June 17, 2013
Last month I was lucky enough to go to Women in Secularism 2. I met quite a few people who I have read, idolized, and agreed with. I rubbed elbows with people I now consider close friends and participated in conversations I could have never had without this opportunity. For all of that, I have to offer my sincerest gratitude and thanks to Melody Hensley and the rest of the CFI team in Washington DC.
However, the whole event was kicked off by actions I can only describe as asinine. Ron Lindsay, in his infinite wisdom as an aged man of some success, thought it was a good idea to approach a room that was at least half full of women, at a conference explicitly framed around the lack of inclusion and equality between the genders in the Atheist/Skeptical movement, to chide feminists on whether they might have gone too far.
His opening remarks were not only asinine, as I said, they were also childish and irrational. The cause of equality between the genders is feminism. Part of understanding the inequality between genders is Privilege, the dirty word he railed against. To any informed individual that is not prejudiced by irrational positions, his opening remarks were both wrong and churlish. He insisted that his feelings be protected while happenstance puts him on the wrong side of the equality equation.
In response to this, there was several reasoned criticisms of CFI. There were letters sent asking the board to take a stance on this, and in fact it could be said that people asked them to take any stance. To declare, one way or another, whether the cause of women’s equality is actually of importance or interest to CFI as an organization. Or, perhaps it could be said, to the leadership of the organization – we already know that several important parts of CFI do believe equality is important since it is evidenced in the very fact that Women in Secularism exists.
So, after the letters were sent and the board met, this was their response.
The mission of the Center for Inquiry is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values.
The Center for Inquiry, including its CEO, is dedicated to advancing the status of women and promoting women’s issues, and this was the motivation for its sponsorship of the two Women in Secularism conferences. The CFI Board wishes to express its unhappiness with the controversy surrounding the recent Women in Secularism Conference 2.
CFI believes in respectful debate and dialogue. We appreciate the many insights and varied opinions communicated to us. Going forward, we will endeavor to work with all elements of the secular movement to enhance our common values and strengthen our solidarity as we struggle together for full equality and respect for women around the world.
This isn’t a statement. It is, essentially, meaningless and it is self-contradictory.
The first statement, that CFI being an organization devoted to reason, freedom of inquiry, science, and humanist values, might have been true at one time. So long as Ron Lindsay can ignore the science of Sociology, however, this is a falsehood. It is also contradicted later on this scant hundred and some odd word response.
When the second paragraph begins with dedicated to advancing the status of women and women’s issues, I was hoping for an injunction against Ron’s words and his actions as CEO pending investigation into the organization’s purposes and goals in regards to his leadership. Instead, however, we got a statement about how the CFI board is disappointed with the fact that people were upset with Ron. This not only violates the very idea of the board being interested in reason and science (since it endorses what Ron said in regards to privilege being used as an invective and not a descriptive form of jargon), it countermands the very statement made before that sentence about women’s issues and position in the movement. This not-pology sets women back by saying that their experiences, their value as human beings, and the sciences that examine the structural social elements that continue to disadvantage them all over the world (including in developed countries), are less important than one mans’ feelings.
The last statement is a throwaway remark that they’re endorsing well meaning debate and discussion. While that’s a good thing, it only matters if they’re listening. Which we now know the board is not.
However, in response to this, Rebecca Watson has called for a ban on CFI. This, I think, is the wrong move.
At least among my friends I have a long standing agreement with Rebecca on a lot of things and I’m generally a supporter of everyone on the Skepchick network. This, however, I feel is an irrational response to another irrational response, and the reason why I think so is rooted in CFI’s decentralized nature.
I do think we should take CFI to task over this. I do think that we should be asking local organizers, like Melody Hensley, to make statements denouncing the actions of their own board and calling for Ron to actually apologize, but we shouldn’t be cutting off their funding. One reason why is that CFI hosted Women in Secularism. Twice. None of the other major organizations (I’m looking at you Freedom From Religion Foundation and American Atheists) have included feminism or gender equality as an explicit conference with a focused speaker lineup in any other capacity. The Center for Inquiry stepped up and hosted Women in Secularism.
This is because CFI is not a top-down organization in the same way that the RDF and the JREF are. Both of those organizations have structural problems because of their leadership. Their actions and focuses are determined by their leadership. On the other hand, CFI’s local affiliates and chapters have much more autonomy. You can tell because CFI hosted Women in Secularism. Twice. These individuals, the local organizations, deserve our support. Melody Hensley, especially, deserves our support. This support should come with a caveat that we’re supporting the work of the rational, the scientific, and the inclusive feminist parts of the organization instead of the irrational, fear-based, and anti-feminist leadership but the support should continue.
