Random Musings

Since I didn’t watch the Super Bowl…

…can you fill me in on what memes were created so I’m not totally confused at every joke on the internet for the next 24 hours?

My current feelings on the skeptical movement and blogging

I must not be the only one feeling disenchanted, since all of these other people can speak perfectly for me. From PZ, in response to Steven Novella’s piece about the scope of skepticism:

As for that awful, dishonest, destructive claim that “Political, moral, and social ideology are ‘outside the scope’ of skepticism because they remove objectivity” — I ask, OK, so would you claim that there is no rational, evidence-based argument against, say, slavery? That it is impossible to make an objective argument in any domain against treating people as property?

If that’s the case, well then, fuck skepticism. It isn’t relevant or useful anymore. It has abstracted itself into the realm of a private academic circle-jerk, and we can stop arguing, because just maybe atheists, who apparently have more rational minds, can just leave the party voluntarily.

Improbable Joe responds to the second paragraph with this comment:

A-fucking-men! If all that skepticism is for is dismissing the same silly claims that have been dismissed for sometimes hundreds of years, and not for creating positive change in the world, then what goddamned use does it have? “Hey, let’s all get in a room once a week and talk about how homeopathy is still quackery, and that Bigfoot is a hoax! And then we can pat each other on the back for still not believing the same daffy shit we didn’t believe last week, and didn’t believe the week before either!” Wow, yeah, that’s really inspiring me to join a “movement” that seems to be fixated on not moving, not budging a single solitary inch, if in doing so it moves beyond smug self-congratulation.

And to close, sawells perfectly summarizes why I’m sick of dealing with the skeptic movement:

I think there are two unspoken arguments which people want to make and can’t (publicly).

Argument 1: skepticism is fine if you point it at things which very few people really believe (bigfoot;alien abduction) because if they get angry we can laugh at them. Don’t point it at things which lots of people believe! There are lots of them and if they get angry that might be scary!

Argument 2: skepticism is fine if you point it at other people who are wrong. Don’t point it at me! I’m not wrong!

Hence the massive pushback against applying basic skepticism to things like mainstream religious claims and mainstream gender stereotypes.

This. Oh, so much this.

I’ve grown reluctant to deal with the egos of skeptic celebrities and politics of skeptical organizations who, frankly, aren’t the great skeptics they think they are. But I’ll still keep writing and speaking about science and skepticism because, well, I find them important and interesting. I’ve realized I don’t need to be an official part of a group or a movement to do those things, nor am I personally responsible for spending my time and energy in improving a movement that is so stubbornly resisting improvement.

Because when my time and energy is spent on repeatedly explaining why diversity matters, why harassment policies are good to have and are already widely implemented at other events, why Obviously Sexist Statement from Skeptic Pope X is problematic, and why certain topics are not exempt from skepticism…then I don’t have the time to write about those certain topics that matter to me. I don’t have time to create unique material about science and skepticism when I’m stuck meta-blogging about how some atheist yet again told me to go kill myself on twitter because I’m an ugly bitch who’s ruining skepticism.

And I didn’t realize how obnoxious this meta-blogging was until I took a break from blogging and spent some time as just a blog reader. All of the blogs I had once loved now hardly ever produce unique material about atheism or skepticism because they’re too busy reacting to trolls or debating some “big name skeptic” (who is really just some shmuck* only known to a small group of people whose opinions have little effect on the world at large). Even the rare unique posts are frequently filled with snide offhand remarks about people they don’t like or vague comments alluding to past drama. And you know, if that’s what they want to do, that’s fine. One of my main pet peeves as a blogger is when people tell you what you should be writing about, when it’s a blogger’s prerogative to write about whatever they find interesting.

I personally no longer find the meta-blogging interesting.

So consider this meta-meta-blogging my long-winded way of saying that my attitude toward blogging is changing. From now on, trolls and haters will be ignored instead of further publicized, and I encourage my readers to do the same in the comments. I will not feel guilty about moderation or banning in order to make a harassment-free environment for me and my readers. I will only comment on controversies if I feel that they have effects outside of our tiny little skeptical bubble. And most importantly, I will concentrate on writing unique material, on hosting sites such as www.hostiserver.com, about the topics I care about instead of just endlessly replying to blogs, comments, and tweets.

