EllenBeth Wachs

My Cats are My Gods

Archive for August 2013

What’s Right with Skepticism?

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Skeptical Humanities

The last two weeks have been difficult for members of organized skepticism, a community that I have been increasingly involved in over the last five years. In that time, I’ve made a lot of good friends, but recently many of them have forgotten they can disagree without hating one another. This animosity threatens a lot of progress that has been made over the past decade, during which time groups of overwhelmingly like-minded people have found each other in order to promote evidence-based thinking and to celebrate curiosity and progress.

Yesterday, Newsweek published a piece by Michael Moynihan called, “James Randi, the Amazing Meeting, and the Bullshit Police.” I think it’s safe to say that most of it was probably written before the most recent flare up of “The Troubles,” because in some ways the portrait of skepticism represented in that article–with the veneer of a united movement–reminds me…

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Written by EllenBeth Wachs

August 17, 2013 at 10:45 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Mormon theology and Mr. Deity

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This comment deserves highlighting
Ben Goren
Posted August 16, 2013 at 7:56 am | Permalink

Either the woman was raped or not; either she’s truthful or a liar.
If a liar, no more need be writ.

But if she was raped, her failure to get immediate medical attention and file a police report combined with her subsequent decision to try the case in the court of public opinion could not have been better calculated to be ineffective at protecting potential future victims and to ensure that justice is not done.

Yes, I understand that rape is a horrible crime — apparently, I understand this much better than you do. But, horrible as rape is, this alleged victim is supposedly a competent adult, and competent adults have crystal-clear duties when witnessing violent crimes, including as a victim. Merely being victimized does not absolve you of those responsibilities — else, by definition, the responsibilities wouldn’t exist. As soon as the immediate threat has passed, you call the police (or your own lawyer to speak to the police on your behalf). Period, full stop, end of story. The only exception is police corruption or complicity, which I’ve yet to hear alleged.

Failure to report violent crime makes you an accomplice, and accomplices are practically the archetypes of antisocial jerkwad lame losers. And, oh-by-the-way, they’re also criminals, with the same criminal responsibility as the perpetrator.

Rape is no different from any other violent crime. Attempts by the pseudo-feminist crowd such as the A+ movement epitomizes to somehow differentiate it by excusing victims from the civic responsibility of reporting it to the police and fully engaging in the prosecution of perpetrators (because, gee, the poor widdle girl was too scared somebody might hurt her fweewings) are about as antisocial — and, in particular anti-woman — as it gets.

Let’s say PZ sincerely believes the woman’s allegations. He also failed in his own civic duties. He should have told the woman that this needs to be reported to the police this very instant, and have offered to acted as her champion in that process. As an undergraduate professor at a public university, and somebody who therefore should be expected through training or experience to know how to deal with reports by vulnerable young women of sexual assault, PZ’s decisions to report the allegations to the blogosphere rather than the police are even more reprehensible than the woman’s own failures in her civic duties. And, of course, if PZ doesn’t sincerely believe the allegations, then he really deserves the legal reaming he’s likely about to get.

The mere fact that we’re learning of the allegations from some random squid blog rather than from the publication of an arrest warrant (or, better yet, an actual arrest) tells you all that you need to know: this has nothing whatsoever to do with crime and justice. What it actually has to do with should be obvious, but is best left as an exercise for the reader to discern.

Why Evolution Is True

I’ve been reading a bit about Mormon theology for my book, and that theology is not only plenty weird, but a major part of it has been decisively disproven by modern genetics, archaeology, and linguistics. (One of my theories, which is mine, is that the closer in time to the present day a theology arose, the weirder it looks. Really, Mormon theology is no weirder than Christian or Hindu theology, and Scientology seems ridiculous largely because we were alive when it was made up.)

An important part of Mormon theology is the contention that the ancestors of Native Americans were in fact Israelites who migrated to the Americas from the Middle East about 2,600 years ago in the form of two tribes: the Nephites and the Lamanites.  About a millennium later, their descendants had a big war, with the Lamanites wiping out every Nephite but one. That survivor was Moroni…

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Written by EllenBeth Wachs

August 16, 2013 at 11:48 am

Posted in Uncategorized

An Atheist Cult – Thoughts on Radicals from Freethought Blogs, Atheism Plus, Etc.

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I thought it was a good time to re-visit this video after this ridiculous week.

Written by EllenBeth Wachs

August 15, 2013 at 9:01 am

Do Not Link allows you to ethically criticize bad content

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This is a wonderful tool to use to deter helping sites that don’t deserve traffic boosts

Skeptical Software Tools

Be sure to check the update at the very end of the article.

I’ve written many times about how skeptics need to take care when linking to bad information that we intend to rebut. Because links are used by search engines to measure the importance of content, linking to a piece of pseudoscience or misinformation (in the process of rebutting or debunking it) might actually have the effect of making it more visible to others. That’s not desirable. I would even say it is unethical to increase the visibility of such content, insofar as it has the potential to cause harm.

Do Not Link: link without improving "their" search engine positionIf you doubt my thesis, read this New York Times article. It tells the story of how negative reviews of a particular business actually had the effect of catapulting that business to the top of the relevant search result, thereby bringing it more customers. Talk about a skeptic…

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Written by EllenBeth Wachs

August 14, 2013 at 9:09 am

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The Block Bot is unsuitable for general use in its present form

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I was abused by people that use the Block Bot. I then get listed as an abuser on the Block Bot.

Skeptical Software Tools

TwitterReaders of this blog know that I have experience dealing with trolls and spammers on social media. One of the most popular posts on this blog is my how-to guide to preemptively blocking spammers using various Twitter clients (which is sadly in need of updating). I’ve also written on how to report suspicious emails.

Most notably, I’ve successfully helped get one user who personally threatened hundreds of people (including me) arrested by the police in Montreal – not once, but twice. (That case is still ongoing, and I may still have work ahead of me – including potentially testifying for the court case).

Back in the heyday of that person’s serial Twitter spamming, some of us would literally receive hundreds of tweets in a row from this man. Usually his account would be disabled, but he’d return with another one within minutes. Even simply hitting the block button to…

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Written by EllenBeth Wachs

August 3, 2013 at 10:51 am

Posted in Uncategorized