I view the deconstruction of stereotypes, the erosion of double standards, the study and owning up to of biases (including prejudices and privileges), and the conscious celebration and promotion of diverse and underrepresented perspectives as a critical focus of the so-called reality-based community, and more squarely within our province than that of most others. It has been disheartening to find such systemic resistance to these goals sustaining the more overt malice against their proponents. However, those at the core of both continue to expose the baselessness, incoherence, and entrenchment of their positions, revealing similarities to other internal conflicts the broader movement has had to outgrow. Being reasonably informed, and thus encouraged, i’m glad to stake my ground.
I haven’t written much upon this issue, though i hope to, but for now i think this pretty well summarizes my take on the whole thing—both the harassment specifically and the denialism that facilitates it.
One point i omitted (mostly for concision) is this: The widely touted objections to the Atheism+ campaign in particular place an especial emphasis on its exclusivity. Certain “points of view” are unwelcome, and participants who “ask too many questions” are banned. On one hand, it’s worth noting that spaces like atheismplus.com and the Atheism+ subreddit have excellent reasons for conducting affairs the way they do. On the other, and more to the point, Atheism+ is a much broader (if not denser) movement, and is not itself exclusive to any specific forum. To the extent that Atheism+ is itself exclusive, the so-called reality-based community has always been exclusive.
I’ve long considered the ongoing -ism schism analogous in many ways to the perpetual dispute over global warming within the newly-organized skeptical community of the 1980s and 1990s, which persists in some circles to this day. It’s a difficult subject, climatology: intrinsically interdisciplinary and drawing upon a variety of peripheral disciplines, and modeled mathematically in ways that only trained statisticians are qualified to assess. Unfortunately, the present dispute is in many ways less tractable: The science (and evidence generally) is less precise, more qualitative, and more subjective, while the biases are systemic and transcend ideological affiliations. To make matters worse, the negative consequences bear disproportionately on those who are most easily accused of confirmation bias.
Still, i think the similarities are strong enough for a reasonably positive outlook. Moreover, the campaign for diversity and representation benefits from widely held ethical principles that stand to make the movement as a whole more palatable to the general as well as the marginalized public. Ultimately, i don’t expect that Thunderf00t’s alarm will become much more relevant a fixture of the skeptical movement than Anthony Watts’.
Objects in the Rearview Mirror
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