexist shlock and its dimwitted creator is probably not the best starting point from which to do it.

  166. #166 SC, OM
    April 27, 2009

    No. The history of imperialism was fought by men for resources owned by other men. The Anglo Boer war, for example,

    The history of imperialism was not simply of wars. Women were centrally involved, as missionaries, colonists, writers, workers,…

    Excuse me – I thought this was a blog populated by insensitive people who don’t respect sacred cows, and that I’d be safely hidden within the pack.

    May I suggest where people shove their sensitivities?? It’s the first step to getting over them.

    Was that a parting shot? Here’s hoping.

  167. #167 SC, OM
    April 27, 2009

    There was no real harm meant by any of it.

    This strikes me as a bit hypocritical after your response to my comment suggesting that imperialism has a cultural history ended with “Sorry, I come from a former colony so it is a bit of a sore point.”

  168. #168 Marcus Ranum
    April 27, 2009

    SC, OM writes:
    I’m going to omit a lot of this, because you’re basically just saying “no you’re not” or “you’re an idiot” – sort of like argumentum ad monty python (“That’s not much of an argument.” “Yes it is.”) I keep reading through your postings trying to find a place where you actually attempt to defend your position, rather than screeching and throwing poo – so forgive me if I largely bypass your tedious “argument” as follows:
    [Calls me an idiot multiple times]
    Then
    We’re criticizing your “artwork” and your description thereof.

    No, you’re not. Since you’ve already acknowledged that you didn’t even bother to look at it. You are, therefore, criticizing at best a straw man or at worst a stereotype. That and my description. So when I accuse you of judging me as a person because of a very short phrase, you duck and weave and dodge the question. I love it when people are full of the fury and self-righteousness to attack others on the flimsiest of grounds, and are yet unable to even defend their position. Do you ever make fun of the bible-thumping creos and their inability to reason or argue? If you do, I hope you remember this exchange next time you even contemplate attacking one of them for being dogmatic or intellectually dishonest.

    I write:
    Maybe you should defend your position a bit instead of just flailing away at me.

    SC, OM replies:
    My position is clear.

    (eyeroll) Yes. And you keep saying you’re right because, uh, you’re right. And I’m just too stupid to see how right you are or I’d acknowledge your rightness.

    Does that about sum it up?

    Yes, I do. It’s my profession, in fact. But I’m not being paid to teach a class here, especially to someone so deeply confused and hostile to learning.

    Ah, classic. “I don’t need to defend my position because I’m right.” It’s impossible to learn anything from someone who is just screeching abuse instead of trying to justify their beliefs.

    Will you at least try to fucking understand what is being said to you? To think abstractly for a moment?

    I do!! And I have. That’s why I keep responding to what you’re saying asking you how you can possibly hold and defend the position you’re taking. What about that isn’t thinking abstractly? Or do you think “thinking abstractly” is robotically responding to another person with “you’re stupid. you’re an asshole. you’re a sexist.” etc?

    People are pointing out to you that you are producing images in an existing cultural context. That context is sexist. You are using and promoting that.

    I got that part. And I got that from that you’re jumping to the conclusion that therefore I am sexist.

    The argument that I’m using a particular cultural context … therefore I am part of it – is interesting. Can you explain it more? Would it be OK to do what I do if I were a female? Or if I were “objectifying” males? I ask this because if you actually have a workable definition of “sexist” (other than ‘what appears to annoy SC, OM’) then you should be able to explain those things. Please, go ahead.

    This is a long-running debate and it eventually sucks in everything including silliness like whether it’s OK for rappers to use the N-word whether they are white or black but not computer programmers if they are white. I don’t think we should go into that here, because it’s a side-track but that kind of differential treatment is an inevitable result of where you’re going, philosophically.

    What do you think of things like PETA’s “rather naked than fur” ads? Sexist or activist? Or do you define “sexist” with some appeal to loosely defined terms like patriarchy or psychobabble about objectification? Is it “sexist” if a model of whatever gender shoots a self-portrait that is aligned with their sexual preference? Or does it take a certfied agent of the patriarchy to do it?

    Oh, wait. You’ve probably got some really well thought-out well-reasoned response like “you’re an idiot.” Right?

    And when life spans were increasing in the 20th century, it was right to encourage people to continue to smoke like chimneys, since clearly that has nothing to do with negative health outcomes.

    Well, “right” is a tricky one because you’re either going to have to wave a bible at me, or social consensus. And, at that time, the social consensus was – that it was right. But, yes, attitudes change. Didn’t you read the part where I predicted your objection? If there’s another factor that’s having a greater impact on the problem, why not worry about that?

    Thank you for at least trying to offer something more than “you’re an idiot” – even if it was poorly reasoned.

    Really, this is all such pathetic, defensive tripe. [...]
    Projection.

    Can you offer anything better than psychobabble? I mean, seriously. And you’re in no position to be calling anyone “defensive” – all you’re doing is trying to assert over and over that you’re right and I’m an idiot. And that you’re right because I’m an idiot, apparently.

    I greatly enjoy these little melt-downs on this blog, because they’re really instructive to me about how thin most “rationalists”‘ rationality really is. It strikes me that many of you are not actually people who hold no beliefs as special, but really that you hold your own sacred cows (based on your belief in them) superior to the creotards’ and therefore can have some sense of superiority over them. So, when someone challenges you to stick up for your own sacred cows, you look around helplessly because you have no bible to thump, and instead resort to name-calling and chimp screeching.

  169. #169 'Tis Himself
    April 27, 2009

    Patricia, OM #113

    I’ve only got to sail once in my life.

    I grew up on the shore of Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin. Winnebago is 30 miles long and 10 miles wide. My father owned two E Scows. I learned to sail when I was 5 and was racing when I was 10. Other than when I was in the Navy and in graduate school, I’ve been sailing if the weather was good (and often when it wasn’t). Here’s a picture of me taken two years ago at the start of the Newport to Bermuda race.

  170. #170 Bruce gorton
    April 27, 2009

    I’m talking about the cultural aspects of imperialism

    Look, to a large extent it isn’t quite so cut and dried. The Zulu King has a parade of naked virgins presented to him on a reasonably regular basis. He picks one to marry, and life continues much as it always did. Except for the last one, she said no.

    The IFP, a sort of Zulu nationalist party, went for about 1 week of competence a few years back. Then it reverted to calling for women’s trousers to be banned, and holding a beauty contest.

    Even the rain queen, was murdered because she didn’t want to stick to tradition.

    And our current president has four wives – a fact which didn’t stop him sleeping with a family friend he knew to have AIDS – without wearing a condom.

    African cultures were not generally pro-woman to start off with.

    The Western influence in Africa is actually a positive thing so far as women are concerned. South Africa has one hell of a rape statistic, but our laws are largely based on liberal western legal codes – including codes against discrimination. We even have legal gay marriage.

    And we have these codes because western cultural influence has us trying to compete on being “civilised.”

    This is not to say that the west isn’t screwing us over in other ways, missionaries are somewhat of a mixed blessing to say the least, but rather that for the most part the culture of the former empire isn’t the problem.

  171. #171 Deen
    April 27, 2009

    Bruce, please understand, “(eyeroll) Sorry if I wadded up your +5 feminist panties.” is not jovial, it’s sexist. He could have recovered from his “woot!” comment if he had wanted to, but he just had to comment as if SC was being an unreasonable female. Also understand that it wasn’t so much about the art itself, but about how he described it, and about how he responded to SC that was sexist.

    I also thought it was less of a “don’t take it so seriously” defense than a “you’re being unreasonable” defense, but meh. At least we agree that it wasn’t a great defense.

  172. #172 Bruce gorton
    April 27, 2009

    The history of imperialism was not simply of wars. Women were centrally involved, as missionaries, colonists, writers, workers,…

    And I don’t deny that, but one cannot proclaim:

    The history of imperialism is one in which cultural struggles have been fought using women’s bodies.

    …because both genders took part in those struggles. It leaves out the men, who did a fair chunk of the dying. If either gender gets to take credit for the dying here, which is what I understood by you claiming it was fought using women’s bodies, it is the men.

    The reason I’m bringing this up is to make the point – I’ll try again – that attacking a cultural position on women or female sexuality is not always subversive, useful, or good.

    It depends on what you are attacking of course. The point is, so far as I understand it, what I see him as attacking is the fearful nature of religion’s views of the female body, you see him as attacking the female body itself. I see the former as being useful, you see it as not being.

    This strikes me as a bit hypocritical after your response to my comment suggesting that imperialism has a cultural history ended with “Sorry, I come from a former colony so it is a bit of a sore point.”

    Not really. Acknowledging a weakness is not exactly hypocrisy. That colonialism is a trigger point for me, doesn’t make it your weakness.

  173. #173 Marcus Ranum
    April 27, 2009

    SC, OM writes:
    Yes, the one ceaselessly promoted in our culture to the exclusion of others, and the only one appearing in Ranum’s “art.”

    I love a good narrow-minded ideologue. There are male nudes in my portfolio as well (oooh! HAWT!) including a self-portrait (not so HAWT!) How dare you say “the only one appearing in Ranum’s art” as if you know what you’re talking about? You’re just feminist-botting, at this point. The time for that kind of nonsense ended in the 80′s.

    The reason I’m bringing this up is to make the point – I’ll try again – that attacking a cultural position on women or female sexuality is not always subversive, useful, or good. It depends on who’s doing it from what position, who the audience is, and how someone’s going about it (especially whether the critique involves objectification).

    Oh, give me a break. Who gets to decide what is “subversive, useful, or good” – your fellow ideologues?

    Here’s the problem: the “who’s doing it” is not always reliably known. The audience isn’t, either – especially on the internet. Your criteria for judging whether something is “subversive, useful, or good” are nonexistent in virtually any case of internet-based art I can think of. And you know it, which is why you’re mostly resorting to bluster.

    “Objectification” is one of the ideological buzz-words in this field that is as much as tip off as “teach the controversy” is when dealing with cproponentists. Maybe you can give us a workable definition for “objectification” that does not treat all or no imagery as “objectification”? What about turning someone into a 2D monochrome 72 pixel-per-inch image isn’t “objectifying” them? Any idiot who knows anything about photography understands that the camera records the light bouncing off the subject; nothing more or less. It’s impossible to capture the “soul” of a subject no matter what so – yes – we’re left with nothing but the exterior impression.

    Every definition I’ve ever heard for “objectification” (or “porn” for that matter) comes down to subjectivity “I don’t like it” or “it offends me” or is somehow or other circular. If you can’t define your psychobabble, please don’t waste our time with it.

    So what, please, is “objectification”?

    “Religion” is people, including women. Ranum is using their bodies to attack religion. He’s conveying that that’s women’s value.

    (eyeroll) OK, so you’re saying that it’d have been OK if I’d used my horse, but not a girl? Would it have been OK if I’d used an unattractive girl or an old lady?

    You make amazing mental leaps from using a girl in a photograph to making a statement about their value. That’s really bizzare. But I guess I should thank you for granting my humble art so much additional power – I had no idea that I was able to oppress all of womanhood with a single click of the shutter. I just thought I was making fun of religiots, not debasing 51% of the population of the planet. Ph33r Me 4 I have teh powah!

    Offense at seeing women objectified (and demeaned in language) for someone’s purpose is the reasonable and justified response.

    But you don’t care about the guys I’ve objectified? Crap, now I have to think how to “objectify” Clint and Tony when they’re in my studio next week. Any suggestions?

    You’re clearly unhinged on this particular topic. Are you suffering from some kind of childhood trauma? If so, this is probably not a good replacement for therapy.

  174. #174 Pierce R. Butler
    April 27, 2009

    Scott Hatfield @ # 173: Which books would that be?

    From Coyne’s blog post:

    The “recommended books” page of the NCSE’s religion section gives the same one-sided view. The section on “Theology, Evolution, and Creation” lists 36 books. Every one of them appears to offer an accommodationist viewpoint. Another 38 books appear (on the same page) in a “related themes in science and religion” section on the same page. In both section we find all the familiar names: Francis Collins, John Haught, Kenneth Miller, Michael Ruse, Simon Conway Morris, John Polkinghorne, Joan Roughgarden, and so on — accommodationists all. There are no books by Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, A.C. Grayling, and all those who have criticized the science-faith concordat.

  175. #175 Marcus Ranum
    April 27, 2009

    Deen writes:
    Bruce, please understand, “(eyeroll) Sorry if I wadded up your +5 feminist panties.” is not jovial, it’s sexist.

    Waaaaah, waaaah, waaaah. Someone was spouting feminist bullshit ideology and “panties” is generic.

    It was contempt, not “sexism”. If I were trying to be sexist, and gave enough of a shit to figure out SC’s gender, I could do a whole lot better than that.

    he just had to comment as if SC was being an unreasonable female.

    WTF??

    If I were commenting as if SC was being an unreasonable female, believe me, I’d have been much much more unpleasant.

    Consider that in today’s environment, especially on the internet, it’s pretty much impossible to tell another person’s gender/gender identity unless they choose to reveal it. Trying to mock someone based on that is risky, because you can get it wrong and look silly. I mean, if I thought you were a furry transgender who sexually identifies as a male tree-frog and made “hop off” gibes, the chances I’d actually manage to properly hurt your feelings are very slim indeed.

    I have no idea about your or anyone else on this list’s gender or sexual orientation, though I’ve seen PZ in the flesh, and I know a few other list members. Lacking more detail, please accept my assurances that my contempt is purely gender-neutral. If it hurts people’s feelings more that I don’t recognize them as sexual beings of their preferred gender, then (eyeroll) can I get extra points for insensitivity?

  176. #176 Marcus Ranum
    April 27, 2009

    SC, OM writes:
    The history of imperialism is one in which cultural struggles have been fought using women’s bodies.

    Way to simplify a whole big lotta reality so you can justify your flimsy ideology. If that’s not ridiculous overgeneralization, I don’t know what is.

  177. #177 SC, OM
    April 27, 2009

    No, you’re not. Since you’ve already acknowledged that you didn’t even bother to look at it. You are, therefore, criticizing at best a straw man or at worst a stereotype. That and my description.

