National Geographic publishes article on atheism and secularism, but descends into Authoritarian Leftism and slanders against Harris and Dawkins

Well, it’s time to cancel your subscription to National Geographic—if you still have one. For a while it’s been turning into a religously-infused tabloid rather than the educational nature/anthropology magazine that I loved of yore. In several posts I’ve documented its increasing tendency to coddle religion (see here), and it’s only going to get worse since the magazine was taken over by Rupert Murdoch.

Now the magazine has hit its lowest point yet, polevaulting the shark in a new piece by journalist Gabe Bullard, “The World’s Newest Religion: No Religion.” While starting off as a decent bit of reportage about the rise of nonbelief and secularism, it suddenly descends into slander and clickbait, highlighting the “privilege” of nonbelief, the dominance of atheism by white males, and accusations that the “leaders” of atheism (whom they name) are misogynists. Here are some excerpts:

. . . The secularizing West is full of white men. The general U.S. population is 46 percent male and 66 percent white, but about 68 percent of atheists are men, and 78 percent are white. Atheist Alliance International has called the gender imbalance in its ranks “a significant and urgent issue.”

And this (my emphasis):

The Privilege of Not Believing

There are a few theories about why people become atheists in large numbers. Some demographers attribute it to financial security, which would explain why European countries with a stronger social safety net are more secular than the United States, where poverty is more common and a medical emergency can bankrupt even the insured.

Atheism is also tied to education, measured by academic achievement (atheists in many places tend to have college degrees) or general knowledge of the panoply of beliefs around the world (hence theories that Internet access spurs atheism).

. . . The social factors that promote atheism—financial security and education—have long been harder to attain for women and people of color in the United States.

Around the world, the Pew Research Center finds that women tend to be more likely to affiliate with a religion and more likely to pray and find religion important in their lives. That changes when women have more opportunities. “Women who are in the labor force are more like men in religiosity. Women out of the labor force tend to be more religious,” says Conrad Hackett with Pew. “Part of that might be because they’re part of a religious group that enforces the power of women being at home.”

In a Washington Post op-ed about the racial divides among atheists, Black Skeptics Group founder Sikivu Hutchinson points out that “the number of black and Latino youth with access to quality science and math education is still abysmally low.” That means they have fewer economic opportunities and less exposure to a worldview that does not require the presence of God.

Religion has a place for women, people of color, and the poor. By its nature, secularism is open to all, but it’s not always as welcoming.

Some of the humanist movement’s most visible figures aren’t known for their respect toward women. Prominent atheists Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins have awful reputations for misogyny, as does the late Christopher Hitchens. Bill Maher, the comedian and outspoken atheist, is no (nonexistent) angel, either.

Remember, this is National Geographic! O, magazine, have you no sense of decency, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?

I’m not sure why this article descends from journalism to unsupported assertions based on anecdotes, and finally to slander and ad hominems (check the links to see its “sources” for indicting atheism); but I showed it to Grania, who sent me the following response (she was one of the active members of the Atheist Ireland organization). I quote her response directly (it’s indented), and with permission. Be sure to read the whole National Geographic piece first.

  1.  Belonging to an atheist group is a self-selecting process. It’s probably safe to say that the majority of non-believers in the USA and Europe don’t belong to a formal humanist/secularist/atheist group, see no reason to, and often don’t have the time to devote to it. It is not at all accurate to attribute this to dislike of perceived “leaders”. In most cases atheist NS and secularist groups exist for the purposes of political advocacy—something that a lot of people have no interest in.
  1. It is completely skewed to claim that because there are only a small group of people who have become global household names in atheism (at least on the internet) this is therefore representative of atheism as a whole. If you look at atheist and humanist groups around the world (who have nothing at all to do with Dawkins et al.), they have plenty of women both as leaders as well as members. Although there is often a gender imbalance, it would be tendentious, and probably dishonest, to claim that this was all about sexism. Instead of complaining that there aren’t enough women in atheism, they could try promoting the existing women in atheism. Increased visibility of the thousands that are already there would probably attract more women. These women include Jane Donnelly of Atheist Ireland, Shappi Khorsandi of British Humanists, Jen Peebles of Atheist Community of Austin, Sarah Haider (co-founder of the Ex-Muslims of North America), and Inna Shevchenko, anti-religious activist and head of FEMEN. Annie Laurie Gaylor is already quite prominent (and effective) as co-President of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, but is often left off the AL’s lists of “atheist leaders”.
  1. There is an awful habit of dismissing of the “wrong” kind of women in atheism, i.e., any women who a few bloggingheads have decided are not the type of woman they approve of. These women range from Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Eiynah (“Nice Mangoes”) to the women mentioned in point 3—women who do real work in real atheist organisations, and work that has a genuine and measurable affect on the communities in which they live.

JAC: I’ll add that the notion of nonbelieving being a “privilege” is a canard based on a half-truth. The word “privilege”, of course, is one used by authoritarian leftists (ALs) to denote that one has an undeserved advantage based on race, background, class, and so on. It is a pejorative term, and if you have “privilege” you are supposed to admit it and try to expunge its effects (racism, etc.) from your behavior. But the “privilege” of atheism is not like this.

I do think that nonbelief spreads when people are no longer so destitute, oppressed, or laden with feelings that society doesn’t care about them that they turn to God for succor. That was Marx’s thesis, and I agree with him. Religion will largely disappear when societies learn to take better care of their members—something instantiated in the nations of northern Europe. This is noted in the National Geographic piece.

But the oppression, despair, and destitution that keep minorities religious is not the fault of atheists, and we should not see atheist “privilege” as something that we need to expiate or be ashamed of. Indeed, some religions gain power from trying to keep the disenfranchised satisfied with a substandard life, promising that the next one will be better (cf. Mother Teresa).

I believe that to rid the world of religion, we need to raise the water level to float everyone’s boat: create the kind of “successful societies” (à la Greg Paul) that eliminate the need for religion. This is where atheism and humanism make common cause. But the religiosity of the oppressed, and of minorities, can in no way be pinned on the nonreligious, or on their supposed failure to welcome minorities.

Here’s one reaction to the National Geographic piece, which really is a travesty—the conversion of a once-respectable magazine into a clickbait venue that’s going the way of BuzzFeed. Bullard’s journalist ethics, and efforts, are reprehensible. It’s truly sad.

Author Bullard didn’t bother interviewing anybody but AL atheists, although plenty of people would take issue with his claims. As one commenter noted, “Whaa?? NatGeo is quoting salon.com, accusing Dawkins of misogyny?? Is this Tumblr, am I lost?”

Another comment:

Screen Shot 2016-04-23 at 9.05.29 AM

h/t: JT

212 Comments

  1. rickflick
    Posted April 23, 2016 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    Oh my! I wish I had a subscription so I could cancel.

    • Posted April 23, 2016 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      Yes!

    • Fizicks
      Posted April 25, 2016 at 10:07 am | Permalink

      lol I was thinking the same thing.

    • Posted April 28, 2016 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

      You can do just as much by not clicking on links to their page or articles, and encouraging others to stop going to the site. This will cost them money. Another way is to write emails to their sponsors and tell them you can’t support companies who back discriminatory organizations like National Geographic.

  2. Michael Waterhouse
    Posted April 23, 2016 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    More of the same erroneous tripe.
    It is really sad to see so many reputations being reduced to a pathetically simplistic wrong account of so much.

    Don’t forget how quickly Tim Hunt was brought down, with no possibility of redress. Sam and Richard have redress but that they have to spend so much time defending themselves is a joke. And the value of those attacking them is minute in comparison.
    Sam is not sexist, Richard either, or Hitchens.
    Of course the world is riddled with people incapable of understanding nuance or humour but extremely capable of complete character assassination on the basis of a single misunderstood sentence.

    But I think there is growing awareness of how absurd and childish and regressive it is becoming and the tide may be turning, if we stay on it.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted April 23, 2016 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

      Excellent post Jerry!

      It came as some surprise to me that Sam Harris​ and Christopher Hitchens had reputations as misogynists, and anyone who knows anything knows that of Richard Dawkins​ is thoroughly undeserved.

      It is because society is still racist, sexist etc that there are more white men who identify as atheists. It is not the fault of atheism, but of religion that so many women and people of colour still feel the need for supernatural succour.

  3. Posted April 23, 2016 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Maria Popova had a witty and beautifully written tweet in defense of Sam Harris:

    “I support @SamHarrisOrg with both of my X chromosomes and remain in awe at his thoughtfulness against baseless bile.”

    It made me smile.

    • Posted April 23, 2016 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

      That is great; I didn’t know about that. Did she tw**t that recently? If so, do you have a link?

      • Peter
        Posted April 23, 2016 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

        • Posted April 23, 2016 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

          Nice! I have a lot more respect for her now.

          • Posted April 23, 2016 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

            I don’t like the woo-ish feel to some of Maria Popova’s thoughts regarding spirituality, but I love her persistent presence of positivity and think she’s a fantastic writer. I, too, was surprised by her tweet. It makes my heart happy to see people who integrate their emotion and reason differently than I do.

  4. dabertini
    Posted April 23, 2016 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    “Religion has a place for women, people of color, and the poor.”

    Really? Is this idiot Bullard that dumb? Sure it has a place for women as long as it is not a place where power is involved.

    • harrync
      Posted April 23, 2016 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      Religion appeals to the destitute and oppressed; more women than men are religious. I wonder if there is some sort of connection there?

    • Les
      Posted April 23, 2016 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

      The Church with the highest proportion of female leaders is the Unitarian U. Church which has mostly atheists. The more atheistic, more female leaders.
      Madalyn Murray O’Hair founded American Atheists, for Thor’s sake.
      Conversely, even a multiple amputee could count the female Catholic priests, mullahs, and Hindu priests on their fingers.

    • Posted April 23, 2016 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

      Just asking readers of the National Geographic: According to your observations, when the magazine features a religion, does it portray its outstanding adherents as misogynists, as it does the New Atheists?

    • steve
      Posted April 24, 2016 at 6:07 am | Permalink

      Sure religion has many PLACES for women. At the back of the church, in a separate prayer space, in the kitchen.

      It’s all good as long as women know their place!

      (sarc)

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted April 24, 2016 at 11:36 am | Permalink

        You forgot the “barefoot” and “pregnant” tropes.
        Ummm, descending into Twi**ese, #QuiverFull

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted April 24, 2016 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

          Barefoot is sexy. Kitchens ain’t. Pregnant ain’t.

          I just have no idea where this ‘barefoot’ being linked to subjection of women came from. In my personal world going barefoot is a form of liberation.

          cr

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted April 24, 2016 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      “Religion has a place for women, people of color, and the poor.”

      Indeed it does. Supporting the crushing boot of religion with their throats.

  5. Matt
    Posted April 23, 2016 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    Religious people give more to charity? True because the church demands it of them. But lets all sit up and take note that giving charity to poor people has never done anything to end the situation of people being poor in the first place. The church is aligned, as it always has been, with the power structure of societies. And that’s exactly what the power structure wants. Middle class people giving charity to poor people. This way, rich people don’t have to give to poor people or change the laws of society to rid us of poverty altogether.

    Giving charity to the poor is by design, a way of distracting people from doing something about the systemic inequities that make poor people in the first place. If I have a choice between sharing a society with people who give pittances to the poor on a regular basis, over people who fight the system politically to end poverty and inequity I’ll take the latter thanks.

    There are of course many other things wrong with this article but I just wanted to destroy this horse shit that religious people giving more to charity means they care more about poor people. Everyone needs to read Hitch’s “The Missionary Position.”

    • ploubere
      Posted April 23, 2016 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

      I’d like to see some data on charitable donations, specifically whether giving to one’s church is counted, because that is tax-deductible in the U.S., isn’t it? And most donations to churches do not get used to help the poor but rather to maintain the church itself and its employees.

      • EvolvedDutchie
        Posted April 23, 2016 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

        Exactly. I think there are a lot of Christian charities that are not charitable at all.

      • Robert bray
        Posted April 24, 2016 at 9:25 am | Permalink

        The LDS ‘expects’ that its members pay the church a 10% tithe of their annual income. Mitt Romney is an LDS member in good standing. In 2012 his income tax return showed an income of about $12 million (not his wealth, merely his income for that year). If he paid the tithe, he enriched the LDS church by about $1.2 million. If this tithe were fully tax-deductible–and I know of no reason it wouldn’t be–then this would be one good reason he was federally taxed at only a bit more than 14%, or less than ‘the typical middle-class American worker pays.’ [figures from CNN.com]

        What the Mormon church does with such tithing, from members big and small, is become richer and richer. Its net worth in 2012 was about $40 billion, with annual tithing contributing as much as $8 billion[www.bloomberg.com/…/how-the-mormons-make-money]. The part of this enormous wealth beyond tithing comes from commercial investments, some of which (most of which?) are not taxable. This means that LDS is in effect an international mega-corporation that for the most part does not have to pay taxes on its holdings. And this despite the reality that most of its profits–and that’s what they are and all they are–are reinvested with a single goal in view: to make the LDS ever bigger and more powerful.

