Mock the Movie: Bad Brains Edition

You could watch a movie where questions about consciousness and death are used to make us think about what it means to be human or to question the nature of existence itself. Or you could watch The Lazarus Effect and pretend that we know less about the brain than we do in order to scare people. For some reason, we’ve decided to do the latter.

[Warning: Strobe in the trailer.]

This one is available on Netflix. Watch with us this Tuesday. Continue reading “Mock the Movie: Bad Brains Edition”

Mock the Movie: Bad Brains Edition
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Mock the Movie: Where It All Began Edition

Once upon a time, in the beforetimes, when The Asylum made movies that weren’t supposed to be so bad they were funny, when they operated as Faith Films and made cheap Christian ripoffs of blockbusters, Jason and I sat down to watch a bad movie in Nova Scotia. He tweeted both our reactions to the movie. People wanted to know what we were watching that was so terrible. They wanted to be part of the awful, and Mock the Movie was born.

This month, we’re going to watch a very bad YouTube video of this very bad movie to revisit our roots. Won’t you join us in watching 2012 Doomsday? You’ll hate it. We promise.

This one is available on YouTube. Please note that we’re changing the date of Mock the Movie to accommodate our schedules. We’ll be watching on first Tuesdays after this month. We weren’t quick enough to grab the first Tuesday this month, so we’re mocking this Tuesday instead. Continue reading “Mock the Movie: Where It All Began Edition”

Mock the Movie: Where It All Began Edition

Reducing Barriers to Reporting Harassment

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With the conversations and reporting of #metoo showing no signs of slowing down, we’re being provided with a trove of information about the reporting of harassment: who is reporting, who isn’t, the social and institutional responses to harassment reports. This all means we’re able to see how serial harassers continue to function over time.

Sometimes, often, the problem is as simple as organizations and individuals with the power to make a difference failing in their responsibilities. At the Weinstein Company, executives helped Harvey Weinstein settle a multitude of harassment claims without taking him out of the position that facilitated that harassment. Outside the company, gossip columnists used him to advance their own careers while keeping his behavior out of the news. NPR News knew about Michael Oreskes behavior his entire tenure but didn’t fire him until it became public.

Several people who’ve come forward have also spoken about experiencing or fearing retaliation as a consequence of speaking up. Unfortunately, retaliation is a reasonable concern. It’s a common experience when reporting harassment in the workplace. An EEOC report suggests an overwhelming majority of those who report face retaliation from their employer or their peers.

Given that kind of response, it absurd to blame targets of harassment for not stopping their harassers from harassing again or even for not coming forward before now. If they stay quiet, they’re merely doing what we’ve trained them to do. The tsunami that is #metoo demonstrates that when conditions change, people are ready to report.

That means that those of us who have and enforce codes of conduct have the power to make harassment claims heard. Continue reading “Reducing Barriers to Reporting Harassment”

Reducing Barriers to Reporting Harassment

Mock the Movie: What Did You Expect Edition

“How much can we cover?”

“In two hours? Not much.”

“What kind of cool effects can we have?”

“With live action instead of anime? Hmm. How do you feel about particles?”

“Oh. Why are we doing this again?”

We’re doing it because Jason has a birthday in April and wants to watch Fullmetal Alchemist. He just doesn’t want to watch it without mocking it. So we will.

This one is available on Netflix. Continue reading “Mock the Movie: What Did You Expect Edition”

Mock the Movie: What Did You Expect Edition

Why Are You Talking?

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Back in 2013, the second Women in Secularism conference was put on by the Center for Inquiry. It was an amazing conference, with strong panels and talks by Rebecca Goldstein, Maryam Namazie, Amanda Marcotte, and Soraya Chemaly. Yet this isn’t why the conference is remembered.

Photo of line-art graffitti in blue on a brick wall painted white. Image is a woman wearing headphones with her hair splayed out behind her and her finger to her lips. Text below reads, "Shhh..."
“Silence at the end of the tunnel, IV” by Newtown Graffitti, CC BY 2.0

It’s remembered most for the opening remarks given by Ron Lindsay, in which he bristled at being told to “Shut up and listen.” He considered it an abuse of the concept of privilege to be told to shut up, even for the purposes of listening. He was appalled to be told he didn’t know what he was talking about.

He quoted a feminist in that speech who was both not part of the secular movement and not representative of the positions movement feminists had been trying to get movement leaders like him to engage with for several years. He only came to understand why his speech was so damaging when he held a listening session with CFI staff some time later. Then he apologized.

Lindsay would have saved himself and his organization quite a bit of trouble had he shut up and listened instead of fighting against the concept. Sadly, if the rest of the movement learned anything from his experience, they appear to have forgotten it before the allegations against Lawrence Krauss finally hit the news. Continue reading “Why Are You Talking?”

Why Are You Talking?

Where to See Me in March

I managed to cluster three speaking gigs in March. If you’re in Minnesota, come find me at one of them!

Tomorrow night and March 29, I’m taking part in Dakota County Library’s Religion and Faith Series.

Explore and gain a new understanding of Atheist, Baha’i, and Unitarian Universalist traditions by discussing their history and beliefs with our guest panelists. Find out how their traditions and beliefs impact their understanding of citizenship and role in the community and how they feel they are perceived. Audience participation is welcome. Attend one or all four program topics. Presented
in partnership with the St. Paul Interfaith Network.