    I said “we,” and at least one person has looked at it. And your description isn’t nothing. If the images are vastly different from your description – “hot topless chicks (yay! woot!) and deconstructionist comments about the silliness of religion. Or (I’m particularly proud of this one – it’s gotten me death threats) hot topless girls in burqas” – then you need to make that clear. But it would be exposing yourself as misrepresenting your work, and too late in any event, as you’ve shown yourself to be a sexist scumbag through your comments alone.

    So when I accuse you of judging me as a person because of a very short phrase, you duck and weave and dodge the question. I love it when people are full of the fury and self-righteousness to attack others on the flimsiest of grounds, and are yet unable to even defend their position.

    Sorry, doof. Anyone can read your comments. And mine.

    Do you ever make fun of the bible-thumping creos and their inability to reason or argue? If you do, I hope you remember this exchange next time you even contemplate attacking one of them for being dogmatic or intellectually dishonest.

    You’re living in your own little world, defensive one.

    (eyeroll) Yes. And you keep saying you’re right because, uh, you’re right. And I’m just too stupid to see how right you are or I’d acknowledge your rightness.

    Does that about sum it up?

    No, you’re too stupid to even understand what people are saying. I disagree with Bruce, and think he’s missing the point, but I don’t think he’s an idiot. You are.

    Ah, classic. “I don’t need to defend my position because I’m right.”

    My position is that you’re ignorant. You’re providing evidence of that yourself.

    I do!! And I have. That’s why I keep responding to what you’re saying asking you how you can possibly hold and defend the position you’re taking. What about that isn’t thinking abstractly?

    People here have made the same “it’s their problem,” receiver-based arguments about this language (and other imagery) that you’re making about images. The examples of language provided were to show that, like imagery, words have existing meanings and connotations that transcend individuals. People react strongly to, or are offended by, certain words and images not because of personal issues but because of the nature of the words of images themselves. Context and the speaker can be relevant, but that doesn’t mean you operate outside an existing context. The abstraction came in recognizing these as analogous. It was incredibly stupid to reply with a denial that you had ever called anyone those words. But then, you’re stupid.

    I got that part. And I got that from that you’re jumping to the conclusion that therefore I am sexist.

    I was calling your images – based on your description – sexist. Your statements here have been sexist. I have explained my argument in several posts. If you’re too stupid to get it – and you are – that’s not my fault.

    The argument that I’m using a particular cultural context … therefore I am part of it

    This is confused. We’re all part of it. You’re using women’s bodies in some kind of attack.

    - is interesting. Can you explain it more?

    I have – over the course of several posts, not all of them addressed to you..

    Would it be OK to do what I do if I were a female?

    It would be fundamentally different if you were, but if you’re talking about the images as you described them, in the same context, no, I don’t think it would.

    Or if I were “objectifying” males?

    This would also be different, since males have not traditionally been objectified in our culture in the same way as females, and the power relations are different. But there are certainly ways of objectifying males to which I would object, yes.

    This is a long-running debate and it eventually sucks in everything including silliness like whether it’s OK for rappers to use the N-word whether they are white or black but not computer programmers if they are white.

    I don’t think this is silly at all. BTW, if anyone’s interested, this is a good video on hip-hop culture (masculinity, violence, sexism,…):

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2020029531334253002

    I don’t think we should go into that here, because it’s a side-track but that kind of differential treatment is an inevitable result of where you’re going, philosophically.

    Actually, I don’t think anyone, regardless of gender, should be objectifying women. There are cases (yours isn’t one) in which a strong case can be made that the process is really being subverted (often, but not exclusively, when women are the artists), which are different.

    What do you think of things like PETA’s “rather naked than fur” ads? Sexist or activist?

    Or do you define “sexist” with some appeal to loosely defined terms like patriarchy or psychobabble about objectification? Is it “sexist” if a model of whatever gender shoots a self-portrait that is aligned with their sexual preference? Or does it take a certfied agent of the patriarchy to do it?

    I’m not about to go through a list of my responses to various images with you. Again, my reactions depend on a number of factors, but I don’t consider every image of women or of nude women or of women having sex to be sexist or objectifying. Your work in context (like Renoir’s, incidentally, though at least he was a real artist) is sexist in both intent and execution.

    Well, “right” is a tricky one because you’re either going to have to wave a bible at me, or social consensus. And, at that time, the social consensus was – that it was right.

    No, it wasn’t entirely. (See Allan Brandt’s The Cigarette Century.) But this is totally irrelevant. You can’t even follow the (il)logic of your own posts, and certainly not my responses. This is why you’re a waste of time.

    If there’s another factor that’s having a greater impact on the problem, why not worry about that?

    I do concern myself all of the aspects of the problem of which I’m aware. And you don’t. This is another lame attempted defense: “I’m just objectifying women! Other men are raping them! Why don’t you do something about that?” And you’re too stupid to realize that you’re implicitly admitting that there is something wrong with what you’re doing.

    I mean, seriously. And you’re in no position to be calling anyone “defensive” – all you’re doing is trying to assert over and over that you’re right and I’m an idiot. And that you’re right because I’m an idiot, apparently.

    No, again, you’re too dumb to understand my arguments.

    I greatly enjoy these little melt-downs on this blog,

    You’re the one having the defensive tantrum, twit. I’ve had bigger and better arguments, and with intelligent people, over the word “crescendo.”

    because they’re really instructive to me about how thin most “rationalists”‘ rationality really is. It strikes me that many of you are not actually people who hold no beliefs as special, but really that you hold your own sacred cows (based on your belief in them) superior to the creotards’ and therefore can have some sense of superiority over them. So, when someone challenges you to stick up for your own sacred cows, you look around helplessly because you have no bible to thump, and instead resort to name-calling and chimp screeching.

    First J/Therion, now this twit. Two in one week! “Waaaaaaaaa!”

  178. #178 SC, OM
    April 27, 2009

    SC, OM writes:
    The history of imperialism is one in which cultural struggles have been fought using women’s bodies.

    Way to simplify a whole big lotta reality so you can justify your flimsy ideology. If that’s not ridiculous overgeneralization, I don’t know what is.

    Can you fucking read? “One in which” is not generalizing or simplifying. It’s referring to a specific aspect.

    I’m just waiting for Ranum to pull out the “I just showed this to my wife/girlfriend/friend, and she can’t believe you think I’m a sexist/agrees with me/thinks you’re the sexist one.” Have there been any others that he’s missed…?

  179. #179 Bruce gorton
    April 27, 2009

    SC, OM feel free to correct me:

    Marcus Ranum

    Objectification: Portraying a human being in a manner which reduces them to nothing more than an object.

    For example, some fairytales have the prince or the princess as being objectified depending on the gender of the protaganist.

    If the protaganist is female, the prince will be Prince Charming and about all we will know about him is that he is charming and one hell of a kisser, if the protagonist is male, all we will know is that the princess is pretty.

    In both cases the prince or the princess are not valuable characters to the story so much as rewards to the protaganist, “objects” comparable to any other reward offerable.

    It isn’t always bad, but it is a device that has to be considered very carefully before being used for much the same reason one shouldn’t in fiction, have characters with lots of “informed” abilities. It is a frequent element to bigoted work, but isn’t always bigoted in itself.

    Sexism: Holding a stereotypical view of the genders. Sexism does not require mysogeny of mysandry – as one can still hold a gender to being inferior without actually hating it.

    (Note: my first post on here was sexist, and pretty stupid to boot, I admit it and am sorry about it.)

  180. #180 Deen
    April 27, 2009

    It was contempt, not “sexism”.

    Ah, I see, it was not sexism, but contempt for feminism. That makes it so much better.

    SC wrote:

    Have there been any others that he’s missed…?

    I’ll have bingo with “feminazi”.

  181. #181 SC, OM
    April 27, 2009

    I’m talking about the cultural aspects of imperialism

    Look, to a large extent it isn’t quite so cut and dried. The Zulu King has a parade of naked virgins presented to him on a reasonably regular basis.

    What cut and dried? I wasn’t portraying it as simple. In fact, my point was that it is complex. Your example doesn’t say anything relevant to my point, which was that seeking to challenge or subvert objectionable practices in another culture comes at great risk and people need to be responsible and self-reflexive. It has a history of being used for self-interested purposes, but more to the point here, even in situations in which people have good intentions, it can be oppressive itself. This is particularly the case when women are treated as objects rather than approached as active (political, sexual) agents.

    African cultures were not generally pro-woman to start off with.

    Well, that’s a pretty broad brush there, but this is not at all a response to what I was saying (or trying to say), which was that efforts that have claimed to be liberating to women in oppressive cultures have, again, often been self-interested (sometimes cynically exploiting women’s oppression) and been connected to and brought new forms of oppression. (The answer to this, of course, is to work with and support women working for their own rights.)

    The Western influence in Africa is actually a positive thing so far as women are concerned.

    Says you. As opposed to what? Maybe a nonimperialist political engagement with African societies?

    South Africa has one hell of a rape statistic,

    Yes, and I follow the work of women’s organizations in South Africa, and have posted about them here.

    but our laws are largely based on liberal western legal codes – including codes against discrimination. We even have legal gay marriage.

    And positive cultural influence can happen without imperialism and centuries of exploitation and oppression. And in fact the SA constitution is far more progressive than the US constitution, and it is only lived out because people continue to struggle.

    And we have these codes because western cultural influence has us trying to compete on being “civilised.”

    You have them because people fought for them. And the idea that imperialists’ actions in Africa have been a model of civilized behavior is absurd.

    This is not to say that the west isn’t screwing us over in other ways,

    And hasn’t been for centuries.

  182. #182 Bruce gorton
    April 27, 2009

    Says you. As opposed to what? Maybe a nonimperialist political engagement with African societies?

    As opposed to no engagement at all. The empirialists weren’t invading for their health.

    You have them because people fought for them. And the idea that imperialists’ actions in Africa have been a model of civilized behavior is absurd.

    No, but the empirialists actions post empire, the standard of living in your countries, and the culture you have exported to us since the empires died – that does set an example to us.

    SA’s constitution was largely modeled on western legal codes, it was fought for, because due to the trade and ideas brought by the invading armies, those concepts were introduced to us here.

    The same pattern is present in British law, the Danes weren’t nice guys, but when they invaded, they left a strong legal tradition behind them.

    The empires’ cultural impact on Africa didn’t end with the empires themselves, and generally we want to be first world countries.

  183. #183 Bobber
    April 27, 2009

    This thread has just gotten to the point where I keep doing cartoonish double-takes. First there’s a defense of sexism, and then a defense of Western imperialism in Africa?????

    Maybe I quit being a teacher too soon.

  184. #184 SC, OM
    April 27, 2009

    And I don’t deny that, but one cannot proclaim:

    The history of imperialism is one in which cultural struggles have been fought using women’s bodies.
    …because both genders took part in those struggles. It leaves out the men, who did a fair chunk of the dying. If either gender gets to take credit for the dying here, which is what I understood by you claiming it was fought using women’s bodies, it is the men.

    No, you completely misunderstood me; and it wasn’t about dying at all. “Take credit for the dying”? WTF?

    It depends on what you are attacking of course. The point is, so far as I understand it, what I see him as attacking is the fearful nature of religion’s views of the female body, you see him as attacking the female body itself. I see the former as being useful, you see it as not being.

    No, it’s more complex than that. I’m surprised that you would even decribe it in that simplistic manner. That’s what I would expect from Ranum; I expected more from you. Oh, well. I give up. Maybe you could reread my earlier posts.

    This strikes me as a bit hypocritical after your response to my comment suggesting that imperialism has a cultural history ended with “Sorry, I come from a former colony so it is a bit of a sore point.”
    Not really. Acknowledging a weakness is not exactly hypocrisy. That colonialism is a trigger point for me, doesn’t make it your weakness.

    No, acknowledging a sensitivity isn’t hypocrisy, but acknowledging that you’re hypersensitive on one subject (which you are – I made a general point, which you evidently misunderstand in any event – about imperialism which actually demonstrated sensitivity and not callousness) doesn’t put you in an honest position to be arguing that others are being overy sensitive in responding to what are clearly demeaning comments.

  185. #185 Bruce gorton
    April 27, 2009

    Bobber

    Not so much a defence of it, as I said it was essentially attacking entire countries and stealing their stuff, as pointing out that some good did come of it.

    And to some extent women’s rights are a part of that. It wasn’t fought for women, it was fought for the stuff, but the impact of colonialism was such that it changed everything – and not always for the worse.

    And the modern impact of the empirial powers when one speaks about cultural empirialism, hasn’t been entirely negative either.

  186. #186 Marcus Ranum
    April 27, 2009

    SC, OM writes:
    (By the way, eventually your constant stream of abuse is going to wear me down and I may start to cry. Keep working at it.)

    People here have made the same “it’s their problem,” receiver-based arguments about this language (and other imagery) that you’re making about images. The examples of language provided were to show that, like imagery, words have existing meanings and connotations that transcend individuals.

    Yes, absolutely.
    I suspect that if there’s any “truth” here, it’s somewhere between reciever-based and sender-, no? In an environment where the sender does not know the reciever, and vice-versa, the sender is left only with what they can convey in the message. That’s why some societies are able to countenance “hate speech” laws: there’s a clear attempt to provoke or hurt, conveyed in the message itself.

    I haven’t seen much hate speech in my life. But I’m sure it’s out there.

    People react strongly to, or are offended by, certain words and images not because of personal issues but because of the nature of the words of images themselves.

    And that’s receiver-based, right? If the sender didn’t realize that the receiver had issues with a particular word or image, can you really blame them? That would be unfair. I also don’t find it’s a strong moral argument to claim that “the sender ought to know” – a good example would be your use of ‘colonialism’ as an issue, which got a rise of another poster on this thread. If he had been offended by it (and I think he wasn’t) that wouldn’t have been your fault, right? It’d have been his “issue” the same way that my personal dislike of baby pictures doesn’t give me any right to insist other people don’t display them in my presence.