    • Simon
      Posted April 23, 2016 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

      The Xtians in my neck of the woods are big on charity, taking personal interest in the welfare of others. They do this because they believe that it is their Xtian duty to do so and that does not preclude their taking an interest in politics. In fact, church leaders have a history of protesting societal injustice.

      I have a number of devout Xtian friends and their impenetrable wall of faith drives me nuts, but they are very good positive people and their company is preferrable to that of cynics who would rather bash the church than acknowledge the aid given to the destitute. Xtian charity is not stopping anyone from working toward political change. The poor are still starving in the meantime and I am glad that at least someone is doing something for some of them in the present.

      One could very easily turn this criticism around and attack the motives and attitudes of the politically active, especially as so many of them appear to be closed minded ideologs more motivated by the chips on their shoulders than the intention to really help anyone.

      • Matt
        Posted April 24, 2016 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

        “The poor are still starving in the meantime and I am glad that at least someone is doing something for some of them in the present.”

        Yikes. Extreme poverty would not exist in the present if not for religious institutions and their acting in cahoots with the rich overlords to keep the masses ignorant and compliant. It’s like giving credit to slave owners for being so good as to feed their slaves for free. “I for one am glad someone is feeding the slaves.”

    • phil
      Posted April 23, 2016 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

      Interesting that you mention Hitch. I am rereading “god Is Not Great” and in it he lambasts churches for impeding the one thing that has been shown to reduce poverty, the empowerment of women. So much for his misogyny.

      • Matt
        Posted April 24, 2016 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

        Indeed, granting men dominion over women distracts them from noticing that the church has dominion over them. The church needs the masses to stay poor because with wealth comes education. And education of the masses is the worst thing in the world for the church.

  6. Posted April 23, 2016 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Atheism is a philosophical position on the likelihood that the universe was designed by a supernatural intelligence. The universe, we may be sure, is indifferent to the numbers of believers or nonbelievers whose skin is this colour or that.

    As for misogyny, the question is not whether somebody has an awful “reputation” but whether that “reputation” is justified. Charles Darwin said, “Great is the power of steady misrepresentation.” If you repeat a lie often enough and with sufficient persistence, a significant number of people will come to believe it. This is exactly what has been happening with the misogyny “reputation” smear.

    • Scote
      Posted April 23, 2016 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

      “IAs for misogyny, the question is not whether somebody has an awful “reputation” but whether that “reputation” is justified. Charles Darwin said, “Great is the power of steady misrepresentation.” If you repeat a lie often enough and with sufficient persistence, a significant number of people will come to believe it.”

      It seems especially odd for atheists to fall for oft repeated, but unproven, claims given that atheism involves resisting the oft repeated, but unproven, claim that God is real. One would hope that such skepticism would be a general principle rather than something only applied selectively.

      • Stephen
        Posted April 23, 2016 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

        “It seems especially odd for atheists to fall for oft repeated, but unproven, claims given that atheism involves resisting the oft repeated, but unproven, claim that God is real. One would hope that such skepticism would be a general principle rather than something only applied selectively.”

        Exactly how I feel when I read the Mythicist literature.

        • Scote
          Posted April 23, 2016 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

          ““It seems especially odd for atheists to fall for oft repeated, but unproven, claims given that atheism involves resisting the oft repeated, but unproven, claim that God is real. One would hope that such skepticism would be a general principle rather than something only applied selectively.”

          Exactly how I feel when I read the Mythicist literature.”

          I agree completely. The Mythicist position, like atheism, resists the oft repeated but unproven proposition. God is not proven and neither is historical Jesus, nor can historicsts even agree on a non-goal post moving definition of what would concretely constitute a historical Jesus. (As with definitions of god, definitions of “historical” Jesus tend to get murky when supporters get into a spot of bother…) That is what you meant, right?

          • Stephen
            Posted April 23, 2016 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

            The operative words were “to fall for…”.

          • phil
            Posted April 23, 2016 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

            Well, I respond by pointing out that mythicism has not much history as a mainstream field, if it has any, so one might expect some jostling about definitions and meanings.

            If the mythicist view became well established in academia then biblical studies, whether by believers or atheists, would be reduced to something less than literature studies, and believers would be outed as fantasists.

            In my view there was a person called Jesus way back then, but the bible doesn’t talk about him.

            • Robert bray
              Posted April 24, 2016 at 9:31 am | Permalink

              ‘In my view there was a person called Jesus way back then, but the bible doesn’t talk about him.’

              Well, then, who among his putative contemporaries DOES talk about him?

              Ben Goren, among others, has addressed this issue many times here on WEIT.

              • phil
                Posted April 24, 2016 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

                “Well, then, who among his putative contemporaries DOES talk about him?”

                Who exactly, the real Jesus(s) (probably nobody) or the biblical Jesus? My point was that although there were probably many men called Jesus who existed two thousand years ago in Palestine, the bible stories are not about any of them, i.e. about a real existing person. Sure the stories may include aspects of ordinary life, but since the stories are for the most part fantasy, they are not about real people. They should be viewed as, at best, historic fiction: although the names of real people are used the stories only potray the actual lives of these people in superficial ways. The Jesus character in the bible is most likely to be fictional.

      • phil
        Posted April 23, 2016 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

        Not all that odd. I say am an atheist simply because I don’t believe in gods, and I don’t believe in gods (it seems to me) simply because I cannot find it in me any reason or motivation to believe. To be sure my belief is bolstered by philosophical arguments against belief, but my disbelief existed first.

        At one stage in my life I thought I was a christian, went to church, etc, etc, but I gave up after a couple of years when it finally dawned on me that I didn’t, and possibly couldn’t, believe in gods. I suspect the real reason I don’t believe is that I was not indoctrinated as a child. Since then then I have become acquainted with arguments for and against belief, and my disbelief has become stronger.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted April 24, 2016 at 11:42 am | Permalink

        It seems especially odd for atheists to fall for oft repeated, but unproven, claims given that atheism involves resisting the oft repeated, but unproven, claim that God is real

        To be honest, I suspect that most of these servings of tripe (a much maligned dish, I should add) are aimed at preaching to the choir of believers, not at attempting a re-conversion of the unbelievers.

  7. Posted April 23, 2016 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Religion is the largest purveyor of misogyny in the world.

    • rickflick
      Posted April 23, 2016 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

      Obviously.

  8. Posted April 23, 2016 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    The first sign of NatGeo’s decline that I saw was in an article, appearing shortly after the ownership catastrophe, that equated “spontaneous remission” with “regression to mean.” That was when I knew that it was, indeed, all over.

    • Posted April 23, 2016 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

      When was this?

    • DiscoveredJoys
      Posted April 23, 2016 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

      I have a hypothesis (which may be prejudice on my part) that much of the newspaper and magazine output has become skewed over the last 20 years or so.

      Far more so than in the past newspapers and magazine no longer aspire to inform but merely pander to peoples’ expectations (so that the publication can make money by selling advertising). Article writers become valued for their rhetoric rather than their rigour.

      I cancelled my subscription to New Scientist several years ago because it had swung from articles about science to articles about scientific personalities and opinions – and exaggerated scare stories. The editorial comments became more ‘right on’ too. Perhaps the National Geographic is going the same way?

    • phil
      Posted April 24, 2016 at 12:03 am | Permalink

      Not to be confused with “spontaneous emission” or “nocturnal emission”, the latter being something connected with the space program IIRC.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted April 24, 2016 at 11:46 am | Permalink

        You had a thing for Valentina Tereshkova? No sin there.

        • phil
          Posted April 24, 2016 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

          I had to google her name.

  9. Diana MacPherson
    Posted April 23, 2016 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    There aren’t a lot of women in leadership positions in atheism because there aren’t a lot of women in leadership period. It isn’t a reflection of atheism but probably a reflection of society right now as a whole. I agree with Grania that we ought to promote existing women in atheism instead of fret about getting more women into atheism. I think the latter will take care of itself. It’s the same argument I had when I heard the whole “how to get women into STEM” where I used to work and the answer was give scholarships. “What about me! I’m here now and want to leave!” I shouted. To no one. Of course, I am who I am whether their are women in atheism or not.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 23, 2016 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

      *there

    • Scote
      Posted April 23, 2016 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

      “There aren’t a lot of women in leadership positions in atheism because there aren’t a lot of women in leadership period.”

      Funny how the author didn’t bother to compare the number of women in top leadership positions in atheism with the number in top leadership positions in Christianity and Islam, where they are often *prohibited* from even having them. One of the ways to get instantly excommunicated from the Catholic church is attempted ordination of a woman – something that being a child molester, or even *literally* being Hitler doesn’t get you.

      • Posted April 23, 2016 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

        This is my experience, and it’s just an anecdote, but I find atheist groups more egalitarian and female-friendly than other groups I’ve been part of, including scientists. There’s no basis, I think, for the claim that atheism is ESPECIALLY scornful of women. There are sexists everywhere, of course, and we must always strive for gender equality, but articles like this give the impression that atheist groups are especially sexist, more so than other groups. I know of no data that demonstrate that.

        • Posted April 23, 2016 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

          In my atheists-majority country, I have never heard believers accusing atheists in misogyny, only in amorality.

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted April 24, 2016 at 11:48 am | Permalink

            I’m sure your believers who read NG will add a new line to their range of insults.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted April 23, 2016 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

        Also gets you booted out of Mormon club too.

        • Scote
          Posted April 23, 2016 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

          “Also gets you booted out of Mormon club too.”

          You don’t even have to attempt it to get kicked out of Mormon club, just support the idea. Mormon clinical psychologist and counselor John Dehlin got excommunicated at least in part for his support for the idea of the ordination of women in the LDS church.

          https://www.ksl.com/?sid=33422568&nid=148&title=john-dehlin-excommunicated-from-lds-church

          s
          But, of course, it is *atheists* who are the misogynists…
          /s

          Perhaps Gabe Bullard could point to major atheist groups that prohibit women from holding leadership positions?

    • Victoria
      Posted April 23, 2016 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

      Well said. ‘Social justice’ is very particularistic. Your observation about leadership is so obvious, yet they miss it.

      They love to talk about ‘systemic racism’ of course, but ignore systemic economic issues and levels of violence against women. I mean of you went off of SJ rhetoric you would never know racist violence happens like two orders of magnitude less than gendered violence or that working-class white people are in a precarious position.

    • Stephen
      Posted April 23, 2016 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

      “leadership positions in atheism”?

      What are we a club now? The reason Dawkins and Dennett and Harris and Hitchens attained their notoriety is because they wrote bestselling books. Nobody forced anybody to read them at gunpoint. The reason they have an audience is because they built an audience.

      If people are not availing themselves of the wonderful work of Susan Jacoby or the wisdom of Tracie Harris don’t blame the “D’s” and the “H’s”.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted April 24, 2016 at 11:51 am | Permalink

        “leadership positions in atheism”?

        Positions are available. Chief Cat Herder. Assistant Cat Herder. Second Assistant Cat Herder.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted April 24, 2016 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

          Given the usual content, that might equally apply to WEIT 😉

          cr

  10. Geoff Toscano
    Posted April 23, 2016 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    The writer of this ridiculous article would do well to consider how it might be to be an atheist in, say, Bangladesh where the odds are you will be horrifically murdered for admitting your views.

    Live in a country which is both defined and governed by religion, where women aren’t people but chattels, told what they can wear, who they can marry, and even what they must think. Then come back and write about misogyny.

    It is truly sad that this is what National Geographic has become. Not unexpected, but sad.

    • ploubere
      Posted April 23, 2016 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

      sub.

  11. Posted April 23, 2016 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Some questions (rhetorical and real) come to mind:

    How much further will National Geographic descend until it becomes ‘Fox Nature’ or something of the equivalent?

    Why is every American journalistic vehicle falling to this onslaught of religious dogma and magical thinking?

    Is this the ‘last stand’ of religious advocates, which is to use Religion’s tax-free status to purchase channels of propaganda, or is this a new development in the US war on reason?

    • Posted April 23, 2016 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

      I think that this is the natural development of a journalistic vehicle in the USA and most if not all other places, because religion and magical thinking apparently have a larger audience. I also guess that using woo in journalistic work requires less investment than strictly adhering to evidence.

      • phil
        Posted April 24, 2016 at 12:20 am | Permalink

        I’m not sure about the specifics of NG, but it seems to me that all magazines, newspapers, etc, are facing existential crises because of the effects of the interwebs.

        Here in Oz we have a fairly strong gov’t funded public broadcaster (well, two actually). Because it uses public money it is severely scrutinised for bias (mostly from the right), and not without some justification. There are complaints against it from privately (i.e. Murdoch) owned papers that because the ABC provides free content it is taking business away from the private media groups, and so private groups are deprived of funding.

        This argument is false really, because the private publications are funded by advertising, and the advertising money is not flowing to the ABC, it is simply being redeployed to other privately funded media outlets. The real issue is greater competition from other private entities, including the rise of new internet based media channels.

