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Dawkins: "Science - It works,..."

Reference ( ← Hope you didn't have to click on this to get it.)




Hey Norm, AVG tells me your site is infected with: Exploit Redkit.

I think what the person posing the question was trying to convey was the problem of regress; that is, any proposition requires justification, but that justification itself requires justification, etc. The problem with the interlocutor's question is that when dealing with the methodology of science, one isn't offering a justification that requires more justifications but rather presenting the axiom at the end of the regression. Sam Harris makes a good point of this in his book The Moral Landscape. Say you enter a science classroom and the professor is lecturing on water being two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen and, furthermore, say you are skeptical of this claim. The professor then conducts simple experiments to demonstrate the veracity of the claim to you. But for you to accept these experiments' results rests on whether or not you value empiricism and respect for evidence as well as value logical coherence. If you don't value these things you've excluded yourself from the conversation entirely. Ask yourself, what evidence could be given to you to convince you that you should value evidence? What logical argument could be put forward to convince you that you should value logic? These are axioms -- self-justifying truths. Richard's response, of course, was more direct and easily communicated: it works. You can see the fruits of science where otherwise a justificatory argument would take its place. Its repeatability establishes reliability and confidence. Is this confidence absolute? No. Science works under a paradigm of inductive reasoning, not deductive logic (meaning the conclusions aren't necessarily true in principle). This is why a single study doesn't "prove" a hypothesis -- no study can. We either reject the null hypothesis or fail to reject it. We compound evidence until we've reached that confidence.

By contrast, what methodology does religion provide? This is a question that should have been posed by Richard to the gentleman in the audience, assuming he wasn't simply playing devil's advocate. Some people use anecdotal evidence to corroborate their convictions. This is a mistake. There's a reason the scientific method rejects anecdotes and it has nothing to do with a built-in bias against religion. The answer is actually quite simple. It doesn't account for something called 'spuriousness', that is, the existence of extraneous variables affecting the causal relationship under investigation. You cannot simply take an association by itself and claim causality without first rigorously testing it and having it jump through multimple methological hurdles. We are all prone to confirmation bias among other errors of reasoning. Thankfully science provides many ways out of this (e.g., peer-review). I once spoke to a Catholic named Mikey a few years ago who told me the moment he "realized" his faith was the one true faith: he was at his mothers house when an earthquake occurred and all of her little knick-knacks on her living room countertops fell but the only thing that stayed put was a picture of the Virgin Mary. I had to fight off laughter.

The cornerstone of many religions, however, is faith -- something usually brought up in a religious debate as a conversation-stopper. The importance of faith is made clear in scriptural stories like the Parable of Doubting Thomas in the New Testament. Didymus Thomas doubts Jesus came back to life after being crucified, so when Jesus appears to him and the others and has him feel his wounds, Thomas then says he now believes. Jesus ends by saying, "blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed" -- in other words, blind faith is placed as a virtue to be followed by others. Let's take all religions and place them on a hypothetical table. Now, they cannot all be true as they make incompatible claims. Islam claims there is no God but God and Muhammad is His prophet while Christianity claims exclusivity through Jesus alone when he says he is the truth, the way and the life and that no one goes to the Father but through the Son. Now let's say we isolate one of these and place them in a "true" category, meaning this faith actually maps onto reality, while all others are mistaken and placed in a "false" category. Regardless of which category they are in, however, the believers in both categories hold their beliefs to be true because of faith. I'm defining faith here as the trust imparted onto a person or thing that gives one the feeling of truth, sans evidence. So a person will feel their beliefs will always be true regardless of whether they actually are or not. The believers in the "true" category feel their religion is true and, for purposes of this hypothetical, it is but they have no actual way of knowning and confirming it. They've simply arrived at the correct answer by mere accident. The other religious believers also think their religious systems are true, even though they're not. What we can conclude is that faith doesn't provide a means to discern true beliefs from false ones, fact from fiction. There is, therefore, no real methodology at all employed by religion to get at reality. Anyone is free to criticise science to their heart's content and there are certainly limitations to it in practice (epistemically so) but science on its worst day will beat religion on its best day every single time...bitches.

This will probably inspire another attack and/or boycott from "Skepchick."

Sorry. Did I say "boycott"? I meant "personcott."

It's an old reference. PZ Myers also shared it back in the day.

I'm liking Rebecca way more than I do Dawkins these days though, especially since I very belatedly started listening to the SGU on my way to work.