    But your real argue is that the social zeitgeist makes certain images offensive and others not. The sender should know that the society into which he sends his message will be offended by it. As my photo of the burqua was intended to offend religiotards of a particular type (yay! woot!) so you’re saying it’s my responsibility to know all the possible combinations that might give offense?

    Context and the speaker can be relevant, but that doesn’t mean you operate outside an existing context.

    Of course not. But I still don’t see how you get from that to the sender being responsible for reinforcing the receiver’s attitudes.

    As we see, that’s entirely receiver-dependent. After all, you (if you’d looked at my picture in the first place) would have fallen to the floor gnashing your teeth with rage, and smoke pouring out of your eyeballs, while someone else might simply think “pretty girl!” and click next. So, in your case the photo served to reinforce your feminist attitudes, and in the other it served to reinforce the viewer’s sexist attitudes. Have I got that right? One image, reinforcing two completely different attitudes, and I’m supposed to bear a moral burden for one and not the other? What about someone who sees the photo who isn’t into females and shrugs? Do I get credit for his shrug, guilt for the “sexist” and credit for giving you +5 points of self-righteousness?

    I’m being playful there, but the point is real: you cannot blame or credit the sender entirely for the opinions or beliefs of the receiver. I suppose you might be able to make a case if the receiver were young and impressionable and I were an authority figure – but that’s not the case here since my photos are all restricted to adults only; presumably people who have already sufficiently formed their beliefs.

    So, I don’t see how your “context is truth” reasoning holds.

    We’re all part of it. You’re using women’s bodies in some kind of attack.

    Yes, I’ve got that part. It’s your follow-on claim that I’m having trouble with – that it somehow makes the world a worse/more dangerous place that I am doing so.

    I wrote:
    This is a long-running debate and it eventually sucks in everything including silliness like whether it’s OK for rappers to use the N-word whether they are white or black but not computer programmers if they are white.

    SC, OM wrote:
    I don’t think this is silly at all. BTW, if anyone’s interested, this is a good video on hip-hop culture (masculinity, violence, sexism,…):

    Uh, yeah. It’s always fun to watch the chimp screeching that goes on when that topic comes up. That was my point – it’s impossible to make everyone happy, so the only thing that makes sense is to support freedom of speech, let people argue freely about how they personally use language, and insist on social equality wherever possible. If you insist on social equality, all the other stuff is going to fall out in the wash, eventually, anyhow.

    I’m not about to go through a list of my responses to various images with you.

    Of course you’re not. It’d make you look silly.

    Again, my reactions depend on a number of factors, but I don’t consider every image of women or of nude women or of women having sex to be sexist or objectifying.

    Obviously, since I can’t control your reactions, you can’t make me responsible for them. But, it’s nice to know that you have a complex set of inner rules that you can apply that let you decide what’s good and what’s not. But, from the outsider’s standpoint, unless there’s an objective way of defining good or bad, you may as well just be throwing darts at a dartboard. The fact that I am incapable of guessing what you like (though I can probably guess what you don’t like, at this point) shows that your criteria are subjective.

    I don’t generally like argumentiam ad wikipedia, but they make a pretty good attempt to define “objectifying” – and every one of the criteria it lists are subjective. So, when you say something is “objectifying” please allow me to substitute in “SC, OM does not like it” because that’s exactly as meaningful.

    Your work in context (like Renoir’s, incidentally, though at least he was a real artist) is sexist in both intent and execution.

    Your constant attempts to deride me as “not a real artist” make me very unhappy monkey. I submit that if my art were not real, you wouldn’t have gotten yourself into such high dudgeon over it. I get the point that you don’t like it, but the fact that you react to it, at all – and the fact that you’ve chosen to argue at such length with me about it – gives it a very slight tinge of reedeeming social importance. So – thank you.

    Can you fucking read? “One in which” is not generalizing or simplifying. It’s referring to a specific aspect.

    Yeah. Like referring to an entire beach as “a grain of sand.”

    I’m just waiting for Ranum to pull out the “I just showed this to my wife/girlfriend/friend

    Oh, puhleeze.

  187. #187 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    April 27, 2009

    Ok so now I’m interested.

    Marcus and SC I have no idea what pictures are causing such a ruckus. I didn’t see them on Marcus’ site.

    Can someone post a link to exactly which ones are so offensive?

  188. #188 Bruce gorton
    April 27, 2009

    No, it’s more complex than that. I’m surprised that you would even decribe it in that simplistic manner.

    Now that’s an “you’re being unreasonable” defence now isn’t it?

    You see the thing is it isn’t more complex than that.

    You see him as basically objectifying the woman. You see it as an attack on her, and by extension you. You largely disregard what he is saying about religion, because you do not think it is valuable, and instead hone in on how he is “insulting” women.

    Which is to say, rather than taking what he is trying to say, you are honing in on how he says it, trying to mine it for things he didn’t intend.

    That is why he started ranting on anti-feminism, because he is defending himself against somebody who has proclaimed him a sexist based on him not being the most civil conversationalist on Earth. You are using him as the whetstone to the axe you have to grind.

    As to me admitting I am sensitive on a topic: Does this mean nobody who is sensitive on any topics ever can disagree with you on a topic you are sensitive to? Seriously? That is the strength of your claim of hypocrisy?

    That I admit a weakness, is your great argument for hypocrisy?

    That is a “shut up” argument. It is intended to close down argument, in much the same way as the blog post we are arguing on, is all about how the NSCE is shutting down arguments between science and religion.

  189. #189 Neil
    April 27, 2009

    I love and hate it when threads drift into the territory of
    sexism, rascism, or PC language debates. It’s always interesting, yet so futile.
    I do have a few observations, mostly about the pictures themselves, and marcusranum’s unfairly demonized perspective.
    I am not completely unfamiliar with the issues of sexism
    and the objectification of women, and men, and sex in general, or how widespread it is in all cultures, not just commercialised America. However, I think that while SC,OM is certainly passionate about these issues, the hyperventilating over-reaction, and the unwillingness to actually state a clear case outside of name-calling and broad assumptions just makes SC,OM’s rants look petty, over-sensitive, and as prudish as a victorian spinster.

    It seems that MarcusRanum’s biggest mistake was using words like “hot chicks” and “topless” to refer to his work,
    because that’s when all the accusations started.
    I will admit that’s pretty bad form for this blog,
    unless he was after some conflict.

    Yet only one person that I noticed bothered to view the pictures, and then gave a very dismissive, thoughtless review of a different picture than the ones being offered for discussion. Then there was some arrogant, condescending clucking and a bunch of name calling. Until someone actully defends the ridiculous ranting with an argument that is more than a reactionary product of their narrow views of sex, sexism, and art, color me unimpressed.

    I thought that the burka picture was nicely done. Low-key, sensuous partial nudity, yet almost hidden in darkness, a sense of forbiddenness brought on by the burka and the dark black and white scheme. Almost as if the subject wanted desparately to be seen, but could not risk being identified. Oh my, could that be a bit of meaning beyond the (partially visible) boobs? Could it even be a deliberate rebellion, possibly even an empowering
    moment for a sexually oppressed female? Did anyone even bother to think about it, even a little?

    It reminded me a tiny bit of Mapplethorpe’s style of shooting, but with female, explicitly restricted Muslim sexuality being exposed, rather than the more aggresive homosexual male sexuality of Mapplethorpe’s work. If there is an artistic weakness here, it lies in the audience, in the fact that many liberal, artistically-minded people are more than happy to look at an openly homosexual man (an often abused minority)with a bullwhip up his ass, and appreciate the horror that fills the mind of anti-gay bigots exposed to such things, but they will not give the same leeway to those who would put an abused minority female in a similar (even much less exploitative)light. They might as well keep the burkas on, apparently.
    Surely none of them have ever wanted to be able to expose their sexuality or be proud of their sexuality or their bodies. Surely none of them ever wanted to be seen as sexy. I guess he might as well be beating them himself, since obviously none of them could ever find any value in his work, right? Please. If this is objectification of women, then so is anything even vaguely sexual that
    involves a woman at all. Just because there is a hint of sex, because the subject is a woman, beacuse some in
    our culture are sexist(or blame the whole culture,) some seem to pretend that they are in possession of a magic wand that can assign any and all worth to an image or idea. What a crock of arrogant bullshit, which by eliminating sex as a valid forum for art, seeks not equality, but to neuter the whole world for the sake of self-esteem. Good luck with that.

    Could I choose to read the work as simply being disrespectful and objectifying? Sure. I could presume that the artist was only trying to appeal to the Playboy/Maxim crowd. I could assume that the artist was saying “just give us a glimpse of titty, your face is unimportant. Make it seem dangerous, because it’s more sexy that way.” I could claim that, as a male non-muslim,
    he has no right to use such images at all, lest someone be
    offended, or some ignoramus get the wrong idea and get all turned on.
    But I’m not interested in limiting anybody’s ideas
    to my preconceptions, or to narrow, dismissive ideas about other peoples’, or society’s preconceptions, as some here seem to do. And I certainly don’t restrict my interpretations to a woefully narrow scope that only includes as valid the naive and arrogant view that because there is sexism in a culture, even all through and woven into the culture, everything must be judged solely on that basis, by the (quite possibly wrongly)perceived standards of the lowest common denominator.

    I deny the moral-crusader attempt to tie the artist down to an obviously subjective, yet seemingly
    inflexible and narrow minded judgement of a whole culture.
    Even if you think that the only motive was complete sensationalism, it can still be more than just an excuse to slaver over some breasts, or reduce women to being regarded solely as sex objects. An emphasis on sexuality
    does not automatically equal a totality of sexuality, and even a pure focus on sexuality in art does not automatically demean any or all women, except in the
    flat, non-nuanced, dogmatic worldview that seems to be in play here.
    Whether anyone is mature and honest enough to admit that, I don’t know. If not, maybe you can buy a collection of plates with all-female scientists featured on them, clad in full-length lab coats. Try the Franklin Mint.

    As for the second picture I liked it quite a bit, including, but not at all limited to, the fully nude model
    with a look of horror and disgust on her face, as she looks at the cameraman who has “plucked out the eye that
    offendeth him.”
    A simple message with an eye-catching(heh) layout. I bothered to read some of the comments, and it turns out that I, after a moment’s thought, had interpreted the picture as the artist intended. Without any drooling or sexual exitement, imagine that!
    A simple and effective piece making a simple and valid point that I very much appreciate. Perhaps a bit shocking to some, apparently nothing but grade-A sexism to others. To those who have harshly criticized the artist, I would suggest that the message in that piece could be read as applying to judgmental, condescending commenters here, as well as the christian hyper-moralists that were the intended targets. Some seem to think that until there is not an oppressed woman in the universe, and maybe even then, anything that acknowledges or glorifies a persons’ sex, sexiness, or sex-related physical nature is incapable of being anything other than pure sexism, and is actually somehow horribly demeaning and damaging to all women and/or men. If this interpretation is incorrect, please let me know what was intended. If this interpretation is correct, I feel sorry for you.

    I read and re-read all of the comments on this subject, and the above is my assessment of what I was presented with. If anyone has an opinion or clarification that includes something more than calling me an idiot or a sexist, or other knee-jerk emotional reactions, I’m all ears. I’m eager to be educated, but other than personal sensitivities, no one has really demonstrated exactly what the problem is, particularly regarding Ranum’s photographs.

  190. #190 SC, OM
    April 27, 2009

    As opposed to no engagement at all. The empirialists weren’t invading for their health.

    Uh, no. So, hypothetically, there could have been no engagement at all, in which case there would be no cultural influence in either direction, or there could have been a mutually-respectful political, economic, and cultural engagement, in which there could have been mutual cultural influence. Instead, there was rapaciousness and theft that continues to this day in which positive aspects of many cultures (oh – I forgot – there was nothing democratic or institutions of justice or…anywhere in Africa prior to the Europeans’ arrival) were suppressed or wiped out while other cultures which contained some positive elements were imposed.

    No, but the empirialists actions post empire, the standard of living in your countries,

    Actually, I just linked to the statistics re poverty and the standard of living in poor countries over the past several decades of SAPs. It’s not pretty. And the lifestyle here is already killing the planet. Spreading this orgy of consumption and waste around the world would be disastrous. This is not to say that people can’t have happiness and a high standard of living. They would (will?) likely have higher and more in a post-industrial world.

    and the culture you have exported to us since the empires died – that does set an example to us.

    Resource theft? Political intrigue? Neoliberalism? From Western Africa:

    http://www.wdm.org.uk/resources/reports/debt/senegal01112003.pdf

    Actually, you have the arrows pointing in the wrong direction. We’ll only survive as a species if we in the West start changing and appreciating aspects of other cultures.

    SA’s constitution was largely modeled on western legal codes,

    And, again, goes well beyond the US constitution.

    it was fought for, because due to the trade and ideas brought by the invading armies, those concepts were introduced to us here.

    Because otherwise people wouldn’t have wanted their freedom. And of course they had no concept or institutions of democracy or social justice. And this model is of course vastly superior to any other. And, really, all that slavery and oppression and slaughter and theft and exploitation is a small price to pay for these glorious concepts which couldn’t have spread any other way.

    The empires’ cultural impact on Africa didn’t end with the empires themselves, and generally we want to be first world countries.

    You know what? Speak for yourself. Every day I read from people in India, Bolivia, and other countries who are rejecting important aspects of “Western” culture. (And no, they aren’t proposing undemocratic or sexist or any other retrograde projects.)

    This thread has just gotten to the point where I keep doing cartoonish double-takes. First there’s a defense of sexism, and then a defense of Western imperialism in Africa?????

    Maybe I quit being a teacher too soon.

    Yeah, I’m reaching the point again where I won’t be able to respond to these comments for a while. If any thread goes on long enough, it seems, people will start saying crazy things, like the comment on the Pro-Test thread about experimenting on prisoners. I don’t want only to talk with people with whom I agree, but honestly sometimes it’s depressing. I’d much rather debate Scott Hatfield or Leigh Williams.

