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Michael Shermer and the sexual misconduct allegations

Started by Sandra Craft, February 08, 2021, 02:27:54 AM

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Sandra Craft

This came up in a comment on my FB review of Shermer's "Why People Believe Weird Things", the HAF book club's January read.  The comment was that she couldn't read anything by a rapist, scientist or not.  I admitted to struggling with that too, but believing that we needed to separate the author (as a person) from the work.  The return comment was that this was comparable to making use of Nazi technology.  Which I also have no problem with, considering it the legitimate spoils of war.

To me, this is the problem of valuing someone's expertise without valuing them as a person -- I'll read his books but I wouldn't invite him to dinner. 

There are two other problems for me:

1.  did he actually do it?  I understand that statistically 90% of rape accusations are true, but that doesn't mean the 10% possibility of a false one can be dismissed or taken lightly.  And if it isn't rape, as the women claim, but just swarmy and unethical behavior, does that make any real difference?

2.  if we ignore the work of people whose lives are questionable, and we found out everything about the great thinkers and doers of history, how much would we have left?

I thought this might make for an interesting topic of discussion, and I'd certainly like to read others views.  For those not familiar with the accusations against Shermer, here's a link: Accusation of sexual misconduct
Sandy

  

"Life is short, and it is up to you to make it sweet."  Sarah Louise Delany

Recusant

I'd never given Shermer any attention before these accusations were made public, but I tend to believe them. I recognize that Shermer is from a generation in which that sort of behavior was if not particularly acceptable, often given a pass.

It's also a question of what actually took place. At least some of it was unwelcome flirtation, which if it persists beyond a rebuff or two amounts to harassment, in my opinion. As for going to bed together after consuming wine, I'm not going to deny the agency of the women here. If the jerk refills your glass and you don't want it, you don't have to drink it. That should be the end of the evening, in fact. "No thanks, and keep it in your pants, Shermer." However, that doesn't excuse Shermer.

I think that for a man who'd try that approach, if a woman continues to drink she's signalling a willingness to consider the proposition in due time. Alcohol is known for lowering inhibitions, and this is not a novel situation. The evening rolls on, and I think we can assume that the proposition was made and assent was given, albeit assent under the influence.

It qualifies as rape, and the fact that this ages-old story was not necessarily considered to be rape in Shermer's heyday is no excuse. Nor is the lack of violence. I don't understand why a woman who didn't want to drink and go to bed would continue to drink with a man in his room, but the responsibility lies entirely on Shermer for his behavior.
"Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration — courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and above all, love of the truth."
— H. L. Mencken


billy rubin

Quote from: Sandra Craft on February 08, 2021, 02:27:54 AM
The return comment was that this was comparable to making use of Nazi technology.  Which I also have no problem with, considering it the legitimate spoils of war.

thiz is a queztion that bothers me   and i dont know what i think.

during the war the naziz performed detailed experiment6ation on pows and other camp inmatez, brutal and inhumane scintific and pseudoscientific procedures thatt they documented in detail. should that data be available for analysiz and publication today in mainstream scienc÷?

foe example, the nazis would immerze captive jews in icewater baths and time how long it took them to die, iirc. a decade or two ago there was a controversy over whether that data could be incorpirated into modern scientific work.

i am also reminded of bizarre posed photos of identifiable individuals tbat murderers took of their captive victimz before killing them, which i have seen reproduced as salaciouz clickbait on internet "dizturbing photos" sitez.

is this ethical, or not?

the japanese also were big on vivisection of captives.


more people have been to berlin than i have

Sandra Craft

Quote from: Recusant on February 08, 2021, 04:35:02 AM

It qualifies as rape, and the fact that this ages-old story was not necessarily considered to be rape in Shermer's heyday is no excuse. Nor is the lack of violence. I don't understand why a woman who didn't want to drink and go to bed would continue to drink with a man in his room, but the responsibility lies entirely on Shermer for his behavior.

This was my thought as well, but with this consideration: what if the man was also drunk enough to be considered too impaired to judge his actions?  From what I've been reading, Shermer does drink heavily, at least at these conventions, and that's when the inappropriate behavior starts. 
Sandy

  

"Life is short, and it is up to you to make it sweet."  Sarah Louise Delany

Sandra Craft

Quote from: billy rubin on February 08, 2021, 12:27:23 PM

during the war the naziz performed detailed experiment6ation on pows and other camp inmatez, brutal and inhumane scintific and pseudoscientific procedures thatt they documented in detail. should that data be available for analysiz and publication today in mainstream scienc÷?

My first thought about that was that America got into space a lot faster on the back of Nazi rocket science and technology that we got right after the war, and that was the result of work former Nazi scientists did for us.  Don't regret going into space and winning that silly space race with Russia, even if we used science from Nazis to do it.

