That is a Word Document showing what I might suggest to Thunderf00t if he were a student and handed in the post shown below as a paper. I guess my summer break is not exciting enough.
I’m really not sure why I’m bothering. I do not think Thunderf00t is a “bad guy” (whatever that means), but he needs to learn a little humility – and we all do.
“Free Thought” is not just refusing to accept stances based on social pressure or popularity, but not digging in your heels so badly that you can’t admit you are wrong.
“Skepticism” is not just about analyzing and debunking, but being able to articulate why you have come to a particular conclusion in a way that allows others to independently assess your assertions.
Many people, including myself, have gained a better understanding through the discussions about sexism on Freethought Blogs and elsewhere. I’m really not sure why discussing it is somehow a problem; but painting discussing it as a problem seems like a problem to me.
If I were more creative, I would make a parody with the premise being “Is Thunderf00t’s blog unrepresentative of the larger rationalist community?!” with the first point being:
1) The disproportionate attention given to telling other people to stop talking about sexism, publicizing harassment and considering anti-harassment policies compared to other issues.
…but that would be silly.
Update: I just noticed that ZJ also critiqued the post.
Update: If you don’t have Word:
Is it ‘Freethoughtblogs’ or ‘Group-think-blogs’?
June 29, 2012 at 10:41 pm thunderf00t
…. look to an extent we all have a tendency to align our views to those around us. It’s a biological thing, particularly on the more plastic elements of social behavior.[A1] Folks immersed in any such environment can start to hold as obvious truth what people outside that community see as simply batshit crazy. This is why religions survive best in ‘critical mass’ communities[A2] . Put simply we must be constantly aware that the local environment may not be representative of the larger environment. [A3] Sometimes this is a significant factor, sometimes not.
Sure I claim no immunity from such factors, although being aware of such factors reduces their potential to influence you. Travelling and seeing different cultures also heightens your awareness to such factors. Indeed I’m constantly fascinated by the idea flow in cultures, how some ideas are relatively impervious to change, while others can be assimilated/ discarded in a fraction of generation. Finally, I’ve been assessing, and solving problems as a research scientist for a LOOONG time (where it’s expected that I say if I think somethings wrong when I see it, no matter if I am minority of one or not) which means that if I see such factors in the community around me, I have no problem whatsoever in saying so.[A4]
As such I personally see ‘freethoughtblogs’ as unrepresentative of the wider rationalist community in:
1) The disproportionate amount of attention it gives to sexism compared to other issues.
2) The way that those who disagree on the matter of sexism are attacked with a disproportionate amount of strawmen, invective and branding (misogynist, MRA, etc etc). This is a behavior more in line with bullying than free thought.[A5]
.. and this puts FTB on a trajectory to be more of a fringe group that is intolerant of non-conformity, than a haven for free thought. An ill wind that really doesn’t blow anyone any good.[A6]
However, how to demonstrate such a point? Well clearly you need to see how the views of the plurality on freethoughtblogs compare to those in another section of the secular community, such as on youtube. [A7] So to this end I made a ‘spoken word’ version of my initial post that drew such ferocious criticism here on FTB, and contrasted it with the reply of PZ Myers [A8] (who’s views seem mostly uncontroversial on freethoughtblogs and representative of the plurality.)[A9]
The pieces were represented along side each other in a straightforward fashion[A10] , and those who watched to the end were asked if they thought my blog post was more ‘calm and rational’[A11] , or if PZ Myers appraisal was more correct [A12] that the article was ‘embarrassingly clueless’ [A13] (on a scale of 0-10).
But as always, don’t take my word for it, here is the video:
I went over 500 continuous comments, and extracted the voting (127 in all), which is summarized in the following graph. The thunderf00t channel is essentially a 100 % free speech zone, with no conformational bias due to blocking/ banning people. [A14] People can express themselves in whatever fashion they see fit. From previous experience, the response that you are likely to get from viewership on the Thunderf00t channel is little different from that you would expect from that of ZOMGitscriss, Aronra, or similar.[A15]
I believe that this is a prima facie case [A16] for what I have been trying to tell deaf ears on freethoughtblogs for the past week, [A17] that their views are poorly positioned [A18] to achieve their stated objectives [A19] and are widely unrepresentative of the wider rationalist community in:[A20]
1) The disproportionate amount of attention it gives to sexism compared to other issues.
2) The way that those who disagree on the matter of sexism are attacked with a disproportionate amount of strawmen, invective and branding (misogynist, MRA, etc etc). This is a behavior more in line with bullying than free thought.
See for instance:
[A1]This would be stronger if you noted a source for the information.
[A2]Does “critical mass” refer to the community or the number of adherents. This should be made more clear.