  191. #191 Marcus Ranum
    April 27, 2009

    Bruce gorton writes:
    Objectification: Portraying a human being in a manner which reduces them to nothing more than an object.

    (did they teach you in school about not using a word in its own definition?)

    OK. So, all photography is objectification, then. Painting, too, probably. Most literature, as well. Each of those art forms takes a person and leaves out huge aspects of their personality, history, thoughts, feelings, and desires – flattening them down into pixels, words, or paint.

    In both cases the prince or the princess are not valuable characters to the story so much as rewards to the protaganist, “objects” comparable to any other reward offerable.

    And the protagonist is also an “object”, right? After all, we’re not talking about a real human being – the protagonist is “merely” another plot device, no? So if I’ve got it right, everyone in the plot is being abused, but some are being abused more, because they have fewer lines or get to do less interesting stuff?

    Sexism: Holding a stereotypical view of the genders. Sexism does not require mysogeny of mysandry – as one can still hold a gender to being inferior without actually hating it.

    How do you separate stereotype from reality in that case? Is it “stereotyping” to portray a female character as having less upper body strength than a male? Is it “stereotyping” to portray a female character as an executive, a whore, or a warrior? Or is it only stereotyping if you portray a character outside of the profile for the society in which they are in? Or – as I think you’re really saying – is it stereotyping if you portray a character outside of the profile of some idealized society that does not actually exist and is, therefore, purely subjective?

    I’m uncomfortable with the whole notion of “holding a gender inferior” – how does one do that? Is it acceptable to say “only women (at this time) gestate children”? Is it “sexist” to like breasts if you’re a heterosexual male but acceptable if you’re a heterosexual female? Hell, it sounds like simply being a heterosexual male, and wanting to occasionally mate with a female, makes one “sexist.”

    See what I’m getting at? If you actually try to pick this stuff apart, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. And if people are going to make moral claims about it, I think it should be a bit more objective and a lot less subjective.

    I have zero problem with getting purely subjective. “I don’t like your art” Meh. Have fun. But, as we can see, there are people like SC, OM, who feel strongly that there is a moral dimension to this stuff.


    Re: “feminazi” – if you’re acting like a verbal jackbooted thug and you’re spewing weird-ass feminist ideology, yes, I can call you a “feminazi.” But that’s not “sexist” because I have no patience for that whether it’s coming from a man or a woman. Or is “disagrees with me” also part of the definition of “sexist”? It sure seems to be.

  192. #192 yoyo
    April 27, 2009

    Sorry, I was the earlier anonymous who brought up the rascist analogy to marcus which he didn’t seem to get. Gordon has been more nuanced but my point is this, if I produce a work of art that shows black men as being predisposed to raping women to use an extreme example I have made a rascist action. i know because I am not a moron, that i am buying into a horrible paradigm that is only slowly fading that says black men are sexual predators. Using busty ladies (whoo rawrrr!) to attack art doesnt seem at all subversive to me if you look at all the naked busty ladies in christian churches. It just looks like more of the “snigger snigger I’m so god damn naughty”.

  193. #193 SC, OM
    April 27, 2009

    Not so much a defence of it, as I said it was essentially attacking entire countries and stealing their stuff, as pointing out that some good did come of it.

    And to some extent women’s rights are a part of that. It wasn’t fought for women,

    And you’ll search in vain for the claim that it was. Again, missing the point entirely.

    Now that’s an “you’re being unreasonable” defence now isn’t it?

    It’s not a defense at all. I was surprised that you would characterize the argument in that simplistic manner.

    You see the thing is it isn’t more complex than that.

    You see him as basically objectifying the woman. You see it as an attack on her, and by extension you.

    No.

    You largely disregard what he is saying about religion,

    Actually, I’ve asked him to describe the images further. If he’s doing something other than what he describes, he can say it. All he’s said is that he’s attacking religion. He hasn’t even specified that the deconstructionist comments on the photos are about sexuality or sexual repression. This might make a difference. He’s been given ample opportunity to describe his work and his intentions, and hasn’t.

    because you do not think it is valuable,

    I don’t think what is valuable? Attacking religion? Of course I think it’s valuable. But there are different ways to do it.

    Which is to say, rather than taking what he is trying to say,

    You are putting words in his mouth. What he has said from his first post is sexist, dismissive crap. His defenders are saying some reasonably-intelligent things.

    you are honing in on how he says it, trying to mine it for things he didn’t intend.

    No, there’s no mining necessary. He’s saying what he’s saying. You’re trying to spin his words to make them less offensive, and failing.

    That is why he started ranting on anti-feminism,

    He started ranting on anti-feminism (which, as someone noted above, is not out-of-character for him) after my initial post @ #64.

    You are using him as the whetstone to the axe you have to grind.

    I have no axe to grind. See the other threads with images of women, including naked women, and look for any responses at all from me.

    As to me admitting I am sensitive on a topic: Does this mean nobody who is sensitive on any topics ever can disagree with you on a topic you are sensitive to? Seriously? That is the strength of your claim of hypocrisy?

    What?

    That is a “shut up” argument. It is intended to close down argument, in much the same way as the blog post we are arguing on, is all about how the NSCE is shutting down arguments between science and religion.

    That’s just nuts.

  194. #194 Bruce gorton
    April 27, 2009

    Uh, no. So, hypothetically, there could have been no engagement at all, in which case there would be no cultural influence in either direction, or there could have been a mutually-respectful political, economic, and cultural engagement, in which there could have been mutual cultural influence.

    When the Europeans found a place, sooner or later they took it. The choice was between the Europeans not finding it convenient, or the Europeans colonising it. It took the collapse of the empires to change the zeitgeist.

    oh – I forgot – there was nothing democratic or institutions of justice or…anywhere in Africa prior to the Europeans’ arrival

    Nice strawman you have set up there. I am well aware of the fact that a lot of African cultures had a legal system complete with judiciary, and rights granted to the accused. The western world (More than just America) however, provided a new model upon which to base our nations – the constitutional Republic.

    Because otherwise people wouldn’t have wanted their freedom. And of course they had no concept or institutions of democracy or social justice.

    Otherwise, the status quo would have been maintained for a lot longer – with various first world scientific advances not coming to Africa. This includes modern medicine, the telephone, heck even a basic mail system would be difficult without writing.

    And, really, all that slavery and oppression and slaughter and theft and exploitation is a small price to pay for these glorious concepts which couldn’t have spread any other way.

    Ahh yes, the romanticised vision of Africa, that ignores that slavery was already present, that the tribes did go to war with each other to capture slaves in part and that it was eventually the British that actually banned the slave-trade during the 1800′s.

    That is not to say they were nice guys, but the tendency to paint blacker than black ignores the various shades of grey.

    Every day I read from people in India, Bolivia, and other countries who are rejecting important aspects of “Western” culture. (And no, they aren’t proposing undemocratic or sexist or any other retrograde projects.)

    So in other words they like the basic ethics, principles and concepts, they just don’t want the big consumer lifestyle that evidently all westerners want. Except for those who don’t. There is more to the west than Big Macs.

  195. #195 Bobber
    April 27, 2009

    Yeah, I’m reaching the point again where I won’t be able to respond to these comments for a while. If any thread goes on long enough, it seems, people will start saying crazy things, like the comment on the Pro-Test thread about experimenting on prisoners. I don’t want only to talk with people with whom I agree, but honestly sometimes it’s depressing. I’d much rather debate Scott Hatfield or Leigh Williams.

    Unfortunately, the odds of a productive discussion, I fear, went out the window with the by now overly-quoted “hot topless chicks (yay! woot!)” and the comments that followed in its defense. I don’t think there’s a lot of understanding about why the illustration in question is offensive; that – and the interesting take on imperialism’s “benefits” – just have me a little concerned about what social history is being taught.

  196. #196 SC, OM
    April 27, 2009

    Rev.,

    He links to them @ #42 above. If you sign in and get them, could you email them to me?

  197. #197 Bruce gorton
    April 27, 2009

    Marcus Ranum

    On objectification:

    Not really, a way of differentiating is thinking of LOTR (the books). Arwen, is an object in that nothing is really revealed about her, she is just the reward at the end.

    Galadriel on the other hand is developed as a character, and thus isn’t objectified.

    With your pictures, you don’t really objectify those women, you take shots of them intended to say something about them and the culture they are in.

  198. #198 Marcus Ranum
    April 27, 2009

    Rev BDC:
    My stuff is mostly on http://mjranum.deviantart.com

    Unfortunately, that site enforces an 18+ filter for (free) members. I only want to further corrupt people, whatever their gender, who are already sexists, and not bud any new ones.

    There’s a smaller gallery with more “bland fine art sexism” on
    http://www.ranum.com/fun/lens_work/forsale/index.html
    that has no filter because I don’t believe any of it is “explicit” under 2257a. I’m not giving that link to try to generate sales; it’s simply an easy place to see my stuff that isn’t 18+ filtered.

    Another favorite of mine is this:
    http://www.ranum.com/linkedimages/piss-christ-kit.jpg
    which is really sexist scat-positive jewish zombie porn.

  199. #199 Bruce gorton
    April 27, 2009

    Bobber

    More history than anything. Basically, we can pretend that colonialism was 100% bad, but then we end up with Monty Python and the Life of Brian (What did the Romans ever do for us?)

    It is more honest to say on balance it was a terrible calamnity, but not everything that came out of it was a terrible calamnity.

  200. #200 SC, OM
    April 27, 2009

    When the Europeans found a place, sooner or later they took it. The choice was between the Europeans not finding it convenient, or the Europeans colonising it. It took the collapse of the empires to change the zeitgeist.

    That was the “choice” because they were fucking imperialists. What I’m saying is that imperialism-colonialism was tragic and not historically necessary for cultural exchange.

    Nice strawman you have set up there. I am well aware of the fact that a lot of African cultures had a legal system complete with judiciary, and rights granted to the accused. The western world (More than just America) however, provided a new model upon which to base our nations – the constitutional Republic.

    The Western world provided violent empire in reality and conceptual models that discount other democratic forms but but have some valuable elements. The first was not necessary for the second, and had a slightly deleterious effect on their realization.

    Otherwise, the status quo would have been maintained for a lot longer – with various first world scientific advances not coming to Africa. This includes modern medicine, the telephone, heck even a basic mail system would be difficult without writing.

    Scientific advances can spread through a variety of means, and the imperialist history of science and medicine is another ugly story. And the scientific “advances” currently “coming to” (often being pushed on) people in Africa will be enormously destructive.

    Ahh yes, the romanticised vision of Africa,

    No.

    that ignores that slavery was already present,

    How does pointing to the horror of European slavery ignore that slavery was already present?

    that the tribes did go to war with each other to capture slaves in part and that it was eventually the British that actually banned the slave-trade during the 1800′s.

    After centuries of practicing it! Grotesque.

    So in other words they like the basic ethics, principles and concepts, they just don’t want the big consumer lifestyle that evidently all westerners want. Except for those who don’t. [This makes sense how?] There is more to the west than Big Macs.

    No – not in other words. I’m talking about both basic ethics, principles, and concepts, the industrial-consumerist track, and their intersection.

  201. #201 Marcus Ranum
    April 27, 2009

    On objectification:
    Not really, a way of differentiating is thinking of LOTR (the books). Arwen, is an object in that nothing is really revealed about her, she is just the reward at the end.
    Galadriel on the other hand is developed as a character, and thus isn’t objectified.

    That’s amazingly subjective.

    By the way, I always thought Galadriel was a cut-out and hardly a character, at all! She’s just a plot device, herself, isn’t she? We could argue cheerfully about that all day, but I don’t think “objectification” makes any sense in that context; especially if someone imputed some kind of moral value to which of those characters was more well fleshed-out. This is why I reject a lot of this ideology as silliness; we could just as well argue that Tolkien was sexist because Elrond was male and was more important to the plot blah blah blah… Basically it boils down to “XXX bugs me” and “YYY is OK” which is no basis for a moral argument.

    With your pictures, you don’t really objectify those women, you take shots of them intended to say something about them and the culture they are in.

    I don’t know what I’m trying to do. I just take pictures and try to have fun. I hadn’t realized that I was such a significant oppressor of women (preens) and so worthy of contempt because of it.

  202. #202 Bobber
    April 27, 2009

    Bruce:

    My own objection to your characterization of imperialism is that while you do acknowledge the negatives and what you consider the positives that came of it, you don’t seem to consider that the social and economic development of colonised countries was almost certainly retarded by the imposition of colonial regimes that used divide-and-conquer tactics, alliances with conservative leadership elements of local cultures, and slavery, torture, and massacres to enforce the will of Western nations. At no time did these nations have the concerns of the locals as their motivation in territorial expansion. Western nations came as conquerors; the “benefits of civilization” were incidental, not intended. Consider if so-called “third world” nations had been the recipients of technical and economic assistance, rather than forced into being the staging areas for soldiers with gatling guns and fodder for politicians with maps but no knowledge of the people living within the borders they randomly drew?

  203. #203 Marcus Ranum
    April 27, 2009

    SC, OM writes:
    He’s been given ample opportunity to describe his work

    (eyeroll) They are photographs. It’s impossible to describe them; doing so would be to create a different thing – you can/should only judge them for what they are. But considering that you’re capable of leaping to judgements about an entire person from tiny fragments, I don’t expect you have any interest in actually looking at anything. If you email me (mjr@ranum.com) I’ll be happy to send you the images in question. Although if you were intellectually honest – since you’re damning me for my whole body of work, unseen – you’d just take a look for yourself.

    I’m surprised you haven’t, honestly. Actually knowing what you’re talking about would give you some powerful support.

  204. #204 SC, OM
    April 27, 2009

    I don’t know what I’m trying to do. I just take pictures and try to have fun.

    Again, you described yourself as putting some specific ones them out to a specific audience for a specific purpose, so this is disingenuous.

    I hadn’t realized that I was such a significant oppressor of women (preens) and so worthy of contempt because of it.

    I had forgotten that one! “Your criticism makes me significant and an oppressor!”

    Re: “feminazi” – if you’re acting like a verbal jackbooted thug and you’re spewing weird-ass feminist ideology, yes, I can call you a “feminazi.”

