A Weird Time on Bloggingheads

Sorry I forgot to post on this earlier, but last week I was asked to appear on a thing called BLoggingheads, where two people record themselves discussing a topic and then video of them each staring at their computers goes online to accompany the audio. In a way I enjoyed it, and in another way it was extremely exhausting, which is probably the reason I’ve put off posting about it.

My discussion partner was Ann Althouse, a law professor and frequent contributor to Bloggingheads. The higher-ups at Bloggingheads wanted me on because of the to-do surrounding the Dawkins affair, but Ann told me that our segment would be airing as part of the site’s “Science Saturday,” so we would need to touch on some sciencey stuff. That sounded great to me, because honestly there’s only so much time I can spend on why it’s important for our community to not be openly hostile to women.

Things didn’t go as I planned, though. While Althouse agreed with me that Dawkins was out of line and my sentiments were fair, she kept saying things that required me to unpack a lot of stuff before moving on. For instance, she agreed that Dawkins was smug, but aren’t all atheists smug and that’s kind of the problem? So I had to back up and explain that no, atheists are not all smug just because they think they know the truth. Religious people, I tried to explain, think they know the truth and further many think that others who don’t know the truth are going to burn in Hell when they die. I would have gone on to explain how these same people believe this entire Universe was created especially for them, and what’s more smug than that, but Althouse kept interrupting me. Fair enough – I suspect that I’m becoming well-known for my ability to take 30 minutes to fully answer a question while taking numerous asides to add some color and explanation. But I felt that many times I was interrupted before I had even begun to flesh out my point, which got to be quite frustrating by the end of our hour-long chat.

The other notable frustrating time came near the end, when Althouse continually pressed me for dating advice for the poor awkward guys who just want to show up at a conference and get laid. This was the inspiration for my YouTube post on Friday – I had trouble understanding why a clearly intelligent person like Althouse would first of all assume that a man who invites a stranger to his hotel room at 4am is somehow shy and awkward as opposed to bold and confident (as the man actually was), and second that she would shift the focus from making the community more welcoming to women to making it easier for men in the community to have sex. Like I said, frustrating.

So, here’s the video in full. I’ll leave it to you guys to debate how I played the hand I was dealt.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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    1. I must say I am disappointed to see this post and the snarky comments by the nattertariat below. I watched much of the bloggingheads webcast with you and Althouse and thouhgt you were great. But I suppose you wouldn’t want to get “kicked out of the club” so you must trash her after-the-fact, but whatever…

      Althouse is a semi-celebrity because of hard work and a great personality and point-of-view. She was not thrust in the limelight because someone much more famous than her—unfairly—called her a whiny snot. I have no problem with folks patting themselves on the back, I only ask that they actually accomplish something first.

      Which brings me to my final point. I see several comments disparaging the selection of Althouse on “Science Saturday.” So I did a lit search on Rebecca Watson and I did not see too many peer-reviewed studies. In fact, my sources (okay, it was Wikipedia) suggests she is a former juggler and street magician with a hobbiest’s interest in science. I fail to see how Althouse is any less qualified to speak on the topic of science than Watson. Being an athesist no more makes one an expert on “science” (which is a pretty broad topic) than being a vegan makes me an expert in botany.

      It’s a really cute idea though. Stay gold, Ponyboy!

          1. For such a “skeptical” chick, you sure are willing to leap on lame conspiracy theories. The population of Wisconsin is over 5.6 million people. Sigh.

          2. @mrhinkydink:

            “For such a “skeptical” chick, you sure are willing to leap on lame conspiracy theories. The population of Wisconsin is over 5.6 million people. Sigh.”

            I’m not sure it counts as a “conspiracy theory” if it only requires the participation of one person.

            In fact, I’m not sure there’s anything particularly implausible about somebody pseudonymously posting nasty comments on a blog where they’ve been criticized. Sure, there are 5.6 million people in Wisconsin, but I’d be amazed if more than a few dozen of them had enough devotion to Ann Althouse to take the time to smugly insult her critics on the internet.

      1. Ooh, ooh, call me, call me! I can answer that one!

        You don’t have to publish peer-reviewed papers to be able to speak competently about science. You just have to understand it, and you have to get it right.

        Althouse doesn’t understand science in the slightest, and she always gets it wrong. Look at her stance on climate change, for instance, or her silly crusade to defend her favorite lightbulbs.

        Watson, on the other hand, has for example done a fine job on explaining alternative medicine and how homeopathy doesn’t work. She actually understands the basic science and communicates it well.

        Get it? One has demonstrated her misunderstandings of science, the other has educated people about science.

  1. Rebecca, I happened to be listening to the podcast just now as I checked the post and the whole time I’m thinking that you’re an absolute saint for sitting through that. I almost collapsed in frustration whenever she’d go on her 5 min asides that wouldn’t let you get a word in. It wasn’t just that she was (say) asking you for dating advice on behalf of “socially awkward” men — that would have been fine if just stated plainly but every question like that was prefaced with so much hand-wringing.

    Sainthood nomination in the works.

    1. Second that nomination.

      From what I understand the person you are talking to in a Bloggingheads discussion is rarely “on your side”. It’s meant to be a debate and those aren’t interesting if you both agree.

      Unfortunately when it comes to Science Saturdays this usually means someone who is intelligent versus crazy babblers.

  2. Althouse lives on the frozen side of crazy. Her comprehension of feminism (among other things) is stunted; in its place, she substitutes a hatred for Bill Clinton’s penis and a glowering disregard for younger women. She’s also a complete scam artist and opportunist in her own regard.

    It’s a shame that you guys didn’t get around to her views on climate change

  3. I thought you handled Ms. Althouse (spell check suggestions: Alehouse, Outhouse)well.
    If someone doesn’t have the time to listen to the entire show, these twelve seconds are a good sample…
    Your comments about alternative medicine did annoy me. While I am not blind to the flakiness of alternative medicine, I feel that industrial medicine needs just as much skepticism, if not more. It is certainly costing us enough, and our lives are literally at stake.
    I recycled my comments at my blog… You had indirectly inspired another post earlier…

  4. Just finished listening. One side of the conversation was excellent; Althouse is a clueless flibbertigibbet. If you do bloggingheads again, get a better partner!