[A3]Is it the environment itself, or the attitudes of those within the environment that you are comparing?
[A4]This paragraph can be deleted. Your self-assessment of your personal level of susceptibility to a narrow perspective or your experience as a research scientist is not pertinent to the point. It may be seen as an appeal to authority.
[A5]Are you arguing that because these are unrepresentative of the wider rationalist community that they are therefore undesirable? It may be seen as an appeal to popularity.
Are you asserting that interactions on freethought blogs are non-representative of the larger community, and then arguing that since they are unrepresentative that being a part of freethought blogs is skewing the judgment of those within it? If so, you must first establish that they are indeed different, that one is more valid than the other, and that this type of difference and the level of immersion in the a-typical environment can leads to insurmountable misjudgment. One way of attempting to establish that is to show that those within the atypical environment are isolated from evidence and information that the larger community is not, so that their perspective is negatively affected (very difficult in this case). Simply showing that there is a difference and that those within the atypical community tend to agree on a point cannot establish that their judgments are less valid; or that agreements are due to the atypicality of the environment and/or the tendency to conform opinion due to identity within an atypical community.
[A6]It seems counter to your point that freethought blogs is atypicality of the greater community to then call it conformist. This should be clarified.
If you are arguing that the supposed non-conformity of freethought blogs to the greater community would make it “fringe” because of social isolation, and that this social isolation would make freethought blogs intolerant of non-conformity within itself, that needs to be established. It would be more credible to point to specific policies or social norms that can be shown to discourage open discussion.
Referring to the “trajectory” and eluding to an “ill wind” may be seen as a slippery-slope argument or an appeal to fear.
[A7]NO. Comparing one distinct group to another distinct group does not compare one distinct group to the “wider rationalist community”.
[A8]This was not done. The video contained a version of your post, but did not contain the entirety of PZ Myers’ reply.
[A9]It is unclear how contrasting your post with PZ Myers post is able to establish either of your numbered points. Are you attempting to show that freethought blogs is atypical of the greater rationalist community to an extent that the judgment of those within it is invalidated? That may be difficult to do by comparing the reaction of a particular group to two posts.
[A10]This was not done. The video included commentary. It was structured in a way that would persuade a person watching it to vote in a particular way. The way in which you wanted them to vote was clear; which introduces baised. Commentary was given WHILE PZ’s post was read. While any researcher is limited by practical concerns, the way in which this question was presented is highly unethical as it elicits bias purposefully toward a desired outcome.
[A11]“Calm and rational” are two different measures.
[A12]“More correct” is not the same measure as “calm” or “rational”.
[A13]“Embarrassingly clueless” is not the same measure as “calm” “rational” or “more correct”. Cluelessness refers to whether or not someone understand the subject that they are discussing. Since the first 10 minutes of the video was your blog post (and your commentary), the voter will necesarily form models of the subject based on that. Since the last 3 minutes or so were only a response to that, with your commentary dismissing it, the voter will be conditioned toward seeing the second presentation as clueless. A way to avoid this, is to present the two posts in the more neutral setting. A means of doing this might be to de-identify the two posts and present them neutrally.
[A14]There is a high amount of selection bias and response bias in your sample.
[A15]This seems unlikely given the nature of viewership, even if it might be true in the past concerning other topics. The respondents were only from your channel, answering a question about you.
[A16]Do not use a Latin term unless it adds meaning or is being used in a formal way. It simply appears pretentious otherwise.
[A17]If someone is deaf, it means they cannot hear. Since several rebuttals were given, this analogy doesn’t make sense. Disagreeing is not the same as not hearing or not listening.
[A18]Which views? The two numbered points were points related to time spent on a particular subject and issues of civility, not specific views.
[A19]Which stated objective specifically? Also, how are views related to objectives? Did you mean “actions” and not “views”? Do you mean to imply that views should be changed to meet objectives? If so, does that undermine the value of “freethought”?
[A20]This has not been established, or established as relevant.
[A21]Using percentages or some other way of showing “proportion” would be much more convincing than four links. You also need to established a means of comparison to show that something is “disproportionate”. Also, prevailance does not establish disproportionateness. Even if you established disporportionateness compared to the greater rationalist community, this would not establish that the proportion is undesireable.
For example, you might go through your own comments sections and compare the number of negative branding such as “misogynist, dudebro” with “baboon”. It wouldn’t be strong evidence, but at least it would be something.
It might be interesting to create lists and do word searches of various “branding” language in the blogs. However, the real problem there would be that posts such as your first post “MYSOGYNIST!!!” would be counted the same as a branding against someone being called a mysogynist not a branding of someone who calls someone else mysogynist. So, a word search would be of limited utility, but could possibly be enlightening.