        The effect of this is that private media vehicles will have to resort to different ways of increasing revenue, and reducing costs, and one way to reduce costs is to reduce quality and publish more sensational rubbish.

        Thank dog for public broadcasters I say.

      • phil
        Posted April 24, 2016 at 12:44 am | Permalink

        Part 2

        If it weren’t for publicly funded, well scrutinsied media organisations the broader public would be almost bereft of reliable information sources. While it isn’t perfect the ABC does a pretty good job (with the added bonus of no sodding ads! except for self promos) and sets a reasonable standard for other channels to emulate. Most accusations of bias are unsubstantiated, and inquiries into institutional bias come up empty handed.

        But privately (frequently Murdoch) owned media vehicles don’t have any burden of impartiality, and it shows. The usual defence is that they are privately owned and are paid for with their own money. This argument is disingenuous. They are funded mostly through advertising revenue, which is a hidden cost in everything we buy. We have no say in how it is spent and yet we cannot avoid paying it, it is less transparent than an outright tax. Furthermore it is a tax deductible expense, so in a sense it is subsidised by public monies.

        We will get a level playing field when private media companies are held to the same standards of quality and impartiality that our public media organisations have to bear. In the internet age it may be that only publicly funded or subsidised media organisations can continue to provide quality material of any description.

        To be clear, our ABC don’t publish many, if any magazines that I am aware of, but they do have extensive radio (AM and FM) and television networks across the country (which is nearly the size of the USA), and have a fairly prominent web presence offering a variety of services. Although it has plenty of detractors it has wide support across the country and about 70% (I think) of the population use its services.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted April 24, 2016 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      How much further will National Geographic descend until it becomes ‘Fox Nature’ or something of the equivalent?

      That is a matter of commercial confidentiality. But it’s obviously the aim.

  12. rickflick
    Posted April 23, 2016 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    I wonder how many of the former staff at NatGeo remain. I suspect many have left the organization. It’s pretty obvious, based on the above article, that the original cadre of editors has been diminished.

  13. Brujo Feo
    Posted April 23, 2016 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    To Grania’s list I would also add the always thought-provoking polemicist Greta Christina.

    • Simon
      Posted April 23, 2016 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

      Yes, we certainly need more SJW hypocrites in the atheist movement. Greta Christina, one of the lynch mob involved in the periodic SJW slacktivist putsches against prominent atheists.

      It boggles the mind how one can simultaneously be part of the SJW thought police force and write rape porn fiction. Greta somehow manages that without snapping her own spine with contortions. A prime example of the SJW it’s OK when we do it principle.

      • Brujo Feo
        Posted April 23, 2016 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

        Simon, apparently there is much that I don’t know about her. All that I’ve read by her is straightforward atheist-theory argumentation stuff, which she writes very well indeed. I’ve never read anything by her that could even be remotely classified as SJW, thought police, criticisms of other atheists, let alone porn, rape or otherwise.

        It sounds like I may have been limited to a rather narrow slice of her total output. Too bad–never fun to find out that our “gods have feet of clay.”

        • Michael Waterhouse
          Posted April 23, 2016 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

          What you say of her is correct and what Simon said is correct.
          It can be tricky.
          She is the one that prompted Sam to write the “I’m not the sexist you’re looking for” remark.
          An unfair, simple minded attack on him.
          There is more and she does write porn but that is ok, except for the hypocrisy.

        • Michael Waterhouse
          Posted April 23, 2016 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

          She also misrepresented Dakwins in elevatorgate thing, as did they all.
          There is a back story to elevatorgate, the ‘real’ story.
          It is not about what happened to Watson in the elevator but what happened to women who didn’t toe their version of feminist thinking. Other feminists.
          I am going on a bit because I liked her too, but things turned.
          And because I like to mention the Elevatorgate “real” story.

  14. Posted April 23, 2016 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure in the first place what this article was doing in NG.

    I’m sorry I canceled my subscription 2 years ago.

    How about all the religious leaders who have led folks into war. Think Crusades, or Albigensians or Cathars or Inquisition. Not to mention St Bartholomew’s.

  15. Kevin
    Posted April 23, 2016 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    Religion has a place for women…beneath men. No greater justification for inequality exists besides that which resides in the transcendental.

    Log another confused human who equates belief with atheism.

  16. Vaal
    Posted April 23, 2016 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    That Salon article on Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris is one of the worst hack jobs I’ve ever seen.

    It’s just irresponsible for the National Geographic writer to blithely link to inaccurate, slanderous articles, rather than investigate first whether the charges were deserved.

    National Geographic should be embarrassed.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted April 24, 2016 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

      National Geographic should be embarrassed.

      Murdoch rags don’t do “embarrassed”.
      No, seriously. Look at the string of court-ordered apologies, prosecutions for invasion of privacy, and murderous exploitation of their readers and sources. Even repellent behaviour such as their coverage of the Hillsborough Disaster, blaming the victims for their deaths, barely received the most grudging of “not-pologies.” And that was only courtesy of losing most sales in on of Britain’s larger cities for well over a decade, at considerable financial cost.
      Nope, Murdoch brought NG, and when we heard the news, we knew what was going to happen. It is happening. We may not like it, but “Eppur si muove”.

  17. Posted April 23, 2016 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    I’m sure it happens all the time — a woman stops believing in God; Bill Maher makes a supposedly sexist wisecrack, and she immediately runs back into the loving arms of Jesus….

    I always notice how those who say atheism is the reserve of privileged white males, can only ever name Richard Dawkins, Hitch, Sam Harris and Bill Maher.

    If they read Dawkins’ twitter feed, looked at Maher’s guest list, or read Harris (or read WEIT) they would quickly be cured of their ignorance in this regard.

    • Sastra
      Posted April 23, 2016 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

      I wondered about the same thing — is National Geographic implying that there are fewer female atheists statistically because some of the leading figures are “sexist?” How is that supposed to work?

      Woman: “The more I think about it the less sense the concept of God makes. When viewed in the light of modern science — eeek! I just read in Salon that Sam Harris said that women are attracted by a ‘nurturing, coherence-building extra estrogen vibe!’ That’s sexist! I can’t handle a world view which has members who think that! Reason be damned. There IS a God! I NEED my faith! No WAY will I ever become an atheist now!”

      I don’t know. That seems kinda sexist to me.

      • Posted April 23, 2016 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

        Yes — the ladies need to be treated politely or they can’t think straight anymore, the poor dears.

        And Dawkins, Harris and Maher are such raging misogynists that they’re driving the ladies to go back to the Catholic Church, where they’re rights will be respected.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted April 23, 2016 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

          Yeah, watching Real Time has turned me into a god-fearing born again Christian. – no woman ever.

      • Simon
        Posted April 23, 2016 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

        It’s supposed to be because we male atheists are “dudebros” fighting to keep the “movement”, whatever that is, a misogynistic white male boys club so we can exclude those icky tinted people and prey on defenceless women at conferences. According to PZ Myers, atheism was involved in a battle between those who saw women as “fucktoys” and the good people like himself.

        In reality, a tiny fraction of atheists ever attend skeptic/atheist events and would be consequently uninfluenced by whatever happened at those circle-jerking booze fests. The only thing scaring women away has been the megaphones alleging misogyny.

        Funnily enough, it was Paula Kirby, in part, who caused Rebecca Watson to kick of the whole Elevatorgate thing when she recounted her experience as a recruiter of conference speakers that women tended just not to want to do it and that sexism/misogyny didn’t have a lot to do with it. Watson was having none of that and snarkily tried to school Kirby. the rest is history.

        I don’t think most guys would even have noticed if a speaker line up had been 80% women until the misogyny police made it an issue.

        • Michael Waterhouse
          Posted April 23, 2016 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

          Yes, and then thought to school another couple of young women (nastily), who happened to disagree with her. She and PZ, and that is the real elevatorgate story.

    • Posted April 23, 2016 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

      Even if the correlation was proven, it is not yet causation. Atheism is, or is expected to be, more common among educated people, and white males are generally better educated than other groups.

      • Posted April 23, 2016 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

        The article conflates membership of organizations with numbers of atheists. There no doubt are more white males, but as far as I know they’re not in any position to prevent anyone from becoming an atheist, even if they wanted to!

      • simon
        Posted April 23, 2016 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

        White males over a certain age, maybe.

        • Posted April 23, 2016 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

          To prevent males from losing the advantage, my medical school practices affirmative action by accepting equal number of male and female freshmen. This way, hard-studying women are forced to compete between themselves. However, I have never heard about quotes for females in engineering schools. It seems that, whenever males spontaneously show better performance, everyone understands that it makes no sense to toss out a capable prospective student just because s/he is of the wrong sex.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted April 24, 2016 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

      Providing evidence to those who reject the importance of evidence (people of faith), is a waste of time. A WOMBAT, even.

      W aste
      O f
      M oney
      B rains
      A nd
      T ime.

  18. Posted April 23, 2016 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    ~~

  19. nicholas.v
    Posted April 23, 2016 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    “National Geographic gets you closer to the stories that matter. Through the world’s best scientists, photographers, journalists, and filmmakers, National Geographic captivates and entertains a global community…”

    Oh well, so much for good intentions. This piece is almost as good as Gabe’s “KFC Brings the (Cultural) Heat With New Nashville Hot Chicken” for same previously intelligent magazine.

    Pardon the indulgence in sarcasm, it’s just that this disappointment is not so easily dismissed. So, to the point, I sincerely hope that the editorial leadership and budget are immediately and critically placed under review.

    Bravo to the alleged misogynists for enduring this nonsense with grace and intelligence.

    To find something positive in all of this, I will say that the writer’s article on fried chicken wasn’t so bad.

  20. Posted April 23, 2016 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    Religious people do not give more to charity. They give more to themselves, claimed as charity in the form of nice new churches, sound systems, paying for their cheerleaders, etc.

    If religious people gave more to charities than anyone else, why does my local mission have to repeatedly ask the entire community to meet their expenses? There are ten pages in my yellow pages with just churches. One would think they could support one mission together.

    • Simon
      Posted April 23, 2016 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

      They certainly do around here.

      • Posted April 24, 2016 at 7:34 am | Permalink

        how and where is “here”?

        • Simon
          Posted April 24, 2016 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

          South Africa. They give money to their church to support missions in the townships which provide material support. A church I know well here in Port Elizabeth also supports development/aid projects as far afield as Malawi and regularly travel up there (at the volunteer’s own expense) by road to implement these projects. The pastor is very conscientious about minimising overheads and making sure the money goes where it is supposed to. They control millions in funding. I’m sure they are many times more efficient than government aid would be. They also run a church funded orphanage.

          I know a number of people who have been helped out of poverty by the same church, without excessive proselytising.

          • Posted April 24, 2016 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

            there should be no proselytizing at all if one is honestly looking to help people and not simply gain external validation. These supposed charities are not charities at all, their help is offered only for a price.

            You have no evidence at all that these people are any more efficient than government. Let me ask you, what is this church’s stand on birth control, AIDS, and other religions other than their own?

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted April 24, 2016 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

              Well, the Salvation Army here (NZ) do a lot of good work with the poor and often people who nobody else wants to touch. And I say that even though I’m utterly and bitterly opposed to their position on voluntary euthanasia.

              I think it’s a reckless position to take that no religious charity can be good or worthwhile. I would expect that charities would run the gamut from efficient, goal-focussed organisations that happen to be affiliated with a church, through to fraudulent shams who use the ‘charity’ or ‘non-profit’ label to avoid paying tax. I can think of examples of both types, and both religious and non-religious.

              cr

              • Posted April 25, 2016 at 6:08 am | Permalink

                I did not say that no religious charity can do good. I have said that religious people are no more charitable than others, and that their charity always comes with a price. For example, the SA does do good helping the poor; they also use their monies also to harm people e.g. their opposition to voluntary euthanasia. Your honestly charitable support goes to fund both. The religious organizations in my area claim that they are charitable, but can’t fund one mission that does indeed do good, and have mega church after mega church with great sound systems, etc. You are right, charities run the gamut.

    • Marilee Lovit
      Posted April 24, 2016 at 6:48 am | Permalink

      It would be interesting to offset the taxes churches (however loosely defined) do not pay, against the so-called charitable donations of believers to their churches.

  21. ploubere
    Posted April 23, 2016 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    I have had an NG subscription forever, but didn’t renew it this year, and told them it was because it was now a Murdoch publication. This bs confirms that I made the right decision. But it saddens me. Such a venerable institution, dating back to 1888, a non-profit society until being bought by Murdoch’s company last year and converted to for-profit. They also laid off more than 180 employees with the purchase.

    • Ken Phelps
      Posted April 23, 2016 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

      And what better place to start than with the writers, apparently.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted April 24, 2016 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

      I have had an NG subscription forever, but didn’t renew it this year, and told them it was because it was now a Murdoch publication.

      They’ll probably look at your ad-click-through-rate and say “not our target demographic anyway.”
      You do understand the financial realities of publishing?

  22. kelskye
    Posted April 23, 2016 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    The argument over the validity of religion has been pretty much purely on instrumental terms for a while now. The falsity of the doctrines is irrelevant.

