Tweet by Richard Dawkins in defense of rapist Michael Shermer.
There has been a great deal of discussion on the constant stream of misogyny and racism coming from the leading figures of the atheist community (Richard Dawkins, Michael Shermer, Sam Harris, Lawrence Krauss) and the skeptic community (DJ Grothe, Ben Radford).
The minority of representation of women and POC in the leadership and speaker lists of atheist and skeptic organizations is also an obvious result of the misogyny and racism in these organizations. The reactions to other events, such as the harassment of Rebecca Watson, has made clear that the atheist and skeptic communities are, by and large, against women.
I have seen a great deal discussed on these issues. I have not, however, seen a lot of discussion as to the why. People (like Sam Harris) have tried to argue that the issue of low representation of women and POC is the result of some inherent lack in the part of women and POC. This of course is misogynist nonsense.
One thing both these communities have in common is nerd culture. While one does not have to be a nerd to be an atheist or a skeptic, there is certainly a strong association between the two. It is well known that scientists have far higher rates of unbelief, and in general it seems likely that love of science and technology entails higher rates of unbelief as well.
The problem is that nerd culture, while glorifying science and technology, is very toxic and masculinist. There is a strong correlation between nerd culture and rape culture. The controversy over video game sexism and the attacks against female journalists, designers and programmers, as well as the depictions of women catering to the male gaze in video games and comic books, have demonstrated that.
Nerd culture means living in a world of male fantasy and rejecting the right of females to exist.
They live in a world of perpetually scantily clad superwomen who fight crime in ninja lingerie and kevlar camisoles. They live in a world where super-soldier women strike anatomically impossible fighting stances that show off not only their ample asses but their massive breasts. They live in a world where happiness is a harajuku schoolgirl getting the tentacle rape she so desperately deserves. They live in a world where the once feisty and feminist-era proud Princess Leia is nothing more than a cosplay centerfold.
Nerds are represented in the media as lovable weirdoes, so it may seem harsh to associate nerd culture with rape culture. But I defy any defender of nerd culture to name one aspect of nerd culture which is not demeaning or annihilating of female existence and female perspective.
Another thing they have in common is ultra-rationalism, which I have previously described. The ultra-rational is characterized by the belief that one is more rational than most people, while exhibiting irrational traits brought about by overconfidence. Because they adopt one position on a consciously rational basis, they take it for granted that their positions are based on reason, when this is generally not the case, or at least not noticeably more than non-atheists or non-skeptics.
One characteristic of ultra-rationalism is a complete bungling of the concept of burden of proof. They believe that personal experience, even when not used to prove a scientific point, is automatically invalid. The inevitable result of this mindset is that accusations of sexual harassment are trivialized or rejected, while “scientific” conclusions about women based on “just so” stories are widely accepted.
It is somewhat understandable that atheism is ultra-rational, since it is after all a reaction to theology, which has adopted all the trappings of logical argumentation (although, sadly, not the intellectual rigor that should go with it).
The third thing they have in common is white privilege. There are very few POC in these communities. Nerds tend to be white people who have the luxury of not needing a strong sense of identity (beyond being nerds), unlike POC and immigrants. For many people, religion is an identity and a community, and atheism does not measure up to that standard.
I don’t know about skeptics, but atheists certainly look down on other cultures, especially Islamic cultures. Accusations of Islamophobia have been issues at various prominent figures, including Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris.
While I agree that the term Islamophobia is inadequate to describe this attitude, I certainly think bigotry and white privilege are good words when Richard Dawkins makes tweets like this, or Sam Harris says things like: “We should profile Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim, and we should be honest about it.”
Richard Dawkins, who has made himself a leading figure of atheism and evolution, is now also known for his misogynistic attitude, exemplified in his Dear Muslima mockery of a sexual harassment victim,
and his otherwise bizarre and illogical statements, such as when he called for tolerance of “mild pedophilia” or when he tried to classify rapes as “bad” and “worse.”
Of course, his ultra-rational defenders believe firmly that Dawkins is making perfectly logical statements, even though this is the kind of stuff we expect from someone who’s slipping away from reality.
What is the solution? It seems so far that the only viable solution is a “new wave” of atheism to replace “New Atheism.” Atheism+ is certainly a step in the right direction, although it may turn into the same kind of insanity as the “social justice” tumblr groups. That much remains to be seen.