I was thinking about Dawkins after I posted this, and it seems he's been in trouble with feminists again not long ago (for which I agree with them 100%) when he decided to opine about abortion seemingly out of the blue, on Twitter, and without evidence to back up his claims (like fetus pain, which was central to his argument). What is annoying about him though, is that yes, he'll engage the kookiest of the creationists, but when feminists, especially women feminists, raise questions about something he said, he'll just dismiss them out of hand, cause apparently, they're beneath wasting his great intellect and experience. Happened with "Dear Muslima" and also here.

I strongly suspect he thinks himself as a friend of women, even a feminist, cause he's buddy-buddy with Ayaan Hirsi Ali and rails against genital mutilation.

I'll listen to him about science esp. evolution, just like I'll listen to Maher joke about politics, and that's pretty much it.

I hesitate to reply because I don't want to have another argument over this. But anyway...

Your argument contains a contradiction. You say Dawkins will "just dismiss them (feminists) out of hand," whereas "he'll engage the kookiest of the creationists." But then you cite the "dear Muslima" response to Watson's vlog post about being invited to coffee in an elevator.

That seems more like engaging a kooky feminist than dismissing a feminist out of hand. If he were dismissing Watson, he wouldn't have responded at all. His response to Watson was no more dismissive than his responses to Ted Haggard or Ray Comfort. In fact, speaking of Comfort, I think Dawkins is dismissive, because he has deemed Comfort too stupid to debate. So compared to Comfort, he at least seems to think Watson has a brain.

I suspect that as Watson ages, she will look back on the "elevatorgate" incident with some embarrassment. Young people, in their eagerness to tilt at the windmills of racism and sexism and corporatism, etc., often see offenses where none exist. Usually this phase passes sometime in one's 30s. Watson is 33 now, so she's probably mellowing, which might be why you are finding her more appealing than Dawkins, whose shtick is admittedly getting old. But then so are PC Myers' and Sam Harris'. Some people want to stand at the threshold and usher people in, while others want to pass through completely and move on. I have long since entered the latter category, not just regarding atheism, but also sexism, racism, gay rights, etc., so these arguments now bore me. I guess they still need to be had, unfortunately, but I've left enough of my forehead skin on those walls. If Dawkins et al. want to continue banging their heads, that's there prerogative, I guess.

In any case, maybe you'll meet Watson on an elevator somewhere and you can invite her to coffee to discuss what a privileged white male Dawkins is. Maybe she'll have mellowed enough to accept your invitation instead of vlogging about being "sexualized." Or maybe you can just stand there in awkward silence wondering pathetically whether you should say anything. "Um...Ms. Watson? Um....never mind. Heh. Ahem."

Dawkins' comment was not on Rebecca's video or blog. It was a response in Pharyngula, where PZ posted about it. In fact this is what Dawkins had to say about her:

Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep"chick", and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn't lay a finger on her, but even so . . .

Dripping with condescension. Most couldn't believe he would say that. Guess we didn't know how out of touch he really is.

And this was PZ's post about it. It was not about the elevator, but more about Rebecca discussing the criticism of her very tame video blog where she mentioned it in passing. The ones who have made it all about her are the "critics".

It was clear Dawkins had not seen her "complaint". You have seen the video, right? Do you think the amazingly virulent, hateful response directed at her (which is still going) is justified, at all? Does the scale match, is it even close? Even more so, what she said in that talk that sparked the first criticisms from other women has all but been forgotten. It's all about the elevator.

Yes, yes. I am aware of the whole controversy. I saw it happening when it was happening and I've revisited the incident many times since then. And, yes, Dawkins' comment was dripping with condescension, as well it should have. Watson was being a ninny.

I see that it doesn't bother you that Watson's vlog about the elevator incident was also dripping with condescension. She said, in a snotty tone: "Uh, guys? Don't do that." As if she and she alone can dictate the method by which people -- or at least men -- interact with one another. She could've said something like: "Can somebody check me on this? This guy on a hotel elevator invited me to his room for coffee and it creeped me out a little. Is it just me, or was it actually creepy?" Instead, she was condescending, and Dawkins responded in kind.

As for the subsequent vitriol directed at Watson, that is another matter entirely. Assholes on the U-T00bz will be assholes. I have long since learned to ignore U-T00b comments. Same with comments at newspapers and Yahoo News, etc. The anonymous trailer trash who lash out on nearly every public forum have nothing to do with the original dispute.

