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.


Ok, sorry that was a lot of reading material but if you read it all I think you'll be noticing what I immediately noticed. It doesn't look like PZ thoroughly read any of the history. The problem is that the lack of reading caused him to misrepresent Ben Radford's position.

Before I start I want to apologize for my inflammatory title. I generally stay away from these, but I am criticizing an article by PZ that uses a misleading title so I decided to do the same to prove a point. Now PZ has not outright stated that he supports rape, but if you take his argument to the logical conclusion based on a literal reading it looks like he is supporting rape. I don't think he actually does support rape, I think he just failed to read and understand material he was quoting thus leading to his statements that make it appear he supports rape.

PZ blog post title tells us that Ben Radford doesn't get to be "over rape." Well, when Radford said "I'm over rape" he was actually quoting Eve Ensler's poem. Radford was writing his own poem following Ensler's poetic format. The obvious intent of the words "I'm over rape" for both Radford and Ensler was to say "it is time to stop rape." Both "over it" poems are essentially poem's used to vent ones frustrations with things that they dislike in the world they see. When Radford says he is over rape he is thus saying that he is so tired of the fact that rape is still occurring and that we haven't stopped it yet. It's a statement against rape. In fact Radford's if we read the next sentence after "I'm over rape" we see:
I'm over rape. I join mothers, sisters, fathers, brothers, and lovers in condemning rape and all manner of violence against women.
Thus, PZ saying Radford doesn't get to be over rape is essentially a statement in support of rape. If we take PZ myers article at face value he appears to be saying you don't get to condemn rape.

That being said. I don't think PZ really supports rape. I think he is just a busy man and is taking shortcuts by assuming what Radford meant rather than actually reading and understanding. PZ seems to have misinterpreted "over it" to mean that Radford doesn't care about rape anymore. Had PZ read Radford's article he might have discovered Radford was in fact arguing the opposite. PZ's lack of reading and understanding is apparent throughout the entirety of PZ's article and I want to use three examples to demonstrate this.

Example 1
PZ says this of Radford:
I have to mention that I agree with him on one thing: this One Billion Rising stuff leaves me cold, for reasons that Natalie Gyte articulates so well. Radford’s reasons, though, are classic hyperskepticism.
So PZ agrees with Natlie Gyte's reason but disagrees with Radfords. The problem is, both Gyte and Radford cite the same reason for being against the march: that it is slactivism, activism that is unlikely to solve problems but just makes the participant feel good. Seriously, read Radford and Gyte, you'll notice that they really do have the same concern. Although Gyte expressed it more eloquently they actually are both concerned about slactivism.

In addition, PZ links to Ophelia Benson's criticism of Radford. To start, I want to say that Benson has spot on criticism, she nails Radford for straw manning feminism and good for her. But despite being highly critical of his straw man arguments Radford still stated that she had no problem with Radford's criticism of one-billion. As she states in the comments of her article:
Ok. Ensler’s idea leaves me cold too. If Radford’s post had stopped with [his criticism of one-billion rising], I would have had no issue with it. But Radford made a great many more sweeping generalizations after he was finished with Ensler, and I took issue with many of those. Not all of them, but many of them.
So PZ has shown not only that he didn't read or understand Radford's article but he also cites sources that don't support his criticism.

Example 2
If you read PZ's article you will notice that he tries really hard to make it look like Radford's primary criticism of one-billion rising was that it used statistical flaws. However, I think that is misleading and disingenuous. Radford's only stated reason for being against one-billion rising is that it is slactivisim, the same reason that Benson and Gyte used for being cold to one-billion rising.

When Radford mentions statistics he simply says that they have lead him to question Ensler's causes and that he prefers real statistics to be used because the real statistics are "alarming enough without exaggerating them." He never states that his objection to one-million rising is that their statistics were wrong. This is simply a fabrication by PZ.

Example 3
This example also deals with PZ's discussion of statistics. PZ criticizes Radford for being "hyperskeptical" of statistics used to support causes. To start I want to cite Radford's actually quote about statistics:
I am over exaggerated and alarmist statistics being used to scare the public about any social agenda-whether I agree with that agenda or not. The real numbers are alarming enough without exaggerating them. One rape is just as much of an injustice as a billion rapes; one rape is too many.
Radfords quote has a footnote that points out that one-billion rising used a statistic that one-third of women will be raped or beaten. Radford argues that the statistic is a little misleading because it also includes things like verbal abuse. At the end of the footnote Radford says:

All these are serious, legitimate problems, but not all of them are physical beatings or rape (nor even involve men). This is important because mischaracterizing the statistic as reflecting women either being "raped or beaten" harms victimized women instead of empowering them by not reflecting the true diversity of forms of abuse.
If we read Radford in context he appears to be making a simple complaint about statistics. He thinks we should use accurate statistics because they are more powerful statement and are better for raising awareness of the issues.

Somehow PZ twists this into:
Radford’s hyperskepticism is so fierce that he objects to Ensler using 3 general words — raped, beaten, violated — instead of 26 more specific words, but is willing to overlook the horrific truth that she is correct and one billion women will suffer for their sex in their lifetime.
I cannot see how PZ made the leap of logic from Radford's statements to the idea that Radford "is willing to overlook the horrific truth that she is correct and one billion women will suffer for their sex in their lifetime." Radford never says anything remotely like this. In fact, he states the exact opposite, when he says things like:
"All these are serious, legitimate problems."
"I join mothers, sisters, fathers, brothers, and lovers in condemning rape and all manner of violence against women."

PZ's failure to read and understand isn't just his own failure. He has spread this misunderstanding to all of his readership. PZ didn't even give a link to Radford's article so how are his readers supposed to discover that PZ was misleading them.

Try digging through the comments and you will see the same errors in reasoning made by PZ repeated over and over again. This is the exact same problem I was discussing in my last few posts. This is why I am going to stop reading PZ and I hope others will as well. Its not worth the risk of being biased by PZ's poor reasoning.

If I were to write my own "over it" poem right now it would start with:

"I'm over debates caused by bloggers who fail to read the original sources."


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