    I suppose this is the consequence of asking “just what is religion for anyway?” rather than sticking to the question of the truth of the claims.

  23. Victoria
    Posted April 23, 2016 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    People note it is now a Murdock publication, but what this SJW-esque piece does is highlight the complicity of the identity politics/campus left in the increasing global-corporate power structure. Accusations of racism, misogyny, and Islamophobia, reagrdless of evidence, are their fundamental modus operandi.

    Identity politics divides people, preventing the exercise of class interest or national sovereignty. This is why the corporate right and campus left both agree on mass immigration, legal or otherwise. Another thing they are united in is ignoring environmental sustainability in any meaningful sense and overpopulation.

    Their religion is the destruction of the nation state, which even if a worthy longterm goal, is grossly and recklessly premature at this point.

    • Ken Phelps
      Posted April 23, 2016 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

      An excellent time to remind ourselves that the linear left/right spectrum is passe. It’s a circle with liberal on one side and totalitarians on the other. The Murdoch to SJW walk is a very short one.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted April 24, 2016 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

        While I agree that the left-right dichotomy is not now, and probably never was, a particularly accurate model, what is a better model is an open question.
        Personally, I find the left-right versus authoritarian-libertarian orthogonal axes that are used by the Political Compass more convincing than a circular model. I’ve often joked about being simultaneously to the right of Attila The Hun and to the left of Trotsky, but the closure implicit between the two doesn’t really convince.
        I am sure that others have their own preferred models.

  24. kelskye
    Posted April 23, 2016 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    I suppose when atheism is opposed to religion, and religion is a multi-faceted sociopolitical institution, then social, economic, and political factors are all going to play a role in whether one is willing or able to be an atheist. So in that light, we can’t really frame the question on the truth or falsity of the doctrines involved. Of course it seems absurd to go back on the metaphysical questions because of the personalities involved, but the powers of rationalisation and social bonds are powerful persuaders.

  25. Eduardo
    Posted April 23, 2016 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    I’m a non-white atheist. I’m 60 years old and I remember having very strong atheistic inclinations as early as 6 or 7 years old.
    I do understand that there are social factors that make it more or less probable that a person is a non-believer but I very much agree with Grania Spingies in her point #1: “Belonging to an atheist group is a self-selecting process”. I was an atheist long before I knew Dawkins or Harris existed. I do admire their brilliance, their courage, and the leadership they provide to a view I support, but at the end I have no need to have a leader or organized movement to accept me or validate my non-belief. On that level, I care as much that they are atheists as I care that they like green peppers on pizza like me.

    • Robert bray
      Posted April 24, 2016 at 9:47 am | Permalink

      Very well said!

  26. Posted April 23, 2016 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    //There is an awful habit of dismissing of the “wrong” kind of women in atheism, i.e., any women who a few bloggingheads have decided are not the type of woman they approve of.//

    I am waiting anxiously for the day when the same blogger-types who denounce perfectly legitimate statements by Harris or Ayaan Hirsi Ali, decide I am too “right-wing” for them.

    Atheists may attack Christianity with as much vitriol as they can manage, and it is acceptable because they are “punching up”. Meanwhile, when I do the same for the religion that has most impacted me, I am too often painted as at best uneducated (because colonialism/culture can explain it all), or at worst as a villain myself, aiding the worst among us.

    So I guess you can say there *is* something that makes it difficult for people of my thinking to participate in the atheist movement.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 23, 2016 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

      It seems atheist women behave no differently toward other women as they do anywhere else. It’s sad. I’ve seen so many women jealously try to destroy other talented women over and over and over. I’ve even witnessed women in leadership positions go after women at much lower levels. Perhaps this is part of the problem with women not being in leadership positions in general. They’re either pursuing the destruction of other women or trying to deal with other women relentlessly pursuing them.

      I have a feeling I’m going to be wear thing the “sister punisher” because I’ve mentioned this experience.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted April 23, 2016 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

        Wearing not “wear thing”. Darn iPad…I was using a keyboard for the love of….

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted April 24, 2016 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

          TBH, after using a “smart” phone for a year or so, when I first got a tablet, I immediately went out and got a combined cover and (Bluetooth) keyboard for it. Damned good investment.
          Also provides a very useful 3mm of padding around the edges and corners.

      • Michael Waterhouse
        Posted April 23, 2016 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

        Once upon a time there was something called conciousness raising.
        Something designed to recognize and tease out and improve or change negative ingrained thoughts.
        (This is a simplistic explanation of it)

        It was a great product of the womens movement.
        A great tool for men and women.

        But now with such absurd sensibilities and assertions that certain groups can have no faults, (sort of) and a refusal to deal maturely with issues, we are where we are at.
        And you can be so unfairly condemned.

      • phil
        Posted April 24, 2016 at 1:10 am | Permalink

        But do you think women do this more than men, is it just one of the less likeable behaviours of people in general?

        I accept that it would seem more disappointing in a disadvantaged group than a privileged group, but altruism is not universal.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted April 24, 2016 at 9:52 am | Permalink

          Yes men rarely behave in the same destructive ways women behave. If I’ve learned anything from working with alpha males in completitive environments, it’s that you should pay attention to and promote yourself. If someone is successful, it doesn’t mean that you are less successful. Many women never learn this. Instead, they waste time they could be spending on promoting and improving themselves on destroying other women who they perceive as a threat. Often these other women are women who appear successful….I’ve been on the receiving end of this many times and it’s why I prefer to work with men….sure, they can be jerks – talk over you, interrupt you, bully you in a totally different way. But other women, they’ll make it personal.

          Of course, there are women who have been great to me. Supportive, mentoring, and even protective (and also men who have been the same way) but such is my experience with the two genders.

          • Posted April 24, 2016 at 10:29 am | Permalink

            “That’s an excellent suggestion, Ms. MacPherson…”

            /@

            PS. I’m not sure what you’re preferred honorific is. I hope I didn’t offend! 😁

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted April 24, 2016 at 10:49 am | Permalink

              Haha! I had this happen to me recently. One time my director did it – ignored what I told him until my male colleague said it. So I treated the situation like he was my dad and the colleague was a sibling.

              “Oh sure, listen to him. Ignore me when I’ve been saying it a hundred times.”

              It was funny and my director looked sheepish.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted April 24, 2016 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

            This is because men’s egos are far too large to leave any room for contemplation of women. (Other than as sex objects). They will notice other (alpha) males as competitors to be combated, but women rarely threaten their mental position as #1.

            (Caveat: wild generalisation and stereotyping, of course!)

            cr

    • Simon
      Posted April 23, 2016 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

      Don’t worry, I’m sure they’ll get around to you eventually. In the interim they are probably just pretending you don’t exist because brown ex-muslims score low on privilege and high on victim points and are consequently inconvenient enemies. As your profile increases they will be forced to engage the disingenuous lying straw machine.

      Please don’t let them put you off though, because smears from within the “atheist movement” are inconsequential compared to the attacks from high profile religious apologists in the media. Being bitten on the ankles by PZ Myers and his odious “me too” lapdogs is no impediment to participation in the atheist movement.

      IMHO, though, you are far more effective just doing what you are doing and increasing your youtube presence than worrying about joining the atheist slacktivist “movement”.

    • Posted April 23, 2016 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

      Don’t forget, Sarah, that many of us admire what you’re doing. And by “us” I mean “all rational atheists.”

      • Michael Waterhouse
        Posted April 23, 2016 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

        Yep.

    • rickflick
      Posted April 23, 2016 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

      Hang in there Sarah. Your cause is noble. I didn’t know who you were until I checked. For others who may not be familiar:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WG_N3QltrWY

  27. Merilee
    Posted April 23, 2016 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    Sub

  28. zugzwanged
    Posted April 23, 2016 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    I am a committed Christian man, and the following thoughts are definitely not from the perspective of someone within the atheist movement. They are thoughts from the perspective of someone who appreciates a lot about the authors in question: even though I do not share their atheism, I have enjoyed and benefitted from their work on various subjects (evolution, tackling religious extremism, politics, etc.) over the years. I also feel a natural temperamental affinity with a number of them, and more so than with most people with whom I share my faith. I thought I would leave a comment here, not to concern troll, but because I am genuinely interested to know whether my tentative impressions are shared by any here.

    I don’t believe that Harris, Dawkins, Hitchens, et al are misogynists.

    However, I do believe that they tend to think and speak in ways that peculiarly resonate with particular types of men and which can be especially alienating and antagonizing for particular types of women. The issue isn’t misogyny, but temperament, personality, modes of thought and discourse, etc. Because they think and speak in the ways that they do, in ways that many women instinctively react against—perhaps especially contemporary feminism, which is highly shaped by certain more female-weighted styles of thought and discourse that are polar opposite to theirs—they get unfairly labelled as misogynists, when the issue is more with a culture and personality clash that often plays out along gendered lines.

    First, the key figures in the new atheist movement—Hitchens, Dawkins, Dennett, etc.—tended to come from the heavily masculine context of a traditional Oxbridge education. They are thick skinned members of an oral culture, habituated to combative but non-vicious debate in contexts where you are toughened up by being exposed to all sorts of contrary positions in their most developed forms and not being protected from anything. This culture of discourse is great at producing robust minds and rigorously stress-testing ideas and their bearers. However, it is the polar opposite of the sort of hyper-feminine environment of discourse that tends to arise in gender studies contexts, where sensitivity, victimhood, and appropriate deference are the order of the day. It is entirely unsurprising that Hitchens, Dawkins, Dennett, and their ilk should clash with feminists, who often treat their ideologies as sacred cows, immune to challenge or legitimate skepticism. This sort of ideology just goes right against their core instincts.

    Second, most leading male atheist figures come from a background in the hard sciences and belief in evolution is fairly central to their stance (the title of this blog being one example). They oppose religion because it is perceived to be incompatible with science. Yet among female atheists, their background is more likely to be in the humanities, and their opposition to religion is less from a scientific than from a left-wing social justice perspective. Their shared enemy does not mean that they are friends, though. Feminists are frequently no less ideologically resistant to science than many (other?) religious people. They recognize that evolution has rather a lot to say about enduring differences between the sexes, and that key tenets of their belief system may be no less threatened by it than those of religious people are.

    Third, the hard sciences/social sciences and humanities distinction deserves closer attention, especially as the former skews heavily male and the latter two far more female. Part of the appeal of the hard sciences for many is that reality truly doesn’t care about how we feel—it is entirely indifferent to political correctness, sensitivity, and social expediency. This is attractive to those of us who are constitutionally drawn to confrontational, challenging, and unsafe speech and ideas. By contrast, the humanities and social sciences intensively police speech and discourse for social reasons, tend to cushion people from the hard edges of reality, and handle conflict indirectly through pathologizing opponents, rather than directly engaging them (sometimes stereotypes about differences between male and female forms of conflict are uncomfortable close here). I follow many atheists online and I see many of them spending far more time and effort challenging people in the humanities and social sciences—many of whom will be committed atheists—than I see them challenging people of faith.

    Fourth, women are probably simply more naturally inclined to religious faith than men. There are general patterns that seem to be cross-cultural here. Christians frequently worry about how few men attend church: atheists are probably experiencing the flipside of a phenomenon that has natural causes in the differing likelihoods of particular casts of mind between the sexes. I like following rationalists, for instance, because I get much about the way that they think. It is nothing more than a heuristic test, and should be taken with generous helpings of salt, but I suspect that a radically disproportionate number of rationalist atheists are INTJ or INTP Myers-Briggs types (I speak as an INTJ). These types represent about 6.5% of the male population, but only 1.5% of the female population. Most of the population won’t grok key aspects of the ways that people like Dawkins or Hitchens think, simply because they are unusual personality types (although types highly selected for in certain contexts, like the rationalist community, or Oxbridge).

    Fifth, the feminist movement often tends to manifest hostility to skepticism, but skepticism is rather fundamental to the entire mode of thinking of male rationalists. Male rationalists are highly unlikely to just swallow big floppy concepts such as ‘rape culture’, ‘male privilege’, or ‘patriarchy’ without asking some challenging and ideologically unsettling questions, even when they agree with much that feminism stands for. They are typically going to react to the idea that we should ‘just believe’ the claims of someone who asserts that they have been raped, and will naturally be insistent upon proper cognitive processes over deference to protected or ideologically privileged persons or groups.

    Sixth, male rationalists can be contrarian and oppositional in their cognitive and discursive instincts, so tend to provoke conflicts where others would hold their tongues. They pride themselves on being uncowed by sacred cattle and on having the nerve to speak directly against bullshit. They do not typically go out of their way to be personable and agreeable, to avoid ruffling feathers. If they genuinely believe, as most people who truly believe in evolution believe—that men and women are different in ways that will make a real difference—they will come out and say it directly.