BTW, I wouldn't invite a lone stranger woman in an elevator for "coffee" to my room in a hotel in the late night/early morning. Cause I have, you know, common sense. How about a drink at the bar instead?

You have common sense? It isn't apparent in your comments.

Watson wasn't a "lone stranger woman." According to her own account, the offending man in question had just spent hours with her at the bar and had earlier listened to her presentation. He said -- again, according to her own account -- "I really enjoyed our discussion. Would you like to come to my room for coffee and continue it?" Or words to that effect. Maybe he was hoping to get laid. But probably he would've been satisfied with just a conversation, or even a "no, thanks. I'm tired."

I'm sure the poor guy -- if he even exists -- was shocked to find himself the focus of such a controversy after having done nothing but invite Watson to coffee. He didn't bar her way out of the elevator or say anything untoward after his invitation was declined. It was, apparently, the ultimate non-incident. But Watson, in her desperation to make herself the center of attention, turned it into a near-rape. Then she complained about the attention she begged for.

I'm reminded of the boy who cried wolf, and I wonder what will happen if Watson is ever truly accosted. The world will groan and say "this again?" Except for PC Myers and a few other self-righteous members of the insular, small-town liberal arts college community where nothing ever happens except in people's imaginations.

RE: Rebecca Watson/elevatorgate

^This is a good analysis, I think.

Thanks for posting this video Erick; I agree with you that this is a good analysis.

From what I can garner, Rebecca Watson is aware of some bad behavior that has not been addressed. She had a mild experience, but realizes for those who have been objectified and even assaulted, such an event in an elevator with a recent acquaintance would be really frightening. Believe me, i agree with her on this point: ever since Steubenville, I've met more and more women who have been raped at various ages. Prior to that I knew of only 4 (all college age experiences) and suspected there were more cases. Most of the victims have lingering issues, although they have worked past most of the trauma.

Dawkins exposed himself as a relic with his dismissive comments; Watson had a knee-jerk reaction to them. Seeing her picture, she reminds me of someone who be equally feisty and speak/write before she thinks through everything clearly. Watson may or may not have mellowed by now. I know enough assault victims who would not be as kind to Dawkins as Watson was. The dismissal of rape victims (by the way, I know enough to realize that both men and women rape, and both males and females are raped; still, the most common scenario is male raping female) is a hot button issue for many. I can certainly say that my ire is greater now because of recent political BS and increased assault knowledge, and I might deliver a swift kick to Dawkins myself were he pig-headed.

Big Daddy, you can posit all kinds of better responses for Watson, but you also know you can't time travel and suggest hat she change them. Do you know any rape victims? Or do you already have empathy for the victims without having to know any?

Sorry for high-jacking a little Erick, but I didn't want the column allotted for my comments to be too narrow by responding the the thread above.

You wouldn't know it by the reactions (by far), but Watson is the one that has least "freaked out" about "Dear Muslima". And that includes other feminists, including PZ Myers (who hasn't criticized Dawkins directly as far as I can tell, but has more strongly than most criticized her detractors).

And even then, I don't see a response other than knee-jerk is appropriate for such outlandish comment, especially coming from him, which is exactly the point of pointing out his massive privileged position in society. We are always talking about how ridicule is often appropriate; why does it only have to apply to creationists, astrologers and bigfootists?

And even then, I don't see a response other than knee-jerk is appropriate for such outlandish comment, especially coming from him, which is exactly the point of pointing out his massive privileged position in society. We are always talking about how ridicule is often appropriate; why does it only have to apply to creationists, astrologers and bigfootists?

I know what you mean; sometimes you have to retort in a language that your receiver understands. still, I try (but don't always succeed) to take the high road at least the 1st time I address someone. If s/he's still a prick, my upbringing often surfaces for some slice and dice criticism.

P.S. I like the "It works, bitches" retort and have no problem with it. I suppose one could be more pd and say "It works, assholes," but I've heard enough call each other bitch, biotch. I imagine that Watson has heard this too, but can't speak for how she'd respond. Again, you can imagine what Watson may or may not say, Big Daddy. I'm sorry, but the fact that you brought it up makes me think that you don't have a good sense of her perspective, and you just want to cut down somebody who returned similar fire.

The thrust of my complaint about Watson (and her defenders), in case it isn't already apparent, is that freaking out over an invitation to coffee weakens honest-to-goodness rape accusations.

Are men never allowed to proposition women? Is it always tantamount to rape when they do? Watson accused Dawkins of being privileged, but for Watson to make such a huge deal of such a minor incident is an indication of her own privilege, which is what Dawkins was trying to convey with his "Dear Muslima" thing.