    Bingo!

    Look, Ranum. We’re not talking about what you could do, or what other people do, or could do, or what things would be like if they weren’t the way they are or you weren’t you. We’re talking about your work as you’ve presented it (and yes, that includes your statements). Artists – even shitty, boring hacks – have a moral responsibility for the images they produce and put out in public.

  205. #205 Marcus Ranum
    April 27, 2009

    yoyo writes:
    Gordon has been more nuanced but my point is this, if I produce a work of art that shows black men as being predisposed to raping women to use an extreme example I have made a rascist action.

    Yes, I’d agree with that.

    I accept the argument that the producer of a communication or work of art has responsibility for its content. So if I were to produce something like you describe above, I’d say that, yes, I’m revealing some things about my thoughts and attitudes that would say some nasty things about me.

    Then, there’s the question of the recipient of the communication or work of art. Perhaps it will be seen by nobody – in which case its impact on the world is pretty small. Or, perhaps it will be seen by another person and – if it communicates effectively – that person will either disagree with it, or agree with it, or whatever. Perhaps that person will be positively affected, and perhaps they’ll be negatively affected. But the world doesn’t suddenly become a better (or worse) place when the piece of art is created, or it’s seen. It depends on the actions and attitudes of the viewer more than the producer – especially if the two are disconnected. As you can see, some people react extremely violently to some kinds of communication. Or perhaps others approve and cheer.

    The situation is not exactly analogous to racism because we understand that, in general, the differences between the “races” are so small as to be ignorable. There are, however, differences between the genders and a great deal of that has to do with whom we want to have sex with, and when, and whether they also want it, etc.

    Let me try this another way: if someone puts up a “KKK and proud” banner on his house, I drive by and think he’s a racist. If there’s a crowd of people standing around cheering, I drive by and think they’re probably racists, too. If there’s a crowd of people protesting, I probably think they are anti-racist and may favor social equality. What I don’t think is that, when the guy hung that flag, that the world somehow became a more racist place. And if there’s any moral dimension to the cheering crowds or protestors, it’s their own.

    This whole rolling gunbattle was bacause I had the temerity to rudely blow off SC’s attempt to link my actions to how atheists will be seen at large, or how young women will think atheists disrespect their intelligence. To me, someone who looks at a photo making fun of religion and think that it says something about their intellectual contribution, or atheist’s attitudes in general – anything other than the artist’s views – is making a gigantic, silly, leap. Indeed, it’s just as silly a leap to look at one of my photos and think it says something about atheists as it would be to get mugged by a member of a minority and think that it says something about all members of that minority.

  206. #206 SC, OM
    April 27, 2009

    (eyeroll) They are photographs. It’s impossible to describe them;

    Yet you did so @ #64.

    But considering that you’re capable of leaping to judgements about an entire person from tiny fragments, I don’t expect you have any interest in actually looking at anything.

    Yeah, that’s why I asked the Rev. to email them to me. And in fact, I looked at the ones that you just posted.

    If you email me (mjr@ranum.com) I’ll be happy to send you the images in question.

    Sure, I’m really going to do that.

    Although if you were intellectually honest – since you’re damning me for my whole body of work, unseen

    No, this was never about your whole body of work. It was about specific images you described and noted as being used for a specific purpose in a specific context.

    And it wasn’t about “damning” you, but about challenging you on the appropriateness of the images as you described them for their stated use (and calling you out on sexist language). You haven’t shown that you’ve given that any real thought.

    And instead of launching into an antifeminist tirade after my #64, you could have tried to defend the work itself rationally in any number of ways. You chose a different tack, and one that proved revealing – so much so that even if the images themselves are unobjectionable, your attitudes are not. Words and images are factors in racist and sexist oppression, and anyone who calls himself an artist (especially one who’s trying to convey a political message and change people’s views) but denies any responsibility here is showing disrespect.

    I’m surprised you haven’t, honestly.

    I don’t sign up for sites I don’t know.

  207. #207 Marcus Ranum
    April 27, 2009

    SC, OM writes:
    Again, you described yourself as putting some specific ones them out to a specific audience for a specific purpose, so this is disingenuous.

    Reading comprehension error. I’m having fun poking fun at religion. I said, above, that I’m just trying to have fun. Fun is a specific purpose. Making the faithful annoyed or doubtful is fun. It’s almost as fun as poking self-righteous blusterers like you; you’re not so good with the death threats but you’re aces with the chimp shreiking and poo-flinging.

    Artists – even shitty, boring hacks – have a moral responsibility for the images they produce and put out in public.

    And, ultimately, we agree on that. Where we disagree is where, and how much, and who judges whom.

    Who are you to judge me? You’re spouting 80′s feel-good political correctness ideology and you’ve failed to convince me you have any moral authority. That’s why I keep blowing you off. And all your bluster, name-calling, and argument by vigorous table-banging does nothing to give you moral authority; it erodes it.

    Perhaps we can agree to disagree now? I think you’ve made it adequately clear that you think I’m a horrible human being. And I think I’ve made it adequately clear that your opinions carry very very little weight with me. So we’re at an impasse – except for the fact that you have no power to stop me from doing as I please, other than annoying me.

    (PS – you’re really going to make me cry with the “shitty” and “boring” and whatnot)

  208. #208 SC, OM
    April 27, 2009

    I accept the argument that the producer of a communication or work of art has responsibility for its content. So if I were to produce something like you describe above, I’d say that, yes, I’m revealing some things about my thoughts and attitudes that would say some nasty things about me.

    Yes.

    The situation is not exactly analogous to racism because we understand that, in general, the differences between the “races” are so small as to be ignorable.

    Nonexistent, in fact. (The relevance of the rest of this eludes me.)

    Let me try this another way: if someone puts up a “KKK and proud” banner on his house, I drive by and think he’s a racist.

    Why would you think that?

    If there’s a crowd of people standing around cheering, I drive by and think they’re probably racists, too.

    Why?

    If there’s a crowd of people protesting, I probably think they are anti-racist and may favor social equality.

    Why?

    What I don’t think is that, when the guy hung that flag, that the world somehow became a more racist place.

    And you’re wrong. The world becomes a more racist place with any social expression of racism, and a more sexist place with any social expression of sexism. I seriously can’t believe you can’t see this.

    And if there’s any moral dimension to the cheering crowds or protestors, it’s their own.

    But no moral dimension to his having hung the flag?

  209. #209 SC, OM
    April 27, 2009

    Reading comprehension error. I’m having fun poking fun at religion. I said, above, that I’m just trying to have fun. Fun is a specific purpose. Making the faithful annoyed or doubtful is fun.

    @#42:

    My little way of making religion’s lifespan shorter

    Showing kids that we can laugh at the priests and mullahs is powerful, indeed.

    It’s almost as fun as poking self-righteous blusterers like you; you’re not so good with the death threats but you’re aces with the chimp shreiking and poo-flinging.

    Have another tantrum, Ranum.

    Who are you to judge me?

    Just a person on a blog thread where you were bragging about your “art” and its alleged power.

    Perhaps we can agree to disagree now?

    To that I’ll agree.

    I think you’ve made it adequately clear that you think I’m a horrible human being.

    Not really what I was saying, drama queen.

    So we’re at an impasse – except for the fact that you have no power to stop me from doing as I please

    There’s no “except” there. I never wanted any such power.

    (PS – you’re really going to make me cry with the “shitty” and “boring” and whatnot)

    Actually, I think it has gotten to you, tenderheart. You keep bringing it up.

  210. #210 Marcus Ranum
    April 27, 2009

    SC, OM writes:
    But no moral dimension to his having hung the flag?

    I said at the beginning of that same post: “I accept the argument that the producer of a communication or work of art has responsibility for its content.” So – uh, yeah. Are you down to quote-mining now?

    The world becomes a more racist place with any social expression of racism, and a more sexist place with any social expression of sexism. I seriously can’t believe you can’t see this.

    I seriously think that’s ridiculous. Pfft.

  211. #211 Scott Hatfield, OM
    April 27, 2009

    SC, OM:

    Hi, just read your brief:

    Scott, I’m unclear at this point as to what your position is.

    It wouldn’t be the first time my obtuse prose style left perceptive people scratching their heads. I was just responding to PZ’s post, really. I haven’t had time to read Coyne’s article yet, much less his book, so I don’t want anyone to think that I’m responding to any specific in Coyne’s article. I’m not. It would be premature to respond to your query:

    If so, are you saying Coyne is misrepresenting the NCSE? How?

    If I were to engage in (ahem) some sort of premature ejaculation, I would guess that I wouldn’t accuse Coyne of misrepresentation, but I might disagree with his perception of affairs….but again, just guessing. Unfair to say more.

    I did look on the NCSE web site to see if any of their staffers has a book being plugged by the organization in any way, and I came up with nothing. So I was wondering what Pierce Butler was referring to. Was it an oblique reference to Coyne? If so, I honestly didn’t get that. Again, I need to read the article.

  212. #212 SC, OM
    April 27, 2009

    I said at the beginning of that same post: “I accept the argument that the producer of a communication or work of art has responsibility for its content.” So – uh, yeah. Are you down to quote-mining now?

    You said:

    And if there’s any moral dimension to the cheering crowds or protestors, it’s their own.

    “Their own” implies that it is not a direct response to, and indeed independent of, what the man had done. You never mentioned the moral dimension of this act, and then insisted on “their own,” as though absolving him of any responsibility. “Their own” doesn’t make sense unless you do this. They’re not protesting a paperclip, but a human action. And you didn’t answer my “Why?” questions.

    I seriously think that’s ridiculous. Pfft.

    But you’re a total moron, so…

  213. #213 SC, OM
    April 27, 2009

    Hi Scott,

    It wouldn’t be the first time my obtuse prose style left perceptive people scratching their heads.

    No, it wasn’t that at all. It seemed like you were agreeing with PZ et al. that the NCSE should be neutral, but that’s what Coyne was saying they aren’t doing, so I didn’t know where you were coming down.

    I was just responding to PZ’s post, really. I haven’t had time to read Coyne’s article yet, much less his book, so I don’t want anyone to think that I’m responding to any specific in Coyne’s article. I’m not.

    Ah.

    So I was wondering what Pierce Butler was referring to. Was it an oblique reference to Coyne? If so, I honestly didn’t get that.

    Pierce links @ #193 to an NCSE book list. I don’t know if any of those are by staffers, but Coyne does quote from some publications of some sort (pamphlets?)written by staffers.

    Again, I need to read the article.

    Yeah. :)

  214. #214 Ichthyic
    April 27, 2009

    The world becomes a more racist place with any social expression of racism

    maybe you meant expressions that put racism/sexism in a positive light?

    a portrayal of racism itself, as for example, if I painted a picture of a lynching, doesn’t necessarily promote, or denigrate, racism.

    It depends on how I, or others viewing it, depict it.

    If I say:

    “I wanted to paint a horrible picture so we never forget just where racism can lead us.”

    that would provide a totally different social context for the painting than if I had said:

    “I wanted to show those minorities what happens if they get uppity.”

    Likewise, a piece of art can be abused, aside from the creator’s intent, to even represent the opposite of what it was intended to.

    I think perhaps this is what Marcus was trying to get at, but I’m not going to wade through dozens of posts of diatribe to figure it out for sure.

    …that sometimes a piece of art has social influence primarily in the context of either the artist’s explained intent (usually primarily), or the the intent of viewers of it.

    That said, I’m sure there are some pieces of art that can be constructed such that their meaning and intent is quite clear, without interpretation of intent by the artist.

    My imagination is running a bit too short to come up with a good example, though.

  215. #215 SC, OM
    April 27, 2009

    Scott,

    Here’s one page with articles that Coyne links to:

    http://ncseweb.org/religion

    (Pierce might have been confusing these articles with the books mentioned elsewhere.)

  216. #216 Scott Hatfield, OM
    April 27, 2009

    OK, having just read the Coyne article, I admit to having questions about having a blurb about Hess’s book on the NCSE site….but only because I don’t know enough about Hess’s book. If it’s focus is scholarship about the history of Catholic attitudes toward science, then I probably don’t have a problem with its inclusion. If, on the other hand, it puts forward some particular theological understanding as a conclusion to be embraced…well, that would just be inappropriate.

    Perhaps we should all consider doing what I just did, and go to the source before drawing a quick conclusion about its merits?

    As for Coyne’s other complaints, well, again I think that there is room for NCSE to do a better job here, which is why I suggested tweaking their mission statement on an earlier post. But saying that NCSE is de facto promoting a philosophy is a little hard for me to credit. I’m an active member, and I just don’t see a boogeyman here. I’ve exchanged emails and spoken personally with more than one staff member on many occasions, including Peter Hess. None of these people have ever once said anything to me that could be construed as remotely privileging religion, ever. I’d need a bit more of a ‘smoking gun’ before I could warm to Dr. Coyne’s complaint.

  217. #217 SC, OM
    April 27, 2009

    maybe you meant expressions that put racism/sexism in a positive light?

    a portrayal of racism itself, as for example, if I painted a picture of a lynching, doesn’t necessarily promote, or denigrate, racism.

    I said “expressions of racism,” not “portrayals of racism.”

    I think perhaps this is what Marcus was trying to get at, but I’m not going to wade through dozens of posts of diatribe to figure it out for sure.

    You really would need to, as this has been discussed in some depth. It’s also part of the reason I asked him the questions I did.

  218. #218 Ichthyic
    April 28, 2009

    If, on the other hand, it puts forward some particular theological understanding as a conclusion to be embraced…well, that would just be inappropriate.

    you mean like Miller and Collins do in their books?

    *looks at bibliography for relevant section at NCSE to see if those books are listed*

    yup.

    That said, I still consider NCSE to have enough of an “outsider” position (they aren’t an official gov’t. body, nor do they represent a scientific journal of any kind), that while I frown on the language, I figure it’s more “opinion of a group of individuals”, than it is a recommendation from an official scientific organization.

    now NAS, OTOH…

    *spank*

    as to the general debate between the “tacticians” like RBH and those of us who look at what the long term goals SHOULD be…

    I’ve grown too weary to repeat why the likes of Nisbet and RBH are wrong to knock those who criticize the approach of the NCSE.

