Here is part five in my ongoing series where I ask the men who are leaders in our community to speak out against the hate that has been directed at many of the vocal women in atheism, secularism and skepticism.
Today, I bring you some words of wisdom from Barry Karr, the Executive Director of CSI and Skeptical Inquirer Magazine. Barry shares with us some proper techniques in forming and engaging in debates by bringing attention to some advice on the topic from CSI Founding Member Ray Hyman. Barry also shares CFI’s newly drafted, ‘Policy on Hostile Conduct/Harassment at Conferences.’
Barry’s comments after the jump.
As skeptics, we are used to debating issues, sometimes vigorously. There is nothing wrong with making your points and engaging in the healthy give and take of constructive dialogue, sharing of facts, ideas and opinions. However there is nothing constructive in the personal attacks and vindictiveness that has come to dominate parts of the skeptical and humanist blogosphere of late. More importantly I find totally reprehensible statements advocating violence, rape and even death directed towards women. I have said it in personal communications, and I will say it here now: People who make statements filled with hatred and threatening or calling for acts of violence have no place in the humanist or skeptical movements. I am not sure what it makes these people, but a person can’t make such statements and claim to be a humanist or rationalist. You just can’t.
PS: Years ago CSI Founding Member Ray Hyman published a little article called “Proper Criticism” as a guide for skeptics when dealing with claims made by those expounding paranormal abilities. Although clearly not an exact correlation, Ray’s words provide plenty of wisdom for the situation in which we now find ourselves. http://www.csicop.org/si/show/proper_criticism/
In addition, I think CFI did an excellent job in drafting a Policy on Hostile Conduct/Harassment at Conference. Definitely worth a read as well: http://www.csiconference.org/about.php
Thank you so much for speaking up on the topic, Barry. And thank you for helping create a conduct policy to keep CFI events safe, fun and productive!
Prior posts in this series can be found by clicking the links below.
Speaking out against hate directed at women: David Silverman
Speaking out against hate directed at women: Dale McGowan
Speaking out against hate directed at women: Ronald A Lindsay
Speaking out against hate directed at women: Nick Lee
More to come.
“People who make statements filled with hatred and threatening or calling for acts of violence have no place in the humanist or skeptical movements. I am not sure what it makes these people, but a person can’t make such statements and claim to be a humanist or rationalist. You just can’t.”
Can I get a secular “amen?”
Isn’t that a bit of a Scotsman, though? Yes, those are deplorable things and we should absolutely discourage threats and harassment and decry them as irrational actions, but I guess I’m uncomfortable taking the route of “they’re not actually skeptics if they X or Y” – reminds me too much of the religious who do the same when some of their own do hateful things.
Hmm, I see what you’re saying, but I’m not sure it’s the same. I read it as that type of behavior is antithetical to humanism, so it’s quite problematic for people who claim to be humanists when they behave in that manner. I agree, saying “they’re not a real humanist” is treading into Scotsman territory, but it’s certainly valid to point out that they’re not adhering to humanist principles in the same way that a person who rejects Jesus Christ as a savior is not adhering to the principles of Christianity.
“I read it as that type of behavior is antithetical to humanism, so it’s quite problematic for people who claim to be humanists when they behave in that manner.”
Yep, this is how I read it, too.
He didn’t use the word skeptic….he used the words rationalist or humanist…in that sentence. And would you say you can be a misogynistic hate spewing humanist? How about a misgynistic hate spewring rationalist…. I dare say the base definitions are in total conflict – categorically.
“Can I get a secular “amen?””
So say we all.
Ooh, ramen blocked!
Thank you Barry!
Okay, time to fess up. I have often felt, deep inside, that a 9mm Glock applied to the brain stem of certain people, like Rush Limbaugh, the Koch brothers, (ex-)Dr Wakefield and Meryl Dorey, John Edward, Sylvia Browne and others who damage millions of people for personal gain would not be a bad thing.
But today’s news about Richard Muller is far more gratifying than that could ever be. Thank you, rationality and science.
I have been so disappointed in the past few months as the MRAs have been coming out of the woodwork. I’ve basically decided that if they want to make their clubhouse “No Girls Allowed,” that it’s their loss and I’ll just find another club. However, I’ve been a Skeptical Inquirer subscriber since my Physics for Poets prof turned me on to skepticism around 1997. I’m so pleased to see that CFI values their female subscribers.
Thank you for this series, Amy. I do have a question, though. If you have anyone that declines or ignores your request for comment, are you going to tell us? I would like you to.
I have been thinking about it and I don’t see any real value in mentioning the people that decline to comment. I really want this to be a positive series that helps give us all a place to move forward from. We can see who cares about the problems from the responses and that is ultimately more important than those who don’t.
But yeah, I have had a few people decline to comment so far. But the really good news is quite a few leaders I hadn’t even contacted reached out to me on their own accord and asked to speak out and that is freakin’ fantastic! So know that there are definitely WAY more people that want to work to encourage a friendlier, safer environment for everyone than those who want a ‘boys club’. I’d much rather focus on those positive people than the people we won’t be hearing from.
I think Amy is right … this needs to remain positive. Some people may not be encouraged to comment if they feel like they may be punished for refusing. And we can’t really begin to understand why someone might refuse to comment unless they tell us why, and I don’t think we should be making assumptions about their reasonings. Life is complicated. Maybe they are busy, or their mother is dying, or whatever.
This should be voluntary and genuine — not forced by the fear of a public shaming.
“This should be voluntary and genuine — not forced by the fear of a public shaming.”
I just want to repeat this … because I think if there was the implication of a public shaming if you don’t comment on this issue publicly, then the sincerity and credibility of the whole project will be hampered. Lots of MRA’s will just complain that we ~forced~ people to say this stuff OR ELSE! Gah.
Yeah, this has to be voluntary if it’s going to be taken as genuine.
There may be reasons beyond our ken which have nothing to do with any of this for declining. Let it be.
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