Skepchick Quickies 9.11

On September 11, 1978, Janet Parker became the last known person to die of smallpox. Unfortunately, she was accidentally exposed in a laboratory environment, and even more unfortunately she wasn’t even working with the virus (it likely spread via the air vents).

BONUS: Do Any Bands Give a @#$% About the Oxford Comma? (I love the Oxford Comma.)



Mary Brock works as an Immunology scientist by day and takes care of a pink-loving princess child by night. She likes cloudy days, crafting, cooking, and Fall weather in New England.

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  1. September 11, 2013 at 9:19 am —

    In regards to the monkeys, I have difficulty believing that human beings are considered rational actors when it comes to personal finances.
    Do the monkeys also take out loans they can’t afford for crap they don’t need? Because that’s what most of humanity in this hemisphere seems to be doing right now.
    Rational actors, my (bright red) baboon butt.

  2. September 11, 2013 at 9:32 am —

    Oh wow, Richarch Dawkins.

  3. September 11, 2013 at 9:46 am —

    I use the Oxford comma to death but the designer in me feels it would look pretty silly in front of an ampersand, kind of lost.

  4. September 11, 2013 at 9:49 am —

    Something tells me that Richard Dawkins would feel very different about that “mild pedophilia” if it were perpetrated by a Muslim cleric.

  5. September 11, 2013 at 11:05 am —

    “I am very conscious that you can’t condemn people of an earlier era by the standards of ours”

    ummm… yes we can, in fact that’s one of the ways we progress as culture. We acknowledge mistakes of the past and recognize that these acts( like pedophilia, racism, etc…) and the people who committed them are reprehensible. I’m sorry but using the excuse “everybody(except the victim) was cool with it back then” does not absolve you of the shitty things you’ve done.

    • September 11, 2013 at 11:43 am —

      Yeah, that phrase only works for things like:
      “My dad thought it was bad to hug his children because in the 1950s, doctors told men they needed to be more macho.”
      “In 1940, We didn’t know that all this car travel and fossil fuel burning would have such horrible consequences.”
      Really doesn’t work for pedophilia, though. When was there ever any excuse for being confused about that?

    • September 11, 2013 at 1:42 pm —

      I don’t even get this statement. When were people okay with adults fondling children? They might not have caught it or they might not have done much to prevent it, but permit it? I just don’t think that was true in Dawkins’ time and culture.

  6. September 11, 2013 at 11:35 am —

    I, personally, know four people who are still being seriously affected by ‘mild’ abuse’ committed in what Mr Dawkins is pleased to call ‘an earlier era’. I am one of them.

    If I still had any respect for the man it is gone now.

  7. September 11, 2013 at 11:45 am —

    Although I think Dawkins puts his feet in his mouth repeatedly in that interview, I think it’s worth mentioning he compares the condemnation of actions in the past with his and everyman’s condemnation now.

  8. September 11, 2013 at 2:47 pm —

    So do folk know that the OpenID connector has been down for a week? I have been trying to log in with multiple IDs but it is broken. Had no trouble elsewhere and I tried multiple accounts. Only realized I had this one as well from earlier just now.

    On Dawkins, I think he has jumped the shrimp long ago. At this point he is in competition with Jeremy Clarkson for Britain’s most annoying bigoted man. What he does not get is that Jeremy Clarkson is the UK version of Stephen Colbert and he is playing a character much of the time.

    Dawkins has become an atheist religious nutter. He has all the dogmatism and control freakery of the religious types and none of the humor or compassion. I find the anti-muslim rants particularly offensive as he is completely blind to the fact that Western society has only recently changed its position on women and the US was slaughtering a half million people in Iraq in the name of freedom less than ten years ago.

    As a professional speaker myself, I can see exactly why Dawkins went off as he did on elevatorgate. He can see that RW is a threat and he is afraid of her. In particular RW threatens the basis for Dawkins’ position in the atheist movement. If ordinary people who do not have rarified academic credentials can start challenging Oxford regis professors, then who knows where it might end?

    • September 11, 2013 at 3:09 pm —

      With that last sentence I heard Thurston Howell III say “Good lord, who let the riff-raff in to our club?”

      • September 12, 2013 at 9:30 am —

        Dawkins belongs to a generation when people in his position automatically received deference and he has spent his life accumulating accolades etc. He really can’t understand the idea of the democratization of science or that academic credentials may not be the trump card he imagines.