  5. I don’t see why you think it was a weird interview. (Because she had disagreements with you or “baggage?”) She may be a crank, but voicing those kinds of disagreements allows you to further your own arguments in a more interesting and effective way because it’s dialectical. The alternative is a stooge, and well, that’s boring. To be honest, I thought you had it fairly easy (watch the bloggingheads with Singer and Cowen for an example of hard). And about her cutting you off, you shouldn’t have allowed that. You could have continued talking over her like Hitchens, or just politely asked her to allow you to finish your thought.

    1. “I don’t see why you think it was a weird interview.”

      Because I’m not a polemicist and I have no desire to out-shout an opponent when I think I’m having a discussion.

      1. It did give you an opportunity to express how you felt in person. She was just far less relaxed than you on video, and that adrenaline had a negative effect on the interview.

      2. Eh? That wasn’t my point. My point was that you were having a discussion with disagreements–and that’s a good thing. I don’t think you need to be a polemicist (and Hitchens handling of people interrupting him isn’t polemic or hostile; it’s actually fairly polite yet confident).

        1. Would have been nicer to hear an interesting conversation that was enlightenimg than the sport of an arguement, we should leave that to Jerry springer and Bill ORielly.

          1. I thought it was an interesting discussion, but I’d like to know why you didn’t think it was interesting.

          2. Rebecca was able to reiterate in person the points she and many others had made so many times in text. I enjoyed agreeing with her.

            An interesting conversation might have been why are men socially expected to make all the moves when women have as much sexual desire. What lessons can we all learn outside heterosexuality from Sapphic women or the transgendered.

        2. “My point was that you were having a discussion with disagreements”

          You seem to have not understood Rebecca’s point. She is saying that it wasn’t a discussion. You need two people willing to discuss the subject for that

      3. Perhaps you are not familiar with the definition of polemicist/i>, to wit (from the Canadian Oxford dictionary:

        “Polemic, 1. a controversial discussion. 2. the art of controversial discussion, esp. in theology. 3. involving dispute; controversial.”

        I think it’s quite fair, and not in any way controversial nor negative, to say that you are indeed a polemicist.

      1. Well that comment was supposed to go higher up under fwahts comment but didn’t twice.

    2. “You shouldn’t have allowed that”

      Or…you shouldn’t interrupt people and talk over them because it’s disrespectful and not at all conducive to civil dialogue.

      Yeah, I think I like that solution better.

  6. I think scientifically speaking she was trying to see how she could use the oportunity of the interview to get you to say something controversial and scientifically increase her own public profile. That didn’t happen, you did well :)

  7. Can’t listen to it right now… baby sleeping nearby. But I can see the salient point without hearing anything; Your head is bigger than her head, so you win!!!!!!

  8. Imagine a dog confronted with a crossword puzzle. Imagine the look on its face when you tell this poor little canine that it has to solve that puzzle if it wants dinner. Imagine that quizzical look, with its ears half-cocked and its head tilted to the side as it ponders, lost in complete confusion.

    That’s how I responded to half of what Althouse said. A lot of it just came out of nowhere. Somehow, blogs are also science? I think? Also, the purpose of conferences is to get laid, and now that we can talk to one another on the internet, that’s the *only* purpose? Interesting.

    1. Yes, that was really weird. A big WTF moment for me. It’s like saying that once you introduce women, whatever conferences were about before when only men could attend or did attend, all that goes bye-bye and they become only about hooking up. I guess we better start calling them fuckfests instead of conferences.

  9. Ok, I watched most of it. If you are going to do a bloggingheads as though you were the bloggingerheader (as she represents) then try knowing something about the topics at hand. Like, don’t not know about dictionary vs. actual atheists, for instance, when speaking to Rebecca Watson. Or that there is no boycott. Etc. Rebecca you did a great job not rolling your eyes out of your head. Musta hurt.

  10. I think a lot of the awkwardness stems from the fact that she is a real outsider — not necessarily because she is a conservative. I think you did a fine job handling her questions.

    If you squint your eyes and tilt your head a bit you can see the basis for her perspective. She understands it can be hard for guys to approach girls and having a person publicly and aggressively attack a guy for being forward (even if he really was being inappropriate) might be discouraging to other people with good intentions. Probably perspective she’s picked up from her new husband.

    Although she did seem a little far out here, I don’t think she had bad intentions here and I don’t think she deserves the kind of venom you see directed her way (or you, for that matter). The Internet’s kind of a messed up place. Watching the diavlog I didn’t even get the sense she was necessarily being adversarial.

  11. The first 20 minutes were interesting and I thought she seemed very open minded and cool but then the rest started to get a little tedious. She was talking over you but I think you handled it quite well and got your points across when you did manage to get a word in edgewise. She seems like a nice lady, just maybe a little clueless about a few topics. :)

    There’s something about the way she sidestepped the whole mind-over-matter message from The Secret that really annoyed me. She turned it into taking away people’s hope when they’re ill, when in reality the message from the Secret is putting unnecessary burden on people to use their own power of mind and ‘vibrations’ to cure themselves. The people behind the Secret, Esther and Jerry Hicks (who were edited out of the final version due to financial issues) actually advise people that when you are ill that going to the doctor is ‘looking for trouble.’ And that the entity that she channels, “Abraham”, can help you cure yourself of any disease known to man by in 30 days by helping you change your attitude or ‘vibration.’ Oprah has endorsed these people on many occasions and they have books and CDs on NYT Bestseller list.

    Ironically, Jerry Hicks was recently diagnosed with leukemia and has opted out of “Abraham’s” advice and is going for full chemotherapy.

  12. You don’t have to sit and watch the bobbing heads on Blogginheads. There is a link to download an mp3 file.

    I used to do that, but I even found the Science Saturday annoying. I have downloaded this mp3 and will listen sometime in the next week, but it seems that my decision to skip downloading it on a regular basis will be confirmed.

