Tagged–15 Books

DuWayne is going into meme overdrive and has tagged me with the 15 books meme that two people also tagged me with on Facebook tonight. Just for him, I’m posting my answers here before I put them on Facebook. (It’s been mean to him.)

Rules are simple: 15 books (or in DuWayne’s case, 15 minutes of books) that will always stick with you. I make no claims about whether my list says anything profound about me. Feel free to psychoanalyze in the comments.

  1. Andersen’s Fairy Tales
  2. Grimm’s Fairy Tales
  3. Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner
  4. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevski
  5. Deerskin by Robin McKinley
  6. The Demon Breed by James Schmitz
  7. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  8. Rilla of Ingleside by L. M. Montgomery
  9. Flim-Flam by James Randi
  10. Brokedown Palace by Steven Brust
  11. Cards of Grief by Jane Yolen
  12. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchet
  13. Drinking Sapphire Wine by Tanith Lee
  14. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
  15. An Old Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott

I’m not tagging anybody, since the last time I tagged people, those tag hung out there for more than a month. I hate feeling as though I’ve obligated anyone to do anything. Still, if you want to participate, I’m always interested in what people read and what influences them. Meme away.

Tagged–15 Books

Samia’s at It Again

Blogging things that make me vaguely uncomfortable, that is. I do believe she’s requiring me to think.

I don’t get this unspoken idea in the white West that Muslim (esp brown) women are somehow more lost/mindless/submissive/in-need-of-saving than women of other faiths. It seems the bodies, sexuality, and general suffering of many Muslim women are just fine to trot out when they serve the interests of various Western war machines or the egos of some feminists. But there’s almost no respect for the personal agency and intelligence of women who choose to practice Islam in certain ways. It’s too much for people to try and listen before deciding they Care More and Know Better.

No, if a woman is Muslim, then it’s Islam holding her down– class, cultural, familial, racial, colonial*, layers are blotted out completely. And don’t let her tell you different! Even if she identifies as feminist!


Catch the rest of her post on the complexities of restrictive religions and how they are reported. Don’t miss the comments, either.

Samia also posts links to writing she finds thought-provoking. This last set is particularly good, so good that even while I strongly suggest you go read the rest, I’m stealing this video. Note that it applies very well to discussing behavior in general, not just in the context of race.

Samia’s at It Again

Today’s Question

When do we get to stop defining smart, passionate women by the most powerful men in their circle?

My head is spinning 4 bazillion different kinds of purple because I have no idea what any of this means. I’ll grant ERV that she never said the word “atheist” in her post criticizing the book she didn’t read. That said, to deny that the current disagreement has anything to do with religion when she links specifically to PZ is disingenuous at best.

Or maybe a better question is, “Is it really that difficult to tell atheists apart?” or, “Why is the only thing of interest about an atheist their opinion on religion?”

Okay, enough with implying that Isis is displaying sexism or anti-atheist bigotry. It’s a cheap trick and just not that hard to do, as we’ve seen over and over. Today’s real question is, “Why not ask Abbie? She was right there!” Same question goes when you don’t understand the relevance of a comment. What does it hurt to ask?

Haven’t we seen enough strawmen burned in effigy in other discussions? Haven’t we seen how easy it is to fan the flames of righteous anger and how hard it is to put them out with the wind that is our only real tool here on the internet? Why wouldn’t we want to settle the question of what’s actually going on before we pour so much energy into tearing the situation apart? Aren’t we supposed to be the empiricists, the evidence-based crowd? Why would we neglect a primary source of information?

Now, I’ll freely admit I didn’t know what Abbie was talking about when she said her history with Chris Mooney on this topic went back to 2006. I’ve only been reading widely in the science blogosphere for about a year and a half. Abbie didn’t link to it, and the search function on the old ERV blog wasn’t working. So there I was, stuck in ignorance despite my curiosity.

Well, no.

Yesterday morning, I sent Abbie an email asking for more information. I had to look up her email address. The most we’ve ever exchanged is a comment or two and blog links. I got a reply in about half an hour, giving me the basic background that this dates back to Discovery Institute and other creationist attacks on The Republican War on Science.

I didn’t ask for permission to quote, so I’ll paraphrase somewhat less colorfully (I trust Abbie will correct me where I get it wrong): Creationists personalized their attacks on RWS, misrepresenting Mooney and the book in order to do so. PZ, Abbie and others who fight the good fight on keeping religious objections to evolution from screwing up science education stood up for Mooney. They took apart the bad arguments and exposed the misinformation.

Now she feels Mooney has done the same thing to PZ that was done to him, that he has attacked him based on irrelevancies and distortions. As for the comment that Isis didn’t understand, if Mooney had done the same thing to Isis, saying her open letters suggested that disagreeing with her on anything was incompatible with science and this was hurting the cause of science literacy, Abbie would call bullshit on that too. Ditto for others who in any way upset people while being scientists instead of having personalities as pale as their labcoats. After what he’s been through, Mooney doesn’t have the option to credibly claim he’s ignorant of what he’s doing.

