CFI Ontario: “The Small Chill: Women, Minorities and the Modern Skeptical Movement”

Just got word of this talk. Might be interesting. If someone local’s willing to report on it, I’d be happy to publish here.

Wednesday, May 16th 2012 at 7:00 pm
The Bahen Centre for Information Technology, Room 2135- 40 St. George Street

Is skepticism for everyone? If so, then we have to grapple with the fact that some women and minorities claim to feel unwelcome in the current skeptical climate—claims that have been met with responses ranging from concern to disbelief to derision. I will critically assess this issue of perceived discrimination and discuss how organized skepticism may unwittingly alienate women and minorities.


When: Wednesday May 16th, 7pm

Where: The Bahen Centre for Information Technology- 40 St. George Street, Room 2135

How Much: $5/FREE for CFI Members


About the Speaker

Steve Livingston has twin interests in the natural and social sciences. He completed his BSc in biology and BA (Honours) in psychology at the University of Winnipeg, and his MA in social psychology at The Ohio State University. As an experimental social psychologist he studied persuasion and prejudice, and taught psychology at Ohio State and the University of Toronto Scarborough. He believes strongly in the value of open inquiry, critical thinking, and evidence-based policy.

CFI Ontario: “The Small Chill: Women, Minorities and the Modern Skeptical Movement”
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14 thoughts on “CFI Ontario: “The Small Chill: Women, Minorities and the Modern Skeptical Movement”

  1. 1

    Well I would have enthusiastically gone and reported back but although I’m in Ontario I’m not that close to toronto. Nothing ever happens in Ottawa šŸ™

  2. 2

    There are two separate questions/issues in the abstract.

    1. Is skepticism for everyone? – simple answer: yes.

    2. Is the organized skeptic movement alienating women and minorities. – complicated answer: maybe.

    Certainly, a skeptical frame of mind can be practiced in solitude, and that solitude is not gender, racially, or otherwise exclusive. I am not a member of any organizatyions, so I can’t make any observations on the second.

  3. 3

    Is it just me or are others getting a weird feels-entitled-to-speak-for-others vibe from this?

    I mean, the “claim to feel unwelcome”–I mean, that’s pretty belittling. Would he care to reread all the rape threats that many prominent bloggers have talked about receiving? Also, how you feel is a subjective state–no one else can really definitively state how you feel*, so saying someone “claims” to feel something, when self-report is basically the gold standard for these kinds of things, is kinda strange. Moreover, you don’t know their past experiences better than they do, so how are you even to judge what they *should* feel?

    Again, EXTRAORDINARY claims require extraordinary evidence. Really mundane ones don’t require that level of exactitude, and if he hasn’t figured out by now that women being harassed is a pretty mundane claim, I don’t know what to tell him. As Richard Carrier said in his excellent Bayes Theorem talk, when you actually proportion a *lower* amount of belief than is merited by the evidence, you’re not being skeptical, you’re being overly gullible for the contrary position.

    *Minor point: this may, at times, be doubted when someone’s behavior is grossly at odds with their purported feelings, but even then you need evidence *against* someone’s self-report for subjective internal experiences, because the null should be respecting the other person’s report.**

    **Before someone says, “But you wouldn’t take someone’s internal experience as evidence for Jesus!” remember that is an EXternal claim. I have no doubt they feel love/awe/whatever, and that they *think* it’s Jesus, because these are descriptions of the person’s state of mind…what it does NOT translate to is evidence that there actually is a Jesus outside of that person’s mind.

  4. 5

    Also, “unwittingly?” Was Elevatorgate perhaps supposed to target a theist man named Webecca Ratson, and misaddressed due to a typo? Has someone’s cat been walking on their keyboard and accidentally posting comments claiming that black people are stupid because IQ tests? I mean, yes, if you don’t watch your privilege you can do racist, sexist, etc. things by accident. But I don’t think the “unwitting” offenses are our first priority right now.

  5. 9

    Yeah, the parts that immediately jumped out at me were that skepticism itself is somehow “unwittingly” making a chilly climate for non-white-males, and the messaging — consider the “small chill” title, and the venus symbol with the crossed-out cross inside — is just weird all around. This guy studied psych and claims a focus on prejudice, so I’m really hoping he treats the subject with more sensitivity than the synopsis suggests. But I really want to get someone there to see it otherwise I can only speculate.

    Yes, I’m up at 5:15, having gone to bed at 12:30 the night after an overnight that took me right through til 7:30am. I think my body was trained to treat this sleep that I just attempted, as a nap, considering it came about nine hours after having gotten up from my last real sleep. I have a very shitty schedule right now. Also, I go to work in two hours to supervise some work, and work another overnight tonight. Expect more hit-and-run posts like this, with little meat on them. I hope you can all fill in the blanks.

  6. 10

    He’s very skeptical about the idea that there actually might be discrimination and that women and minorities actually might feel unwelcome, but should that be the case it was totally unwitingly so, no hard feelings, ok, it’s sooo unfair that you keep bringing that up!

  7. 11



    Yes, Iā€™m up at 5:15, having gone to bed at 12:30 the night after an overnight that took me right through til 7:30am.



    Also, I go to work in two hours to supervise some work, and work another overnight tonight.

    Ah, youth!

    (Bright-burning candle, for now)

  8. 12

    Count me in as someone else who finds his summary concerning. Even if he’s focusing on the “unwitting” causes making women and other minorities feel unwelcome, that’s still real discrimination, not “perceived.” Something doesn’t have to be intentional to have an effect.

    I would be very interested to read notes from someone who can actually attend the talk.

  9. 14

    Yeah, I’m really unimpressed they there’s this white dude talking about how maybe women and POC might have inadvertently made to feel uncomfortable. If I had $5, I’d go to raise hell.

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