That’s what I want to spend my time and energy on, not fixing a stubborn skeptical movement’s academic circle jerk.

*I count myself in the category of “random shmuck that other people care way too much about.” I wish my haters would spend less time obsessing over what’s effectively an open access creative writing journal for a random grad student, and maybe take up some sort of constructive hobby, like actually promoting science and skepticism, or at the very least, knitting.

I get email

I haven’t really been blogging for months, but weird emails still find their way to my inbox.

Dear Private, Registration:

I work for [Annoying Business] and we have discovered that a company we hired to help promote our website have used a variety of techniques to secure links to our site. These links were placed purely for SEO purposes, with the intention of manipulating search rankings.

It appears that there may be links like this that have been placed on your site.

The presence of these links is harmful to our site’s good standing with search engines, and unfortunately, retaining them may also be potentially harmful to your own website’s reputation.

We would ask that you please remove any links on your site that link to [Annoying Business].

 

You clutter my site with annoying spam and now you want me to waste time cleaning it up so you look better? Look, we all know that international seo takes some serious work, and some interesting strategies, to get working, but come on now.

Still, this isn’t the strangest email I have gotten this month. Just try to take a look at this one.

hey jen

me too liberal, geeky, nerdy, scientific, perverted feminist atheist .
and desperate to find a girl friend like that.
if u r single and wanna mingle , ping me back.. or refer me any other girl.
i havent read any of your posts nor i have time to read ur stuff.. unless ofcourse u wanna be my frnd..
What do I even say to this?

But…but…that’s not exact at all!


I’m probably the only person who has been bothered by this ad.

Seattle just became a little more awesome

I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t wake up to a cloud of pot smoke and glitter snuggling the city, but I’m still pretty happy about the laws. Both gay marriage and marijuana become legal in Washington state today, I can’t wait to see some of the LGBT and marijuana-infused tactics some dispensary marketing professionals will come up with in the near future! No longer will people be barred from marrying the people they love because of the outdated religious views of others, and no longer will people (disproportionately minorities) be fined and jailed because they want to take a drug less harmful than alcohol while eating cheetos and watching Lord of the Rings (suggests a police spokesperson, haha). This means medical and recreational marijuana consumers are able to purchase their cannabis online, for top-shelf medical strains such as this walter white strain and many others being grown.

I never thought I’d see the day. This is a monumental step in the right direction for the residents of Washington. It’s given people a sense of freedom in being able to truly be who they are, without having to face repercussions for it. Not only that but with the legalization of marijuana, it gives people ample opportunity to visit a Recreational Dispensary in their local area to smoke products that would’ve seen them be in serious trouble before. In the Eastside of Seattle, you can get all your recreational marijuana bellevue in person at Green Theory. No one should have to feel ashamed or try and hide who they are anymore. Times are changing, and I for one am glad to be apart of this historical event.

Progress has been made for both liberalism and rationality today. Though I can’t yet claim that I live in the most liberal state until our ultra-regressive tax laws are fixed. Wait…does that mean I’m living in the most libertarian state? Aaaaaahhhhh!!!!

Oh well. Still beats living in Indiana.

Rick Warren is technically correct

Not a phrase I ever expected to find myself typing. A statement by evangelical celebripastor Rick Warren is causing a lot of rage throughout the liberal blogosphere (aka, the blogs I happen to check in the morning):

“Here’s what we know about life. I have all kinds of natural feelings in my life and it doesn’t necessarily mean that I should act on every feeling. Sometimes I get angry and I feel like punching a guy in the nose. It doesn’t mean I act on it. Sometimes I feel attracted to women who are not my wife. I don’t act on it. Just because I have a feeling doesn’t make it right. Not everything natural is good for me. Arsenic is natural.

Honestly my first reaction when reading this was “wow, Rick Warren understands the naturalistic fallacy!” He’s totally right that the “naturalness” of something doesn’t lead to ethical judgements. Arsenic is even the same example I frequently give!