Shortly after the first email from Abbie, she followed up with another that gave me the links to follow along in her discussions on framing and science outreach. It starts, in fact, with her post chronicling Casey Luskin’s objections to RWS.

This is what you come up against being a science advocate in the real world. These people have absolutely no interest in ‘teaching both sides.’ They want to teach their side, their creation myth, nothing else. They blockade themselves in their churches and their religious schools and religious camps and nobody gets through with an outside opinion. Filtering questions?? Common!! I would ask Chris, why hasnt he promoted his book on ‘The 700 Club’? He says we need to plead with the Religious Right to come back to reality, so why doesnt he go on ‘The 700 Club’ and do just that? Well, the same reason why I cant leave my ‘ivory tower’ to speak at local anti-evolution churches. I might want to go, but theyarent letting me in.

The answer is not to further condemn frustrated science activists, but to properly condemn the evil individuals that would rather keep their flocks ignorant than lose their tithes. Evil little twits like Casey who continue the religious mental abuse of teenagers and young adults with their IDEA clubs. Dont bitch to me about staying in my ‘ivory tower’ when youve never been in the dark trenches of the Bible Belt.

I have to say I’m impressed with how precisely accurate she was in saying she’s been having the same discussion with Mooney for almost three years. Just like she’s right that she’s been asking for practical help.

Id like to think that when I do have the opportunity to address the public on some form of science, I do a decent enough job, but how about some real advice, journalist friends? How about some advice as to how to get invited to speak about science? Hell, Im at a major research institution, and the only after work presentation weve had is some jerk-off talking about ‘God and Science.’ I mean Jesus, Im a young, relatively attractive, cutesy female, and I cant get a science speaking gig around here. You think burly old professors get invited inside church walls to speak about evolution?
How about getting your journalist friends to talk to scientists when speaking about science, and not getting a fully loaded panel of idiotic Creationists/Deniers/Skeptics/Anti-Vaxers/etc with one actual scientist (who gets talked over the entire ‘conversation’)? Scientists arent in Ivory Towers, the people who need to hear what we have to say are behind Iron Curtains. You two cant be naive enough not to know this.

She’s also been critiquing the idea that all we need are more scientist-communicators for over two years.

And in my current environment, I feel completely ignored. What is making 200 more of me supposed to do? 200 more people to be ignored. Super. I mean are we to believe that I am the only scientist on the planet that already has these super special qualifications? Im the only person being ignored? Thats idiotic! This cadre of Super Communicator Scientists already exists, especially within my internet-video game-Red Bull generation! But we’re being ignored, and we have very few outlets by which we can cut our communication teeth, so to speak. Our talents arent being utilized to their full potential. This blog has been a much needed stress-release valve for me.

Suggestions like Science Cafes and speaking at local schools are helpful. I didnt find the N/M article helpful. I kinda took it personally, though Im sure N/M only wanted to help. And Id love to have a post-presentation critique from Chris Mooney!
I know I still have a lot to learn about public presentations!
But until I, or others, can slide past the Iron Curtain of ignorance that some desperately want (need) to maintain, I maintain my stance that if N/M really, really believe that our scientific illiteracy problem is a result of few ‘good’ science communicators, they are incredibly naive, and enabling the perpetrators of the real barriers to productive communication.

And her response (in early 2007) to the critique (from Nisbet) that overt atheists are hurting science outreach.

Here is a real problem, that you and Chris are either unable or unwilling to address. Brace yourself here: I am not Richard Dawkins.

I am a 5’8″ chick with blue eyes, long brown hair, and (Ive been told) a *cute* voice, that wears polo shirts from Old Navy. Im not how most Christians/Muslims/etc would picture an ‘atheist’, so I can slide in cognito through even the most fundamentalist theistic environments.

And I have difficulty getting past the Iron Curtain gate keepers.

Stop enabling their behaviors by ‘blaming’ atheism. Oh, or even better idea, why dont you all focus your energies on solving the Iron Curtain problem, rather than pointing out the sky is blue.

She documented this problem of outlets for science outreach a couple days later with an email exchange between someone who was trying to represent science and event organizers. Then she dropped the subject for a while, coming back with a post that suggests she reads Mooney very closely indeed.

Should we confront anti-scientists at all?
Chris Mooney, 2006–

And just as science-abusing corporations must be fought in the courts, science-abusing religious conservatives– who would misinform our children about the origin of the human species and about virtually every thing having to do with sex– must be fought in schools, the educational system, and the public arena more generally.

Chris Mooney, 2008–

First of all, what is the point of fighting and debating climate skeptics any more?