  13. Bloggingheads is generally awful although in fairness I gave up on it many moons ago and it may have improved. Though the fact that Ann Althouse was the other blogginghead does not fill me with hope.

  14. Wow that was frustrating. Althouse doesn’t seem to have the ability to listen to another person for more than a minute before interrupting.

    Has Dawkin’s responded at all to any of this? Seems enormously unfair that you seem to be on a perpetual loop of explaining how you don’t hate men, why this is an issue etc and Richard hasn’t had to explain or argue about anything. Certainly not deal with anyone as annoying as Althouse.

    1. I think he made an official announcement after his comments on Pharyngula which was some non-committal backpedaling. Otherwise he hasn’t said much of anything.

      Which may be the best thing he could do. He doesn’t seem to have the ability to look past his own privilege and see what his critics’ points are honestly. Any comments he could make would only be used to bash women in the skeptic/atheist movement more.

    2. I wish he would! Through all of this I have been wondering if he will ever speak up again and release something — anything to, at very least, say that he’s been thinking about the issue.

      I don’t think Dawkins hates women, I think he is capable of reason, but he is vastly misguided on the topic. It’s disappointing, but I reserve judgment until he speaks up on his own behalf…though if he never does, I think that would speak to his character (or lack, thereof?) more than any words could.

    3. Maybe he´s just been getting on providing free child care at Tam, and, you know, campaigning against women being stoned to death.
      Perhaps he´s got better things to do than engage in internet squabbles… especially since the last time he made a couple of comments he got harrassed and boycotted, “Dear Dick” letters, trying to bully him into changing his mind: not through discourse and reason, but pressure and dogmatic groupthink.
      Dunno… maybe summat to do with that?

      1. Yes, because clearly he was very busy doing both of those things when he decided to comment several times in the first place.

    4. I was wondering that myself. he requested that people explain it to him, and here there was a response in the form of a thread where people did just that. Did he ever look at any of the responses he requested?

  15. That was kinda frustrating. Althouse reminds me a lot of a chatty aunt that I have, with this ill timed, well meaning but irritating interruptions, and almost, but not quite, knowing what the hell she is talking about. I think you did great, Rebecca.

  16. Rebecca,

    While I am not an Althouse fan — even if we are just talking about Althouse on Bloggingheads — I find your characterization of the talk more than I little misleading, both in terms of content and impression.

    Here are a few examples:

    You were the one who raised the issue of atheist smugness and self-regard (“back-patting and aren’t-we-smart”). I actually thought that showed a nice bit of self-awareness.

    Second, the idea of skeptics’ and atheists’ self-regard for their own enlightened and rational status seems to have been raised in your own discussions of sexism in the movement (and skeptics’ refusal to acknowledge it).

    Third, Althouse never shouted you down, as you imply in your follow-up comment above, and neither did she set herself up as your opponent. Where did you see any of this?

    Fourth, the “dating” stuff (more in the middle than the end)? That hardly seemed confrontational, or even off the subject. It emerged from the earlier topic of “Why have conferences and meet in person?” And by my count, you talked for most of that section of the encounter.

    Perhaps you thought that Althouse took your initial message the wrong way — focusing more on “being cogitation of how you interact with others” and less on the “culture of rampant misogyny” — but then that means it’s your job to reassert and argue for the misogyny message.

    All-in-all, I thought you both did a very good job. The conversation seemed genuine, the interaction pleasant and incisive — with enough skepticism on both sides to make it interesting (your final point on Althouse’s feminism problem and PR for atheism were very well done).

    To grumble about it now in a not-very-accurate way seems at least a bit disingenuous.

    Of course, you could go the PZ route, who argues here like he argues everywhere. Badly…and smugly. But as someone once said, don’t do that.

  17. Correction to the long post above: when I typed “cogitation,” I meant “cognizant.” Sorry about that.

    But while I’m back here, I want to reiterate that I thought it was a good talk on both sides. One subjective data point: you two both looked like you could actually see each other and were interacting visually and personally. Most BH diavlogs can’t pull that off.

  18. Ugh, right off the bat Althouse is committing one of my biggest pet peeves- Overly active listening. I wont even talk to someone who vocally agrees with every other word out of my mouth.
    “Uh-huh, mmm, yeeeah, yup”, drives me batty!
    Aside from that I think Rebecca did a masterful job of staying focused and cutting through the crap-cake of Ann’s arguments.

    1. I work in an office that administers graduate admissions tests. When we’re giving instructions (such as raise your hand before jumping out of your seat) and one if the examinees is saying “uh huh” after every sentence, it’s a clear sign that he/she is not listening to a word I’m saying. They will inevitably jump out of their seat without raising their hand.

      On the plus side, I hadn’t heard of Rebecca Watson or Skepchick before listening to this episode of bloggingheads.

      1. Hey jupstin,

        Sounds like you’re a BH viewer, so I think you can attest to the fact that those phatic cues (uh-huh) can sometimes be helpful in what is basically a phone conversation, translated into a visual medium. Some of the worst BH episodes involve people who basically trade speaking time: you’re turn, my turn, zzzz.

        As annoying at the tic can be, it has its uses.

      2. Ah, Jupstin- Welcome! It’s great that this whole elevator issue has caused such a massive cross pollination on the net.

        @psatt I’ve spent a lot of time on the radio and on the phone and there is nothing more distracting to me than someone interjecting pointless noise when I’m trying to focus my thoughts and make a point. I’ve never found it to be useful in the least.

        1. Well, I do agree that it has its limits, but would hardly say that average phatic communication is pointless noise. It’s part of the normal give-and-take of social interaction.

          (Whether or not Althouse’s use is far above average is open to debate. She may be over-the-top, to the point of distraction. Still, haven’t we all been holding forth on the phone and had to stop to ask, “uh, are you still there”?)

          Remember that BH is trying to simulate, for viewers, a face-to-face and *visual* conversation. The participants have to do this without all the “pointless” things that we usually do to show our engagement with the other person (nodding, smiling, eye-contact, puzzled tilts). Even, sotto voce “uh-huhs” will get magnified when pulled into — or from — a sound-only medium.