The support should continue so that, if for no other reason, Melody Hensley can put on Women in Secularism 3.
One thing I think we can agree on, however, is boycotting CFI’s leadership. Consider this my principled stand against Ron Linsday and the CFI board. Consider this my vote of no confidence, as an attendee and a voice in the movement, in the leadership capabilities and qualities of CFI. When an organization called Center for Inquiry believes it is in their best interests to ignore scientific fact and reasonable critique, it is time for a change in the board of directors.
In the coming days, weeks, and months I hope many of you can join me in a more nuanced position while helping repair the damage that CFI has already, and will continue, to cause to the goals of the atheist, skeptical, and humanist movements.
Tagged: activism, anti-feminism, atheism, atheist, atheist activism, atheistic, Center for Inquiry, CFI, equality, feminism, feminist, fundraising, humanism, humanist, Melody Hendsley, Rebecca Watson, Ron Lindsay, skepchick, skeptic, skeptical, skepticism, social justice, social justice activism, support, values, WIS, WiS2, WISCFI, Women in Secularism, Women in Secularism 2
April 7, 2013
The most important discussion in any human society is that of morals; what are our morals, how do we enforce them, and from where do we derive their authority? How do we define morality and what authority do we use to derive that definition? Most importantly, when we have established what morality is, our moral authority, and what individual morals we believe should guide our society, how do we implement them in our day to day lives? This is especially important in nuanced moral systems. No global rule or law is always going to be 100% effective, as there are always reams of hypothetical situations where normally unethical or immoral would be moral or ethical in just this one case. In fact, these hypotheticals are a favorite tactic of the juvenile debater. The nuanced moral system, though, accepts that there will be situations where certain moral precepts take precedence, and some of these moral precepts will therefor be contradictory. The easiest way to understand this is to look at murder; we agree, universally, that murdering another human being is unethical and immoral. We also generally agree that freedom, liberty, are important and moral states to strive for. However, we necessarily truncate our freedoms to give authority to law enforcement to prevent, try, and bring justice to those who perpetuate murder. Freedom, in this case, and the want not to be murdered are in conflict so we ere on the side of greater freedom for the masses (in this case, not being murdered, as being murdered necessarily ends any kind of freedom a person might have) in favor of the individual freedoms of being able to kill anyone one may want to.
I’m treating this article series as a way of exploring the question of morality, from its base to its peak, to establish what I believe and to show why my beliefs, as they are rooted in secular (as in, not derived from the arbitrary assemblage of religions in the world) and data-driven (as in, derived from observing the behaviour of the world and how people actually interact with each other in the environment) decision systems, have a stronger case for being valid than the historical and traditional moral systems. The first reason that I think I can prove this is that traditional moral systems, derived from religious ideals and reactionary measures, are not effective on their own terms, even before trying to find universal terms. A morality system, as any ideological system, should be internally consistent, self-reinforcing, externally validated, and nuanced in the places where rules conflict so that decisions can be navigated ethically.
Now, to define our terms.
August 4, 2012
I’d like to talk about Freethough today. Specifically, what Freethought is, the legacy it has come to us through, and the philosophy related to it. And the two pictures I have here are people rooted in what Freethought is – the Infamous Agnostic, Robert Ingersoll, and Ernestine Rose (who I am pretty sure my partner is turning into, which is cool).
So, let’s define Freethought.
Wikipedia - “Freethought is a philosophical viewpoint that holds opinions should be formed on the basis of logic, reason and science and not authority, tradition, or other dogmas. The cognitive application of freethought is known as “freethinking,” and practitioners of freethought are known as “freethinkers.”
This is, perhaps, my favorite definition as most of the others you can find at Dictionary.com and the like are woefully incomplete. So, let’s go with a shortened definition – Freethinking is forming thoughts and beliefs through logic, reason, and examination rather than tradition.
It is not “thinking whatever the hell one wants”. It is not “unrestrained by any form of logic or reason”. It is not “thinking about things to contradict those around one’s self”. This is apparently what a lot of people on the internet think it means, however, and this is seriously starting to piss me off. I am not a professional philosopher, nor am I a professional theologian, nor am I a professional ethicist, nor am I a professional politician or lawyer or any other kind of think-tank persona. I am a writer, I am a blogger, and I’m an opinionated person who subscribes to a rational and natural worldview. I should not be the one explaining these things to people.
