Tuesday, August 20, 2013

On accusations against skeptical leaders

While I was in France, I lost internet entirely for a week, and then this stuff happened.  Short version: there was a cascade of accusations against several skeptical leaders for sexual harrassment, assault, and rape.  People named include Ben Radford, Lawrence Krauss, and Michael Shermer.

I don't have much to say about this, just an expression of shock.

I have a lot of respect for Michael Shermer, despite a few political differences.  I first got excited about skepticism through reading his columns.  I have an autographed copy of his book, Why People Believe Weird Things.  I don't want to think so poorly of him.  But yeah... I can't let my respect for Shermer bias my conclusions of his sexual conduct.

Sometimes I think the reason that sexual harrassment and assault inspire such high emotions is not so much because of the sexual aspect, but because it occurs between friends.  If Shermer were instead accused of stealing millions by wire fraud (as happened with Brian Dunning), I would lose respect for him, but I could still keep that separate from his skeptical work.  But this is sexual assault and rape of people in the skeptical movement.  I don't know anything about the victims, but in a way those women are my friends, just as much as Shermer is a friend.  Why must friends be so awful to one another?


Jeffrey Ellis said...

Dude. Seriously. This is all *alleged* and people like PZ Myers should know better than to put that stuff forward as more than hearsay.

miller said...

You make it sound like PZ Myers has fooled us all into thinking it's more than hearsay. Of course it's only hearsay, that's obvious. Sometimes hearsay is persuasive. In this case, it helps that there are multiple convergent accounts.

Unknown said...

I wosh you people would stop this. Rape ans sexual assault occur with frightening frequency around the world. When 1 in 6 women are sexually assaulted in their lifetime...when only 2-8% of reported rapes are labelled false rape claims, leaving 92-98% of reported rape allegations true...when police do not test rape kits, leaving thousands of women without any justice...when women are harassed into silence...when women are bullied by police--this crap is part of rape culture.
The victims of sexual assault MUST be believed if we are ever to weaken the chains of rape culture (if it turns out over the course of an investigation that the claims were actually a lie--which is exceedingly rare--one can revise their opinion).
I do not give a crap if Shermer sees a loss of women hanging out with him at bars. If he loses a speaking engagement, boo hoo. This is not likely to go to court, so aside from public opinion, he is facing no penalties.
I do care about efforts to protect women from slimeballs. This is how Jane Doe wanted to proceed. I support her and PZ 100%. As should all compassionate humans.