          Again, I thought it was a very good talk.

  19. I’m having a difficult time believing that I listened to the entire 70+ minutes, but, it was very interesting. I think that a lot of women (including trained professionals) don’t know anything about how to deal with the humiliation tactics and condescending/stupid things that men say to people. They should not be allowed to get away with it. I wonder if there are any classes a girl can equip her with effective skills that she can use to counteract such behavior.

    I would like to know if Althouse even realizes that she was momentarily attempting to excuse poor behavior with the label “socially awkward”. There is no excuse for dehumanizing behavior and humiliation tactics.

  20. Hi there!

    “I had trouble understanding why a clearly intelligent person like Althouse would first of all assume that a man who invites a stranger to his hotel room at 4am is somehow shy and awkward as opposed to bold and confident (as the man actually was)”

    I think that this is the crux of the whole thing. (or maybe not, I’m usually not very good at distinguishing cruxes) [cruxii? cruxae??]

    I know that when I’m confronted with someone who seems angry and/or hostile, I immediately try to figure out what it was that *I* did wrong. That’s pretty much my default setting. Last week, when I was coming out of a McDonald’s Drive-thru, I accidentally cut someone off. I immediately turned and gave that person my most penitent “GeeGollySirI’mSorryandWasn’tPayingAttentionandIt’llNeverHappenEverAgain” grimace*. In response, I got an evil sneer and an upturned finger.

    When I later thought about the McDonald’s parking lot, and the way that it was structured, I realized that the jerkass would have had to have been -FLYING- through that tiny parking lot at an ungodly velocity to not have seen me coming out of the drive-thru. So in my eagerness to absolve myself of guilt, I had never stopped to consider: “Maybe the other guy was just an assshole”. Had the situation been reversed, I would have paused and let the other guy go. This is because I’m *not* an asshole. That makes it difficult for me to see the world from an assholic point of view.

    So when I think of some poor “shy and awkward stranger” on an elevator with the great Rebecca Watson, it seem a lot like Rebecca over-reacted. Oh the poor socially awkward nerd! But socially awkward nerds aren’t the type to corner a pretty girl on an elevator. I’m a former shy and awkward nerd myself, and I’d never have done something like this. When I think about what *I* would have done if *I* were alone on an elevator at 4am with a sleepy Rebecca Watson, then I’m forced to consider that just maybe, the guy was just a total asshole. 0_o


    — Craig

    *Not to be confused with the purple McDonald’s mascot

    1. You went to a McDonald’s? To the drive-thru? What an asshole! Or were you just lost and didn’t actually buy anything? Okay, never mind then. Err, what were we talking about?
      Good point about about points of view. There’s an awful lot of projection going on in this kerfluffle. (Is that now the official term?) Some people might think this is good – “I’m putting myself in someone else’s shoes; how could that be bad?”, but they’re reacting as they would in the circumstance, not as other people would, and they are only seeing it from one viewpoint, not from both. Don’t just picture yourself in the situation just as you are, but the way other people, good and bad, angry and aggressive or calm and polite, with unknown agendas would act. View this from both sides, not just one, and consider views other people point out that you would not have thought of yourself before trying to judge the situation and the best way to behave in various social situations.
      For example, the “walking in the same general direction as a single woman who I don’t know and doesn’t know me (I was going to say “strange woman”, but that’s ambiguous), at night in a poorly-lit area with no other people around.” Before reading Amy’s post a couple of weeks ago, my natural inclination would be to walk fairly close to her, to provide an ally and potential assistance if needed. Because two people are (unconfirmed factoid) much less likely to get assaulted, robbed, run over by passing drunk drivers, or just hassled than two lone individuals. But since she doesn’t know me, I’m a potential mugger, rapist or drunken annoyer, etc. so it’s better to drop back and provide cover from a distance. And if it’s a really scary neighborhood and I’m feeling particularly paranoid, make sure I have my cell phone. Learned something new. Isn’t that the point of skepticism?
      That said, parking lot designers are definitely in the pay of the Auto Body Repair Cabal.

      1. @Buzz: That’s just it. I think that a lot of guys _think_ they’re putting themselves in the other person’s shoes (i.e.: “Hey, if I politely asked a girl out on an elevator, I’d be mortified if she later called me a creeper on YouTube!”) when they should take a moment to ask themselves: “Wasn’t this person ACTUALLY a creeper?”. I kinda think he was.

        Side note: After Dawkins’ mocking e-response to “Muslima” on PZ’s Blog, I wished I could just have met him and asked: “Would it have made you feel better if the guy on the elevator had been wearing a turban?”. ^_^

  21. I thought you did great fielding her questions. Ann wasn’t terribly bad, either, except for in a few spots where you could tell she wanted to skewer us atheists (things like, “Why in the world would atheists go to conferences?!” and “Placebos and religion are great medicine for the mind!”). You could tell the elephant in the room was that she thinks atheism is a just another religious cult. The ending talk about Dawkins and your response to his dismissal of you and of problems of sexism in the atheist community was one of the highlights that everyone should see.

  22. mrhinkydink does have something of a point, one that I suspect PZ Myers would probably be proselytizing too (as he has for others who represented an academic background they did not have) if he weren’t marketting Watson so heavily.

    For those who don’t know, Watson has a BSc from Boston University. But the cirriculum for the program stipulates that 17 of the 32 courses can not be in the sciences but must be in the liberal arts. I think it would be interesting to know what sciences, if any, those other 15 course were in.

    Anyway, the point being that Watson is no more qualified to discuss “some sciencey stuff” than is Althouse, or perhaps only marginally so.

    That being said, I am not very familiar with the Bloggingheads program’s history or MO. Do they regularly have non-science folks dicussing “some sciencey stuff”?

    1. I’ve approved this comment only because I find it rather frightening and would prefer it be made public. You see, the only time I’ve really discussed my educational background is when I talk about how I do not have a background in science at all (my degree is in communication, a fact that I joke about quite often and talk about in nearly every interview I do in which I’m asked how I got interested in skepticism). So, either you are currently lying by pretending that you don’t know what my degree is and how open I’ve been about it, or else you’ve done some creepy sleuthing that hasn’t included actually watching my talks or reading my words.