Despite me not being a professional, however, there are things that are pretty easy to understand if you study them for a bit. And, in the interests of education and being rational, one must defer to the more educated members of the community to study these things. Given that, for some reason, I’m better educated despite not being a professional, I’m going to have a brief set of rules here -
If you come in here to tell me I’m wrong about what freethought is without having a counter argument or having a set of data to draw upon, fuck you. I won’t even post your comment.
If you come in here to argue with me about harassment policies or Skepchick or Rebecca Watson, fuck you. I’ll tear into because I’ve got the time for it and I seriously could use a little steam venting. These rants tend to turn into something comfy and happy by the end. I haven’t had the chance to really let loose in any appreciable fashion, positive or negative, in quite some time.
If you want to come in here and say, “Well yes, freethought” and then attack Freethought Blogs, fuck you. I am not FTB. I have no sway over their organization. I am not criticizing them, either, as they are a collection of over 30 blogs with different bloggers doing different things. I agree with some of them. I do not agree with others. They are too diverse to call anything other than a community (and even then there are times where it’s nearly in name only). This has nothing to do with what Freethought Blogs does but is rooted in Freethought Blogs adopting the word Freethought and people forgetting what Freethought means.
If you want to come in here and discuss what freethinking is and why I think that feminism is inherently tied to it, as well as why I think that most of the reactionary people posting on the internet about being “freethinkers” are just troll asshats who don’t know north from up, then yeah, we can talk about that. But you must realize that if you, at all, fall into the prior three categories then I have no reason nor will I entertain a reason to post your comments.
To explain why, a brief foray into the first amendment.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
I can pass rules abridging your freedoms all over my blog. It’s my right as a private entity in a non-exclusive forum. Just as it’s your right to go to another forum and call me an asshat.
Freethought is a philosophical system that encourages inquiry and examination of beliefs and suppositions regardless of traditional or prior views. It’s, essentially, walking a mile in another idea’s shoes first. To butcher a metaphor. Freethought, though, is married to the ideas of critical reasoning and logical examination. Not just looking for data in the same fashion as science but also interesting and useful information. Corollaries do not provide evidence of anything scientifically, for example, but a freethinker will explore corollaries to find why two things have a high instance of association even if they are not causal. This very form of examination and rational thought is the basis of sociological sciences, in fact. Freethought does not mean entertaining any idea, therefor, only ideas that have merit. Establishing merit is pretty easy to do – if you can find a bit of information supporting the idea, then it’s got merit. Then follow the idea until it no longer has merit or requires more statistical and informative examination before continuing with the thought exercise.
In a vacuum, a freethinker (in my opinion), will eventually become a feminist due to the examination of gender roles and the examination of data about sex, gender, and the differences between members of the resultant group (hint; there aren’t many and they’re almost all physical dimorphic differences). Freethinkers seek to move away from bias and will go through several thought exercises to ensure that the results of the thought exercise is unbiased (or as unbiased as possible), as well as running it past other freethinkers to ensure that the exercise is as unbiased as possible. These exercises and systems of trading exercises frequently cause freethinkers to agree on certain things.
So freethinking does not mean disagreeing for the purposes of being disagreeable. Over time, freethinkers won’t disagree with each other on most things and definitely wouldn’t on big things. Things like skepticism, atheism, and even feminism. The earliest freethinkers (like Ingersoll) who happened to be men also frequently happened to be feminists. Though this was also the beginning of men who identify as feminists who concern-trolled radical feminist woman activists because “men are fragile creatures and cannot handle this form of protest” and the like. So when you’re accusing a group of groupthink (like Freethought Blogs) consider the possibility that they really agree on these things for their own reasons and it isn’t some kind of pod-blogger conglomeration that is seeking to rob you of critical thought.
Disagreeing with the “group think” does not make you critical. It does not make your position radically rational. It does not score you any points with any intelligent thinkers or rational people. Especially when, by doing so, you’re throwing your lot in with people who are demonstrably threatening, dangerous, fanatical, and irrational.
Further, being a freethinker is an extension of being an autodidact, a self educator. It is your responsibility, as a rational person, as a student of life, as a skeptic, as a commentor, as a political entity, as a human living on this planet to constantly educate yourself. Especially when it comes to discussions about groups that you are a part of regardless of your preferences and that you are forced to represent or distance yourself from consistently and constantly. This means you need to be aware of your privilege as well as your oppressors. You need to be aware of how much oppression you actually experience and how much you perpetuate. You need to be aware of the effects others have on you and the effect you have on others. It especially means that when you enter a discussion about these things you have no one to blame but yourself if you do not know what is going on or who is being blamed for what. If you don’t know what privilege is, look it up. Don’t ask. If you don’t know what ‘white guilt’ is or why apologetics is bad for the discussion, look it up. Don’t ask. If you don’t know what institutional misogyny is, look it up. Don’t ask. If you don’t know something, avail yourself to Wikipedia, Google, and the wide variety of blogs on the matter. Once you have some information and can be conversant in a concept, then you can ask how it’s being used and participate in the conversation.