    It’s been done a million times (I even tried again over on Panda’s thumb soon after Coyne’s article was released), and they never seem to listen. It always ends up as if, paraphrasing the words of another poster here on Pharyngula, they’re accusing us making the misogynist terrorists angry by flashing our boobs.

  219. #219 Ichthyic
    April 28, 2009

    I said “expressions of racism,” not “portrayals of racism.”

    Then what do you mean when you said this:

    “Their own” implies that it is not a direct response to, and indeed independent of, what the man had done.

    because that is exactly what I’m saying:

    “what the man had done” vs. “the direct response to [it]” can indeed be independent.

    how do you define “expression” vs. “portrayal”?

    I’m not really trying to insert myself into your battle with Marcus, I’m trying to understand how one gets to the conclusion that a bit of artistic expression has social context without interpretation.

  220. #220 Marcus Ranum
    April 28, 2009

    SC, OM writes:
    “Their own” implies that it is not a direct response to, and indeed independent of, what the man had done

    That’s correct. It may be a second-order effect of what he did (they chose to congregate by his flag, instead of at the corner bar, or whatever) but their actions are their own responsibility, 100%.

    You can’t argue any other way, really. Let’s imagine a scenario where I hang a white sheet out to dry and (for whatever reason) it’s visible from the street. And a bunch of KKK supporters come and start having a rally under it. I was not attempting to communicate, but they completely misunderstood it. Am I responsible for their being racists? Of course not.

    Yes, that’s a silly example. But it’s no more silly than saying that because I post a photo of a girl with her boobies showing, that I’m responsible for women all over the world having their intelligence insulted. That does appear to be your entire argument in a nutshell.

    You never mentioned the moral dimension of this act, and then insisted on “their own,” as though absolving him of any responsibility.

    Yes, of course I absolve him of any responsibility. Unless he was trying to start a riot or was deliberately trying to cause other people to do something, how can you possibly say he’s responsible for their actions?

    They’re not protesting a paperclip, but a human action.

    Yes, and they’re doing it by their own choice; therefore it’s their responsibility. I think you can say that one person’s actions might cause another person to react, but that person’s reactions are their choice, not the first person’s. Isn’t that obvious?

    So, are you saying that if I sneeze, and someone turns to look at the sound, and falls down and breaks their neck, that I killed them? Or that I was somehow responsible for their death?

    And you didn’t answer my “Why?” questions.

    Oh, sure. It’s obvious – a bunch of guys standing under a KKK flag cheering it probably are in agreement with the ideology represented by the flag. A bunch of guys standing around carrying protest signs are probably not.

    We all use terms to conveniently package up whole groups of concepts and sometimes they’re too vague and sometimes they’re wrong. I might see a bunch of guys cheering under a KKK flag and not realize that they’re actors in a movie. So I might inaccurately label them “racists” and I’d be wrong (in the sense of ‘incorrect’ not morally) to do so. Or I might see someone using feminist code phrases and label them as feminists (and if they’re really thumping the table and screeching things like ‘fuck you, sexist asshole’, “feminazis”) just as you might see some guy who says “tits! woot!” and label them as a “sexist” OK? So now are we clear how labelling works? Those labels are just handy packages of concepts and, as I’ve shown, they could be right or they could be wrong. Or, the people within those labels – those “stereotypes” if you prefer – might hold more subtle or nuanced views. Or they could be actors.

    The reason you get on my nerves is because you’re cheerfully stereotyping and labelling away, trading in value-laden words and cheap language, and you’re incapable of making a moral argument defending why you believe you’re in a position to say what’s right or wrong. Or, alternatively, you’re too stubborn to admit that you call people “sexist” and it’s meaningless because it’s just your opinion. I can’t believe the latter is true because you seem to take language very very seriously – to the point of making all kinds of assumptions about a person’s character from a few of their words or deeds. That’s – OH – exactly what you were complaining about in the first place. You are what you hate.

    But, Uh, you don’t get to complain about me dodging questions when that’s all you’ve been doing in this entire thread.

    I note that I’ve attempted to deconstruct the “logic” of such an moral argument in several earlier posts (specifically #210 and #224) and the best you can do is quote-mine and snipe at snippets like:
    “the differences between the “races” are so small as to be ignorable”
    FWIW – I was going to write nonexistent but I figured some nitpicker would point out something about skin cancers or sickle cell or something like that. When you’re down to quote-mining you’ll be able to find something you can nitpick on either way.

    I notice further that you dodged any attempt to defend your theory that “objectification” is bad – presumably because you’ve realized that you’re going to just sound like a subjectivist ideologue as you flail around trying to come up with a standard of “objectivization” that carries any more weight than “what SC, OM likes”

  221. #221 SC, OM
    April 28, 2009

    I’m not really trying to insert myself into your battle with Marcus,

    But that is what you’re doing…without having read the numerous previous comments.

    I’m trying to understand how one gets to the conclusion that a bit of artistic expression has social context without interpretation.

    I’m not sure what you mean by this exactly, or how it’s supposed to relate to the prior discussion, but all interpretation occurs within a social context.

    Their own” implies that it is not a direct response to, and indeed independent of, what the man had done.

    because that is exactly what I’m saying:

    “what the man had done” vs. “the direct response to [it]” can indeed be independent.

    Gah. I’m trying to get at something with my questions, and you’re confusing the matter.

  222. #222 Scott Hatfield, OM
    April 28, 2009

    Icthyic:

    you mean like Miller and Collins do in their books?

    *looks at bibliography for relevant section at NCSE to see if those books are listed*

    yup.

    Now, hang on there, Icthyic. Miller and Collins both to differing degrees put their theology out there. But that’s not what I meant by inappropriate. Being listed as one of many resources in a text-only bibliography is one thing. Being placed in a sidebar with a graphic and a link to Amazon.com or some such is another. The former practice does not imply endorsement, much less a sales pitch. The latter amounts to promotion and a de facto endorsement of the author’s point of view. And that would be wildly inappropriate for NCSE if the author’s point of view amounts to a theological conclusion….agreed?

    Tell you what. I’m going to take my own advice, call Peter, ask to purchase an advance (autographed) copy of the book, read it and then blog about it. Let the chips fall where they may.

  223. #223 SC, OM
    April 28, 2009

    That’s correct. It may be a second-order effect of what he did (they chose to congregate by his flag, instead of at the corner bar, or whatever) but their actions are their own responsibility, 100%.

    The question isn’t whether their actions are their own “responsibility,” but whether their interpretation of the communication was 100% independent of that communication’s set of meanings in a given cultural context.

    You can’t argue any other way, really.

    It wasn’t what we were arguing about.

    Let’s imagine a scenario where I hang a white sheet out to dry and (for whatever reason) it’s visible from the street. And a bunch of KKK supporters come and start having a rally under it. I was not attempting to communicate, but they completely misunderstood it. Am I responsible for their being racists? Of course not.

    This is why I’m asking you the questions about “Why?”. Do you see this example as equivalent to the KKK flag?

    Am I responsible for their being racists? Of course not.

    You wouldn’t be responsible for their being racists even if you hung the KKK flag. You would be responsible for promoting racism by hanging the flag (given a basic level of understanding of what it represents). If you were attempting to subvert that meaning in some way to convey a different message, you would have the responsibility to be very careful about how you went about it, because you are responsible for the failure of this project if it’s poorly done. It’s risky even with the best intentions.

    You, however, don’t have the best intentions in terms of subverting sexism, at least as I’ve heard your work described. You’re objectifying women (reducing them to a male-sexualized image in order to serve your purpose – getting attention, mocking or shocking religious people). And you’re doing this in a cultural context in which women are objectified in this way for a number of purposes, which plays a role in the oppression of women. You haven’t said anything to show that you’re doing anything other than this, and indeed your first post made your intentions quite clear. If you think the “powerful” message of mocking religion or shocking religious sensibilities isn’t at the same time going to be contributing to sexism and conveying a message to young girls about their value, you’re kidding yourself. And you’re responsible for that. (But you’re not kidding yourself, of course, as you’ve noted above – you just accept no responsibility.)

    Yes, that’s a silly example. But it’s no more silly than saying that because I post a photo of a girl with her boobies showing, that I’m responsible for women all over the world having their intelligence insulted.

    If you keep misrepresenting me, I’ll cease to communicate with you. I never once said anything about insulting women’s intelligence. I suggested that this sort of image conveys an attitude that women are valued as bodies alone, and their bodies to be used for other purposes.

    That does appear to be your entire argument in a nutshell.

    Not.

    Yes, of course I absolve him of any responsibility. Unless he was trying to start a riot or was deliberately trying to cause other people to do something, how can you possibly say he’s responsible for their actions?

    If someone puts up a symbol like that in this cultural context, he is responsible for conveying the messages associated with it – in this case, celebrating a history of racist violence and murder. It arouses strong emotions.

    Yes, and they’re doing it by their own choice; therefore it’s their responsibility.

    So?

    I think you can say that one person’s actions might cause another person to react, but that person’s reactions are their choice, not the first person’s. Isn’t that obvious?

    Yes, but what is it’s relevance to this discussion? I’m not suggesting that you’re legally responsible if someone sees your pictures and goes out and rapes a woman. I’m saying you’re responsible for contributing to a sexist culture, just as this man is responsible for contributing to a racist culture (again, outside of certain very specific contexts), as people would be if they were calling women c***s and black people the N-word.

    So, are you saying that if I sneeze, and someone turns to look at the sound, and falls down and breaks their neck, that I killed them? Or that I was somehow responsible for their death?

    Are you saying that creating an image is equivalent to sneezing (well, in your case it may be, but that aside…), or that having sexist attitudes reinforced or feeling objectified by language or images is the same as falling down?

    Oh, sure. It’s obvious – a bunch of guys standing under a KKK flag cheering it probably are in agreement with the ideology represented by the flag.

    Exactly.

    (and if they’re really thumping the table and screeching things like ‘fuck you, sexist asshole’,

    It was “fuck you, asshole.” And you’d be correct to label me a feminist based on my comments here.

    just as you might see some guy who says “tits! woot!” and label them as a “sexist” OK?

    Correctly so.

    So now are we clear how labelling works?

    I wasn’t talking about labeling. This is all very stupid.

    The reason you get on my nerves is because you’re cheerfully stereotyping and labelling away,

    Please look up the word “stereotype.” It doesn’t mean what you think it means.

    trading in value-laden words and cheap language, and you’re incapable of making a moral argument defending why you believe you’re in a position to say what’s right or wrong. Or, alternatively, you’re too stubborn to admit that you call people “sexist” and it’s meaningless because it’s just your opinion. I can’t believe the latter is true because you seem to take language very very seriously – to the point of making all kinds of assumptions about a person’s character from a few of their words or deeds.

    Now that‘s a tantrum. Was there a point to that rant?

    That’s – OH – exactly what you were complaining about in the first place.

    Um, no it isn’t. At all. You’re incredibly dense.

    But, Uh, you don’t get to complain about me dodging questions when that’s all you’ve been doing in this entire thread.

    No, you’re simply too stupid to understand arguments.

    I notice further that you dodged any attempt to defend your theory [sic] that “objectification” is bad

    See above in this very post.

  224. #224 SC, OM
    April 28, 2009

    Now, hang on there, Icthyic. Miller and Collins both to differing degrees put their theology out there. But that’s not what I meant by inappropriate. Being listed as one of many resources in a text-only bibliography is one thing…

    One of many resources in a list that doesn’t include voices on the other side of the issue. Scott, your personal communications are not important at all in this context; what is important is the public face of the NCSE. I really don’t see how you can look at that list and that “Faith” page and claim that they’re being neutral and not leaning far to the accomodationist/compatibilist side. Neutrality would mean representing both/all sides or complete detachment from the issue.

  225. #225 Grisha
    April 28, 2009

    I agree that science and religion are incompatible, even not like sleep and wake. However, if you are talking about approach, how many believers were converted by reasons? It is called faith for reasons(pun intended). We need to promote understanding of science and hope that education will help. On the other hand, those, who hope that religion believes will die out within a couple of generations, are way too optimistic. Religion unfortunately has strange hold on people’s concision.

  226. #226 AUDHUMLA
    April 28, 2009

    Genesis AND evolution both contradict ME:
    I licked First Man out of the Eternal Ice!

    First Man was a giant, and so are all his descendants!
    (average height is just for the meter, not to mention women)

    And the ice IS eternal, global warming just another tide!

    I am the ONE TRUE ORIGIN – nonwithstanding the fact that those who only prayed to ME and refrained from the use of the magnetic stone did not come back from the sea.

  227. #227 Scott Hatfield, OM
    April 28, 2009

    SC, OM:

    One of many resources in a list that doesn’t include voices on the other side of the issue.

    Potentially misleading. It’s a bibliography on ‘Theology and Evolution’, not a bibliography on ‘Belief Vs. Non-Belief.’ I doubt very much that the purpose of this bibliography was to represent either ‘side’ of an issue that seems largely of interest to a certain breed of non-believer. It was intended as a resource on ‘Theology and Evolution’. NCSE isn’t pushing these books for sale. There are no links to Amazon.com. And, frankly, when I peruse this list I don’t see the All-Religion, All-The-Time All-Stars: Michael Ruse, Edward Larson, Ronald Numbers and Paul Davies are all featured.

    On the other hand, NCSE does, in fact, commend books by Coyne, Dennett and Dawkins on this list, and they DO provide links to purchase THESE books.

    So, while I might believe that NCSE could stand to revisit this issue, I think this is more of a molehill than a mountain. Your mileage may differ. What’s next, though? Should I start referring to you assertive types as ‘anti-accomodationalists’? The mind boggles.

  228. #228 SC, OM
    April 28, 2009

    Grm. Got sucked into this, and now I still have work to do and probably won’t have any time to sleep.

    *shakes fist at self and all involved*

    I’ll try to catch up with this later.