      Which is it, exactly?

      1. Hey wait a minute, when were you at BU? Did you ever take my class in human evolution?? Prolly before your time.

        Gwatson, you are describing the requirements for virtually every BS degree. It’s called things like “Liberal Arts Distribution Requirements” and is often phrased in terms of taking classes outside a specific area (elsewhere in the regs there is often a list of proscriptions to balance this … i.e., a course in this a course in that a course in another thing)

        So you are really blowing hot air as far as I can tell.

        1. I didn’t take your class but I did take a high level anthro class called Origins of Man. I don’t recall the professor’s name but she was a saint. She soon realized that as enthusiastic as I was, I was the only one in the class who wasn’t planning to be an anthropologist when I grew up. (I took a lot of classes that College of Communication students generally didn’t take.) She was super cool about spending a little extra time with me to help me keep up in the class.

      1. In reply to comment #2.

        Sure. Greg(ory) Watson. You want birth certificate data? I could send you that privately if you’d like. I trust you not to misuse it.


        I’m not poking porkys at you, or anything like.

        In reply to comment #1.

        Frightening? How on earth is it frigthening? I did no creepy sleuthing at all. I read it on a couple of other blogs — it’s a pretty darn big blogoshpere out there. In would seem to me then that it is on the public record and is therefore public information.

        If I am wrong, and that is neither your degree, nor the correct cirriculum, I would be completely happy to apologise and withdraw that statement.

          1. OK, sure.

            I think I initially read it at ERV:

            I also read it at integral math:

            I may also have read it at grey lining, but I’m not sure about that:

            For all I know, you may think these folks are enemies (or perhaps not), as do many gender feminists; however, for me, they represent just another point of view, of which there are many spread around the blogiverse.

          2. No direct links? Seriously. I’m very curious and I’m sure you don’t want us all to think that you came up with that steaming pile on your own.

          3. “… I’m sure you don’t want us all to think that you came up with that steaming pile on your own.”

            Sheesh, you do just love inuendo and insinuation, don’t you.

            Is it a steaming pile? Are you now saying that that is not your degree, and/or that that is not the associated cirriculum? As I say, I’ll gladly rescind my comments if they are false or in error. See, I can do that.

            Anyway, it’s not that hard. It’s only the fourth on intregralmath and sixth on ERV, but here you go:



            The ERV post thread is >1500 posts and the relevant post is, I think, about halfway in.

            I cannot find a reference on grey lining, so, as I say, I might be misremembering it.

          4. Awesome. So, let me get this straight: you saw something posted on some blogs that literally called me “Twatson,” and you thought to yourself, “Gosh, these are just other points of view! Maybe they’re ‘enemies’ of Rebecca, maybe not! Regardless, this Myspace page screenshot has convinced me that I should shame Rebecca Watson because she took liberal arts classes in college. I’ll just assume that she’s lying to the world and telling everyone she has some hard science degree. No need to check this, first!”

            Does that about sum it up?

          5. “Does that about sum it up?”

            Nope. Not really.

            “So, let me get this straight: you saw something posted on some blogs that literally called me “Twatson,” and you thought to yourself, “Gosh, these are just other points of view!”

            Yes. Are they not other points of view? I made no mention of their tone or perspective regarding their opinion of you.

            “Maybe they’re ‘enemies’ of Rebecca, maybe not!”

            No, I said you might think they are your enemies. I said nothing about my own thoughts on that, nor their thoughts on that, nor whether or not they were publically or universally known as enemies of you.

            “Regardless, this Myspace page screenshot has convinced me that I should shame Rebecca Watson because she took liberal arts classes in college.

            I don’t think I was shaming you, and I certainly included nothing shaming about taking liberal arts. I took liberal arts too. Why would I shame you for that? What I was doing however, was pointing out your apparent lack of a science background in an effort to support my argument about it being odd your being on a science show to talk ‘some sciencey stuff'”.

            “I’ll just assume that she’s lying to the world and telling everyone she has some hard science degree.”

            I did not in any way shape or form say that. I most emphatically did not accuse you of lying. I most emphatically did not say that you were telling the world you had a science degree. Please, do not twist my words nor claim I said things that I clearly did not say.

            “No need to check this, first!”

            In that, you are quite right. And for which I am clearly, and perhaps justifiably, paying the price.

            So, I have now said twice that if I am wrong, and that is not your degree, and/or that is not the correct cirriculum, I would be more than happy to withdraw my comments and to clearly apologise. You have yet to state that that is not your degree. Should I/we then assume then that yes, that is in fact your degree?

            As for the silly “how many clicks does it take”, there is a shorter one, but I will admit to being unable to find it at this time — perhaps justicar removed it, especially if it is in error. However, I will continue to look for it, and if it’s there, I’ll post it. If it is no longer there, I will say so.

          6. In fact, SicPreFix (I mean Greg!), I already said what my degree was in this conversation and in every interview I’ve ever done on the subject. As a long-time reader of this site, you know that. And as a long-time reader of this site, you also know that this site often focuses on science, and so you know why I’d be interested in talking about science on a vlogcast.

            So why have you put so much effort into lying, throughout this exchange? Is it because after two years, you missed stirring up anger and hatred on this site? Was trolling other sites just not giving you the release you needed?

          7. You know, I was going to wait around to see you dig your hole deeper, but the sock puppetry is just too pathetic for words. I’m just going to boot you.

          8. I don’t get it. What is this gwatson’s complaint? That you have a BSc from a very reputable liberal arts college?

            I think all the people who are whining about that should be sure to let us see their CV, and justify their snootiness. I teach at a liberal arts college, while I got my degree at a state university, so I can compare the two firsthand: the liberal arts college provides a better, more thorough, more well-rounded education.


            Found it! Right there where it says,”To receive the BS degree from Boston University, students must complete a total of 32 courses. Of these, 17 must be in the liberal arts.” Did they change the required curricula since you’ve been there? What did you specialize in? Advertising, Public Relations, or Communications Studies?