And as the video that Erick posted implies, Dawkins had probably had about enough of Watson's empty and repetitive accusations of misogyny.

Perhaps instead of using the sarcastic "Dear Muslima" approach, Dawkins should've explained the back story that is touched upon in Erick's video. That way, newcomers to the controversy would've understood Dawkins' perspective -- that Watson is indeed like the boy who cried wolf, forever seeing misogyny where none exists.

At this point I don't even know what constitutes a "freak out" for her critics. What, exactly, is that she did or say that was a big deal, regarding the incident in the elevator itself. Please be specific.

"Are men never allowed to proposition women? Is it always tantamount to rape when they do?" Funny, talking about the SGU, they have a "Name that logical fallacy" segment. And really, such a longtime reader of 1GM you should know better than to use such rhetoric.

Here is a direct quote from Rebecca Watson's description of the elevator incident:

"A man got on the elevator with me and said, 'Don't take this the wrong way, but I find you very interesting and I would like to talk more. Would you like to come to my hotel room for coffee?'"

I see absolutely nothing wrong with that. Watson presumably declined the invitation. Then here's what happened next: Nothing. Not one thing. Well, not one thing except for Watson's decision to "vlog" about the incident.

And in her "vlog," she said -- again, direct quote -- "It creeps me out when men sexualize me in that manner." She goes on to describe how she was in an elevator in a foreign country at 4:00 in the morning, as if those details make any difference. Does she mean to imply that if the incident had occurred in the USA in, say, a hallway at 4:00 in the afternoon, she would not have been "sexualized"?

And in what manner, if at all, did the guy "sexualize" her? He even instructed her not to take his invitation the wrong way, which she not only did, but did in a public fashion. I suppose it's her prerogative to ignore the guy's advice not to take his invitation the wrong way if she wants to. But when she ignores that advice in a public forum like a "vlog," people have a right to respond, and Dawkins, among others, exercised that right.

One time I went to see a band called Hothouse Flowers. After the show, I went to a nearby pizza joint to get a slice, and who should I see in line ahead of me, but one of the guys from the band? I asked him if he wanted to get a beer and he sad "no, thanks." After I got my pizza, I said goodbye and 'nice show,' or something and I left. I see no difference between that encounter and Watson's elevator incident. In neither instance was anyone "sexualized."

I suppose for someone of Watson's temperament and perspective -- someone who has made a career of crusading against misogyny, real or perceived -- it's reasonable for her to misinterpret an invitation to coffee, kind of like how you might easily misinterpret a bump on your skin after you've been reading the Merck Manual or something. But what I don't get is why so many people, including the otherwise logical PC Myers, would immediately adopt Watson's obviously skewed interpretation of the incident. "Relax," he should say. "It's just a pimple. Put down the Merck Manual and go for a walk. You're going to be fine."

Here's what I got from what I read regarding Watson's response (it's an exerpt from above):

From what I can garner, Rebecca Watson is aware of some bad behavior that has not been addressed. She had a mild experience, but realizes for those who have been objectified and even assaulted, such an event in an elevator with a recent acquaintance would be really frightening.

So, Watson was aware of bad behavior at atheist conventions. She was asked back to a room (not a cafe or bar) for coffee. She didn't seemed to be personally freaked out (not from my reading), but realized others would be because of their prior experiences. This is an example of empathy felt by Watson, used to defend others.

Watson feels empathy, knows there is a problem, and uses that particular event as part of the evidence for her case that there are problematic behaviors with men vs. women at the conventions. It's not as if this incident was the sole example for Watson's address on objectification.

Again, it's not like Watson ran from the elevator, but there are women who probably would have (because they had been assaulted or knew others who had been assaulted). One shouldn't always have to experience every emotion for yourself to know that others may have a bad reaction. Did I miss something? Did Watson name her person of interest? Yes, his case was mild, but it was only 1 example. It was not any of the emails she brought up.

Basically, you cannot expect treat everyone the same way. Something I say to you may offend you, but not others. It could be humorous, caustic, even bitchy, and different people will have different reactions. It would be better for me to learn boundaries of my acquaintances rather than say "well so and so thinks it's OK."

While I'm not religious, this article from the Daily Devotional has some really good food for thought on the specific assault of rape.

From your link (the second one):

"We have to teach clearly and boldly that consent is (in the words of Dianna E. Anderson) an enthusiastic, unequivocal YES!"