    Finally, Dawkins, Hitchens, and others are openly unpersuaded by and resistant to feminism in some of its most prominent forms. For instance, see Christopher Hitchens directly challenging the idea that the sexes are interchangeable in child-rearing and that it is a good thing for women to enter the workforce just as readily as men. Hitchens is clearly opposing an absolutely central tenet of modern feminism, but there is no evidence whatsoever that he does so out of anything other than a deeply unfashionable chivalry and belief in natural differences between men and women. In an age of hyperbole and ideological reactivity disbelief in feminist orthodoxies is enough to get one (quite unfairly) labelled as misogynistic. Many forms of social justice ideologies win by calling critics pathologizing names—misogynistic, transphobic, Islamophobic, etc. People who have the temerity to criticize feminist orthodoxies, despite their sacred status are assumed to be driven by misogyny, because most non-misogynistic people just determine that it’s easier to let the bullshit slide than to pay the price of challenging it. People like Hitchens and Dawkins, who stand out by the thickness of their skins, the strength of their backbones, and their immunity to shaming are anathema to ideologues because they refuse to show the deference that is supposedly due to them. That alone is sufficient to have them labelled as misogynists.

    In light of this final point, I think that it is important for the supporters of these individuals to do more than simply refute the unjust charge that they are misogynists. It is imperative to expose such charges for what they really represent: hostile attempts to close down challenge, to refuse the right of skepticism, to enforce religious-like orthodoxies, and to establish structures of deference to a new ideological priesthood. As long as more effort is expended on protecting people from such charges than on resisting the pretentions and intentions of the people who are making them, the more society will fall beneath the thrall of a new religion of ‘social justice’.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 23, 2016 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

      In order to make your arguments you really must beg a lot of questions. Maybe I’m not the typical woman, I can’t know that, I only know who I am. But I have a strong Humanities background and there was no coddling there. In fact, I was so used to the toughness in argument whether in class or on paper, that I had to dial it back when I started working and was perplexed at the sensitive nature of many in IT.

      I also find Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins to be real mensch. I see no misogyny there and can’t see where people get that.

      • zugzwanged
        Posted April 23, 2016 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for the response and the pushback, Diana.

        I don’t believe that there is such a thing as ‘the’ typical woman. However, there are significantly different distributions of personality types and traits between the two sexes and significant differences between certain male-dominated and certain female-dominated cultures of thought and discourse. There is extensive overlap in many areas, along with other areas that are far more weighted to one sex’s tendencies rather than the other’s. What I am highlighting here are general patterns of probability, not universal rules that apply to each and every individual. For instance, in the case of the personality differences that I mentioned, we don’t deny the existence of the many, many women who constitute 20% of INTJ/INTPs in observing that these are highly male-weighted personality types.

        Many of the greatest differences in social outcomes between the sexes don’t arise from universal differences between the sexes, the contexts that they create, or their homosocial groups, but from their sharply differing rates of representation at key extremes of personality, aptitude, interest, or specific traits, from the rather different weighting of their general tendencies, or from the more common expressions of their homosociality. These differences are probabilistic, rather than essentialistic, but nonetheless incredibly important and far-reaching in their effects.

        What I am suggesting is that part of what is taking place here is a conflict between a form of intellectual and social culture that skews heavily male and one that skews heavily female. They are both outliers in their own way and aren’t manifestations of any straightforward gender war (many women I know would share your impression and experience). However, the conflict will tend to express itself along gendered lines.

        • rickflick
          Posted April 23, 2016 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

          I fully agree. Women, in general, differ from men, in general in many ways, both obvious and subtle. They are similar in many ways, both obvious and subtle. It is completely probabilistic and really should not be a concern to anyone. This has nothing to do with the respect we must have for individuals as human beings and citizens no matter where they appear on the gender spectrum. The main problem is that there are many who try to make some sort of political hay out of this.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted April 23, 2016 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

          I’m not entirely convinced of personality types and how many males and females exhibit them. I know Myers-Briggs is very much discredited and the Big 5 are more what psychology uses. It may interest you to know that a recent study found liberal arts students (Humanities) test high for openness. I too test high for openness.

          It hasn’t been my experience that social sciences are as you say. I know some people studying political science and I don’t see any of that kind of crap. Could be it’s not prominent in Canada.

          I would be more convinced of your female personality assertions if I saw evidence of such things in the form of studies. I know that a divide I have found working in IT is I’ve encountered groups of people who make decisions and react solely on emotions. The rest of us more logic driven people (who can’t figure out why so many feelers are in IT) offend the feelers constantly.

          • zugzwanged
            Posted April 24, 2016 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

            Thanks for the continued discussion, Diana.

            I thought I’d rise to the challenge of your appeal for studies and wrote a looong comment containing dozens of relevant links to academic papers, etc. I suspect there were too many links for the comment to be accepted here, but I have uploaded it as a document, which can be accessed here, if you are interested.

            I will leave the conversation at this point, but thanks again for the interaction.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted April 24, 2016 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

              I hope you stick around WEIT. I agree there are a lot of things believers and non believers are allies on.

      • Simon
        Posted April 23, 2016 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

        Not disputing your personal experience, which I hope is still true to an appreciable degree in academia, but I have to say that the traits zugzwanged described seem to be ubiquitous in social studies. The supremacy of emotion, intolerance of criticism, love of selective censorship, victimhood, disdain for logic and the scientific method are very evident in today’s students. It’s been with us for a while, although perhaps not as widespread.

        Perhaps Humanities is too broad a term, encompassing classical studies and whatnot, which presumably still value logic.

        • charlize
          Posted April 23, 2016 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

          The Humanities spawned Women’s Studies after all for which one ought to have as much use as Morgan Freeman has for Black History Month and for similar reasons.

      • Linn
        Posted April 25, 2016 at 7:49 am | Permalink

        I agree with Diana here. I suppose I’m not a typical woman either. Of course, there are general differences between the genders, but as someone who has never seemed to fit the stereotype her whole life, I get quite tired of hearing that I’m supposed to behave like this or do that just because I’m a woman.
        I also know a lot of guys that get tired of being told that real men watch football, real men don’t read books or eat salads, real men should spend all their time working etc.

        I also have no clue where the idea that women need to be coddled comes from. In medical school and among doctors, we are more women than men now, and there’s no coddling going on. When I was in medical school, two girls got pregnant and had children. Their boyfriends took the whole maternal leave so that they could bring the babies to the mothers for breastfeeding between classes. They weren’t excused from any classes. There was also no polite speech or safe spaces. Our female teachers were even more strident and offensive than our male teachers in many cases. I can’t speak for social sciences, but I can say that there is no sign of coddling within the female dominated study of Medicine at least.

        I must agree that I have no clue why people think that Dawkins, Hitches and the rest are misogynistic. I consider them feminists.

        There are some misogynistic atheists though. I remember visiting an atheist transhumanist forum once and immediately leaving once I saw the list of topics. The forum was filled with topics like: “Why women are more stupid than men”. ” How to trick a girl into sleeping with you”. Why are women so stupid and irrational?” “What to do when a woman doesn’t want to have sex with you?”
        So we can’t deny that such idiots exist among us, but that’s no different than any other group in existence.

        And we atheists don’t have leaders. I’m getting tired of being told that Dawkins or Harris are my leaders. I only learned about their existence a few years ago. My atheist parents have no clue who they are. I don’t agree with Dawkins and Harris about everything, and I certainly don’t worship them or let them lead me anywhere.

        There. Rant over. 🙂

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted April 25, 2016 at 8:09 am | Permalink

          “I get quite tired of hearing that I’m supposed to behave like this or do that just because I’m a woman.”

          ‘Most women do X’ is a statistically legitimate observation (assuming it’s been measured accurately) and useful in a huge variety of fields from marketing to publishing to designing accommodation. (As is the corresponding observation about men).

          I agree that it’s quite illegitimate to suggest that therefore, as a woman, you _ought_ to do X.

          In fact any statistical study about identifiable groups of people could face the same criticism. I’m an individual with my own unique set of preferences; sadly, averaged out over 10,000 of me, I’m totally predictable. I can object all I like but the manufacturers will tailor their products to suit the other 9999 of me, for good financial reasons. (I still detest football though!)

          cr

          • Linn
            Posted April 25, 2016 at 8:48 am | Permalink

            I have no issues with studies done on the subject. It’s just that I don’t fit the stereotype so it’s quite annoying to hear that I’m supposed to be a certain way.
            I don’t think I’ve actually ever met someone who fits all the stereotypes about women/men or race as everyone will have something that sets them apart.

            Not to mention that the stereotypes vary greatly between cultures as well. The stereotype of how a woman should behave will be different in a south American tribe in the Amazonas than in Afghanistan, which again is different than in Norway.

            But I don’t disagree with you. Just getting annoyed when someone says things like: “real women like X because of their biology or real women don’t do Y because of biology!”
            It makes me wonder if I am some intermediate gender or an alien. 🙂

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted April 25, 2016 at 8:58 am | Permalink

              The danger of course is that because statistically your gender acts a certain way, people assume you will and treat you accordingly. I’ve had that happen with personality tests at work “oh don’t give that collaboration project to Diana because she tests as highly analytical.”

              I also wonder about the part that isn’t teased out about the universality of these claims (are they the same the world over or have only Western women been studied?) and how does nature vs. nurture come into play?

              Moreover, I find the idea that there are more women in Humanities and therefore the Humanities are illogical, really way off, especially if you note that many leadership positions are still often held by males in Humanities and it’s just plain insulting to generalize about both women and the Humanities this way. It takes me back to my school days where the common understanding was that girls can’t do math so when I struggled with math no one helped me because I was a girl and therefore just behaving as all girls do.

              • Linn
                Posted April 25, 2016 at 11:16 am | Permalink

                Completely agree. Especially the part about math not being for girls annoy me.
                2 women in my family were affected by that way of thinking.

                My cousin was extremely good at math and loved it, but she got no support from the school. She was pretty much punished for being better than the others. I don’t think that is only because she was a girl, but I do think it was a factor at least. Now she plays basketball instead, which is also nice, but I think society would benefit by helping intelligent girls pursue math, rather than sport.

                The other example is my mother. She originally wanted to be a doctor. At her time there were 2 general directions you could choose at high school. One let you study the “hard sciences” like biology, mathematics, physics etc. The other was called the English line where you had more language, politics, history and art. My mom was good at mathematics, but everyone, including the school counselor, told her that girls were supposed to choose the English studies.
                So my mom did that, and she became a nurse instead like women were supposed to be at the time.
                She loves how medical school and law school is overrun with women now. It’s a sort of revenge I suppose. 😛

            • Posted April 25, 2016 at 11:32 am | Permalink

              This might be apropos: A Story On Why You Should Not Design for Average.

              Before the competition, the judges assumed most entrants’ measurements would be pretty close to the average, and that the contest would come down to a question of millimetres. The reality turned out to be nothing of the sort. Less than 40 of the 3,864 contestants were average size on just five of the nine dimensions and none of the contestants came close on all nine dimensions. Just as Daniels’ study revealed there was no such thing as an average-size pilot, the Norma Look-Alike contest demonstrated that average-size women did not exist either.

              /@

            • Posted April 25, 2016 at 11:37 am | Permalink

              PS. Implicit. I assume the same is true of non-physical “dimensions” as well.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted April 25, 2016 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

                I agree. Everyone has their own peculiarities; however, everyone is ‘average’ in 95% of their attributes. It’s the other 5% that makes them an individual.

                Mass-produced products concentrate on the 95%, which makes economic sense, not only for the producers but for individuals as well. It means I can buy 95% of the stuff I need cheaply, leaving me with the cash I need to pay extra for the special 5%.

                Where this spectacularly doesn’t work is TV programs, which are all dumbed down to suit the ‘average (ignorant) viewer’. And by so doing they suit nobody. Decades ago the BBC did a series ‘Great Railway Journeys’ which I used to follow eagerly (being a railway nut). One of the episodes was a trip on an Indian railway behind one of the last operating steam engines in the world. But unbelievably, instead of footage of the loco, some idiot had flipped the ‘human interest’ switch and the entire program was about the daily life of the guard. I was furious and never watched another episode. It follows that mainstream TV will never satisfy anybody, because if they ever do a program about [insert special interest topic here], they will dumb it down to suit the ‘average’ know-nothing-of-the-subject viewer and call it ‘human interest’. So when that ‘average’ viewer finds a programme about his own particular interest, it will be similarly diluted for the ignorami.

                This is, by the way, where Youtube is marvellous. In amongst the millions of kittehs and skateboard crashes, there are now many hundreds of videos, many of them of a very professional standard, of steam locomotives in action. I assume there’s a similar wealth of videos on any other special interest. Who needs TV?

                This could be one of National Geographic’s problems.

                cr

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted April 25, 2016 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

                P.S. It has not escaped my notice that my disdain for ‘human interest’ is, dare I say it, typically male. 😉

                cr

    • Simon
      Posted April 23, 2016 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

      Strongly agree with most of that.

      Another thing to note is the collectivist nature of the gender studies types. They seem unable to understand that an individualist pointing out differing abilities and preferences of the genders is generally not saying that all people fit the gender stereotype and that anyone should be discouraged from following their own preferences.

