Ideas may be bulletproof, but nobody’s tried plasma rifles

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Daniel Harper


  1. Jane
    August 13, 2016 @ 8:42 pm

    To seek poison and bullets is to be grounded in metaphors of opposition, which paints everything in the schemas of war. Which is kind of the opposite of intersubjectivity (not to mention utopia). How’s that for a binary?


    • Daniel Harper
      August 14, 2016 @ 2:24 pm

      So much of our rhetoric of solving social problems seems based in violent conflict. Perhaps due to over-reliance on personal conflict: those “over there” are the source of the problem rather than an emphasis on systemic issues? Maybe metaphors based on natural disasters, etc. could be more useful in places. “Building the levies of rationalism to lessen the effects of the racist hurricane” just doesn’t have the same ring. 😉


  2. Chong Li
    August 14, 2016 @ 1:57 am

    Most intriguing! I usually pop by this site once or twice a week for Phil’s comics stuff, but this was certainly worth the read. I’ve never given religion much thought myself (thanks, Chairman Mao…?), so I usually look on the big Atheism-vs-Theism battlegrounds with mild bemusement and not much else.

    One question – would you say the mode of thought outlined in this article is more for the purpose of becoming a better person, or for building a better world?


    • Jane
      August 14, 2016 @ 12:45 pm

      Becoming a better person is part and parcel of building a better world.


    • Daniel Harper
      August 14, 2016 @ 2:26 pm

      What Jane said. This is one of those “personal is political” things: if Utopia is only fit for the Utopians, then part of the struggle must mean making ourselves into Utopians. 😉

      Of course it also goes the other way; in the process of making the world a better place, we will find that we are also making ourselves better people. It’s both the challenge, and the promise, of making a better world.


  3. 5tephe
    August 14, 2016 @ 12:39 pm

    The more I read and listen to you Daniel, the more I like what I hear. I think we have very similar backgrounds, and that I can learn from you.


  4. Kit Power
    August 14, 2016 @ 2:13 pm

    Brilliant, brilliant article. Bravo.


  5. Kiki Basco
    August 14, 2016 @ 5:17 pm

    I’m not trying to be rude here. I’m really not.

    But y’know, this essay extolling the importance of intersectionality feels kind of disingenuous on a website that’s like 100% nerdy white people.


    • Elizabeth Sandifer
      August 14, 2016 @ 5:27 pm

      Well, you’re kind of missing, particularly in that you’re blaming Daniel for it when he’s not the one who picks the writers here.

      Yes, we’re an all-white site. I’m not thrilled about it. One of the rotating straplines pokes fun at it. But yes, there’s a self-perpetuating bubble here. Doctor Who fandom, which is where this site started, is disproportionately white. The list of writers I know to go seek out and hire is thus white. Fixing the problem is going to require an active call for non-white writers. Before I do that, I want to get the financials to where I can move Josh, Daniel, and Shana to paid staff, which means getting the Patreon higher, as right now it’s actually below the threshold needed for adding Jack and Jane to be break-even. (Which is my fault – I need to push the Patreon more, and I need to do better by my Patrons in terms of bonus essays and shit.)

      So it’s on the to-do list. But A) that doesn’t actually invalidate the importance of intersectionality, and B) it ain’t Daniel’s fault, so he’s not the one to call disingenuous for it.


      • homunculette
        August 15, 2016 @ 3:38 am

        Are you planning on rehauling the patreon to being a general Eruditorum Press thing? I’m definitely interested in backing if that’s the case


    • Lambda
      August 15, 2016 @ 12:16 am

      If intersectionality is important, groups of people shouldn’t feel they can’t say so, just because they’re all nerdy white people, that would be counterproductive.