The medical stuff I realize is emotionally touchier, but data doesn't have any moral value on its own -- only on how it's gotten and how it's used.  We didn't have any control over how that data was gotten (and frankly, not a lot of moral high ground over the Nazis on things like that either) but it should definitely be analyzed to determine if it has any beneficial use, and if it does, use it.  That strikes me as ironic justice.
Sandy

  

"Life is short, and it is up to you to make it sweet."  Sarah Louise Delany

Recusant

Quote from: Sandra Craft on February 09, 2021, 12:21:47 AM
Quote from: Recusant on February 08, 2021, 04:35:02 AM

It qualifies as rape, and the fact that this ages-old story was not necessarily considered to be rape in Shermer's heyday is no excuse. Nor is the lack of violence. I don't understand why a woman who didn't want to drink and go to bed would continue to drink with a man in his room, but the responsibility lies entirely on Shermer for his behavior.

This was my thought as well, but with this consideration: what if the man was also drunk enough to be considered too impaired to judge his actions?  From what I've been reading, Shermer does drink heavily, at least at these conventions, and that's when the inappropriate behavior starts. 

I don't think that absolves the man. I'm going beyond what I think could be proved in court, but I think that Shermer didn't invite a woman to his room and ply her with wine just to have a deep conversation about Heidegger. He had a plan, and carried it out. Even if he was already under the influence when he made the plan, I don't think that absolves him of responsibility.

All that said, if Shermer had something to say that I was interested in, I'd look at it despite the accusations that he's a lecherous cad and rapist.
"Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration — courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and above all, love of the truth."
— H. L. Mencken


xSilverPhinx

Oh wow. I was unaware of these accusations against Shermer. It's tricky but I don't think it makes much sense to dismiss everything he says based on a potentially nasty side of him (nasty if he actually did rape the woman). It will likely influence my interpretation of what he says on some subconscious level, though.

Quote from: Sandra Craft on February 09, 2021, 12:21:47 AM
Quote from: Recusant on February 08, 2021, 04:35:02 AM

It qualifies as rape, and the fact that this ages-old story was not necessarily considered to be rape in Shermer's heyday is no excuse. Nor is the lack of violence. I don't understand why a woman who didn't want to drink and go to bed would continue to drink with a man in his room, but the responsibility lies entirely on Shermer for his behavior.

This was my thought as well, but with this consideration: what if the man was also drunk enough to be considered too impaired to judge his actions?  From what I've been reading, Shermer does drink heavily, at least at these conventions, and that's when the inappropriate behavior starts. 

While that is certainly a valid and important question, I think it's a dangerous route to exempting a lot of people with permanent or temporary physiological impairments from judgment for their actions. Should a drunk driver who causes a fatal accident be let off the hook? What about someone who murders someone else in a fit of passion? Or a full-blown psychopath who is incapable of feeling guilt or empathy towards others?  What about a young man in his early twenties who doesn't yet have a fully mature frontal lobe (important for risk-assessment, emotional regulation, impulse control, decision-making, among others)?

I believe that in order for society to function even people above a certain age who have a biological basis for not being fully aware of the consequences of their actions must be made responsible for them. So no, even a drunk Shermer must be prosecuted if he indeed did rape that woman.
I am what survives if it's slain - Zack Hemsey


xSilverPhinx

Quote from: Recusant on February 08, 2021, 04:35:02 AM
It's also a question of what actually took place. At least some of it was unwelcome flirtation, which if it persists beyond a rebuff or two amounts to harassment, in my opinion. As for going to bed together after consuming wine, I'm not going to deny the agency of the women here. If the jerk refills your glass and you don't want it, you don't have to drink it. That should be the end of the evening, in fact. "No thanks, and keep it in your pants, Shermer." However, that doesn't excuse Shermer.

I think that for a man who'd try that approach, if a woman continues to drink she's signalling a willingness to consider the proposition in due time. Alcohol is known for lowering inhibitions, and this is not a novel situation. The evening rolls on, and I think we can assume that the proposition was made and assent was given, albeit assent under the influence.

It qualifies as rape, and the fact that this ages-old story was not necessarily considered to be rape in Shermer's heyday is no excuse. Nor is the lack of violence. I don't understand why a woman who didn't want to drink and go to bed would continue to drink with a man in his room, but the responsibility lies entirely on Shermer for his behavior.

Maybe she changed her mind while already under the influence and Shermer didn't take no for answer?   :shrug:
I am what survives if it's slain - Zack Hemsey


Sandra Craft

Quote from: xSilverPhinx on February 09, 2021, 11:52:00 AM
Oh wow. I was unaware of these accusations against Shermer. It's tricky but I don't think it makes much sense to dismiss everything he says based on a potentially nasty side of him (nasty if he actually did rape the woman). It will likely influence my interpretation of what he says on some subconscious level, though.

I know it'll influence me on things he's written about rape, that's for sure.

 
Quote
While that is certainly a valid and important question, I think it's a dangerous route to exempting a lot of people with permanent or temporary physiological impairments from judgment for their actions. Should a drunk driver who causes a fatal accident be let off the hook? What about someone who murders someone else in a fit of passion? Or a full-blown psychopath who is incapable of feeling guilt or empathy towards others?  What about a young man in his early twenties who doesn't yet have a fully mature frontal lobe (important for risk-assessment, emotional regulation, impulse control, decision-making, among others)?