    Gah. Must reply to one comment from above:

    I love and hate it when threads drift into the territory of
    sexism, rascism, or PC language debates. It’s always interesting, yet so futile.

    “PC language debates,” eh? How dismissive. And already the pronouncements.

    I do have a few observations, mostly about the pictures themselves, and marcusranum’s unfairly demonized perspective.

    No one is demonizing anyone or their perspective. This hyperbole is ridiculous.

    I am not completely unfamiliar with the issues of sexism
    and the objectification of women, and men, and sex in general, or how widespread it is in all cultures, not just commercialised America.

    And yet you’ll ignore all of this in what follows.

    However, I think that while SC,OM is certainly passionate about these issues, the hyperventilating over-reaction,

    In other words, a series of strongly-worded comments.

    and the unwillingness to actually state a clear case outside of name-calling and broad assumptions just makes SC,OM’s rants look petty, over-sensitive, and as prudish as a victorian spinster.

    You too must be unfamiliar with my comments here.

    It seems that MarcusRanum’s biggest mistake was using words like “hot chicks” and “topless” to refer to his work,
    because that’s when all the accusations started.
    I will admit that’s pretty bad form for this blog,
    unless he was after some conflict.

    It wasn’t just bad form. It was indicative of an attitude toward women. I’m quite sure racist language wouldn’t get the same pass. And this certainly set the stage for the subsequent discussion, during which he did nothing to dispel that impression.

    Yet only one person that I noticed bothered to view the pictures,

    I wasn’t not “bothering,” but refusing to sign up for a site with which I’m unfamiliar.

    Then there was some arrogant, condescending clucking

    Clucking, eh?

    and a bunch of name calling. Until someone actully defends the ridiculous ranting with an argument that is more than a reactionary product of their narrow views of sex, sexism, and art, color me unimpressed.

    Oh, dear! Whatever will I do if you’re not impressed, total stranger on the internet?

    I thought that the burka picture was nicely done. Low-key, sensuous partial nudity, yet almost hidden in darkness, a sense of forbiddenness brought on by the burka and the dark black and white scheme. Almost as if the subject wanted desparately to be seen, but could not risk being identified. Oh my, could that be a bit of meaning beyond the (partially visible) boobs?

    Or could it be one of the “hot topless girls in burqas” Ranum described?

    Did anyone even bother to think about it, even a little?

    Yes. It’s entirely possible. These sorts of images are capable of having subversive meanings (especially if you’re looking for them). This does not suggest that this will be the totality of their reception, especially when the cultural context is taken into account.

    It reminded me a tiny bit of Mapplethorpe’s style of shooting, but with female, explicitly restricted Muslim sexuality being exposed, rather than the more aggresive homosexual male sexuality of Mapplethorpe’s work.

    I liked a lot of his work, but many aspects were very problematic, and not because they were sexual. He’s certainly open for criticism for his choices (and not just the images themselves), as is any other photographer.

    They might as well keep the burkas on, apparently.
    Surely none of them have ever wanted to be able to expose their sexuality or be proud of their sexuality or their bodies. Surely none of them ever wanted to be seen as sexy.

    Interesting that the only way you see this happening is through exposing their bodies in pictures. You have a strange and narrow idea of women’s sexuality.

    I guess he might as well be beating them himself, since obviously none of them could ever find any value in his work, right? Please.

    Please is right. Of course some people could.

    If this is objectification of women, then so is anything even vaguely sexual that involves a woman at all.

    Wrong. And that I don’t think this is shown in the fact that I had no problem with posts here that did use such images, as I pointed out above.

    Just because there is a hint of sex, because the subject is a woman,

    No, not “just because” that.

    beacuse some in our culture are sexist(or blame the whole culture,)

    It’s a fact – we live in a sexist culture. This shapes the reception of all images.

    some seem to pretend that they are in possession of a magic wand that can assign any and all worth to an image or idea. What a crock of arrogant bullshit,

    What a crock is right.

    which by eliminating sex as a valid forum for art,

    Which no one here is seeking to do.

    seeks not equality, but to neuter the whole world for the sake of self-esteem. Good luck with that.

    Your strawman project?

    Could I choose to read the work as simply being disrespectful and objectifying? Sure. I could presume that the artist was only trying to appeal to the Playboy/Maxim crowd.

    You could even read Ranum’s comment about it above.

    But I’m not interested in limiting anybody’s ideas
    to my preconceptions, or to narrow, dismissive ideas about other peoples’, or society’s preconceptions, as some here seem to do.

    There is a pre-existing cultural context. There is nothing dismissive about taking note of this.

    And I certainly don’t restrict my interpretations to a woefully narrow scope that only includes as valid the naive and arrogant view that because there is sexism in a culture, even all through and woven into the culture, everything must be judged solely on that basis,

    How images are received is fundamentally shaped by the sexism that pervades the culture. A responsible creator of images understands this.

    by the (quite possibly wrongly)perceived standards of the lowest common denominator.

    These have to be taken into account.

    I deny the moral-crusader attempt to tie the artist down to an obviously subjective, yet seemingly
    inflexible and narrow minded judgement of a whole culture.

    You’re quite a moral crusader yourself, there. It is not subjective to say that the culture is sexist, that part of the basis of that lies in the objectification of women, and that images of women’s bodies are generally a part of that sexist culture rather than subversive of it. It is not subjective to say that, while there are readings of images that may go against the prevailing culture, these are far less likely than those that follow it, especially among young people, and that if someone is seeking to appeal to a group (s)he needs to be cognizant of that.

    Even if you think that the only motive was complete sensationalism, it can still be more than just an excuse to slaver over some breasts, or reduce women to being regarded solely as sex objects.

    And it can still be problematic.

    An emphasis on sexuality does not automatically equal a totality of sexuality,

    Whatever the hell that means.

    and even a pure focus on sexuality in art does not automatically demean any or all women, except in the flat, non-nuanced, dogmatic worldview that seems to be in play here.

    Only in your strawman version of it.

    Whether anyone is mature and honest enough to admit that, I don’t know. If not, maybe you can buy a collection of plates with all-female scientists featured on them, clad in full-length lab coats. Try the Franklin Mint.

    Yes, what a laughable idea – that anyone would want to see women represented for their accomplishments. And of course this has to be in an image.

    To those who have harshly criticized the artist, I would suggest that the message in that piece could be read as applying to judgmental, condescending commenters here,

    The people challenging him to think about and take responsibility for the messages he’s conveying, and to appreciate the role that images can play in gender inequality.

    Some seem to think that until there is not an oppressed woman in the universe, and maybe even then, anything that acknowledges or glorifies a persons’ sex, sexiness, or sex-related physical nature is incapable of being anything other than pure sexism, and is actually somehow horribly demeaning and damaging to all women and/or men.

    Yes, that perfectly characterizes what is being suggested here.

    If this interpretation is incorrect, please let me know what was intended.

    It’s been elaborated over several comments. Perhaps you need to read them again.

  229. #229 Marcus Ranum
    April 28, 2009

    SC, OM @#228 writes:
    Not really what I was saying, drama queen.

    A) Hypocrite
    B) “Homophobe”
    C) Card-carrying member of oppressed minority for whom it is ‘edgy’ to use terms like ‘drama queen’

    I really hate it when people do the very things that they are so sanctimonious about. At this point, you’ve descended to self-parody.

  230. #230 SC, OM
    April 28, 2009

    A) Hypocrite
    B) “Homophobe” [again with the telling scarequotes]
    C) Card-carrying member of oppressed minority for whom it is ‘edgy’ to use terms like ‘drama queen’

    I really hate it when people do the very things that they are so sanctimonious about. At this point, you’ve descended to self-parody.

    Wow, that’s desperate. What the hell are you even talking about? I’ve called my sister and friends (female and male) drama queens since I was a kid. As far as I know, it has nothing to do with gay people (is it the “queen” that’s throwing you?), and my brief internet search has turned up no connection. It also confirms that the term covers both sexes (though evidently some people use “drama king” to refer to males, which I don’t think I’ve ever heard before).

    Get a grip.

  231. #231 strange gods before me
    April 28, 2009

    you call people “sexist” and it’s meaningless because it’s just your opinion.

    When you say that the effects of sexism are not objectively, reproducibly measurable, you admit that you’re just yelling incoherently about a topic you don’t understand.

    You know the creationists who show up and say the second law of thermodynamics disproves evolution? That’s what you sound like right now.

    You’re quite a moral crusader yourself, there.

    :D

    “I’m not taking sides, I’m just defending the status quo!”

  232. #232 Anonymous
    April 28, 2009

    SC,OM,

    you have shown yourself to be a rather narrow-minded prudish dogmatist in this thread,Im surprised and disappointed.I am by no means a fan of Marcus Ranum,but with this one,he is right,and you are wrong,on all fronts.
    You determined his photos were “sexist” from how he called them,you didnt even look.How very sloppy.

  233. #233 SC, OM
    April 28, 2009

    [clinteas, if that is you, have the guts to admit it.]

    you have shown yourself to be a rather narrow-minded prudish dogmatist in this thread,

    No, none of the above. And if you don’t understand the difference between prudishness and attention to how images are produced and received in a sexist culture, I can’t help you. I’ve “recommended” S&M production companies here recently, ffs. This has zero to do with prudishness.

    Im surprised and disappointed.

    Disappointed?! I’ll try to live with the shame.

    I am by no means a fan of Marcus Ranum,but with this one,he is right,and you are wrong,on all fronts.

    That’s quite a solid, well-crafted argument.

    You determined his photos were “sexist” from how he called them,

    I argued that he was sexist from his comments here. I challenged him on his dismissal of sexism both in his comments here and in the production of his images, based on his own descriptions of his intent and the images’ content.

    you didnt even look.How very sloppy.

    The reason for that was made clear several times. And as I said, whatever they look like, he’s shown himself to be a sexist and an irresponsible creator of images.

    And if you are clinteas, you’re a sexist asshole, too, so it’s unsurprising that you would be so shallow in your interpretation of my arguments. I don’t care about the opinion of “Anonymous,” and frankly care even less about that of clinteas/Rorschach.

  234. #234 Ichthyic
    April 28, 2009

    clinteas, if that is you, have the guts to admit it.

    might not be intentional.

    typekey seems to randomly log you out without informing you every once in a while. When it happens, you get the “privilege” of posting as anonymous.

    just happened to me yesterday, and happened to Heddle just a minute ago.

  235. #235 Rorschach
    April 28, 2009

    Fuck,what happened here?
    Not me SC,sorry,keep looking,I read this and found your and MR’s little battle annoying yesterday,the thread was quite interesting until then.
    Im perfectly capable of telling you in person if I thought you were talking shit,thanks.How have you been,anyway?? :-)

  236. #236 Bruce gorton
    April 28, 2009

    SC, OM

    As to what I mean by “Except those who don’t.” A fair chunk of the West’s population rejects certain key elements of western culture – but they are still on balance western.

    What is western is not simply consumerism, it is equality of the genders, the right to vote, an emphasis on education, an emphasis on lasting wealth creation – and to be lasting wealth creation has to be sustainable.

    Sweden, The UK, Japan, France, South Korea these countries are not the same, they have major differences to their outlooks, but they are driving elements to what I consider western. To be western is not the same as being American – in fact nowadays I do not consider America to be particularly western apart for in terms of geography.

    As to African versus European slavery: Slavery is slavery, and African slavery was every bit as horrible as European slavery. The point is that without the Brits it would still have been around today. For an example that enforces my point look at Mauritania.

    Marcus Ranum

    A character doesn’t have to be well developed to not be an object, they just have to be developed enough to be more than an object – and their use in the story has to be more than as an object.

    Galadrial in the LOTR books could not be replaced with a big lump of gold – she is presented with her own motivations and considerations. Arwen, on the other hand, is basically an object to be gained.

    Oddly the ring, is a personified object – it is given motives throughout the story.

    Bobber

    That, is just the side of the argument I am on at the moment. My usual description of colonialism goes something like “Rich countries coming, killing the men, raping the women, kidnapping the kids to work in their cotton fields, then stealing whatever isn’t nailed down, occupying the land and finally whinging at people not saying thankyou.”

    The colonised may have gained some benefit from it in the long run – but if it happened today it would be rightly considered monstrous. That is why I point out “What did the Romans do for us?”

    If Rome rose today, it would spark a world war in which all of us would be duty bound to stop it happening – but Rome’s influence in the past, is part of what made the modern world possible.

    We do not want to return to being colonies anymore than Europe really wants to return to the days of the Roman Empire, but we can consider what we have got from that era and strive to build on it.

    The emotional fear of the empire tends to lead countries like mine into throwing the good out with the bad – which leads to third world hellholes. The countries which have been able to take what little their hated overlords have left them, and build on it, seem a lot more successful than those who don’t.

    Zimbabwe is the model I look to avoid. The “British” farmers were frequently Zimbabwean citizens, born in Zimbabwe, who happened to be white. They farmed the land and did a reasonable job at it – because that is the job they knew how to do. It had nothing to do with them being white, it had everything to do with them having the know how.

    Because of them and experienced black Zimbabwean farmers, Zimbabwe was a bread basket state. Now it is a basket case because they, as well as experienced black farmers, had their land ceased by “veterans” (mostly in their twenties) who knew nothing of farming.

    And Robert Mugabe used this as a means of selling getting rid of the taint of empirialism so he could stay in power. This kind of rhetoric has made Zimbabwe a hellhole, noted for torture, and noted for starvation.

    Even after the xenophobic attacks in South Africa, we have Zimbabweans struggling to enter our country to get away from what Robert Mugabe has done.

    All across Africa you have subsistence farming, a lot of it born of land redistribution taking commercial farm lands and turning them over to people who really wanted something different entirely. This has led to Africa’s food supply being precarious, as famines strike about as regularly as the rain fails.

    In order to avoid this sort of mistake we need to stop focussing purely on the bad of our past, and start focussing on the good, start thinking “What do we want to keep” rather than “What do we want to get rid of.”