    • Posted April 23, 2016 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

      I’ve seen Dawkins directly attack women in gendered ways. You are not seeing what you think you’re seeing. It’s one thing to be a thick-skinned attacker of arguments, as you put it. Dawkins doesn’t limit himself to that. A lot of other atheist men don’t either.

      Also, no man is final arbiter of whether someone is being misogynist, for two reasons. One, you don’t notice misogyny unless it’s aimed at your partner or your child, so you’re not reliable. Two, you may have less than honorable intentions in playing referee–if the alleged misogynist in question is someone you know and care about and you subscribe to “bros before hos”, you won’t be reliable. In fact you’ll be untrustworthy.

      Either way. Women are just as capable of exaggerating issues as men are–yes, men are capable of this, if the longtime epidemic of familial murder-suicides are any indication. But in the final tally it’s not the men telling the sex jokes and the men calling the pointedly gendered nasty names and the men being too personal and the men treating the woman like the latest lawn ornament who are going to feel pushed out and excluded by all that bad behavior. So they’re not the ones to ask.

      It’d be like observing a fistfight between a bully and his victim and then asking the bully if he broke the victim’s nose. Ridiculous.

      • Posted April 24, 2016 at 10:33 am | Permalink

        Dawkins doesn’t limit himself to that.

        For instance … ?

        /@

    • ploubere
      Posted April 23, 2016 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

      Your list involves quite a lot of speculative assumptions. The main motivation for the attacks on these men seems to me to invariably be that they had the temerity to dismiss the privileged position of religion in society and politics, something that was deemed impolite by the religious. But lacking solid counter-arguments, they tend to resort to ad hominem attacks, which are irrelevant to whether what they say is true.

      All the items in your list perhaps might be interesting comments on society, if data revealed them to be accurate, but are also irrelevant to whether their arguments are valid. And the fact that you made such an extensive list makes me perhaps question your motivation as well?

      • Simon
        Posted April 23, 2016 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

        They have received at least as much, and arguably far more vitriolic, criticism from the atheist thought police with their critical race theory radfem PoMo BS. The accusations of misogyny came from within atheism, not from religious apologists.

      • zugzwanged
        Posted April 23, 2016 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for the response, ploubere.

        I specifically prefaced my remarks by referring to them as ‘tentative impressions’. That said, they aren’t built on thin air. There is research that substantiates the existence of differences between the distribution of key relevant traits between the sexes and much suggestive research that fills out the picture further. Looking from the sidelines, I have gotten the impressions of some fault lines within atheist camps along such fronts, fault lines that have become ideologically charged and politicized by certain brands of feminism (not all brands, by any means).

        I have also witnessed many of my co-religionists opportunistically exploiting these fault lines within atheist movements to dismiss people like Dawkins, Hitchens, and others as misogynists, thereby branding them as ideological lepers unworthy of engagement. When it is no longer possible to ostracize them from the circle of reasonable discourse as religious heretics, ostracizing them as heretics relative to prevailing feminist and social justice ideologies will do the trick instead. I highly value free and open discourse and despise such tactics—whoever employs them—so I will happily make common cause with people with whom I strongly differ on the subject of faith in order to protect the integrity of the contexts in which we can have our disagreements.

        The claims that these individuals are misogynistic are by no means exclusive to religious people, or even, for that matter, more commonly encountered among them (though religious people are not above exploiting the power that such claims give). Rather, they represent a different source of authority, official virtue, and ideological policing in society, to which both atheists and religious people are now expected to pay lip service. I think that there is clear common cause here for all of us who value open, challenging, and civil discourse which is why I felt motivated to leave a comment, curious as to whether others felt the same. Even when our sides are very different, we can share a desire for true and unfettered conversation and search for truth in common and feel genuine affinity with and respect for all fearless and forthright thinkers.

        • Michael Waterhouse
          Posted April 23, 2016 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

          Pretty well said.
          “we can share a desire for true and unfettered conversation and search for truth in common and feel genuine affinity with and respect for all fearless and forthright thinkers.”
          Yes we can. And that we (they?) don’t is a big problem.

        • charlize
          Posted April 23, 2016 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

          “I am a committed Christian man,”

          And upon reading your contributions here the curiouser that assertion became.

    • rickflick
      Posted April 23, 2016 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

      Very well put. I couldn’t agree more.

    • phil
      Posted April 24, 2016 at 3:17 am | Permalink

      “…belief in evolution is fairly central to their stance…”

      It is not really central to their philosophy, but it has become a prominent battle ground because evolution refutes the notion of a creator (at least for living things). I suggest that has occurred because some believers have homed in on evolution as an atheistic ideology (although it isn’t in reality). If there weren’t so many creationists trying to prevent evolution being taught in schools (for example) it wouldn’t be such a contested topic.

      One thing that puzzles me is why believers aren’t similarly outraged by geology, astrophysics, cosmology, and all the branches of science that refute religious claims. Perhaps it is because they don’t understand them well, but the prime idea of evolution is such a huge stumbling block to the concept of creation, and in particular the idea of humanity as a special creation.

      “They oppose religion because it is perceived to be incompatible with science.”

      I think that is wrong. They oppose religion because it is harmful, and wrong. They use science to discredit religious beliefs because scientific knowledge is accurate, reliable and contradicts certain important religious beliefs.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted April 24, 2016 at 3:42 am | Permalink

        “They oppose religion because it is perceived to be incompatible with science.”

        I think in one respect that is quite true. Creationism is (quite accurately) perceived to be incompatible with evolution, by both evolutionists and creationists. And some creationist-inspired attempts to bolster the Young Earth model by reinterpreting scientific measurements e.g. of the speed of light, have certainly aroused opposition from many scientists – some of whom might not have bothered otherwise, and some of whom may not be atheists.

        By the way, I thought zugzwanged’s post was well put.

        cr

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted April 24, 2016 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

      I got somewhat lost in all that – there seem to be styles and fields of argument with which I’m unfamiliar. WTF is an INT-PJ? One of those PJs with an INTegrated poo pouch that populate 1950s Disney cartoons?
      However,

      They are thick skinned members of an oral culture, habituated to combative but non-vicious debate in contexts where you are toughened up by being exposed to all sorts of contrary positions in their most developed forms and not being protected from anything. [SNIP] … it is the polar opposite of the sort of hyper-feminine environment of discourse that tends to arise in gender studies contexts, where sensitivity, victimhood, and appropriate deference are the order of the day.

      One of those I’d call “reality” and the other “infant school” (“kindergarten” in DE_DE and EN_US).
      OK, I work in industry, dealing with attempting to get equipment to work to a budget and a schedule, against external forces that care not one whit for either budget, success, or indeed, our lives. Maybe there are other “realities” where the “sensitivity, victimhood, and appropriate deference” are appropriate reactions to the external uncaring universe, but I don’t know where that is.
      Where do these “special snowflakes” make a living? It’s certainly not in an Arctic blizzard.

    • Posted April 25, 2016 at 9:34 am | Permalink

      I just want to say this (I didn’t actually read all of your comment, so I’ll leave the rest of the content to the other commenters).

      Note that zugzwanged can bring up these ideas here, in the WEIT website comment section, and what he (he’s told us he’s a he) gets back is reasoned arguments and calls for data.

      Unlike certain other bl*gs, where he’d get: “F*** you, you sexist asshole!” as a reply, even from the boss.

  29. Caroline
    Posted April 23, 2016 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    Aagghh…
    I just wanted to leave it in print that I am a very happy thoughtful, intelligent and rational woman who loves egalitarian progressive ideas and I usually agree with Sam Harris, otherwise he usually convinces me.

  30. Posted April 23, 2016 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    There are a few theories about why people become atheists? Theories? Do any of these theories include “realizing that religion is made up bullshit”?

    Yes, I know, they are talking about what makes a certain population more likely to be filled with people who have come to that realization, but the way they worded it…

  31. Posted April 23, 2016 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    Some of the leaders of the atheist movement ARE misogynist. I’m being kind–there’s a lot of that going around and I haven’t conducted polls to find out how extensive it is. So it isn’t just the leaders and it might not even be only some of them. Could be half. Could be three-quarters. I’ve no idea and I’m not an atheist so it hasn’t been important enough to me to find out.

    (Militant agnostic here. I don’t know and you don’t either.)

    I have noticed that most men *don’t* notice when misogyny is going on. Why would they? It’s not aimed at them. I once used a word that it turned out was offensive to Jewish people (supposedly–the woman who told me this was so far removed from Jewish culture that at some point I may seek out a few practicing Jews to ask, for accuracy’s sake) but I had no idea because I’m a Gentile and don’t have that background and history. Honest mistake. The bad part is when one makes the mistake, people point out the mistake, and the person in error does not correct their behavior or attitude (as applicable).

    If someone tells you there’s a problem, take a mental note and move on. If SEVERAL people tell you there’s a problem, perhaps it’s time to investigate. And remember that you don’t see the world exactly the same as everybody else.

    • Posted April 24, 2016 at 10:35 am | Permalink

      I’m not an atheist …

      (Militant agnostic here. I don’t know and you don’t either.)

      You don’t know but you’re not a non-believer? 🤔

      /@

    • Sc
      Posted April 24, 2016 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      ” If SEVERAL people tell you there’s a problem, perhaps it’s time to investigate.”

      So, if “SEVERAL” people tell you to repent and accept Jesus as your lord and savior?

      Crowds can be just as wrong as individuals.

    • ploubere
      Posted April 24, 2016 at 11:54 am | Permalink

      Atheism isn’t a movement, there are no leaders and no central office. There are atheist organizations such as American Atheists, but they don’t speak for all non-believers. Being an atheist is simply not accepting theism, and tells nothing else about you.

      To accuse atheist “leaders” of being misogynist is usually an attempt to discredit atheism itself: If Dawkins is misogynist, then anything he proposes must be suspect. And by association, all atheists must be misogynist. It’s a weak, mean-spirited, ad hominem attack.

      If you want to accuse a prominent atheist—I don’t know which ones you are referring to—of misogyny, then that’s your business, but so far you’re not doing a convincing job of it. All you have listed are vague allusions and hearsay.

    • Posted April 25, 2016 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      Some of the leaders of the atheist movement ARE misogynist. I’m being kind–there’s a lot of that going around and I haven’t conducted polls to find out how extensive it is. So it isn’t just the leaders and it might not even be only some of them. Could be half. Could be three-quarters. I’ve no idea and I’m not an atheist so it hasn’t been important enough to me to find out.

      So … you’re not part of the “movement” (there isn’t one; there are just events at which some atheists gather to discuss things), and you’ve heard a few stories, and, based on that, you make the assumption that 50% or 75% of atheist men are misogynists.

      And you’re not willing to look into it enough to even check out your claims.

      I hope that you can see how this sort of behavior is unlikely to favorably impress the readership of this website.

      Seems to me you’ll probably fit in better at a certain squidly site.

  32. EvolvedDutchie
    Posted April 23, 2016 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    Nat Geo: “Atheists are privileged!” -> Morgan Freeman doesn’t interview a single one in The Story of God, while feauturing hindus, moslims, christians, jews and buddhists. Such privilege, much overrepresentation.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted April 23, 2016 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

      I suppose one could argue that interviewing an atheist about God would be a bit like interviewing a Mexican about polar bears.

      🙂

      For some bizarre reason I instinctively distrust anything Morgan Freeman says – probably because he has that calm polished authoritative voice. I’m perverse that way.

      cr

      • EvolvedDutchie
        Posted April 24, 2016 at 7:36 am | Permalink

        The story of God affects non-believers too, as atheists in Bangladesh, Saudi-Arabia and other terrible countries know all too well.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted April 24, 2016 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

          Accepted (though I might hairsplit and change that to ‘the story of Goddism’).

          I admit I was being a bit simplistic there.

          cr

  33. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted April 23, 2016 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    No subscription to cancel.

    Nat Geog long ago descended into popularised travelogue territory. The region previously occupied by Readers Digest, but with occasional topless native women added.

    It seems they’ve now gone all the way to Readers Digest-ville.

    cr

    • ploubere
      Posted April 24, 2016 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

      I would give them more credit than that. They often did stories on climate change and endangered species. But that is their topic: geography, and what they did well was to tell stories of unique places through photos, maps, graphics and text. Their strength was, and still is, the photography, which is always top-notch, and they have a terrific map division.

      Which is why it’s distressing to see them shift their focus to religious bs.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted April 24, 2016 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

        I will agree that their presentation has always been good.

        Their maps have always been good. In the past, when the standard of most maps was very poor, the NG maps were often the best available. Now, I think, the standard of the better maps has risen and many of them eclipse NG’s efforts. (I’m fussy about maps. An inaccurate or crudely drawn map offends me the way creationism offends an evolutionist).

        cr

  34. Posted April 23, 2016 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

    In a world in which women are surrounded by male misogynists in religion, the workplace, politics, etc., it is most angering to have a so-called journalist label atheists such as Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Bill Maher misogynists(what happened to the other horseman, Dan Dennett?) Do journalists no longer research reliable sources on what they write about? Had the works of any of these gentlemen been read, the accusation would not stand up to scrutiny.