            I didn’t know that you could get a Bachelors of Science degree with 17 of 32 courses being liberal arts. I didn’t know something as “liberal” as communication even HAD a BS degree.

            My university requires 35 credit hours of basics, 82 science credit hours and 6 advanced credit hours in anything for a BS degree in chemistry. Three hours is one chemistry course and one credit hour for the lab, but for some reason biology courses were four credit hours while their labs were worth zero but you still had to take the lab. That’s about 36 courses total depending on the credit hour worth of elective or advanced courses, some being four or three with a few being two.

            I double majored biology and chemistry, and took those advanced credit hours in science courses anyway. I graduated in four years after 132 credit hours with a GPA of 3.38 and got an MCAT score of 29 (11 Phys, 11 Bio, 7 Verbal[fuck that section!]). I’m going back for my MS in chemistry as being a MD isn’t quite what I expected it would be. Must jump through a LOT of hoops and they don’t really appreciate an independent mind. (I suspect that the verbal section of the MCAT has some nefarious scheme to see if you are the kind of person who looks at things in a certain way that is their liking. That section SAYS there is a right answer, but I really think its about the answer they are looking for that would suggest you are a tool or something.)

            Damn, I guess my university sucked for “well-rounded” education. Eh… I could care less though, I personally felt like anything else would be a waste of time. Why bother with the trivialities of worldly affairs when you could be unlocking the secrets of the universe?

    2. To be very clear on your point here: are you saying that only people who have studied sciencey-stuff in school are qualified to talk about science? Or “enough” sciencey-stuff in school?

      1. No. It was merely an observation that I thought it odd that someone without a science background would be guesting on a show that, at least judging by its title, is about science. Odd, that’s all.

        But no, I did not say that people who don’t have a science background should be guesting on a science show — but I don’t know why they would.

        Nonetheless, it was most importantly brought home to me by PZ Myers’, polite as ever, initial comment, to wit:

        “Wait, what does that dingbat Althouse have to do with science?”

        To which I respond:

        Wait, what does … Watson have to do with science?

        1. well PZ is a scientist that talks about skeptic things that aren’t science. I think it would be fine to have him on a show that is entitled “Science Saturday” but also for him to be on a show called “Living with Skepticism in your Daily Life”. Or “Writing about SKepticism” or “Conveying Skepticism to Others”…I don’t think he has a degree in “human behavior” or “psychology”. He’s just learned stuff in the school of life.

        2. Rebecca works hard and in good faith to advocate science to a lay audience. That’s what she has to do with science.

    3. gwatson wrote: “I suspect PZ Myers would probably be proselytizing too (as he has for others who represented an academic background they did not have)…”

      Let’s see. Who has PZ taken to task for not having the proper academic background? Why, creationists no less! And not just creationists, but creationists who pretend they have better credentials than scientists about whatever topic. Are you seriously being so thickheaded as to accuse Rebecca Watson of pulling a stunt like that?

      1. In reply to Aratina Cage:

        “Are you seriously being so thickheaded as to accuse Rebecca Watson of pulling a stunt like that?

        Ignoring your rudeness for the moment, I would say, No, I am not being so thickheaded.

        I am merely pointing out what I think to be a rather odd scenario where a purportedly science show (judging by its title) is having a guest who has no science background to, purportedly, talk “some sciencey stuff”.

        And PZ Myers will take anyone, creationist or otherwise, to task for having less than a proper background.

        1. Then I don’t suppose you would like to take your whine over to Pharyngula where it will be roundly dissected and defeated in a couple of minutes?

        2. Ungh. It is absolutely untrue that Rebecca has no background in science.

          A degree with an A instead of an S in its abbreviation does not equal “no background in science.”

          Rebecca has, as others have pointed out, a long and admirable track record of being an advocate for science and reason. Much more so than a great number of people who do have an S after their degree. (That’s not to denigrate them: I’ll gladly count myself as someone with a BS that Rebecca has outshone when it comes to science advocacy.)

          Furthermore, if you disagree with Bloggingheads listing this interview as being of “science,” then I suggest you bring it up with Blogginsheads.

          1. How come you can get either a BA or BS in Chemistry? Seriously, the S in BS does NOT imply that the degree recipient has a science background.

      1. I’m not sure he’s an MRA proponant, but I DO know he is a pedant extordinaire.
        He lives to twist and disect words until someone yells at him then feigns surprise.
        Less obvious than a troll but more maddening.

        1. Yeah, he crossed a line with me a while back when he accused you of being a sycophant.

          That’s why I had a go at him on the Dawkins thread. He’s just crossed another line with the sock display. Zero credibility.

          1. Thanks,
            Nothing is more annoying than trying to have a debate with someone who refuses to argue in good faith. I try to keep my cool because trying to win an arguement just sidetracks some people; I’ve been there myself. But if your only goal is winning points and not moving the discussion along you need to be ignored; I was not on the debate team and I am fairly new to the skeptical movement so if your only goal is to score points about semantics I’m an easy target. I argue the issues not the language especially with those who refuse to keep their definitions static.
            I appreciate that some here like what I say; I don’t tend to get much feedback because my remarks are either flippant (and don’t deserve a response), too long (and don’t get read), or either ring true enough that people nod and don’t reply or are so off that they are ignored (I hope the former, I fear the latter). Restating the debate in a more concise (HA!, Have you seen how long my posts are?) manner can sometimes be helpful; I may not always have something to add but I can rephrase like a motherfucker.
            So thanks for the comment. I would point out that you are always well reasoned yourself, but I would want to be a sycophant. ;)

          2. Oh yeah, and I make typos too.
            That should be wouldn’t want to be a sycophant.
            That’ll teach me to rewrite my responses; I need a

          3. @mrmisconception. Even if I don’t reply, I do appreciate you take on many things and your comments. Keep it up please!

  23. yah you are getting your share of creepy –
    For the most part i thought the “interview” was pretty good / agree with aratina above, with the exception of “let’s help them” part ?? wtf ?