    And at this stage there is stuff we should be keeping. It doesn’t help us to demonise the past, the past is done and there is no going back to fix it. Instead we need to focus on where we are, how we got here and how we can move forward.

    And that means acknowledging that good did come of our history. That the whole story of colonialism wasn’t of one sided evil, and that there is a lot to be learned from the “old masters.”

    That is not to say do as you say, but rather look at what you do and see if it works.

  237. #237 SC, OM
    April 28, 2009

    Not me SC,sorry,keep looking,

    OK. Sorry.

    I read this and found your and MR’s little battle annoying yesterday,the thread was quite interesting until then.

    Well, it’s annoying to me that people can post sexist shit like “hot topless chicks” over and over again, and those who object can ignore it 95% of the time, but the 5% of the time we say something we’re seen as derailing threads. No. “Hot topless chicks” derailed the thread.

    Im perfectly capable of telling you in person if I thought you were talking shit,thanks.

    OK. Still wouldn’t care (on this issue, anyway). :)

    How have you been,anyway?? :-)

    Fine, thanks (for going on an hour’s sleep), and you?

  238. #238 Rorschach
    April 28, 2009

    Yeah,good,thanks.
    You thought I wrote this???Seriously?? Fuck,maybe I should stop commenting,it’s way too easy to be called a sexist pig around here these days.

  239. #239 SC, OM
    April 28, 2009

    You thought I wrote this???Seriously??

    It was mainly the punctuation,um,claustrophobia.

    Fuck,maybe I should stop commenting,it’s way too easy to be called a sexist pig around here these days.

    These days? Dude, I’ve been calling you a sexist pig for months now. :)

    OK. must leave for work.

  240. #240 Trance Gemini
    April 28, 2009

    Hi PZ,
    I’m a regular reader of your blog, an atheist, enjoy the fresh perspective you provide, and agree with most of your comments.

    I also agree with the comments you’ve made in this post.

    However, I would like to make one comment regarding the use of the term “militant atheist”.

    I hope that you will take this in the spirit in which it is intended and that is as a friendly gesture.

    In my opinion, the source of this term is likely the christian right who are arguing that atheism is a belief system and that atheists can therefore be fundamentalist or militant.

    My argument against atheists using this term is that we are “buying the line”.

    Since atheism is just a lack of belief in gods there is no such thing as militant atheism or militant atheists or fundamentalist atheism or fundamentalist atheists.

    People who are atheists can be militant in advocating secular humanism or materialist/naturalist beliefs systems.

    Or they can be militants generally but they really can’t be militant atheists, IMO.

    Just a thought and I hope that you and others will give it some consideration.

    Keep up the great work PZ!

  241. #241 SC, OM
    April 28, 2009

    OK. I’ve stepped back and read through the posts again, and have a few minutes before class. I think we’ve gotten away from the more serious points of contention. I had a strong (justified) response to Ranum’s sexist description of his work. In his strong responses to that, he appeared to me to be saying not that he didn’t see it as having potential sexist aspects worthy of consideration but that he acknowledged that it did and screw anyone who objected to it. Then we were having parallel arguments in which I was talking about creators’ responsibilities and he was still thinking (probably justifiably) I was making claims about his images. So I’m going back to #205, which I think gets at the crux of the disagreement.

    People here have made the same “it’s their problem,” receiver-based arguments about this language (and other imagery) that you’re making about images. The examples of language provided were to show that, like imagery, words have existing meanings and connotations that transcend individuals.

    Yes, absolutely.

    But you don’t seem to be acknowledging this consistently.

    I suspect that if there’s any “truth” here, it’s somewhere between reciever-based and sender-, no?

    Yes. We agree on that. It has appeared, though, that while you’re acknowledging that there is a role for the sender in creating and conveying meaning at some moments, you’re denying it at others. You’ve compared creators of images with people putting out sheets to dry, sneezers, and drugs. This appears to deny any conscious or moral agency on their part.

    In an environment where the sender does not know the reciever, and vice-versa, the sender is left only with what they can convey in the message.

    But the sender knows the culture, and the assumption in the case in question is that the receivers (broadly) share that culture. There are expectations associated with this, at whatever level of certainty.

    That’s why some societies are able to countenance “hate speech” laws: there’s a clear attempt to provoke or hurt, conveyed in the message itself.

    But there’s a range of intent here, wouldn’t you agree?

    People react strongly to, or are offended by, certain words and images not because of personal issues but because of the nature of the words of images themselves.

    And that’s receiver-based, right?

    See, this is what I’m talking about. No, it’s in that area where the sender and receiver meet within a common culture. A person consciously constructing an image or a written work makes choices about the images and words she uses. These are presumably intended to provoke certain reactions in a particular audience – ecstasy, arousal, anger, thought, offense, laughter,… My point is that the responsible creator is also conscious and takes care concerning not only the direct message but other (perhaps) indirect messages that the words or images may be sending.

    If the sender didn’t realize that the receiver had issues with a particular word or image, can you really blame them?

    It’s not a matter of foreseeing every individual’s idiosyncratic “issues” but of recognizing existing likely cultural connotations. Poets use this when they choose words. You use it when you create an image. You clearly have a general intention that plays on cultural tropes, so I don’t know why you’re insisting otherwise.

    I also don’t find it’s a strong moral argument to claim that “the sender ought to know”

    The sender ought to think about it, if he cares about the impact of his work.

    - a good example would be your use of ‘colonialism’ as an issue, which got a rise of another poster on this thread. If he had been offended by it (and I think he wasn’t) that wouldn’t have been your fault, right? It’d have been his “issue” the same way that my personal dislike of baby pictures doesn’t give me any right to insist other people don’t display them in my presence.

    Again, we’re not talking about idiosyncratic individual sensitivities here. We’re talking about an appreciation of shared aspects of a culture which may be part of a group’s oppression. I would agree that it’s not the same as the KKK-flag example in the sense that it allows for more interpretation, but it’s not at all like a sneeze. If you really believed that creating carried no such responsibility, any art would be totally acceptable and unworthy of criticism, including neo-Nazi propaganda.

    But your real argue is that the social zeitgeist makes certain images offensive and others not.

    No, my argument is that the cultural context in which images will be received should be taken into account by the creator.

    The sender should know that the society into which he sends his message will be offended by it.

    Again, no. This isn’t simply about offense.

    As my photo of the burqua was intended to offend religiotards of a particular type (yay! woot!) so you’re saying it’s my responsibility to know all the possible combinations that might give offense?

    It’s your responsibility to think seriously about the reception of your images within a given context.

    As we see, that’s entirely receiver-dependent.

    Now you’re again at “entirely receiver-dependent.” I don’t understand what responsibility your admitting to for creators if it doesn’t include recognizing that the meanings conveyed aren’t entirely receiver-dependent.

    After all, you (if you’d looked at my picture in the first place) would have fallen to the floor gnashing your teeth with rage, and smoke pouring out of your eyeballs, while someone else might simply think “pretty girl!” and click next. So, in your case the photo served to reinforce your feminist attitudes, and in the other it served to reinforce the viewer’s sexist attitudes. Have I got that right? One image, reinforcing two completely different attitudes,

    No, that wouldn’t be reinforcing anyone’s feminism, nor would “pretty girl” mean sexism. This is a strange example.

    and I’m supposed to bear a moral burden for one and not the other?

    You seem to think it’s either your bearing some moral burden or receivers bearing some moral burden. The moral burden is that of appreciating as you create and publicize images of women that you’re doing so in a sexist culture.

    I’m being playful there, but the point is real: you cannot blame or credit the sender entirely for the opinions or beliefs of the receiver.

    And again, this is not a matter of blame (necessarily) or “entirety.”

    I suppose you might be able to make a case if the receiver were young and impressionable and I were an authority figure – but that’s not the case here since my photos are all restricted to adults only; presumably people who have already sufficiently formed their beliefs.

    You suggested in your first post that you were focused on young people. It is not the case that my students have formed their beliefs.

    Yes, I’ve got that part. It’s your follow-on claim that I’m having trouble with – that it somehow makes the world a worse/more dangerous place that I am doing so.

    It may or may not. It’s your responsibility to think about it.

    I don’t think this is silly at all. BTW, if anyone’s interested, this is a good video on hip-hop culture (masculinity, violence, sexism,…):

    Uh, yeah. It’s always fun to watch the chimp screeching that goes on when that topic comes up.

    Have you watched that video? If you have and consider what it protrays as “chimp screeching,” I don’t think we have anything more to talk about.

    If you insist on social equality, all the other stuff is going to fall out in the wash, eventually, anyhow.

    Here again you’re denying any power of words or images in perpetuating social inequality. You’re wrong.

  242. #242 Pierce R. Butler
    April 28, 2009

    Scott Hatfield – You’ve apparently already noted this in Coyne’s post, but just to answer your question @ # 230:

    Perhaps most telling, the NCSE markets, as staff publications, some books that apparently show how religion and science can live happily together. Take a look at the page on which you’re supposed to sign up as an NCSE member. There you’ll find the “staff publication” Catholicism and Science, by Peter M. J. Hess (director of the Faith Project). By advertising the book in this way the NCSE is saying, here’s our point of view.

  243. #243 Neil
    April 29, 2009

    SC,OM-
    Thanks for taking the time to respond to my rather strongly worded comment.

    When I made the crack about a Franklin Mint set of plates featuring female scientists, I realized that it could be taken in a way not intended. I would love it if their were more recognition of the achievements of females, and I believe that as a culture, we are headed that way. It’s funny and sad that you automatically assume otherwise about me, just because I don’t share your knee-jerk outrage. The point I was making was that by your comments in this thread, it seemed that it would be the only female image you could tolerate. No, I haven’t read all of your comments on pharyngula, I don’t really know how prudish or un-prudish you are, and all I’ve been going on are the comments on this post.

    When you complained that my hypothetical set of plates would still have to contain an “image,” you lost me for a second. I understand that you think it is telling for you to point out that I would still want an image of the females being praised. Of course, I might want an image of Einstein, too. Or my grandma. The idea that I wouldn’t care that the females have various body parts, that I wouldn’t care to judge them by my own standards of attractiveness never even occurred to you. You seem to assume the opposite, and assume it of everyone, and that assumption is what I find so problematic. The fact that a person, even an American male like myself, can want to see what a person looks like without placing a sexual value or social ranking on that image, never occurred to you at all. I find that very telling, and a bit disturbing. The fact that I don’t have a problem with nudity being used to make a point does not make me an oppressor of women, no matter how much you would like to think so.

    Social context is part of interpreting art, or anything, but it is not the whole story and it does not represent individuals, and it can easily be taken too far. Taking such sensitivity to extremes exposes the true power of all art and images, and it exposes some limitations as well…not only is there cultural baggage, but we all take our own individual baggage there, too. By placing too much emphasis on what one person or school of thought deems to be the attitude of a whole culture, we can see many boogeymen and gremlins hiding in the shadows, and we can imagine that everyone else must(or should) see them as well, and we can further imagine that it must all add up to damage, oppression, sexism. I wonder how the models feel about it. Are their ideas valid, or are they automatically sexist as well? Are they victims in your eyes, or villians, or do they get to decide when to use their bodies or even objectify themselves for a purpose?

    You have made some good points, and nobody is denying that sexism exists or can be propped up in a culture, even without people meaning to. I still fault you for a couple of things. You still refuse to look at or fairly discuss the art, and base your whole case on three words and a bad impression. You also completely fail to explain how any of this is actually damaging to anyone, or any culture. I understand that you think it is, but everything you have said is based on multiple assumptions about individuals, whole cultures, and the importance of art and reactions to art in real life. You ride along on your many assumptions about many things, freely labeling what you will not even look at. I would agree that art can possibly foster sexism and even oppression. Television and movies of the last century certainly bear that out, in my opinion. But I don’t see that damage in these pictures. Perhaps I give my culture a little more credit than you do.

    I think that in this case you have picked up on a scent of sexism, and cannot open your eyes to any other possibility or value. I do not agree that the females in marcus’ pictures are reduced to objects. They are actors in the scenes. The nudity is a big part of the message(as I interpreted it) but since it is a political message about nudity(and the perception of nudity in the audience), what we need to know about the subjects is already there. We don’t need a list of the models’ accomplishments, the context is enough. Shallow? Maybe. Sexist and harmful? Only in your dogmatic, unsupported opinion.

    Sexual expression is certainly not the only form of expression(as you railed at your own strawman version of my interpretation)but it is certainly part of the real world, and it can apply to oppressed females, whether you like it or not. If all artists tried to work only under the social weight that you perceive and would ask them all to shoulder, it would be a very boring, artless world.

    And I do not agree that all use of females’ bodies (or males’ bodies, or random pictures of genitals, for that matter) as objects is inherently sexist, or supporting sexism, even if you assume sexism in the culture. Anything can be objectified to make a point, and using one woman as an object to make a point does not, by neccessity, demean, hurt, or oppress women. You seem to believe that it does, but I believe that you are underestimating and misrepresenting a great portion of the potential audience and women as a whole, for that matter. Surely, objectification can be used to belittle or demean a gender or group, but I reject your dogmatic insistence that it does so by neccessity, no matter how oppressed the group in question. Sometimes a tit is just a tit, and I think you would be surprised at just how many people, both men and women there are who can deal with that without letting it color their view of half the world’s population.

  244. #244 Bob King
    April 30, 2009

    One point I think an Atheist might tend to overlook, but which needs to be made in inclusive contexts:

    Faith is belief in something in the absence of evidence.

    Belief in something that is contrary to evidence is not faith, it is delusion. Any system of faith that cannot handle the truth is, from my understandings of reality, subjective AND objective, worshiping a god that either could not possibly exist, or even worse, should be tracked down and ejected from consensus reality. In this, I am a sincere fan of your efforts.

    All religious faiths grew out of attempts to accurately explain and usefully codify phenomena, to understand what is occurring in the world in a way that might usefully serve to predict and even manipulate reality. Any religion that spits in the face of that tradition is cancerous; anti-survival and pro-stupidity.

    And stupidity, while not illegal, is nonetheless often a capital crime.