• Calling Steven Novella’s bullshit

    Last week, NECSS booted Richard Dawkins out of their annual conference for no good reason.

    Now, Steven Novella tried to justify that decision but his arguments (let’s call them that) are as absurd as Islam (I hope that’s not too Islamophobic for you):

    Dawkins has dedicated much of his career and effort to charitable endeavors, to make the world a better place.

    All of this is why it has been very puzzling to many that his social media activity has often not reflected his reputation as a public intellectual. He has famously made tweets or blog comments that have come off as insensitive or worse.

    First red flag: why is Richard Dawkins held accountable for the feelings of other people? Is Steven Novella so blind by his new post-modernist dogma, that he’s incapable to see he’s denying agency to all those entitled brats whose feelings get hurt each time they hear something they dislike?

    This has been part of the smearing campaign against Richard Dawkins, ever since he was corageous enough to tell a spoiled brat that her tantrum was just that, and that women in the Muslim world have it ten times worse. If you feel bad because some guy asked you to his room (and took the “no” for an answer)… that’s your problem, not his, or anyone else’s.

    There’s this fad to go to DEFCON 1 about anything and everything Richard Dawkins tweets. To “come off as insensitive or worse” is something we, actual skeptics, are used to. We’re constantly popping believers’ bubbles about all kinds of stuff.

    I could go on, but I have other points to address. Back to Novella:

    For further background, over the last 5-6 years the skeptical movement has been rocked by intermittent controversy over sexism and racism in the movement. This is a complex topic I am not going to tackle or resolve here. Suffice it to say this controversy has caused many in the movement to form various camps, some championing free speech, others social justice. Others have tried to chart a course down the middle, while still others left the movement.

    Has Steven Novella been living under a rock for the last 5-6 years? There’s no controversy over sexism or racism, nor there are camps for free speech vs social justice ones.

    There’s only one controversy: “it’s between people who follow Enlightenment principles (freedom of speech and thought, free discussion of ideas, skepticism, tolerance for different world views) and those who believe in authoritarian principles (ideological purity, a list of topics which are beyond rational discussion, domatism, intolerance for anyone who disagrees)”.

    I guess, we now know where Steven Novella stands (and is not with the Enlightenment values). If you’re biologically impaired to understand that there are ends and means, and that I can support an end (equality) without accepting all of the means towards that end (bullying, thuggery, “listen and believe”, cultural marxism), then you have no place whatsoever in the skeptic community.

    If you can’t understand that answering “sexist” or “racist” to anything is a fallacy, maybe you’re not that a good skeptic after all. What kind of self-respecting skeptic sees these ad hominem fallacies all over the place and comes to the conclusion that there’s a contorversy over sexism and racism?

    But Novella had more intellectual gymanstics to show:

    The concern for some of us at NECSS was that by hosting Dawkins as a featured speaker we were making a statement we did not intend to make, a statement that could be interpreted as being unwelcoming and even hostile to many attendees.

    Well, guess what — you managed to do just that. NECSS is, as a matter of fact, unwelcoming and hostile to free-thought. Congratulations very much to Steven Novella and all his buddies at the NECSS committee. If you were concerned about making a statement you didn’t intend, there was an easy fix: state that! D’uh!

    But, you see, Novella wanted to save face, so he came up with this:

    Another frequent point is that we are against any criticism of feminism, as if it is a taboo topic. This is also not true. No topic should be taboo, and we favor open and vigorous discussion of all important issues. In fact, pointed criticism is good for the feminist movement – or for any movement. (This does not mean that NECSS is the proper venue for any particular topic.)

    No dude, go fuck yourself! First, there’s no evidence Dawkins wanted to address this point at NECSS. Second of all, you just disinvited the guy for posting a criticism of a real toxic brand of feminism. So you don’t get to say “no topic should be taboo” because, for you, there is.

    I really wonder where did all of your critical thinking skills went, because you’re so wrong on so many levels, it’s just shameful this even has to be addressed to point it out — there’s a difference between form and substance. You clearly are for punishing substance while making excuses saying it was the form, because, ohh, so rude, how could an empowered woman live with that kind of criticism (or criticism at all, for that matter)?

    So do us all a favor and leave the “no topic should be taboo” argument to the grown ups who actually believe that.


    I do wish Dawkins would recognize (perhaps he does) his special place within our community and the power that position holds. When he retweets a link to a video, even with a caveat, that has a tremendous impact. It lends legitimacy to the video and the ideas expressed in it.

    Once again: Richard Dawkins is not responsible for the actions or feelings of any other than himself. We, actual skeptics, hold accountable people for their own actions, we deal with bad ideas (just like I’m doing with your post) to show why they are bad ideas.

    And yet, you haven’t been able (or willing) to produce any worthy criticism of the video, other than the crybaby “It’s offensive!“. Wow! Your skeptic powers have faded away completely. (And, for the record —because I just won’t blockquote one line—: shame on you saying deleting the tweet was the right thing to do. It wasn’t.)

    To wrap it up:

    In my opinion, someone in his position, with his eloquence, knowledge, and intellect, with his academic background should be doing everything he can to elevate the level of discussion. He has the ability to address legitimate criticisms of feminism, or atheism or skepticism, if he thinks he has them. He could be a force that is helping unite our very small and critically important rationalist movement.

    Instead, I fear, he is helping to divide us, 140 characters at a time, and helping to lower the level of the discussion.

    Ohh, the irony, it burns! Richard Dawkins has been doing everything he can to elevate the level of discussion, and has leveled legitimate criticisms against third wave feminism, only to be met by moral imbeciles whining that he tweeted!

    You say he is helping to divide the science and skepticism community, yet you’re the one who disinvited him and are furthering the very-bad-Dawkins narrative, fueled by the Horseman Envy.

    The truth is there was only one right answer: you screwed up. Actually, you didn’t screw it up now; this is just a symptom. You screwed up the second you believed protecting feelings was more important than conveying facts (because, like it or not, the Muslim world does have less Nobel prizes than the West, and Muslim women have it worse than pathological liars saying they were asked to a hotel room inside an elevator).

    (image: Dave Fayram)

    Category: AtheismPhilosophySecularismSkepticism and Science


    Article by: Ðavid A. Osorio S

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