    I cancelled my subscription to National Geographic in March and asked for my money back. I told them the reason I was cancelling my subscription and that I wouldn’t renew until they returned to their old tried and true format. I think it would be wonderful if a significant number of us cancelled subscriptions and asked for money back.

    • phil
      Posted April 24, 2016 at 3:27 am | Permalink

      But Dan is such a lovely man!

      I don’t think he is really such a good fit with the other Horsemen in that he seems to me to be quite gentle. He just isn’t shrill or stident enough.

      • Nullifidian
        Posted April 24, 2016 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

        Plus he looks like Santa Claus. Not even a Murdoch publication is going to attack Santa. 😉

        • rickflick
          Posted April 24, 2016 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

          He famously looks like Charles Darwin.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 24, 2016 at 9:42 am | Permalink

      Ha ha – I too wonder how clever Dan Dennett was to escape the “misogynist” label.

      It is infuriating to see the wrong people labelled in this way once one has experienced it out there in the rest of the world.

      • rickflick
        Posted April 24, 2016 at 10:19 am | Permalink

        I think Dan’s father was a diplomat. Based on inheritance of acquired characteristics, he may have some built-in defenses against unwanted accusations.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted April 24, 2016 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

          Lamarkian!
          BURN the heretic!
          [fumbles for matches]

          • rickflick
            Posted April 24, 2016 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

            No, not Lamarck. Culture…memes…

            • gravelinspector-Aidan
              Posted April 24, 2016 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

              Ropes. Faggots (EN_GB sense). Oil. Brands.
              Watching a programme about a few thousand “Celtic” skulls unearthed when building a railway line in London. Those Romans knew how to deal with dissent.

              • rickflick
                Posted April 24, 2016 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

                I’m a Yank visiting London next month. I’ll keep an eye out for Celtic skulls.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted April 24, 2016 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

                Celtic skulls sounds like the name of an Industrial band.

              • gravelinspector-Aidan
                Posted April 26, 2016 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

                The particular project was the “CrossRail” railway line, with these disoveries happening near Liverpool Street station, when that was being tied into the system. I haven’t been to that part of London for over a decade, so I can’t really give any further guidance.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted April 25, 2016 at 2:06 am | Permalink

                “I’ll keep an eye out for Celtic skulls.”

                Particularly ones still attached to mad Celts and heading your way at stomach level…

                😉

                cr

              • rickflick
                Posted April 26, 2016 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

                TRAILER: Mystery of the Crossrail Skulls | Sunday 8pm | Channel 4

                https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5R1Dn7dCdaE

              • rickflick
                Posted April 26, 2016 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

                The Museum of London might have some displays on the Celtic Skulls. I’m thinking that would be a nice place to visit anyway.

              • Posted April 28, 2016 at 5:45 am | Permalink

                @ rickflick

                It is. It’s incredibly good museum – free entry! – that takes you through the history of the city from the stone age (I won’t spoil the surprise of the first exhibit) all the way up to the present day. Give yourself a few hours. (With nearby St. Paul’s, you’ll have a full day out.)

                MOL was certainly involved in with the skulls – see here – but I can’t see anything on its website about an exhibition.

                /@

              • gravelinspector-Aidan
                Posted April 28, 2016 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

                Circumspice!
                Even I lower myself to entering churches from time to time, given sufficient reason. I was recently reminded that Durham Cathedral is on my to-visit list. Allegedly a lot of Forsterley Marble.

              • rickflick
                Posted April 28, 2016 at 7:37 am | Permalink

                Thanks Ant. I’m looking forward to it.

              • rickflick
                Posted April 28, 2016 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

                Aidan, Keep your eyes on the move. Looks like it’s everywhere.

                “Examples of Frosterley Marble can be found at several places in the village, the church of St Michael and All Saints, the railway station and behind the car park in the centre of the village.”

              • gravelinspector-Aidan
                Posted April 29, 2016 at 10:11 am | Permalink

                Hey, it’s Geordie Land. The odds of there being a “St Aidan’s Church” with some fine pieces are pretty good. Odds on, I’d say.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted April 24, 2016 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

            Lamarckism is one of those things that would be nice if it were true. (Evolution would run a lot faster, too).

            But I don’t think rickflick’s suggestion holds true because Dawkins is definitely not a Lamarckian. 😉

            cr

            • gravelinspector-Aidan
              Posted April 26, 2016 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

              To be honest, I suspect that most “culture” operates more through Lamarkian evolution than Darwinian.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted April 26, 2016 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

                Oh, agreed, undoubtedly.

                cr

  35. phil
    Posted April 23, 2016 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    “There are a few theories about why people become atheists…”

    The churches lost their best argument for god when they stopped killing people. I suspect that a lot of new found atheists never really believed, but simply feel more comfortable about expressing their disbelief these days.

  36. ratabago
    Posted April 24, 2016 at 1:21 am | Permalink

    . . . The secularizing West is full of white men. The general U.S. population is 46 percent male and 66 percent white, but about 68 percent of atheists are men, and 78 percent are white.

    Nice cherry picking. Here’s some of my own:
    … a 2015 Gallup poll found the number of convinced atheists in China to be 61%, with a further 29% saying that they are not religious compared to just 7% who are religious.“[1]

    Atheism is a phenomenon of the privileged western white male only if you’re a western chauvinist. But then, why would I expect a Murdoch publication like National Geographic to care about what non-white, non-westerners say or do?

    [1] From the ubiquitous wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irreligion_in_China
    90% of 1,340,000,000 people. Why, I bet there are even a few women included in those figures!

  37. Posted April 24, 2016 at 2:04 am | Permalink

    I am born in a country that’s not rich.
    India, UK took all the fucking money away in colonial slavery. I am born in a Hindu family, in a Hindu-majority nation while going to all schools that were church based and grew up in Muslim neighbourhood.
    And I was atheistst as a kid with the exposure. Insecurity , but more of Fear and guilt turned MW to religion… Unless each time I realise all were nothing but outdated literature. Biggest superstition is a belief that there is a human behind all this who can do anything but does nothing. Dawkins is misogynist ? Then I guess you are as less informed and more delusional as most religious.
    Atheism isn’t any privilege. It’s a bravery. Dare to be an openly declared atheist in Saudi, and you will know what I am speaking of.

  38. Posted April 24, 2016 at 4:48 am | Permalink

    RIP NatGeo. The magazine I loved is dead. Excellent blog – thanks PCC(E) and Grania, who is another person to add to the list of influential women in atheism – you rock. I am a member of the British Humanist Association, which is certainly not misogynist. As Grania mentioned , the President is Shappi Khorsandi but there are also women in senior management; Director of Public Affairs and Policy – Pavan Dhaliwal, Director of Operations – Catriona McLellan, and Head of Ceremonies – Isabel Russo. Also, a prominent campaigner for the BHA is a hero of mine, the incredibly intelligent and erudite Professor Alice Roberts. Add to that the BHA sections that support other parts of society (eg LGBT Humanists, Young Humanists) and who can say that atheism is not inclusive!

  39. nicky
    Posted April 24, 2016 at 5:34 am | Permalink

    I know that Jerry mentioned the different meanings of ‘privilege, but it really needs to be stressed:
    It was a real privilege to be able to read the works of Dawkins, Dennet, Harris, Hirshi Ali, Hitchens and many others, not in the least our host.
    Thanks heaven for that! 🙂

  40. Posted April 24, 2016 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    I agree with everything you wrote, Jerry, though I cannot really blame NatGeo alone, since the tune was composed, the sheet printed and handed to the choir all within the so-called US atheist-skeptics movement. They also rehearsed the tune for years now. National Geographic merely provided a bigger stage.

    I suspect that the smearing produced within the atheist-skeptics movement is convenient for opponents of the project, but I can’t say they invented it. You can thank the household names (with few notable exceptions) for this, and a couple of organisations who were helpful, too. For instance, the CFI helped with the “harassment as art” project, Skepticon gave a stage to re-iterate certain opinions. Restating this would almost invoke the same smears, but everyone can find it out.

    David Silverman, American Atheists, and his VP Kathleen Johnson were conerned when the smearmeister’s reputation were diminished by their behaviour but hardly with with the smearing itself. Michael Nugent and the Irish atheists were almost alone when they dissociated from the most notorious individual. Even then the “movement” did little to show support. When ther was eventually some critiism, it was little too late, or in case of Ron Lindsay’s one time attempt, always caused major problems for the individuals who “stepped out of line” with their criticism.

    Richard Dawkins wrote a while ago he felt “muzzled” and asserted others told him the same. After his stroke, he said it hurt him that his team (don’t remember his exact words) would be so hostile to him. He’s right about this. That was true in 2013 already, when I was still new and perplexed how alleged “skeptics” cannot even get the basic facts straight.

    We all know that everyone (few people) with some name in the atheist-movement had to moderate and dose their criticism of certain trends carefully, or face steep consequences in the form of extreme (baseless) accusations. A few managed by ignoring this thing or stayed Swiss.
    A few more stuck their heads out too far, got ostracised. A subset embraced the outside role and found a niche, which happens to be huge on places like YouTube. Though, the mainstream went along with safe-space-trigger-warnings-smearing and the habit of making people unpersons and everyone who defends them (even against baseless accusations).

    Even today, it’s rather unhelpful to name the names of the bunch that remained sceptical and critical and did the right thing. They know who they are. The “Witch of the Week” doesn’t seem to have the same sting as it used to have, but as some have found out the hard way, it’s still a bad idea to go against the “narrative”.

    Let’s be clear: The mainstream US atheist-skeptic movement — the conference going circus — it did nary a thing or even added to the things Nat Geo now relies upon. Count in people like Matt Dillahunty, Aron Ra, most known speaker-bloggers on all those networks, CFI, American Atheists and so forth. Where’s the backlash against the extreme smears and accusations? I didn’t bother anyone. They rather disinvited Richard Dawkins.

    Nat Geo merely reports “accurately” on the Bizarro Universe version of events that is defacto the official story, which you can read on all these blogs, on Wikipedia, RationalWiki and everywhere else. It’s not the first mainstream news like this, and it won’t be the last one.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 24, 2016 at 10:01 am | Permalink

      And we all sit here wondering why women don’t want to be part of the atheist leadership! With friends like those….

  41. Les
    Posted April 24, 2016 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    The Friendly Atheist blog has a mostly positive review of the NG article.

  42. Karen Van Hook
    Posted April 24, 2016 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Very sorry to see that National Geographic is reporting baseless smears against Sam Harris. I don’t know about the other guys, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the accusations concerning them are baseless too. It’s astonishing to see the level to which public discourse has sunk. Sam Harris made a self-deprecating joke about not being hot to women and an off-hand observation that perhaps women tend not to want to participate in an argumentative culture — an observation frequently made by researchers such as Deborah Tannen — and suddenly he’s a misogynist. Truly mind-boggling, how little it takes to justify dragging someone through the mud. And now National Geographic repeats the smear, but without any of the so-called evidence, so readers can’t even evaluate for themselves where the “horrible reputation” came from.

  43. Nullifidian
    Posted April 24, 2016 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    I’d like to know where this great financial security I was supposed to enjoy as a young atheist when I was reading whatever was available (in those pre-New Atheism days, not much) in defense of atheism during my high school lunch periods while eating snack mixes and drinking cans of Coca-Cola so that I’d be spending less than a dollar a day. I was raised without religion and came to the conclusion I didn’t believe in gods at an early age well before my family could afford such ordinary luxuries as a television, a second computer (my mother was a paralegal, so the first computer—hers—was a necessity for her job), or a car with a working heater and insulation. Things did improve gradually throughout my life, but we were never that financially secure, hence my cheapo, out-of-the-vending-machine lunches.

    This idea that you have to be well-off to be an atheist is also belied by the atheism of the IWW. Joe Hill never had more than two pennies to rub together, but he wrote some of the greatest atheist songs, like “The Preacher and the Slave”.

  44. zugzwanged
    Posted April 24, 2016 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the further response, Diana.

    You wrote:

    “I would be more convinced of your female personality assertions if I saw evidence of such things in the form of studies.”

    Let’s give it a shot, although it will mean that this will be a loooong comment.

    As I said regarding the MBTI in my first comment, it is ‘nothing more than a heuristic test, and should be taken with generous helpings of salt.’ This said, however, irrespective of the usefulness of MBTI categories as metrics of personality, the fact that men and women identify with certain types at strikingly different rates is itself suggestive, as is the very high representation of particular types in specific contexts.

    Similar points about pronounced differences between men and women as groups in the area of personality can also be made using metrics based upon the Big Five (which have also been connected to different areas of study). Perhaps the best study that I’ve seen on this front is this one. It disaggregates the categories of the Big Five and employs a multivariate analysis, revealing the presence of strong differences that do not appear in univariate analyses at the hierarchical level of the Big Five traits.