It's an authentic slippery slope, and one thing I was wondering -- if equal mental impairment became a legal consideration -- how would we go about proving an accused rapist's claim that he was also too drunk to know what he was doing, considering rapes often aren't reported until well after they occur?  Not something I'd want to take the man's word on, but then wouldn't that throw doubt on the woman's claim to have been too impaired at the time to give informed consent?

I think these people just need to stop drinking so much.

By the way, on the other examples of impairment you mentioned, I think there have been cases were people have gotten lighter sentences or let off completely because of various diminished capacity  Not the drunk driving one -- I think that's considered premeditated.
Sandy

  

"Life is short, and it is up to you to make it sweet."  Sarah Louise Delany

Ecurb Noselrub

So do we throw out the Declaration of Independence because Jefferson owned slaves, or dismiss the entire American Revolution because Washington did the same?  Even Lincoln was less than pure. People do bad and dumb things, but knowledge and truth is independent of that. If someone makes a great discovery or invention, that is now in the public domain of knowledge and should be accessible to all.  What if someone comes up with a cure for childhood cancers, but that person is himself a pedophile?  Should we deprive children of the cure because the inventor was evil?  Once knowledge breaks into human consciousness it takes on a life of its own, independent of the person who opened the door to let it in.  We can condemn Jefferson's slavery and praise his writing and thinking.  They are clearly separable, in my view.

Sandra Craft

Quote from: xSilverPhinx on February 09, 2021, 11:52:00 AM
I believe that in order for society to function even people above a certain age who have a biological basis for not being fully aware of the consequences of their actions must be made responsible for them. So no, even a drunk Shermer must be prosecuted if he indeed did rape that woman.

I agree wholeheartedly, but here's another thing -- none of the accusations or rape or harassment were ever reported to the police (not that I can find anyway).  The first woman complained only to the people running the convention she and Shermer were both at, but that's as far as she took it. 

There've been a lot of complaints of sexual misconduct against Shermer, everything from actual rape to boorishness while drunk but nothing has ever been taken to the police -- it's been trial by popular opinion the whole way, which also makes me uncomfortable. 
Sandy

  

"Life is short, and it is up to you to make it sweet."  Sarah Louise Delany

xSilverPhinx

Quote from: Sandra Craft on February 09, 2021, 03:47:00 PM
Quote from: xSilverPhinx on February 09, 2021, 11:52:00 AM
I believe that in order for society to function even people above a certain age who have a biological basis for not being fully aware of the consequences of their actions must be made responsible for them. So no, even a drunk Shermer must be prosecuted if he indeed did rape that woman.

I agree wholeheartedly, but here's another thing -- none of the accusations or rape or harassment were ever reported to the police (not that I can find anyway).  The first woman complained only to the people running the convention she and Shermer were both at, but that's as far as she took it. 

There've been a lot of complaints of sexual misconduct against Shermer, everything from actual rape to boorishness while drunk but nothing has ever been taken to the police -- it's been trial by popular opinion the whole way, which also makes me uncomfortable. 

That was back in 2013, and back then lots of women it seems would not report rape and sexual harassment to the police. Shermer has some influence and she might not have reported it in fear of retaliation or some sort of backlash. :shrug:

Yes, trial by popular opinion is scary, even in the 'sceptical community'.   
I am what survives if it's slain - Zack Hemsey


Icarus

Not to defend Shermer but suppose that his accusers have their own axe to grind.  Shermer is a non believer.  That makes him evil in the eyes of the masses, perhaps including his accusers.

So alright he might be a Horndog who can not, or will not, control his baser instincts.  He is the subject here because he has some celebrity status. Of course that does not excuse him if, in fact, he is guilty of the allegations. There are legions of lesser known men who have problems with their overactive libido.  What the hell? Our most recent president even boasted about his talent and privilege for "grabbing them by the pussy."  That there are a lot of us, does not make it OK.  (

I repeat!  I do not absolve Shermer of his probable transgressions. And no, I do not subscribe to his magazine.

Davin

That's a small picture view though, of one instance. If people see that they can murder people for their organs, then it opens up a path for people to exploit. And it's not going to be the poor people or the common person that will benefit from the exploitation.

If data from unscrupulous experiments is accepted, then that opens up a path for exploitation. And even here in the US we don't have a very good track record for that kind of behavior. See exposing people to nuclear fallout without telling them that it is dangerous. See the Syphilis experimentation on black people in Macon County. Etc.

For the good of all people, especially the more easily exploited, a line needs to be drawn about how we used human organs and data obtained by hurting people without their consent.

I think this is pretty far off from talking about ideas and concepts from a person who did bad things though.
Always question all authorities because the authority you don't question is the most dangerous... except me, never question me.

Sandra Craft

Quote from: Davin on February 11, 2021, 02:23:10 PM
I think this is pretty far off from talking about ideas and concepts from a person who did bad things though.

It's thread drift, it's inevitable.  :shrug:
Sandy

  

"Life is short, and it is up to you to make it sweet."  Sarah Louise Delany