I haven’t posted for a few days because I’ve been immersed in the feminist debates trying to get to the bottom of what exactly is happening and what exactly these feminists want.  I met with only mixed results.  But in my mainly fruitless search, I learned a lot about other things. Instead of wading into the muck any further than I already have, I’d like to report out on some of my impressions and some of the general lessons I’ve learned from following this debate (here, I use the term loosely, as it more closely resembles a drunken brawl).

The first thing I learned was that skeptics aren’t all that skeptical.  It seems that skepticism is used by many primarily only when dealing with religious people or paranormal phenomena.  A case in point is the debate that rages over whether anonymous rape and harassment allegations should be posted on blogs without any attempt at verifying the source or credibility of the accuser.  Arguments seem to run on one side that false rape allegations do happen and that something like that can ruin a man’s reputation needlessly.  On the other side is a statistical argument that claims since false rape accusations are extremely rare, that it is justifiable to post these allegations, as though the relative rarity of the false accusations is a statistical justification for spreading what might be spiteful or idle gossip.  The best allusion to this type of argument is that of self-described male feminist, Jason Thibeault In a recent post on his blog, The Lousy Canuck.  He does some statistical evaluation of 5000 imaginary rapes and comes up with the end result of 398 actual rapists convicted and imprisoned with only 71 innocents convicted of the rapes and imprisoned.  See what he did there?  Its okay to automatically believe the rape victim because statistically she is probably telling the truth, so to hell with the poor schmucks that get sent to prison for crimes they didn’t commit.  They’re victims of statistics, you see, and probably victims of rape-culture, as well.  The disturbing thing is that nowhere in his blog does he mention that even one innocent man being sent to prison is unacceptable.  He accepts it.  He’s just willing to take the chance, presumably since the odds are in his favor that he won’t be the unlucky falsely accused.

Lesson number 1: Many skeptics are not skeptical about anything except religion.

The second thing I learned was that emotion is a big part of any discussion, and left unchecked it will ruin any chance of reaching a valid conclusion.  I want to be careful here, because certainly there are many issues which elicit high emotions, and justifiably so.  I’m not advocating for an elimination of emotion, merely that we should make every effort—or at the very least, some effort—in subjugating the emotion to reason.  Women have been raped, after all, and many others have been subjected to a lifetime of derision, harassment, and dismissal at the hands of men.  These are situations where only a robot would be able to set emotion aside.  However, in a rational discussion, emotion should be used as a tool to motivate our reason, not as a replacement for it.

Lesson 2: many skeptics are unable to control their emotional responses.

 

The third thing I learned is that language is important, and failure to carefully craft one’s assertions or rebuttals is a sure way to engender automatic and absolute hatred.  This is directed to both sides of the issue.  Both sides are guilty of keying on certain words which elicit an immediate and visceral response.  A term like “male privilege” automatically shuts down the critical thinking circuits of the oppositions’ collective brain, for example.  Any suggestion that rules be put in place to regulate the behavior of people at atheist conventions is met with equally polarizing claims of dogmatism and autocracy.  Not all of these interpretations are completely invalid, but the proper way to demonstrate a poor argument is with a better argument, not with threats of rape or violence, or calling people vile names like cunt and bitch.  Yes, this happens.  A lot.  I want to emphasize that.  It happens with alarming frequency, and there is no ideological rationale for it, despite the attempts of some to do just that.  The other side has, in my experience, even more key words that must be either avoided completely or used in a very careful manner.  A recent comment of mine on a blog-post used some unfortunate (and unintentionally insulting) language (nothing vile, and nothing designed to upset anyone), and I was immediately and violently categorized as, among other things: an asshole, a misogynist, a liar, disingenuous, an entitled wanker (I liked that one), and some other colorful descriptions.  One woman outdid herself and issued eleven identifiable insults in a 140 word response, which should entitle her to some sort of trophy or an honorary t-shirt at least.  The point is, I was trying to ask a valid question from an objective standpoint, but my use of trigger phrases immediately shut down the conversation which turned into a very careful dissection of what I said and what they could infer about my motives from my remarks.  Their inferences were incorrect, but I can see where they were coming from.  My uncareful use of language had pushed a button that has been pushed too many times since this discussion started.  If my relatively innocent comment could elicit such immediate withdrawal from civil discourse, I can imagine the response received by people who are violently opposed to this movement’s philosophies

Lesson 3: Un-careful use of language in emotionally charged discussions is a sure way to turn the discussion personal and short-circuit any further meaningful discussion

(to be continued)