    For instance, when the trait of ‘openness’ is split into components for ‘ideas’ and for ‘aesthetics’, men score higher on the former and women higher on the latter. Likewise, although there is only a small difference at the level of the trait of ‘extraversion’ there are strong differences between men and women on disaggregated traits lower down the hierarchy: men score much higher on dominance/venturesomeness, women much higher on warmth/affiliation. By working at the hierarchical level of analysis immediately below the Big Five, they maintain a good signal-to-noise ratio, while allowing for much more fine-grained analysis.

    Their multivariate and latent variable modelling analysis also aims to highlight global, ‘configural’ personality differences between the sexes, rather than simply the average of the differences on various fronts of observed scores. The paper itself is worth reading, but its conclusion is that, when a stronger methodology is employed, the personality overlap between the sexes shrinks to about 10%. In univariate terms, the key differences were found in ‘Sensitivity, Warmth, and Apprehension (higher in females), and Emotional stability, Dominance, Rule-consciousness, and Vigilance (higher in males).’ Sensitivity in particular represented a huge area of difference.

    Further personality differences between men and women are highlighted by Su et al. They demonstrate that men as a group tend to prefer working with things, while women as a group tend to prefer working with people. They also show that men have stronger realistic and investigative interests, while women have stronger social, conventional, and artistic ones. A very strong difference was also seen in men’s orientation towards engineering and less pronounced ones in men’s orientation to other STEM fields. I think he overstates matters in an unguarded manner, casting some unnecessary hostages to fortune, but Simon Baron-Cohen argues that men’s brains are more typically weighted towards systematizing, women’s towards empathizing. Others have highlighted differences in tendencies towards agency (male-weighted) and tendencies towards communion (female-weighted).

    A further important difference between men and women on several fronts is that, even when averages may be similar, men are significantly more variable than women (and are thus more likely to predominate at the extremes). This also applies in the area of personality. Interestingly, like several other gender differences, this difference is more pronounced in the context of egalitarian and individualistic nations. Along with this lower variability, women as a group are more prosocial and have significantly greater peer attachment, probably resulting in lower levels of social nonconformity. Female groups are also more likely to favour egalitarian norms, discouraging the higher variability of outcomes that risk-affirming and competitive male groups can allow for.

    Taking such differences into account, the gender breakdown of PhDs by subject seems loosely to follow recognizable patterns. Each realm of learning exhibits considerable variation within the gender breakdown of its constituent subjects (and much more would appear if subjects were broken down further: for instance, military history is much more male-dominated than history in general). However, the differences largely follow patterns: men dominate in hard sciences, in subjects that tend to deal more with impersonal or abstract ideas, theories, and systems, and in subjects with a strong tradition of agonistic discourse such as philosophy. Women, on the other hand, tend to dominate in subjects concerned with the social dimensions of life, the body, language/literature, caring and education.

    You remark that your acquaintances studying political science do not exhibit the tendencies I mentioned in connection with the social sciences. However, it should be noticed that political science (like economics) is an outlier in the social sciences, being one of only a few of its constituent disciplines that attracts more men than women. The social science areas where the deepest issues exist tend to be female-dominated. I don’t believe that this is accidental: the Western tradition of free thinking and rigorous discourse has largely been built around more masculine norms and tendencies—agonism, low sensitivity, venturesomeness, openness to ideas, high confidence, dominance, weaker social impulses and higher individualism, a privileging of ideas over relationships, etc. Where academic fields become female-dominated, it is not surprising that the traditional masculine ethos starts to dissipate and is often replaced by an emphasis on sensitivity, care, egalitarianism, protection of persons from challenge, deference, higher levels of social/ideological conformity, etc. (Jonathan Haidt recently remarked that no one should send their daughters to women’s schools any more, as they are increasingly becoming bullying monocultures).

    Men are far more likely to show ability and preference ‘tilt’ in direction of maths and STEM, while women are far more likely to exhibit such ‘tilt’ in the direction of verbal skill and the humanities. There is also a very clear correlation between female-dominated majors and lower scores in quantitative intelligence metrics. See here and here.

    Moving on to the religious question, women are generally more religious than men around the world. There are some helpful statistics in this important recent survey. Earlier studies have also suggested differences between tendencies in male and female religiosity. This one, for instance, suggests that female religiosity is more likely to emphasize communion, while male religiosity more frequently emphasizes meaning and hierarchy (which might fit with suggested gender differences along the lines of agentic and communal traits, and would tie into the high representation of women in mystical traditions). This recent paper suggests that women are more likely to be religious on account of their higher empathic moral concern. Differences also seem to be affected by the degree to which the church is culturally aligned with the domestic realm (which might also tie into the theories of historians such as Callum Brown, outlined in his The Death of Christian Britain: Understanding Secularisation 1800-2000). The more the state excludes faith from the public realm, the more female-dominated it becomes; the more overtly political a faith is, the more likely men are well represented within it (which might explain why Islam seems to buck the trend of female-dominated religion on certain criteria).

    As for the differences in modes of discourse between men and women and male and female groups, there is extensive literature on this subject. Deborah Tannen’s work may be one of the best places to start here (You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation; The Argument Culture). She and various other writers (feminist linguists such as Deborah Cameron have written a lot on these subjects too) have observed the way that male discourse often tends to be structured in an agonistic and oppositional framework, where people engage in a sort of ritual combat over ideas. This form of discourse plays to male high confidence, combative impulses, and preference for hierarchy and status/dominance competitions. ‘Mansplaining’ and ‘manologues’ can be explained in large measure by these differing styles of conversation between the sexes and their groups. Women’s conversation can be a lot more prosocial, egalitarian, and resistant to adversarial frameworks (quirks of speech associated with women in some contexts, such as ‘uptalk’ may be petitions for group affirmation and consensus, in contrast with the sort of individualistic declarative assertion that men can privilege). Of course, these are tendencies, rather than hard and fast rules. Such differences have been explored in fiction by authors such as Jane Austen (in this superb piece of literary criticism, William Deresiewicz observes the contrast and conflict between the highly consensus- and socially conforming-based cognition and discourse of Meryton and the adversarial style of Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice).

    It is also interesting to observe differences between what men and women like to talk about and how they bond through speech. I suspect that the gender breakdown in modes of phatic conversation would also be illuminating (for instance, the importance of the competition and hierarchy based sports pages for male phatic discourse and the relationship and person based gossip pages for female phatic discourse). Male discourse is far rougher and more oppositional (see the contrasting word clouds here, for instance) and men dominate in forms of discourse that privilege such characteristics. Wikipedia writing is hugely male-dominated—90% of editors were male fairly recently—as are comments on blogs such as this one (the reasons women give for not writing on Wikipedia are also illuminating). While men like to speak about conflict and war, women have a preference for writing about family and also vastly outnumber men in the realm of fanfiction. I don’t think that it is hard to see where the atheist movement, insofar as it is represented by people such as Dawkins and Hitchens, falls within such spectra of gendered discourse, nor why it should hold a particular attraction for males.

    Taking all of these things together, I think that there is substantial evidence of large and relevant gender differences in relative tendencies, and of the existence of contrasting cultures created by such divergent tendencies. Once again, of course, we are dealing with gendered differences and divergences in relative tendencies, not with some clear form of dimorphism: there are many men and women who do not fit these patterns. The fact that we may not see ourselves in certain of these patterns, or they don’t fit our anecdotal experience, doesn’t mean that they don’t exist (even though we must always be aware of the existence of outliers, exceptions, variation, and overlap). The patterns themselves are widespread enough to support the existence of distinct personalities and cultures that are heavily weighted towards one gender or the other. It further suggests to me that the new atheism movement of Dawkins, Hitchens, et al is a strongly male-weighted one, which provokes the antipathy of a prevailing social justice/feminist movement that exhibits some decidedly feminine sets of tendencies.

    Thanks for the conversation. I had better leave it at this point, but I hope this comment serves to substantiate my case somewhat.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 24, 2016 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

      I have to wonder, if we accept these studies, if women are this way because of their chemicals and physiology or of they were raised that way. I wonder this because I fit most of the things described as masculine. I test high for openness but I’m an ideas person. I seek to solve issues not look for empathy about them. I like to compete, I could go on. I was raised gender neutral in a way. My parents never told me not to do something because I was a girl and I was n very groomed to do female things (get married and have children).

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted April 25, 2016 at 1:34 am | Permalink

        Well, I found zugzwanged’s post extremely well expressed, and all of the detailed factors he outlines ring a bell with my personal observations (not, of course, that I’m statistically valid).

        Bearing in mind, of course, that all such studies are inherently generalisations and there will be individual exceptions.

        I wouldn’t be at all surprised if, Diana, you were one of those atypical exceptions.

        I wonder if the set of [female denizens of WEIT] wouldn’t score further towards the ‘technical’ interests than the general female population. They may be a self-selected set in view of WEIT’s leaning towards scientific topics.

        cr

      • Posted April 25, 2016 at 10:28 am | Permalink

        I think we all observe that there are general differences between male and female human populations’ tendencies.

        But there is also a huge amount of overlap and, as Sam Harris has said really well, “Which is not to say there aren’t millions of acerbic women out there, and many for whom Hitchens at his most cutting was a favorite source of entertainment.”

        Or that there aren’t plenty of women out there that perform better or as well as their male counterparts in such “mannish” fields as engineering, science, mathematics, etc. Obviously.

        There continues to be a large disparity between the numbers of women and men entering the engineering field (which I’ve worked in for over 3 decades — it’s much better today than when I started).* I think there is something (or some things) about engineering work that tends to appeal to men more than women, in general. (This is basically what Sam Harris was saying about the appeal of the “atheist movement” (such as it is) to most women, in general. There’s a reason why Motor Trend, Sports Illustrated, and Popular Mechanics are read by mostly men and Vogue, People, and O are mostly read by women.)

        I can only assign this disparity to a lack of appeal. I would think that this “appeal bias” is largely due to cultural influences; but I have no data to back that up. Some of it, on average, over the population, may be genetic.

        Pointing these facts out is not being sexist, at least in my opinion. (Just don’t voice them on a certain squidly bl*g.)

        And, again, there are plenty of women that buck the trends. Wonderful!

        (* My own organization (of which I’m a “grunt”) has made a serious effort to hire women. It’s a good thing.)

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted April 25, 2016 at 11:29 am | Permalink

          I’m not arguing anything you’ve said but I question how broad these differences are across cultures. Girls are, for the most part, brought up and socialized differently from boys the world over. Will the disparities hold true in cultures outside ours?

      • phil
        Posted April 28, 2016 at 3:23 am | Permalink

        AND you comment at WEIT.

        I must work in an odd place. It’s an applied physics group in one of the country’s top universities. One of our heads (we have two) is female, and most of the postdocs in my little group are women, from all over Asia (which is a bit unusual in a mostly anglo country). Being tech staff I am probably the only one who does not have a university degree.

        One consideration that I didn’t notice zugzwanged mention is the impact of different cultures. I think most cultures probably tend to be male dominated, but they would not all be to the same extent. Anyway, although I don’t have any firm figures on it, it seems that there are a fairly high number of women (under- and postgrad) in the school of physics (well more than in previous decades) but I have a feeling that they are more usually from “foreign” cultures and countries. I suspect that zugzwanged descriptions might become out of date.

        One apparently cultural difference I have noticed in my time at the university is that foreigners of all sorts seems to be disproportionately represented: anglo Australians seem to have a distinct disinterest in academic work. I think that applies to undergrads as well, but probably not as much.

        • phil
          Posted April 28, 2016 at 3:24 am | Permalink

          Ooops. That first sentence was directed towards Diana.

    • rickflick
      Posted April 24, 2016 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

      Well that was an impressive read. I haven’t followed up each link, but I find your scholarship on the issue of gender looks good. Out of curiosity, do you mind describing your background/credentials? I don’t mean to suggest credentials have anything directly to do with the validity of rational argument.
      Your take on gender seems controversial when placed in the context of much of the discussion one sees on the web. There is a strong tendency to deny any and all differences between the sexes. Obviously, the problem of inequity and social justice is a real problem and anything that smacks of supporting statistical differences appears to some to be a threat to democratic ideals. One can point to the history of women struggling for political equality over the long haul of history. Clearly much work still needs to be done on that account, both here and abroad. Islamic culture especially has become the center of concern of late.

    • rickflick
      Posted April 24, 2016 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

      I note that your name Zugzwang (German for “compulsion to move” is used in chess to mean a situation where a move is forced. I suppose that can be said of most of us as players in the game of life. I feel compelled to write another comment.

    • charlize
      Posted April 25, 2016 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

      None of your exposition raised any hackles, to the contrary it tracks seamlessly with a lifetime of anecdotal observation.

      But even reputable studies will not protect you from hell hath no fury as a woman scorned which former Harvard president Larry Summers found out in the wake of a talk he gave discussing the possible reasons for the higher proportion of men in high-end science and engineering positions.

      • Merilee
        Posted April 26, 2016 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

        I remember how annoyed I was by Summers’ statement!!

  45. Jeff Rocas
    Posted April 24, 2016 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

    I also read that article, and immediately came to the same conclusion as you: Rupert Murdoch is now the new owner of what used to be a great magazine, and is pushing the populist ignorant agenda to the masses.


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