Watson did not give her elevator companion an enthusiastic 'yes,' so he went back to his room alone and she went back to her room alone. End of story. I still don't see what the problem was or why it was worth "vlogging" about.

Even if he had said "Would you like to come back to my room and have sex with me?" there is still no crime unless he refused to take 'no' for an answer. At worst, the request for sex was implied. But since he said "Don't take this the wrong way," it appears at least possible that he really did only want to talk and drink coffee. But even if sex was his objective, she said 'no' and that was that.

It seems to me that this is a model for how such encounters should go down, not an example of misogyny. And Watson's characterization of it as misogyny makes a mockery of legitimate accusations of misogyny.

I have been propositioned by people of both genders, and it can be a little unsettling, especially if you weren't expecting it and/or you aren't interested in the propositioner. But Watson seems to be conflating an awkward moment with a campaign to "keep women down."

Some men rape. Other men just awkwardly proposition women. The two things are not the same.


  1. Watson herself was not freaked out by the encounter.

  2. She apparently knows people who have assaulted at these conventions.

  3. She used this as one of a number examples to show that some behaviors continue to make women uncomfortable based on their experiences.

  4. Yes, it would be nice if my student who was raped by her ex-best friend (a male) could just simply say hi to him the next day. Or simply relate to all men as if they are safe to be around. unfortunately it took her a year to get over this experience, because the asshole plied her with really strong drinks, and when she passed out, he raped her.

  5. It would be nice if another student (not mine) who was raped while she was asleep in her dorm room (her roommate was down the hall at a party and left the door unlocked) could instantly fall asleep the next might knowing that such an occasion is rare. this young woman never learned who her attacker was, so there was no justice. She limped to the end of the semester and summarily transferred because she no longer felt safe at her college.

  6. It would be nice if my friend who was raped while she was jogging felt OK enough to go out and jog on her own again, because hey, most people don't rape. In this case, she was assaulted by a serial rapist. My roommate at the time had met this rapist prior to this crimes, at the laundry mat and he identified himself by name and let her know he knew where she lived. When my roommate came back early from Thanksgiving, she didn't tell me. I came in the door and saw a sleeve shadow by her doorway. Did I just go in the apartment? Hell the FUCK NO!!!!!! I went and got a male friend to accompany me back in case there was an incident. we discovered my roommie was asleep in her bed, and her jacket was hanging on the frame of her door. But I shouldn't have been concerned right? I can assure my male friend did not feel that I was crying wolf. He was as concerned for my safety as I was. Until today I remembered James as just a nice kind of goofy guy. Thank you; now I know he was also a class act friend.

Here's where I'll meet you: Watson overuses, and possibly abuses the term misogyny. Maybe not though. until I read through this thread, I thought you were stand up guy Big Daddy. Now I think you cannot relate to this incident because you don't know any victims.

P.S. Above, I purposely left out my experience with date rape. I was lucky. That guy came back to me an genuinely apologized. I never knew what a difference that could make until I met others who were victims. Most perps do not apologize. Many others trivialize their concerns.

Quite frankly, until we as a species start teaching our young, old, and contemporaries the worth of all beings in our midst, we won't be able to get past assault of any kind, putting down the poor and otherwise disenfranchised, or allowing others to screw up the environment in the name of money.

I don't see what any of your examples have to do with a man inviting a woman to talk and drink coffee. Are men ever allowed to initiate conversations with women? If not, is this because some men take advantage of vulnerable women? Are all women vulnerable all the time and therefore unapproachable by all men all the time?

And what the fuck does this discussion have to do with me being a "stand up guy"? Am I a rapist now in your eyes?

Now I think you cannot relate to this incident because you don't know any victims.

Anyone who knows any women knows victims. My own mother was a victim of sexual assault. I think it's just a tiny portion of the female population that hasn't been victimized at some point.


For like the fifth fucking time, yes or no: Is it ever okay for a man to proposition a woman? If so, under what circumstances? Is the woman always free to interpret the proposition as attempted rape, no matter how innocuous the proposition was? If there's a woman on the elevator, should I just wait for the next one in order to avoid the inevitability of making her uncomfortable? Will you only be happy when every man is walking on eggshells, eyes forward, speaking only when spoken to?