But that’s where his understanding ends. Just because nose-punching and gay sex are both natural urges doesn’t make them morally equivalent. Warren knows this, but leaves his source of ethics unsaid – the Bible. The reason this statement is so repugnant to liberals is that we base our system of morals on minimizing harm. Oddly I saw no blogs explaining this, probably because Warren’s source of morality isn’t exactly a secret. But I think it’s important to emphasize how repugnant it is to base your system of ethics on some random old book instead of the well being of others. Punching someone in the face causes harm; gay sex does not. For that reason those that view acts on sites like twinkmovies.xxx are never causing any harm to anyone what so ever, but still people believe they are doing some injustice to those that it doesn’t even affect.

Well, unless you’re into the kinky stuff. But hell if I’m going to attempt to explain the concept of consent to a religious conservative.

What should my Skepticon workshop be about?

Skepticon is just a couple of days away, and I’m super excited! I’m not speaking this year, but I had such a good time last year that I saved up the money to make this a little vacation. The boyfriend is also coming along, and I can’t think of a better con to be his first major atheist/skeptical event.

There’s one little thing though. I found out at the last minute that Skepticon wants me to run a 50 minute workshop on Friday for a room of about 50 people (first come, first serve). The workshops are technically supposed to be…you know, workshops. Educational. Teaching you something. But Skepticon said I can basically do whatever I want that would make my readers happy. I also have no idea what I should do.

So, if you’re going to Skepticon, what would you like to see from me? I’m honestly a little reluctant to talk about social justice/diversity since I’m pretty burnt out on that topic and don’t want it to be all I’m known for, but if there’s enough of a cry, I’ll do it. Some other ideas:

  • How to start a blog
  • How to deal with mean internet assholes
  • How to spot the red flags of shitty science journalism
  • So you want to become a scientist (advice for undergrads & high school students)
  • Religion & skepticism in Game of Thrones
  • Religion & skepticism in video games

Any additional suggestions or feedback would be very appreciated. I’m really open to any ideas, including other panelists I could recruit for a topic (if that’s what you want). It can be silly, wacky, and void of educational purpose if you so desire!

Greta Christina has cancer, and she needs your support

More information at Greta’s blog.

I know a lot of you are familiar with Greta’s writing and activism. She’s one of the atheist movement’s best advocates. But she’s also a dear friend of mine. She’s kind, thoughtful, and always there for me when I need her. Now she needs all of us.

 

You know how I was afraid the hate would spread to my family?

Yeah, so now people are harassing my dad. Weee. I found that link after the fact – I originally found out because I’m home for vacation and he knocked on my door to laugh about the stupid comments he received on his blog. Partially because he thought I was the only one who read it and isn’t used to getting comments, let alone articulate ones like:

YOUR DAUGHTER IS A SLUT!!!!!!!!!!! That’s right, you raised a SLUTTY SLUT SLUT OF A SLUTDAUGHTER!!!!

And

After reading that I can certainly see why your daughter turned out to be the laughably irrational, nauseatingly self-important attention whore she is today.

No, my dad shouldn’t have remarked that he wants to punch my abusers in the face. That’s wrong, even though I know he has never hurt anyone and was speaking out of anger because someone he loves is facing constant abuse. I don’t think he should have said such a thing because like I’ve said before, violence is never the answer. But I don’t know how it shows I’m a big baby because my dad wants to say that he loves me. I didn’t ask him to make that post.

I know. I shouldn’t even be blogging this. I shouldn’t be reading these comments. I was actually starting to feel better until I read these things. But jesus fuck, people. This here attention whore is asking you to please stop giving me and my family attention.

[Comments are disabled. It’s the least I can do for my mental health since I couldn’t control myself to not write a post. I don’t need people shitting on me and my family even more in the comments.]

Goodbye for now

I’m done with blogging for an indefinite period of time.

I hate to do this. After my brief vacation from blogging this summer, I felt recharged and ready to write again. But that happiness ended almost instantaneously.