… if you actually bother to rebut the Heartlands and Discoverys of the world, you instantly enter into a discourse on their own terms. The strategic framing these groups employ to attack mainstream science heavily features the rhetoric of scientific uncertainty—and so if you try to answer their arguments, you’re inevitably committed to conveying more abstruse technical information and, thus, more uncertainty as soon as they wail back at you (which they thoroughly enjoy doing).

And, still more than a year ago, she asked who the religious moderates were who were going to be so offended by an atheist’s views on religion as to turn away from science.

Oh certainly my friends and I could get into a big fight over religion (especially me and Ian– he does that ‘I used to be an atheist’ thing that drives me up the wall LOL!). And of course I think my friends are being silly and childish– they know that. And of course I know they think Im going to heaven and Im going to LUV IT, whether I like it or not (???).

But we arent going to fight about science.

Okay, having read all that, I understand a whole lot better why she doesn’t think there’s much point in her trying to engage Mooney on an intellectual basis. I get why she’s annoyed and angry, and I understand the critiques that there is nothing new in the book much better as well. When one has been asking for more information for years, it’s definitely going to be frustrating to be handed what you already know and have responded to.

I know I prefer it when I get my questions answered. I’ll have to try more.

Maybe for tomorrow: Chris and Sheril, if you think Crackergate hurts science among theists, why include it in a book meant for a broader audience with a higher proportion of theists in it? Or maybe: Do we want to put all our eggs in one basket? Or even: Why would an author ever think it’s a good idea to argue with a review, much less a solicited review?

Do you think they’ll answer?

Today’s Question

Atheists in Love

I turned back to the conversation between PZ and the very earnest young man sitting across from me. He had come to atheism relatively recently and with great relief, and he wanted to give something back. He was shy, though, and diffident, and didn’t know what he could do to help. He asked PZ.

Now, I’m not a big talker. It takes some wind up for me to get to the point of even opening my mouth. However, this time, I interrupted before PZ could answer.

“Be happy.”

He looked confused.

“One of the best things you can do to promote a positive view of atheism is to live a happy, healthy life as an out atheist.”

More at Quiche Moraine.

Atheists in Love

Today’s Reading in Science Communication

[E]leven years ago after hearing Kent Hovind on the radio making a complete ass of himself on the radio, and worse hearing a bunch of “Coast to Coast” listeners call in to agree with him, not only confirmed for me that creationism is just another version of UFO’ism supported because it kind of fits with the Bible and they really don’t have to learn much more about it than they can get in church. Salvation granted, Satan thwarted, let’s eat! My problem was that if called on to defend my position I would be the one who was a fool, I really didn’t know all that much about how it all works together.

So, I decided to learn.

Mike is taking his turn at diagnosing the cause of science illiteracy at Tangled Up in Blue Guy. It’s well worth a read.

Today’s Reading in Science Communication

Hollywood, Science, and Unscientific America

I’m a bit busy at the moment, having a very important house guest this week and just having taken on a new and very exciting project that I’m only going to tease you with for a while. However, that doesn’t mean you’ll lack for continued criticisms of the new Mooney/Kirshenbaum book.

Peggy got herself a copy of the book and dug into the chapter on science in Hollywood much more thoroughly at Biology in Science Fiction than I did at Quiche Moraine working from just one quote. She’s not entirely thrilled.

I’m disappointed that Unscientifc America indulges in the same sort of negative stereotyping of scientists that pop culture does. And maybe I’m misunderstanding, but the suggestion seems to be that scientists should not comment on or complain about “minor” scientific inaccuracies, because, well, just because:

Sound familiar? That’s not the only thing that chapter appears to have in common (in a negative way) with the rest of the book. Go find out how Dawkins is taken out of context again.

Also, while we’re still talking about the book, Jason would like your help with a little poll.

Hollywood, Science, and Unscientific America

The Mooney/Kirshenbaum Strategy

I must issue an apology to Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum. I admit to having wondered whether their intention in criticizing the world’s most popular science blogger and a much-awarded science communicator whose books all remain in print as being bad for science literacy was merely to generate publicity for their own book. After all, picking a fight with someone better known than you has proven successful in drawing heaps of attention to people who would otherwise be ignored.

But lo, I shouldn’t have doubted, for while digging back into the history of such conflicts, I discovered what their true purpose in making such an attack must be, and it is a noble purpose. They are simply trying to help the “New Atheists”‘ cause. We already know atheism has a huge PR problem.

No, I suspect this is a gift to Pharyngula, a gift to Richard Dawkins. The controversy raises the profile of the New Atheists, people–especially with a book like this, which is by its very nature courting controversy and baiting working science communicators.

It took some time and thought, but I must now conclude that Chris and Sheril are doing more here than merely trying to set themselves up as a new voice emerging reflecting our diversity, tolerance, the encouragement of ideas, and ultimately, in fact, promoting a similar message to that of Expelled…that we must question what we’re told–in religion, in science, in life.

Because if the general public thinks all they’ve got to say is ‘shut up,’ they lose.

The Mooney/Kirshenbaum Strategy