  6. Al Maxwell
    August 15, 2016 @ 9:41 pm

    “A young woman is featured at a freethought conference and speaks on communicating atheism through blogging, then later on sexism within the atheist community. She has her say, makes some points (namely, that just because other female skeptics don’t recognize sexism within the skeptic community in their own lives and work, that said sexism might still exist), and afterwards basically goes on with her life. Later, she spends time at the bar in the hotel chatting and generally having a good time, and when at four in the morning she decides she needs some sleep, she finds herself alone in an elevator with a man who takes the opportunity to ask her to his hotel room for coffee.”

    Some guy asked some women to his room, she politely declined and he didn’t pursue. That’s not a controversy, that’s just someone trying to get laid. How is this an example of anything?

    “Rebecca Watson suffered years of harassment for pointing out the obvious, that dudes in elevators with young women at four in the morning probably shouldn’t try hitting on them. Why? Because it’s the experience of so many women that men offering coffee in enclosed spaces aren’t really offering coffee. And even if you are, the young woman you’re offering it to can’t tell the difference between you and an abuser. “

    Yes, clearly he wanted more than just coffee. How does this make him an abuser? He didn’t rape anyone. He didn’t make any gross comments. He simply asked a woman he was attracted to up to his room. Why is this a bad thing?

    Jesus some people are so SENSITIVE! Rebecca Watson made herself a victim when she clearly wasn’t, and she deserves any fallout she gets from her pearl-clutching alarmist bullshit.


    • Elizabeth Sandifer
      August 15, 2016 @ 10:20 pm

      The sensible takeaway here might be that attempting to strike up conversations with people purely to get them into bed is not a good thing. But then, people whose comments hit MRA talking points as precisely as this don’t really do “sensible takeaways”, do they?


  7. Al Maxwell
    August 16, 2016 @ 2:11 pm

    “The sensible takeaway here might be that attempting to strike up conversations with people purely to get them into bed is not a good thing.”

    I don’t think that’s a sensible takeaway. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that’s a pretty Puritanical viewpoint. So we’re not supposed to try to have sex with people we find attractive? This must be a straight person thing, because I can assure you no gay man on the planet would have made an issue out of being hit on in that elevator. We’re not offended by stuff like that, and Rebecca shouldn’t have been either. People rightfully called her out on her bullshit, but she can’t take even the slightest criticism without claiming misogyny and harassment. That woman is a joke.


    • Sok
      August 16, 2016 @ 9:02 pm

      Straight cisgender guy here: hello.

      It took me a little bit to riddle through the problem here as well, but I think the issue’s primarily one of situational awareness. Asking someone on a date isn’t a problem and asking someone in a not-really-that-oblique fashion if they’d like to have sex isn’t the problem (although it might be crass).

      The problem is doing that when you’re alone, in a cramped space, at a time when no one’s liable to be nearby, whilst having a lot of opportunity to follow your would-be partner back to their not-quite-familiar-ground residence. That’s rather intimidating, and when you add “man hitting on woman” on top of that then stalker/rape-alert concerns will kick into overdrive…

      …because, sure, men can get raped and women can be rapists, but those situations are not nearly as common. I understand completely why she’d be unnerved by the attention. It was profoundly ill-timed.


  8. Burl Bird
    August 18, 2016 @ 7:07 am

    Hey Daniel, nice to hear that another otherwise sensible person has finally come to their senses when it comes to the whole New Atheist bs. I’m sharing this post with some anti-NA groups and individuals (both atheist and religious) that I think may find your insight interesting.


  9. Shannon
    August 22, 2016 @ 4:49 pm

    As someone who works in science communication, I thought your description of intersubjectivity was really great. I actually think that’s one of the things the general public (and politicians as part of that) gets hung up on the most about science – they often don’t understand there is no one ultimate experiment or result. “Contradictory” reseults often aren’t contradictory so much as subtly different. It’s a morphing, interdimensional field, where each study gives a little more information, another piece of the puzzle. It’s actually one of the big messages I try to communicate in my articles.

    Also, I hate the stupid Recaptcha asking you to identify a house. It’s almost impossible to tell the difference between mega-mansions and institutional buildings.


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