I love writing, I love sharing my ideas, and I love listening to the ideas of my readers. But I simply no longer love blogging. Instead of feeling gleeful anticipation when writing up a post, I feel nothing but dread. There’s a group of people out there (google the ironic term FtBullies to find them) devoted to hating me, my friends, and even people I’m just vaguely associated with. I can no longer write anything without my words getting twisted, misrepresented, and quotemined. I wake up every morning to abusive comments, tweets, and emails about how I’m a slut, prude, ugly, fat, feminazi, retard, bitch, and cunt (just to name a few). If I block people who are twisting my words or sending verbal abuse, I receive an even larger wave of nonsensical hate about how I’m a slut, prude, feminazi, retard, bitch, cunt who hates freedom of speech (because the Constitution forces me to listen to people on Twitter). This morning I had to delete dozens of comments of people imitating my identity making graphic, lewd, degrading sexual comments about my personal life. In the past, multiple people have threatened to contact my employer with “evidence” that I’m a bad scientist (because I’m a feminist) to try to destroy my job. I’m constantly worried that the abuse will soon spread to my loved ones.

I just can’t take it anymore.

I don’t want to let them win, but I’m human. The stress is getting to me. I’ve dealt with chronic depression since elementary school, and receiving a daily flood of hatred triggers it. I’ve been miserable. And this toxic behavior is affecting all parts of my life. With this cloud of hate hanging over my head, I can’t focus or enjoy my hobbies or work. It has me constantly on edge with frayed nerves, which causes me to take it out on the ones I love. I spend most of my precious free time angry, on the verge of tears, or sobbing as I have to moderate comments or read what new terrible things people have said about me. And the only solution I see is to unplug.

I have also been reading a lot about some of the different ways that people manage their mental health when living with conditions like depression. Apparently, a lot of people like to combine therapy and counseling with natural remedies. For example, one of my friends who lives in Canada uses cannabis as a way of easing the symptoms of her depression. Although most marijuana users smoke this substance through cigarettes, it is also possible to reap the rewards of this herb in other ways such as by using a bong or a glass pipe. My friend told me that she buys cannabis wax online and then adds this to her glass pipe. There is a lot of research to suggest that smoking marijuana in this way can reduce some of the harmful toxins associated with smoking and so using a bong or a pipe is often a popular alternative. Personally I will have to do some more research to find out whether cannabis could make a difference to my circumstances, but I do not think anyone should rule anything out completely.

To those of you who have provided endless support: Thank you, and I’m sorry. I feel like I’ve failed you for not being able to deal with all of this despite the support you’ve given me. I may still occasionally write about science or topics that don’t attract abuse (aka, don’t expect atheism or feminism articles from me for a while). I’ll also still work to get the Atheism+ website and forums (1000+ people already!) running and self-sufficient, since I know a lot of people are really appreciating that community. And I’ll do the speaking gigs that I’ve already committed to (Kansas City 9/9, Lexington 10/6). But I simply can no longer deal with an obsessive horde of haters who are trying to make my life miserable, because they’ve succeeded.

So, goodbye for now. Maybe I’ll be back eventually, if the hatred subsides. Who knows. Maybe the horde of haters will take up knitting as their new hobby, or a time machine will be invented and I can go back to when we were all happy giggling at creationists together without hurling slurs at any woman who dared to be too uppity. But until then, I need to focus on keeping myself sane and happy – and that’s just not going to happen within the toxic atheist community.

Comment registration has been turned on

I hate to do this since a lot of nice, non-trolly people don’t like registering to comment, but it has become necessary. Some troll has been imitating me and other frequent commenters (including our user names and avatars) to derail a thread into sexually explicit discussion about my personal life. I have to give them credit for the amount of time they wasted giving graphic details about how I give blow jobs. Too bad that time and creativity wasn’t put toward something productive instead.

Flickr helps scientists discover a new species

This story on NPR is great. An entomologist was browsing insect photos on Flickr when he saw one he didn’t recognize. After talking to his colleagues, they confirmed that this was probably a new species:

A full year later, Winterton received an email from the photographer; Guek had returned to the region of the original sighting and found another lacewing with the same wing pattern.

“He told me, ‘I’ve got one in a container on my kitchen table — what should I do with it?’ ” Winterton says.

The specimen was sent to Steve Brooks, an entomologist at the Natural History Museum in London. Brooks confirmed that the lacewing was new to science. He also found a matching specimen that had been sitting in the museum’s collection, unclassified, for decades.

The new species was dubbed Semachrysa jade — not after its pale green color, but after Winterton’s daughter.

It’s pretty awesome that we live in a time where information is spread so rapidly that a random photographer and a bored scientist browsing Flickr can make a new discovery. What other scientific discoveries do you think social media can contribute to?