Skepticism

He Said, She Said, He Sues: The Ongoing Saga of Ben Radford & Karen Stollznow

Last year, we reported that paranormal investigator and former Skepchick contributor Dr. Karen Stollznow wrote an editorial for Scientific American in which she describes sexual harassment at the hands of a colleague who the Internet promptly identified as Ben Radford. Radford claimed innocence, though he had been mildly punished by his employer, Center for Inquiry, after they hired an outside firm to investigate the matter.

The CEO of CFI, lawyer Ron Lindsay, wrote to Scientific American claiming that Stollznow’s post was “extremely damaging to the reputation of the organization” because, according to Lindsay and in contrast to Stollznow’s post, CFI already had a harassment policy in 2011, they didn’t suspend Radford while he was on vacation, and they didn’t have a track record of disciplining harassers lightly. (He doesn’t dispute that harassment occurred.) Scientific American removed the post.

Radford then launched a lawsuit against Stollznow claiming that she defamed him. This lawsuit was not publicized by either party at first, though Radford penned at least one article on the horrors of false allegations. Ron Lindsay again stepped in, but this time to repudiate Radford’s nondisclosure of his conflict of interest [EDIT: my mistake, in my memory I was conflating Lindsay’s post with this one from Orac. Lindsay criticizes Radford for sloppiness.]

Last week, Radford posted an unsigned apology and retraction from Stollznow on his Facebook, which Stollznow claims she never agreed to. Now, Stollznow has resolved to fight the defamation suit: she says that Radford attempted to bully her into signing the retraction and settling out of court because she couldn’t afford legal counsel, but now she’s raising money via IndieGoGo. As of this writing, she’s raised more than $23,000 of her $30,000 goal and the page has only been up for a few hours.

So there you have it – an update on all the juicy drama/horrific things happening to real people in the skeptic community. Whether you believe Radford or Stollznow, I think we can all agree that there’s no such thing as a Bigfoot, and isn’t that really all that matters? (No.)

Featured image of Karen Stollznow shot by our own Surly Amy.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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15 Comments

  1. March 27, 2014 at 6:45 pm —

    It’s good to see Dr. Stollznow getting the support she asked for. The fact that this sort of misogynistic behavior plagues the skeptical community is heartbreaking.

  2. March 27, 2014 at 7:34 pm —

    And when people on Karen’s side asked to see the signed apology, they were accused of “hyperskepticism” and compared to birthers. And the people on Ben’s side patted themselves on the backs for being “skeptics.”

    I’m glad to see that Karen already met her goal, though!

  3. March 27, 2014 at 8:28 pm —

    I’m a straight white American male full of all kinds of privilege, and I’m sick of this shit. I cannot imagine what women are going through while watching this episode play out. I’m especially disgusted by the slimepitters — who are the libertarians of the atheist world — people who are right about half the time on important issues, but you can’t figure out why.

  4. March 27, 2014 at 10:00 pm —

    A lot of ugly sentiments came out of the community when this all started and I am proud to aid Dr. Stollznow’s defense.

  5. March 28, 2014 at 11:00 am —

    I’m confused; the linked post by Ron Lindsay does not say anything about failure to disclose conflict of interest. Instead, it complains about fallacious and sloppy arguments. Did I miss something?

    • March 28, 2014 at 2:50 pm —

      The conflict is that Ben wrote a poorly reasoned article showing how false-allegations of sexual harassment happen and are often untrue (despite the actual evidence) without disclosing that he has been accused or the same offense. It is a conflict that he didn’t disclose that he has something to gain from making accusations seem less likely to be true.

      It is a spurious as Brian Dunning’s podcast dismissing cookie-stuffing as harmless without disclosing that he was being accused (and later plead guilty) to that same offense.

      • March 28, 2014 at 3:56 pm —

        Yes, I understand that was the conflict (and I agree it is a conflict). But Rebecca says that Ron Lindsay wrote “to repudiate Radford’s nondisclosure of his conflict of interest.” I can’t seem to find where in the linked article that *Ron Lindsay* wrote there is such a repudiation. Can you point me to it?

        • March 28, 2014 at 6:36 pm —

          Her interpretation presumably of why he wrote it, no where does she say he mentions in the article that it was to repudiate Radfords non-disclosure. So she could be wrong, but given it’s not the first time Radford was written an execrable piece for CFI it is telling he stepped in here.

          Or maybe just confusing Oracs post… http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2014/02/28/on-conflicts-of-interest-in-medicine-science-and-skepticism/

          Does it matter?

          • March 28, 2014 at 9:15 pm

            You write: “Her interpretation presumably of why he wrote it, no where does she say he mentions in the article that it was to repudiate Radfords non-disclosure. ” But the words in this post are:
            “Ron Lindsay again stepped in, but this time to repudiate Radford’s nondisclosure of his conflict of interest.”
            How is that not saying that Lindsay, in the linked article, “repudiates Radford’s nondisclosure…” ?

            Yes, the Oracs post is definitely on point to pointing out and repudiating the nondisclosure of COI; but it seems this post is attributing this to Lindsay. In fact, Lindsay seems to either not care or not realize that there was a COI, but the write-up here seems to suggest he did. While Lindsay is criticising Radford, the source of the criticism seems to be something else entirely.

            As to whether it matters, I think it would be better if the true source of Lindsay’s criticism is identified if it matters, and that the well-deserved damning of Radford for nondisclosure is attributed to the one who truly raised the issue, no?

          • March 28, 2014 at 10:00 pm

            Just to be clear: I was confused and read the linked Lindsay piece several times trying to figure out the conflict of interest reference. I wondered if I was missing it somehow due to lack of context. It seems to me now in light of Oracs post (which addressed the COI head-on), that there seems to have been some mix-up with the links and statements; the first link should have been to the original piece (or no link at all), then a link to Orac’s post identifying it as slamming Radford for non-disclosure, and a link to Lindsay’s post identifying it as criticising Radford for bad arguments. Put together and appropriately attributed, they present a stronger criticism of Radford (not only did he fail to disclose a pretty whopping COI, he also wrote a pretty fallacious and sloppy piece identified as such by someone in his own institution), and a clearer picture of what it was Lindsay objected to.

  6. March 29, 2014 at 7:53 am —

    I also think the error in the post should be corrected. It’s confusing.

  7. March 29, 2014 at 9:55 am —

    I was confused in exactly the same way as Arturo Madigan was and spent additional time re-reading Lindsay’s letter to find the passage where he makes any mention of Radford’s conflict of interest.

  8. March 29, 2014 at 10:40 am —

    Thanks for the correction everyone and sorry about the confusion! I was conflating Lindsay’s post with Orac’s. I’ve added in an edit.

    • March 29, 2014 at 6:49 pm —

      No worries! With all the hard work, something is bound to slip up eventually. Thanks for all of that hard work in the first place.

  9. April 1, 2014 at 12:18 am —

    Aww, no link to Lousy Canuck’s timeline? There’s speculation both tame and wild, but it’s as comprehensive as you can get.

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