Monday, February 25, 2013

The Principal of Charity and Framing

My recent posts have discussed schisms in the skeptical/atheist movement on arising from discussions of sexism issues. Steven Novella has a great post at his blog Neurologica entitled Moving Forward that discusses a way to move forward past some of these issues. I want to add on to what Dr. Novella has written about and discuss the problem of framingthat each of us views an event from our own reference frame and personal experiences that may cause us to discount the different experiences other people have had leading up to that event.

Dr. Novella argues that we should all use the principal of charity when attacking others arguments stating that:
Before you set out to criticize someone’s claim or position, you should endeavor to grant that position its best possible case. Don’t assume the worst about your opponent, assume the best. Give them any benefit of the doubt. At the very least this will avoid creating a straw man to attack, or opening yourself up to charges that you are being unfair.
This is something I always try to do, though I am of course far from perfect and I often go back to read my writing and find cases where I failed to do this. In order to use the principal of charity Dr. Novella points out that we should also use the principal of understanding:
make every effort to truly understand your opponent’s position before attacking it.
This principal of understanding and how it relates to framing of issues is what I want to discuss in this post.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Un-Labeling GMOs part II: Why I am Pro GMO

Last spring I  wrote a criticism of proposition 37 in California, a law that if it had passed would have forced any food containing GMO's to be labeled. Luckily, this legislation failed. However, the fight has not ended and now, in my home state of Washington, an eerily similar GMO labeling law is moving through the legislature.

Since this issue is arising again I want to address the issue. I already discussed why GMOs are likely safe, why wanting to know if something is in food isn't enough to require labeling, and why GMO labeling would actually harm the ability of consumers to make an informed choice.

Rather than repeat my previous arguments I want to explain why I am pro GMO and clear up some misunderstandings of GMOs that I have noticed when reading attacks on GMOs by those who are anti-GMO. My post is not intended to be exhaustive on these subjects. I merely intend this as a starting point and encourage everyone to do their own research on the issue, wikipedia has some sources that make a great starting point.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Does PZ Myers support rape?

I am over PZ. PZ was one of the first atheist bloggers I started following but I just can't do it anymore. I've been checking PZ's sources more and more only to discover that he often writes inflammatory posts attacking others that are based on misleading information. Today, I found one such case that was so ridiculous that I just can't read PZ anymore.

Well, as I did with my last criticism of PZ I want to start with the history leading up to PZ's post so here it is:

First read this Poem By Eve Ensler entitled Over It.

Second read about the one billing rising movement at wikipedia.

Third, read Ben Radford's criticism of the One billing rising movement.

Fourth, read PZ's article.

Finally, read the two sources PZ cited: Natalie Gyte's criticism of the one billion rising movement and Ophelia Benson's criticism of Radford's article.


Friday, February 15, 2013

PZ's witch hunt

This is the third piece in my discussion on skeptical fails in the skeptical movement. If you haven't read my first two pieces discussing Ophelia Benson and Michael Shermer you might want to go back and read these articles because I reference them here. I would ask that at the least you go back and read the original sources I will be discussing which are listed in my first piece. The reason is that I don't want my views and interpretations here to bias your views.

Here's the reading list before I continue: first watch this video starting at 11:30. Then read 12, and 3.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Shermer, it's not a guy thing

This is part two of my discussion of the Shermer vs. Benson debate, where I talk about the mistakes made by Michael Shermer. If you haven't read part one you'll be missing a large part of the conversation and the history. As I mentioned at the start of that article I am responding to a number of different blog posts and in order to avoid biasing others opinions I ask that everyone read the source material in order before reading my posts.

So again here is the list: First watch this video starting at 11:30. Then read 1, 2, and 3.

Now, here's a short pause for those who haven't followed this yet...

Monday, February 11, 2013

Disagreement ≠ Sexism

When researching for my posts about the Shermer vs. Benson debate I have found a common problematic thread running through the arguments that I want to discuss. That issue is this: just because I disagree with you does not mean I am sexist. If you respond to my disagreement by calling me sexist you derail the conversation and I can no longer say anything (and no longer take you seriously).

Before I go further I want to show you an example of what I am talking about. As context, Ophelia Benson has responded to accusations that she lied in her original article on "It's a guy thing" here in this blogpost. In the comments one poster pointed out that Benson had made factually unsupported allegations against Shermer and that Shermer responded with clarifications.

The problem is, that a later poster (comment #26) decided to take this comment that didn't contain sexism and then make it sexist by adding her own words thereby implicitly accusing the original poster of sexism (the additions are in italics):

Ophelia made a factually unsupported allegation against Michael – because she’s a girl.

Michael, quite reasonably, responded to this with clarification, well-supported refutation and a clear explanation of the broader problems of which he considers this symptomatic – because he’s a boy.

/fixed for you.
…and you know, when defending the indefensible, you coild least try using less flowery, long winded and turgid explanation and just get straight to the point, lol.
Let me start by saying, please, don't do this!

This type of argument makes it impossible to debate these issues because any time a man disagrees with a woman people can simply say "oh he just doesn't agree because he's sexist." So instead of saying we disagree because we're sexist, tell us why we are wrong. Then, if we do say something that is actually sexist, tell us! Just, don't accuse us of being sexist merely because we disagree.

Otherwise, how can a man ever hope to enter a debate when faced with this sort of attitude. It suddenly feels like an us vs. them world. We are stuck listening, and when we see problems with an argument we aren't allowed to say anything because we are told criticizing a woman is the equivalent to saying women aren't as smart as men. Trust me, were not saying this. I'll I ask is that you wait until someone explicitly says that to accuse them of it.

Lack of Skepticism in the Skeptical Movement

I’ve been waiting to write about the recent Shermer vs. Benson showdown and the related PZ Myers Cameo. This recent debate brings up two issues that I have begun to notice more and more within the skeptical movement which are:

1.  Prominent bloggers (like all of us) fail to properly use skepticism when they write about issues they are passionate about. In this case that issue is sexism within the skeptical movement.

2.  There is lack of skepticism applied to blog posts written by prominent bloggers.

Now, before I discuss the problems and these issues there is a lot of background material. I would request that everyone—even those familiar with this debate—to review the history I will be discussing before reading what I write. I ask this both because I don’t want to prejudice your views with my discussion and because I believe reading the history in chronological order can prevent people from being biased by other bloggers views.

Without further ado here is the reading material:

First: Listen to the question posed to Michael Shermer and his response starting at 11 minutes 30 seconds in this video.

Second: Read Ophelia Benson’s response to Shermer’s comment entitled Nontheism and Feminism: Why the Disconnect?

Last: Read PZ Myers response to Shermer entitled That’s not a “response,” Michael, it’s a “denial.”

Note: this debate is rounded out by numerous other blog posts but I’m going to limit myself to the posts listed above as I think they are the best examples of problems by prominent bloggers.