Friday, November 23, 2012

Rebecca Watson at Skepticon 5: How girls evolved to shop

Rebecca Watson is a great speaker, perceptive and very funny. But she takes a lot of crap from misogynists online. You should see some of the comments she gets.

And yes, some of them are apparently from atheists (men, naturally - usually those loony "men's rights" activists). Well, being an atheist doesn't make you rational. (It's the other way around. Being rational tends to make you an atheist - if you can struggle past your upbringing, at least.)

If you check out the other videos from Skepticon 5, they hardly have any negative ratings at all. But more than a third of the ratings on this talk are negative, and the comments seem to be more negative even than that.

Now, you can dislike a video for many reasons. I have no problem with that. Still, what's really to dislike about this one? And this is absolutely typical of any video clip featuring Rebecca Watson. Her detractors really seem to search them out.

And with some of those,... well, the comments are really bad. Her atheism is OK, apparently, but her feminism seems to enrage some men (boys?).

Weird, isn't it? But if you expect the world to be black and white, you'll be very disappointed. Atheists can be just as irrational as anyone else. (But note that not all misogynists are atheists, and those atheists who're also misogynists are a small minority.)

Anyway, that said, I'm not posting this to support Rebecca Watson. I'm posting it because it's an excellent talk - perceptive, eloquent, and quite funny. But maybe you can understand why the haters hate. She's very good at ridiculing the ridiculous.


David said...

Perhaps this is why?

WCG said...

No, I really doubt it, David. After all, how many people actually get worked up at dissing evolutionary psychology?

I don't know anything about the field, myself, though I've heard scientists criticize it. Of course, in print, they're usually careful to say they're not implying that everything in evolutionary psychology is bullshit.

As I say, I don't know anything about it, myself. But I wouldn't expect a humorous sort of talk like this to be particularly balanced - or to be overly concerned about stepping on sensitive toes.

Certainly, Rebecca Watson isn't above criticism, and I wouldn't expect evolutionary psychologists to be her biggest fans. But equally clearly, that's not what's driving the hate. I don't think there are enough evolutionary psychologists in the world to explain that, not to mention that they'd probably (hopefully) express themselves better.

Thanks for the link (and the comment). I just skimmed it, since I really have no interest in evolutionary psychology. I read most of the comments, though, which are more informative than some of the commenters might wish. The post seems to be an excellent example of reasonable criticism, but that's not the kind of response Watson has been facing, not overall.

So there are two issues here. One is about evolutionary psychology, which seems to get some legitimate criticism, but which I have neither the ability nor the desire to judge, myself.

The other is about vicious attacks on Rebecca Watson as a 'feminist.' Now, there are perfectly reasonable ways to criticize Watson - to criticize anyone, in fact - but that's not what I generally see online. IMHO, that's what seems to be driving the hate, not evolutionary psychology.

Dimitri K said...

No WCG. The reason people would get upset at Watson for this speech is because she sounds like a Creationist at a conference devoted to skepticism. She fallaciously attacks a scientific field to support her views.

WCG said...

I don't think so, Dimitri. There's more going on than that. Unfortunately, there seem to be some lunatic "Men's Rights Activists" in the atheist community, people who get upset when women don't know their place.

As an atheist man, I find that really embarrassing. I thought we were better than that!

Now, I've been seeing other criticism of evolutionary psychology (at Pharyngula, for example). In the last month, I've also seen a detailed critique of that post in David's comment above, too. (Unfortunately, I lost the link, so I can't post that here.)

As I noted earlier, I don't know anything about evolutionary psychology myself. Since he's an evolutionary biologist, I imagine that PZ Myers knows what he's talking about, but I see no reason to take sides.

And as I say, I've seen a detailed rebuttal of Edward Clint's post, which was at least as thorough and convincing as his comments.

But, of course, I'm a layman who doesn't even pretend to know anything about the field of evolutionary psychology, so how would I know? I'm certainly not going to take sides in that debate.

The criticism of Rebecca Watson, though, seems to go far beyond that. Do you read the comments people (men) make? Clint might be right or he might not, but either way, that's not what's really driving the attacks on Watson.

Did you listen to her talk? I thought it was hilarious. Now, if you're an evolutionary psychologist yourself, you might be unhappy with it. But if not, I have to wonder if you're just using that excuse to attack Watson.

I mean, who would really get upset at attacks on evolutionary psychology, even if they weren't valid? There aren't enough evolutionary psychologists in the world to cause that kind of uproar!

And if you're like me, a layman in the field, why wouldn't you simply reserve judgment about evolutionary psychology, as I do? Why would you think you know enough about it?

Sorry, but the whole thing stinks. Evolutionary psychologists might have reason to be unhappy with Rebecca Watson, I don't know. But there's a lot more than that going on here!