Do not, however, assume that it is the responsibility of the conversation to educate you. That’s lazy. Don’t be lazy. Be efficient, don’t waste anyone’s time, especially your own.
So, you want to call yourself a freethinker? You want to walk in the footsteps of Ingersoll the Agnostic or Ernestine Rose the radical feminist? Do so. Educate yourself. Consider other people’s positions. Examine statements. Give those making statements the benefit of the doubt and way reasonable information.
Don’t stick with the side that seems most comfortable and gives you the most power because they might, in fact, be wrong. Always be open the idea that even you might be wrong.
August 2, 2012
You follow a philosophy of some kind, all of the readers of this blog, and hopefully you follow it well. When you encounter problems with your philosophy and your internal sense of morality, you seek ways to modify one or the other until there is harmony again. Hopefully, when you do this you modify your philosophy more than your internal morality. There is a problem, though, that I have seen in the world around me. There are people out there that follow absolutist philosophies who then modify the philosophy in a way counter to the absolutist claims in order to make it jive with their internal morality. Then there are people who rightly stick by the absolutist stance of their philosophy and, instead, modify their morality despite evidence toward them being wrong about said modification.
These two things, they’re seriously frustrating for me. I hate dealing with Bad Actors, people who think and argue in Bad Faith, and the immoral bigots that are a product of such people.
August 1, 2012
What matters in our world is not what we say, but what we do.
Every single day, people around us say and promise things to us. They say they love us. They say that they’re our friends. They say that they believe in us. They say that they support us.
They say that they hate us. They say that they can’t stand us. They say that our work is shoddy and terrible. They say that we bring no value.
However, these words are meaningless. What matters is when these words become inflated with action and when someone actually backs up the things they say with the things they do.
Let’s have a chat about cognitive dissonance and what it means to be a friend, an enemy, a lover, and a fighter.
July 31, 2012
No, seriously. You are.
I’m not talking to my fellows at arms, the women and men who march in the feminist equality trenches and fight for the rights of all sorts of minorities from women to people of color to vegetarians to poly people to LGBTQI people to geeks to poor people to people who seriously enjoy being around ducks. You’re all great and I respect the kinds of activism you do.
Everyone else? You’re still activists. You’re just the wrong kind of activist.
July 30, 2012
It is a privilege to be irrational. It is a privilege afforded by sex, by gender, by skin color, by economic status, by orientation, by geopolitical position. It is a privilege to be able to ignore data, to ignore systems, to ignore how the real world functions. It is a privilege to be able to look at data and proven systems and dismiss it with a single statement.
And every time this is done, the statement is the same. “I don’t believe in that.
Let me explain to you both why this privilege is a dangerous one and commiserate with those who are burdened with rationality.
July 22, 2012
I didn’t know him when I sat down, but by the time I got up I’m pretty sure I did.
I came in around midnight, I’d been driving all night with my boyfriend to get to Seattle in time for a convention we were working at. He was passed out in the passenger seat and I was starving, so when I saw the lit sign just off of the freeway, I pulled off to grab a burger.
At the bar, facing the cook and eating a single piece of pumpkin pie was a man. He was small, broad, and slumped over his plate. Dressed in a pair of slacks, running shoes, and a wool coat with long, knotted hair splayed down his back. I sat a few seats down from him and ordered by burger, than said hi.
He smiled, a weak and soft smile. A heavy smile. I asked him about why he was so sad.
“I’m not sad.” He said, slowly and carefully, as if each word were brand new and still had sharp edges on them. “I’m just tired. It’s been a long, hard road.”
July 15, 2012
So this is getting placed in the middle of NFTAP2 to establish a history for a few things I want to work with later. This isn’t the only large scale edit I’m going to be doing to NFTAP2.
So, here we go!
Tagged: fantasy, fiction, fight scene, noir, noir fiction, noir story, Notes From The Abyss, occult fiction, occult story, sci-fi, science fiction, scifi, serial fiction, serial story, space opera, specfic, speculative fiction, square in the face, story, writing
July 3, 2012
Here’s some more work for you in my Cattlepunk setting.
Please share my blog with anyone you know who might be interested! I could really use the views and the interaction of some new readers!