You seem to be saying that rather than looking at this issue logically, I should be looking at it as a hysterical victim, which runs counter to the history of this blog. If there's a consistent theme at OGM, it's that our decisions should be based on evidence and facts rather than on knee-jerk reactions. The facts, according to Watson herself, are these: The elevator guy didn't touch Watson. He didn't raise his voice or use any profane or disparaging language. He didn't attempt to block her from exiting the elevator.

Some other women at some other places on some other occasions have been raped, it's true. No one is disputing that. But the elevator guy, as far as we know, didn't rape anyone. All he did was say: "Don't take this the wrong way, but I find you very interesting and I would like to talk more. Would you like to come to my hotel room for coffee?"

What this has to do with your friend who was raped while sleeping in her dorm room is beyond me.

Replies are below because the column width is shrinking.

Working backwards: The person raped in her dorm room was a student, but not a friend of mine.

I am trying to help you see where Rebecca Watson was coming from. She knew that there had been assaults at conventions; she was trying to point out instances where men made women uncomfortable. Again, it's not as if she used the elevator incident as the main incident. However, I can assure you, if my student who had been raped had been in an elevator alone with a male student - even one that she knew - and he asked her back to his room for coffee within a year of her incident, it would have made her very uncomfortable. She would have finished the ride to her floor, but based on the number of times she told me she was thinking about quitting college that year, I know how uncomfortable such a situation would make her. By now (it's been over 3 years), she's pretty settled, but it took time for her to "get there."

Yes, people proposition others. Timing is everything. No, I don't think you should walk on eggshells, but I do want you to think about how Watson's experience might have been very uncool for someone who had been assaulted, or knew someone who had been assaulted at an atheist convention. Yes, you might realize that whomever you proposition might be really uncomfortable with your query. Someone may not. Right now, you seem to think that Watson's only example of behavior was the elevator incident. It was not.

Ya know, I wanted you to experience my frustration full throttle. It was not hysteria. Hysteria would involve me writing everything in all caps, with lots more cussing. Someone who is a recent - or even unrecent but unresolved - rape victim may have a subdued reaction to a proposition, but it's more likely that a victim will experience some measure of anxiety - from mild to near panic attack. this was why I decided a rant would be OK. Somehow the emotional experiences that victims feel needs to put out on the table. My experience was minimal compared to those I mentioned (I left out incest victims, which REALLY makes my blood boil), and knowing what the assaults did to the psyche of those who were attacked makes me angry. Do not confuse angry and frustration with hysteria.

It is also true that many people know others who have been raped, but often don't know that those persons have been raped. So I am sorry to hear about your mother. How does she feel about Watson's comments? Also, before asking your mom, please include the emails and other issues Watson was referring to.

Once I left my office, I realized in my typo editing process, I left out the last thing - a question.

Big Daddy, do you remember the context in which this conversation began? By context I mean, what they were discussing at the atheist convention?

My mother died in 1982, so I can't ask her how she feels about Watson's comments. But I can tell you that she figured out how to own her emotions regarding the incident and not regard all men as rapists or misogynists or indifferent to rape, etc.

I'm also a little pissed off about your "stand-up guy" remark. For one thing, that's an ad hominem logical fallacy. Feel free to attack my ideas, but please don't cast aspersions about my character. Just stick to the facts of the case, which, again, are these: A guy invited Rebecca Watson back to his room for coffee. She said no. That's it. He did nothing wrong. Watson then "vlogged" about the incident saying, "uh, guys, don't do that." Don't do what? She then said she hates being sexualized in that manner. In what manner was she sexualized?

I can certainly understand how all kinds of people can be made uncomfortable by all kinds of situations. I personally have a major issue with authority. There have been a number of times in which I have lashed out at a boss or supervisor and then later realized that person didn't really do anything wrong. That's my issue. I have to figure out how to deal with it. It isn't anyone else's fault.

Can you understand how I might have an issue with authority? Can you understand how that issue might affect my behavior? Does understanding my issue make me immune from criticism?

Rebecca Watson has an issue with men. I understand that, and I understand how that affects her behavior. Nevertheless, her behavior with regard to the elevator incident was bad, just as my behavior with regard to some bosses or supervisors has been bad. Whatever reasons Watson and I give for our bad behavior might help explain the bad behavior, but it doesn't excuse it. I have to deal with my authority issues. Watson has to deal with her man issues. Sometimes bosses really are assholes and deserve whatever they get. Similarly, sometimes men are rapists or misogynists and deserve whatever they get. The guy on the elevator was neither a rapist nor a misogynist, at least insofar as Watson's account reveals.