  24. Welcome to the world of google! “It’s not stalking if it takes less then 4 clicks to find the information”. That was recently said at a trial in town by a judge. He was weighing in on a stalking case…and I guess in his decision defined “stalking” as 4 clicks or more.

    Plus as he pointed out, “if it’s out there on the internet, why would you object to anyone knowing it? It’s out there to be found. You can only object if the information is incorrect”.

    Really interesting case, because a lot of locals are like “wow, he’s playing god with new territory”. we’ll see how it turns out down the road… in the meanwhile remember “4 clicks is bad”.

    1. Hey Kitty. How many clicks does it take to find out that I talk about my educational background all the time? No seriously, how many? Please, let me know. Thanks.

  25. I know you do! You are very open about your education, I was just totally creeped out (as are most of the women here in town) by this idiot judge deciding that the internet can not be a place of “stalking” or “harrassment”. It goes to show it is not just skeptics who often don’t “get it”. No, you can get weirded out by people on the internet seeming just a little bit TOO interested is my point! It’s all part of that “hey, how about considering how your behavior can make another person feel?” bit.

  26. sorry I was being snarky toward the judge, not you!!
    and you know, the one thing to remember is everyone in the skeptic community seems to have a bad run in with an interviewer (or three of four). Point is, you came off as nice and she came off as just plain old rude in her inability to let you really finish your point.

  27. I really enjoyed this interview until about 30 minutes in, and gave up at 50 minutes because of Altwood’s insistence on turning this into a dating advice show and her interruptions that happened when Rebecca was getting to a key point. Her premise that all atheists are smug also got to me, and cheers to Rebecca for saying the right things in response, when she could. I think I would have been yelling at Altwood and making a fool out of myself long before then.

  28. Okayyy. Finally had a chance to watch this in its entirety tonight, and…. ungh…

    It is not a “high level of abstraction” to consider how your actions might be interpreted by the people they’re directed to. Better, it’s called “being a decent human being.”

    Also, nice that according to Althouse, you’re just “leveraging your name” with this golden “opportunity” to gain popularity. That’s cute, playing the same “attention whoring” card played by so many who completely missed the mark or downplayed this whole thing.

  29. Without implying anything whatsoever about Rebecca’s ability to speak on science, I think it is generally true that discussions about scientific topics, for example viral evolution or atmospheric chemistry, generally require some level of education/expertise in that specific topical area.

    As a Ph.D. organic chemist who has some level of understanding in the area of the origin of life (pre-biotic chemistry), I would never represent myself as being able to discuss this topic intelligently. I can certainly argue with/explain to someone who cannot understand the so-called greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide, I cannot intelligently discuss this topic at a scientific level, and would quickly get bogged down with details if I were to try.

    This is actually the problem in climate science denalism today. Everyone who has ever had a science class or college degree believes themselves capable of understanding the scientific literature in the area. It isn’t that they can’t understand it, it is that they don’t understand it. Same with evolution.

    That said, at least Rebecca has a B.S. degree rather than a Fine Arts/J.D. degree.

    1. That comment was one of the most intelligent and perceptive that I have seen for a while.

      I have had a fatherly interest in Rebecca’s progress for a long time. She reminds me of my daughter in many ways.

      Rebecca has a talent for leadership and team building.

      I wonder if well qualified people like yourself might perhaps be able to help her out sometimes by acting as guest discussion leaders for selected topics on Skepchick?

      I myself, as well as others, would very much enjoy an increase in science content on this site.

      At the same time I would hate to destroy the light and breezy magazine style that makes the site so enjoyable.

      What do you think, Rebecca?

      1. also@samuelcohen. Condescending much? Degree schmegree!! While I respect those with advanced degrees in science, that is just one qualification for those who wish to promote understanding of science to the general public or to comment on scientific issues. How misguided of you to assume that someone with a JD or Fine Arts degree has no ability to comment on science. Have you no idea what the arts can contribute to science and skepticism? And did the lawyer, Clarence Darrow, contribute much to the cause of teaching evolution in schools? We can all, in our own way, play a role in the promotion of science.

        On another note, I don’t understand how you can characterize Skepchick as light and breezy? Wow. This site is much deeper to me, and to many others, I suspect.

        And finally, I think that your expression of fatherly interest is patronizing and belittling.

        1. I apologise unreservedly to you and to Rebecca for any offence caused.

          I am in no position to be patronising in any way nor to tell anybody what to do.

          It is hard to characterise the liking and admiration that I have for Rebecca but I wanted to distinguish it from the reaction of so many males which seems to be “ZOMG , you are hot, please marry me!”

          I like Rebecca for things like screaming at Sarah Palin on the TV years ago and dozens of other examples. I admire her for the way she has built up her blog over the years – and dozens of other examples. I might just as well be patronising and belittling to a force of nature!

          As for Skepchick being light and breezy in style, that was meant as a compliment -as opposed to turgid and heavy going, which a lot of science writing is. In fact @Laika, I had some of your previous comments in mind when I wrote that. It is so hard to write about complex issues in a comprehensible style whilst covering yourself against criticism, but Rebecca does that.

          As we have recently seen!

          At the same time, like you, I also find Skepchick to be deeply thought provoking. I should have said that.

          I agree fully with the rest of your comment.

          Again at the same time, I thought that a specialist guest blogger/discussion leader from time to time might boost the science content for a more in depth look at some complex issues such as climate change.

          Just a suggestion, that is all. Respect!

        2. In the interests of full disclosure, my daughter Rebecca is 32 years old and has a communications degree plus another.

          Hence my interest.

          She has a better job and earns more money than me and is also a force of nature. I would not dream of patronising or belittling her either.

          1. Thanks. I appreciate your response. And it’s nice to know that someone has noticed my past comments!

        3. laika

          Unfortunately, you’re part of the problem. If one is to intelligently discuss some aspect of science, for example, the misnamed greenhouse effect, the person has to have reasonable expertise in the area or in related areas. Actually, the so-called greenhouse effect is a perfect example. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and a glass-walled greenhouse produce warming by two entirely different mechanisms. I think it is important to know the difference, and I can probably explain the difference with some degree of clarity. Maybe you can, too. However, if a person is going to engage a climate science denialist on this point, as I have, don’t you think you need to know more than the person you’re engaging with?