A Minnesota Legacy program sponsored by Minnesota’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.

Atheism
Discover some of the varying views of atheists living in our area and how this worldview impacts their day-to-day actions. Hear how panelists find community and purpose within the larger world.

Wentworth
Thursday, March 8, 6–8 p.m.

Interfaith Dialogue
Interact with people of diverse faiths, religions and beliefs living in our communities. Gain knowledge of other traditions to understand difficult events in our modern world. Join our series panelists in discussing basic questions about how to live together peacefully and equitably in our diverse society.

Robert Trail
Thursday, March 29, 6–8 p.m.

Then, on Sunday March 18, I’m speaking at the Minnesota Atheists public meeting. My talk is titled, “What Do You Mean Science Is Racist?!”

When someone says that science is racist, many of us take it as an affront to our worldview. Science can’t be racist! It’s how we come to an objective understanding of the world. Unfortunately, when we’re affronted, we stop listening. We never find out why people call science racist, never evaluate whether they may be right, never find out what change they’re asking for. We simply stay upset that anyone’s saying this at all.

The problem, of course, is that science is still a human endeavor. With that comes all the biases that plague humanity. While we may eventually manage to purge those biases, it’s a long process, and there are forces working against it.

So what do people mean when they say science is racist? Come find out. Take a tour of science’s racist past, learn how it’s improving, and find out where some of the major challenges still lie.

I’m sure it will be in no way controversial. The talk is at 2 p.m. at the Brookdale Library.

Where to See Me in March

Mock the Movie: How Desperate Edition

What would it take for you to embrace Christianity? Would you do it for blandly pleasant looks, poor acting, and over-the-top judgment from the people around you? Of course you would, just like the heroine of Christian Mingle.

Wait. What?

This one is available on Netflix. Continue reading “Mock the Movie: How Desperate Edition”

Mock the Movie: How Desperate Edition

Scientific Racism and the Validity of Racial Categorization

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The following is based partly on posts previously published in 2008 and 2012. It’s been consolidated and revised to be accessible to audiences new to this discussion. Images used in the post are mine taken at the Science Museum of Minnesota’s exhibit on race, developed by the American Anthropological Association, first mounted in 2008, and revived in 2017.

“Scientific racism” refers to the attempt to justify racist beliefs and policies through the use of scientific studies. Proponents of scientific racism, unsurprisingly, prefer to use less-loaded terms like “race realism” or “human biodiversity”, but even “scientific racism” can lend an unfortunate patina of validity to the arguments they make. It suggests–reinforced by many of those sympathetic to the claims involved–that the arguments we’re all having over race are merely political. It says those of us who fight scientific racism object to the policies promoted, to the racism, but that the whole enterprise is sadly, regrettably, unavoidably scientific.

However, this simply isn’t true. While scientific racism is decidedly racist and particularly anti-Black, it fails to be scientific. How badly does it fail? The very concept of “race” as used by scientific racists isn’t scientifically valid.

Photo of fake street signs at the intersection of Privilege Place and Race Road.
This isn’t to say that race is never a valid scientific concept. You’ll sometimes see people say, “Race is a social construct”, as though this invalidated the concept. It doesn’t. Race is a social construct, but it’s been a durable and very powerful construct. We have scads of documentation of how race has been defined, redefined, and enforced over time. People have lived and died en masse over race. Governments have been organized around the concept of race. Race is not only valid but critical in studying social and societal dynamics.

That isn’t how scientific racists use “race”, though. A socially constructed conception of “race” doesn’t support their arguments. In fact, it’s more likely to expose their racism than justify it.

No, scientific racists are using a more essentialist concept of race. Given the age of much of the research they cite, this may not explicitly be a concept based in genetics. Even their modern research often doesn’t refer directly to genetics (studies that do tend to fall out of favor for reasons I’ll get to), but the implication is that the qualities studied are fixed and inherent to the racial categories being used. We know this requires a shared genetics even if this is never said.

The problem for scientific racism is that race is not a valid concept within human population genetics. Continue reading “Scientific Racism and the Validity of Racial Categorization”

Scientific Racism and the Validity of Racial Categorization

Mock the Movie: Nice Hair Edition

Finally! At last! This month we shall return to the great continuity that is the Dungeons & Dragons movies with The Book of Vile Darkness. [gratuitous sound effects] I know it’s been a long time, but hopefully we can all remember what happened in the first two thrilling installments so as not to dull our enjo—

What?

Nothing to do with each other?

Oh, all right then.

This one is available on YouTube. Continue reading “Mock the Movie: Nice Hair Edition”

Mock the Movie: Nice Hair Edition

How to Criticize Something You Like

David Smalley asked a question on Twitter last night:

I’m not sure “How do I criticize without being subject to criticism myself” is quite the right frame of mind for the question, but there’s a decent question in there. So, assuming he actually meant to ask, “How do I make it clear that I’m in favor of something while criticizing its abuse?”, here are some tips drawn from my prior writing on giving criticism.

These may seem a bit general, but the point of criticizing something you like should be to improve it. That means you want to make your criticism constructive. How?

Those are the basics. I hope they help, David.

How to Criticize Something You Like