I'm sorry to hear that your mom has passed away. Many rape victims do find their ways to deal with past trauma, but it takes time. It probably took your mom some time, but I never knew her; maybe she healed quickly.

As for this:

Big Daddy, do you remember the context in which this conversation began? By context I mean, what they were discussing at the atheist convention?

This returns the conversation to somewhere close to the beginning. The context was (basically) why is there such a low percentage of women at atheist conventions? It wasn't Watson's turn, but she offered up that there was a problem with "misogyny" (her term of the month). Later, vlog later, she offered up some things that would make women uncomfortable.

So, here's the thing (are the things):

Perhaps if atheist conventions didn't have a reputation for men hitting on women, or some reports of assaults or asinine emails, more women would feel welcomed at these conventions.

Yes, I know that some women, just as some men, are cool with hooking up at random events. Unlike you, I don't feel confident in saying that our dear Watson "has a problem with men," although she does have a problem with the way some men behave. I can tell you from my Occupy experience that the people who were into "hooking up" (mostly men; one woman) got a bad reputation. They garnered disrespect even when they had good things to contribute politically. Yes, there were some people who got together once they grew to know know one another, but this cross section of people weren't sleeping around or routinely asking people out.

Thing 2: i can let a lot of behaviors roll off my back. As a musician, there's tons of exposure to jackass conductors and other sorts of divas, plus politics, so if I couldn't move on with all of that mojo, I couldn't function in the world of music. I can tell you Texas and Italy are not my favorite places to visit, and I've been fortunate to travel fairly far and wide, although I haven't hit Russia, northern Asia, or Central or South America. The reason I prefer to avoid Texas and Italy is the constant barrage of men hitting on women. Sure, the 1st few times a car honks as I walk (on the sidewalk) down the streets of Laredo or other Texas towns, i can think "yeah, I've still got it" in half-seriousness. But by the 10th or 20th time, it gets really annoying. reports from people who go to clubs of men just hauling them onto the dance floor without asking don't encourage me to try the salsa scene when I have to go to the lone star state. As excited as I was to finally visit Austin on a whim, I still remember this guy I sat next to and chatted with on the bus. My bad for mentioning a typical tourist activity of going to watch the bats fly our at dusk, cause he showed up at the event and proceeded to follow me around. Niiiice. I managed to ditch the creep, but this was a blight on an otherwise fun trip. I've had a few job prospects in TExas, and I took the auditions/interviews, but I can tell you my heart was never in it. I doubt that I could ever consider those gigs permanent, because I would just as soon live my life where I feel some respect from those in my environment. (yay for Iowa!)

Italy is similar, in that Amercian women are always approached by Italian men. It gets old. Very old.

So, if atheist conventions have a bad rep among women who really really want to come for the philosophy, those women will not go. They can all read about philosophy and hang with locals they trust, you know?

So while some men ask if they should walk on eggshells, some women are asking merely hoping to go about their lives feeling respected. Yes, it is much harder for someone who has been assaulted - especially recently, or knows someone who has been assaulted in a certain environment. While you personally may not proposition a woman at a convention, Big Daddy, apparently there are plenty who would. Maybe it would be best if everybody wrote out the initial overture on a napkin! ;~) This includes women as well as men, plus girls and boys. Most people i know prefer to have a little more contact with someone of their preferred gender before having sex with that person. As an exception, i think of my polyamorous friends who probably expect to hook up at their "sex positive" events. Different strokes, but consider the context: sex positive vs. atheism.

I apologize for this remark

Maybe not though. until I read through this thread, I thought you were stand up guy Big Daddy. Now I think you cannot relate to this incident because you don't know any victims.

I was in full rant mode. I was not arguing, there, i was thinking about James, who really, I knew was a stand up guy, but my memory has always been more on the goofball side. Then I was thinking of how you seem to be approaching the topic from a different angle.

This next portion is not to accuse you, but think about this again:

You still think that Watson has a problem with men, and I don't. Why?

Yes, your mom learned to deal with her situation, but do you have any idea how long it took her? My wager would be on probably as long as most rape victims (as in, not right away, and probably months), but since I never knew her, I could lose that bet.

Society and power play in general: you feel that Watson is asking you to walk on eggshells around women. From my vantage point, she is asking for a shift in behavior that would allow female attendees to feel more welcomed and safe at atheist conventions. Why is there this difference? I'm about to veer off on another tangent story by way of example, but I do feel that I've been pretty clear. If not, ask for more clarity.