          You know, I’ve taught organic chemistry to more than 3,500 students over the past 22 years. I don’t think one of them thought I was being condescending by expecting them to realize I knew more than they did. Many of them were far more intelligent, at a base level, than I am, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t teach them something.

          Let’s just put it this way: I would rather train someone who goes on the win the Nobel Prize that to win it myself.

          Perhaps this is the wrong place for me to be posting. I’ll leave if that is the case.

  30. Aaargh! I just finished listening to it, and I wanted to scream at Athouse.

    Rebecca, thank you for repeating over and over again that men should actually listen!

  31. I thought for a minute it was Rebecca interviewing Ann as Ann was doing most of the talking.

  32. Is there a way I can extract Rebecca’s portion of the video, so I can listen to her without being interrupted by La Althouse? Is there someone with the patience of saint who could edit the video manually?

  33. Never heard of bloggingheads before and didn’t know of Ms. Althouse. Being was a science day talk, then not sure why they would have Althouse on who thought science was rather boring. I had anticipated being more a back and forth, but she appeared to be leading the discussion for a large section like an interviewer. I’m not sure if that was intended. You did a good job patiently responding. I would have liked your leading the conversation more of the time.

    Seemed perhaps she wanted to grab onto the Elevator incident story as a way to get herself some views, as she seemed quite aware of using controversy for attention. Her Wikipedia entries show she has some bizarre background concerning women’s issues, which explains a bunch on her attitude.

    I enjoyed the part about homeopathy and alternative medicine the most. Glad the EG brouhaha brought your group to my attention.

    Keep up the good work.

  34. “I’ll leave it to you guys to debate how I played the hand I was dealt.”

    This conversation enlightened me a bit. Not just on feminism in general but, in a broader sense, how people live their lives. (unless Althouse was playing a role and not being genuine)

    I’ve never heard of Althouse before, and only heard about Watson from the buzz of the “battle” between her and Dawkins.

    I believe Watson “played her hand” very well. When you have a conversation with an emotional based mind, (Althouse) the rational tend to try to add clarification… even if the emotional can’t/won’t hear it. Even though they were both speaking English I am surprised at the understanding that did happen, for which I give full credit to Watson.

    Althouse seemed to.. be playing a role. It was as if she flipped into defense mode as if she was under a personal attack. When she lost the argument about “placebo effect” of “The Secret” to “just get through the day” it changed into “these are ways to make money”, and took control of the conversation to change topics. She’d give cues that she was going to let Watson talk, and then interrupt. Does she work at Fox News?

    I feel that if Althouse was being genuine, she seems to be a fear based mind. Comments such as “so you weren’t on high alert”, and ” …a foreign country, i had to look it up, Ireland, not a very threatening foreign country.” made me pity her a bit. Many topics kept going into a competitive nature like “crushing Dawkins” and confusing population count, with superiority complex when talking about a male “dominated” community. I think I’ll have to look up what else she’s done to see how genuine she was being. This is going to be interesting for me :)

    A conversation between a emotion-based lawyer and a skeptic activist, that was supposed to be scientific? It could have been done.. but I enjoyed how it turned out, and I applaud the coordinators for trying. :).

    All this being said, Great job “playing your hand” I really enjoyed this conversation, and look forward to browsing this site some more. :)

  35. Although skepticism and science are related, they are not the same, and I don’t see why Ms Watson’s science credentials are even raised. Does anyone ask James Randi or Penn and Teller for their PhD dissertation?

  36. Rebecca,

    I congratulate you on your ability to make it through the entirety of that episode without once ripping off your headphones and yelling, “You deeply stupid person!” I know I didn’t make it through listening to it without doing that. Were she at all prepared, she could have easily read the threads here and seen where the “socially awkward” crap was dissected and found wanting, among other things.


  37. Hi. I may have posted some replies to your original bomb of a video on youtube. At the time I did not understand what the problem was because as you have pointed out it is not a problem for men. Being a man myself I thought you were overreacting and posted a comment in that regard.

    I would just now like to say that I have formally changed my opinion because of your video, and apologize for my previous ignorance. After reading some of the comments made by women arguing your position I slowly came the the realization that this was a real problem. By “this” I then mean, after what I now understand, as the rational and necessary attitude women should have when being confronted by men. So I dug a little deeper, read some very interesting blogs about where this problems might originate from i.e. rape and such. In the end I thought PZ Meyers blogpost finally convinced me and made me understand.

    “I’m taking one last stab at explaining this. Imagine that Richard Dawkins meets a particularly persistent fan who insists on standing uncomfortably close to him, and Richard asks him to stand back a little bit; when he continues, he says to the rest of the crowd that that is rather rude behavior, and could everyone give him a little breathing space? Which then leads to many members of the crowd loudly defending the rudeness by declaring that since the guy wasn’t assaulting him, he should be allowed to keep doing that, and hey, how dare Richard Dawkins accuse everyone present of trying to mug him!” – found on

    I will from now on try to be more observant when talking to new girls, trying to not say anything or behave in a way which will be misunderstood as creepy by making sure she has an “exit option” (after what I have read the closed container was an issue) or in general put her in a position in which she can not at any time end the conversation and not be bothered (e.g. asking “where do you live” and such). As I write this I find it a bit hard to put the finger on what exactly a man should be concerned about when trying to not be creepy, but I think a general sensitivity to the subject and an awareness of how a women might feel will go a long way in deciding what is right in a particular situation.

    Just wanted to let you know that the video didn’t just piss off the entire internet but also made some of us men realize what insensitive gorillas we might be sometimes and gave us a better understanding of how to interact with girls.

    Cheers from Norway

  38. This woman is very good at what she does; it’s quite clear that anytime she says something that she really doesn’t want you to argue against, she gets her point out and then keeps talking and gives you no chance for a response. Hmm.

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