        His defense of evolutionary psychology suggests to me that he isn’t quite the skeptical scientific enquirer he imagines. His argument essentially boils down to ‘people like you have to respect the opinions of the people people like me tell you to respect’.

        It really does take an expert in the field to know good science. But spotting frauds and charlatans does not. I remember when Dawkins was attacking Stephen Jay Gould and I thought his argument was faulty then. The problem is that we don’t have another person of similar stature in the academic field who writes for a lay audience. So Dawkins has that more or less to himself.

  9. September 11, 2013 at 3:16 pm —

    I feel like Dawkins is trying to cope with the abuse he sufferred in a dismissive way that actually hurts others who have sufferers. How did a teacher putting his hands in your pants and fondelling you be ok in the past? I think he actually has had lasting harm but he just is in denial. It makes you wonder if he’s done something inappropriate and by dismissing it he can live with it. But either way it’s dangerous because he implies that those that have had lasting harm are somehow weak, or making a big deal out of “nothing”.

    • September 11, 2013 at 6:15 pm —

      I still want to know what his shrink says about that!

  10. September 12, 2013 at 2:43 pm —

    knitty: Honestly, I think that goes too far–the rule is generally that the victim should be free to define their experience and their own reaction and feelings towards it. “Narratives” that try to force a particular mode of reaction are harmful, no matter how genteel or well-meaning they may be.

    Where Dawkins fails is not in not being traumatized himself, but in assuming that his reaction is typical. When he expounds that the abuse didn’t affect his peers much, he’s making an assumption, one he has no right to make, and one that could do a great deal of harm.

    Shorter: Dawkins wasn’t traumatized? Good for him. Dawkins says nobody else was, either? Fuck him and the horse he rode in on.

    • September 12, 2013 at 3:21 pm —

      Freemage, don’t you think it possible that victims can be harmed in ways that they themselves are unaware of?

    • September 12, 2013 at 9:10 pm —

      To the vanishingly small degree that his comment qualifies as an apology, I suppose that makes him a vanishingly small degree less of an asshole.

      • September 12, 2013 at 9:35 pm —

        Hey, it was a misunderstanding! We all just read his words wrong!
        Being a genius in a world of mortals must be so exhausting for him, what with all us plebes being unable to comprehend simple sentences.
        I wonder if writing the words “I apologize” (qualified though they were) hurt him physically.

  11. September 12, 2013 at 6:04 pm —

    Oh dear. I think RD is trying to backtrack on what he meant. But at least it was an apology.

    I don’t think I went to far with my criticism of him. It’s all about perception. He made it out to sound like he wasn’t bothered by it becauseit was a different time. And he didn’t think anyone has. 1) in his apology he actually should he was bothered by it and 2) he recognized that he can’t speak for other victims.

    I think the fact that the perpetrator actually commuted suicide is an interesting twist to the story that actually does effect how the victim sees their victimhood. As a childhood survivor of sexual abuse I know I have personally dismissed some of my issues because it didn’t fit the usual narrative of sexual abuse that I was taught. And that my abuser is dead added another form of dissmissiveness to my own perceptions of what had happened. Fortunately I am getting help now for what happened to me.

    • September 12, 2013 at 8:59 pm —

      I don’t think the criticism was too harsh at all. I’m pleasantly surprised that he apologized at all.

      • September 12, 2013 at 9:46 pm —

        I still don’t understand what he means about not being able to condemn a person for pedophilia. Where does he come up with this “times were different” stuff? People might not have believed victims, or they might not have believed that it caused lasting damage, but they certainly wouldn’t just let it slide. Where does this idea come from?

        • September 12, 2013 at 9:51 pm —

          It comes from the same place all rape apologia comes from. It doesn’t seem to matter whether the victims are children or adults, sadly.
          I don’t know why people are so desperate to make horrible things seem not-horrible. A terrible thing happened to him and the other boys back then, regardless of how they processed it. Just because you survived the tornado unscathed doesn’t make the tornado less of a destructive force, you know?

          • September 13, 2013 at 12:33 am

            Thank you Punchdrunk for that. That’s exactly what I was trying to say. Tornados are horrible things and effects whole communities even when your house isn’t damaged.

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