Okay, first things first:

why is there such a low percentage of women at atheist conventions?

I think it's because the atheist community is largely an offshoot of the science and/or academic communities, and sexism is rampant in those communities, to my surprise and disappointment. I would've expected science and academia to be among the first communities to relinquish their sexist views, but for some reason, they are bringing up the rear.

you feel that Watson is asking you to walk on eggshells around women.

Assuming Watson's account of the elevator incident is accurate, I think the guy in the elevator was probably nervous. I picture him as a guy who doesn't normally approach women, but he was at a convention in a hotel at 4:00 in the morning and likely drunk and maybe thought he had a chance with Watson. Alternately, he really did just want to talk. In any case, she said no, and he accepted that and moved on. So his behavior wasn't like the more egregious convention behavior that is relatively commonplace, even at atheist conventions. Watson isn't dumb. She has the ability to distinguish between bad behavior and good or at least tolerable behavior. So in my opinion, she isn't exercising her intelligence. What bothers me is that by the time she made the "vlog" entry, she had had time to mull it over, but rather than consider innocent explanations for her elevator companion's behavior, she insisted on asserting that the guy had "sexualized" her, whatever that means.

If her "vlog" entry had said something like "at first I was a little creeped out, but then I realized, hey, no harm, no foul," that might've inspired a more thoughtful conversation than the one that transpired. One thing that Watson, and maybe you, might not be considering is that guys who are nervous around women sometimes seem creepy. So while Watson may have felt vulnerable, her elevator companion might have felt nervous or awkward or insecure or something. The fact that Watson was unwilling or unable to consider that distinction even after some time had passed is what leads me to the conclusion that she has a problem with men.

she is asking for a shift in behavior that would allow female attendees to feel more welcomed and safe at atheist conventions.

Can "welcomed and safe" include someone saying "I find you very interesting. Would you like to come to my room and drink coffee and talk"? If I were at a convention and someone told me they found me interesting and wanted to talk, I would consider myself "welcomed." I admit that something in the back of my head might also be on the alert for something more sinister. One must always use one's judgment, after all.

I think that if I had attended Watson's talk about sexism in the atheist community, I would've regarded her as utterly unapproachable. But I don't know what transpired at the bar where she had been hanging out for several hours. Maybe she said or did something that made her seem less intimidating.

In any case, I fully understand and share her desire to make women feel more welcomed and safe, not only at atheist conventions, but in society at large. Unfortunately, in her zeal to combat misogyny, I feel that she is seeing it where it doesn't exist, which, in turn, hinders her efforts.

If I might bring this around to the original topic.

Wasn't it that Dawkins said "bitch"? And is that or isn' it part of him having an issue with women.

An issue also supported be his reaction to Watson when she claimed the atheist movement was discouraging of women through hostility and general misogyny.

Looking at what there is in terms of this argument . I can't really seem to see evidence to support Watson's claim. Certainly she can point at some incidents, that have made her and others uncomfortable, and those are things to be discouraged, but they hardly point to any systemic predjudice. Dawkins' remarks we pretty insensitive remark to make publicly but it seems his actual intent was to be dismissive of her argument and not her emotions.

I think it's generally accepted that "bitch" has become a gender neutral term.

I don't think very many women find it offensive, depending, of course, on how it is being used. Some women even use the term as a compliment. In any event, Dawkins doesn't seem to be targeting women in this clip.

From Wikipedia:

The range of meanings has expanded in modern usage. In a feminist context, it can indicate a strong or assertive woman, one who might make men feel threatened. When applied to a man, bitch is a derogatory term for a subordinate.


The term can refer to a person or thing that is very difficult, as in "Life's a bitch." It is common for insults to lose intensity as their meaning broadens ("bastard" is another example).[3] In the 1939 movie The Women, Joan Crawford could only allude to the word: "And by the way, there's a name for you ladies, but it isn't used in high society - outside of a kennel." At the time, use of the actual word would have been censored by the Hays Office. By 1974, Elton John had a hit single (#4 in the U.S. and #14 in the U.K.) with "The Bitch Is Back", in which he says "bitch" repeatedly. It was, however, censored by some radio stations.
Modern use can include self-description, often as an unfairly difficult person. For example, in the New York Times bestseller The Bitch in the House, a woman describes her marriage: "I'm fine all day at work, but as soon as I get home, I'm a horror....I'm the bitch in the house."[6] Boy George admitted "I was being a bitch" in a falling out with Elton John.

Also, science does work


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