RationalWiki on its “issues”

Jebus, you people – whoever “you people” are – still insist on linking to this and commenting on it and whatnot… Here’s an update since this post is over two years old now:

  1. I no longer regularly edit RW. This is partially because I’ve now quit all forms of movement or group-based rationality/skepticism because it’s no longer much fun nor worthwhile for me, but mostly because I’ve expended what I could contribute to the wiki’s mainspace that I’d consider “good”. If time, motivation and the right subject all aligned, I would start writing for the mainspace again without hesitation. Until then, it’s quiet retirement for me doing things I find much more interesting.
  2. I still stand by the take-home point here. If you want to declare that “rationalism/skepticism should stay clear of social issues”, you’re declaring that a particular topic is out-of-bounds. And anyone with a working knowledge of skepticism and human rationality should be able to identify the main reasons why someone might declare a subject “out of bounds” – it’s never a good one. The environment and climate change is largely a social issue, religious persecution is largely a social issue, and political opinion is largely a social issue. If I’m not allowed to take a look at, for example, the statistical wage-gap and what it says about our treatment of men and women in society “because it’s a social issue”, then I’d like to know a much better reason than “fucking Tumblr-SJWs always getting offended over nothing”.
  3. Oh, while I’m at it… why Tumblr? I have never used that site. I resent its fairly useless interface, poor usability, and it’s – what can only be described as fundamentally insane – approach to nested comments. You cannot find me on that site, you probably will never find me even re-blogging from it. When you say something like “tumblr feminist” I have literally no idea what the fuck you mean outside of “something bad that’s bad because I said its bad just because”.

I’m putting this miniature rant in extended blogified form here because it’s one of those things I just need to link to on occasion. I’m pretty sure I say this every time the subject comes up, so this should stop me sounding like more of a broken record than I already am. If you’re one of the people who came here via the search terms that WordPress tells me directs traffic here, you can close the tab or press the back button, I very much doubt this is what you want to hear. 

The context is this:

RationalWiki should stay the hell away from social issues, politics, gender, and all that jazz, and focus on “skepticism” instead.

Statements to this effect pop up on a monthly basis like clockwork, and I take immense issue with it every single time. Here’s why.

Your basic “rationalism” and “skepticism” ideas, tropes and challenges are already-solved problems. To be good little skeptics we just need to toe the party line. Religion is brainwashing! Creationism is stupid! Homeopathy is bunk! Scientologists are lunatics!! We just need to quote the right peoples’ soundbites, and don’t need to think about what those soundbites mean. Or we can just memorise the dog-Latin names for logical fallacies so we can throw them out without realising that ad hominem doesn’t actually mean “crass insult”.

It requires next to no thought to deal with this stuff. It’s trivial and the work has been done already on it. Hell, conclusively proving that psychics and mediums are a load of shit dates back to Harry Houdini and hasn’t really developed since. The problem is solved, and countless projects other than RationalWiki exist to have such a narrow scope.

But social issues are ongoing, and they are still under debate, and still out there in a sense where they can be preached to a congregation. We don’t need to convince a fledgling skeptic that chiropractic medicine is a load of baloney, but we might need to convince them that the phrase “I don’t mind gay people so long as they don’t ram their sexuality down my throat” is an even bigger con. And one likely to cause just as much harm as cracking someone’s spine to cure cancer.

Look at the average teenage non-believer that’s just discovered Richard Dawkins, and you’ll see that they’re almost certainly white, straight, cis and male, and probably affluent enough for a college education. So, deary me they tick all the boxes. There is under-representation in the “movement” (for lack of a better term) and that is simply a fact. Now, you can disagree whether this is a “problem” and you can disagree on the “why” (hence why this isn’t in the simple “solved problems” bucket) but you have to concede that at least something is up with this, and that it’s worth noting. In fact, I’d go as far to say that you can’t even disagree that this situation is sad as fuck. It’s just a pattern that we see everywhere – e.g., how I recently moved from one job where I had 10 female colleagues out of 19 to one where I have 2 female colleagues out of 30. Why is that? And why does asking “why is that?” have to take a back seat to debunking astrology for the 27 billionth time?

Come on, if you’re editing something called RationalWiki, or more broadly engage with the “rationalist” and “skeptical” movements, it’s because you self declare yourself to be a “rationalist” or a “skeptic”. That can mean whatever the hell you want it to mean, but if it’s not going to be about making the world a better place then what is your fucking point of existing?

If you want to throw off the shackles of doctrine, dogma and religion, then why do so just so you can become more of an asshole?

So yes, I want to make the world a less toxic place for people who have been sidelined in the past. I’m not always successful, I’m not perfect, but that’s my aim, and I listen to the kind of people who might be able to guide me towards that intention. What the hell is wrong with that? These “gender issues” still impact on the world very much, and are areas where we – as the self-appointed intellectual superiors of the planet, it seems – can actually make a real difference.

And we, that is, RationalWiki, are making a difference. People take note of what the wiki says on the subject. People complain about what the wiki says on the subject, and if you’re not pissing people off you’re doing something wrong. So that’s fine by me, it’s going in the right direction.

But guess the fuck what? We actually suck at the subject. We’re not dominated by it, we don’t cover it very well, and the discussion side of the site is still pretty anti-social. If you take an objective look at recent changes to the wiki, we’re not actually gender obsessed, nowhere near. We get a lot of talk pages from “controversial” articles that continue to attract attention, and dear gods in the seven heavens the Thunderf00t talk page just keeps on giving…

But why those?

Why not homeopathy?

Because homeopathy is one of those solved problems. All rationalists already think it’s bollocks, and those who are pro-homeopathic know better than to try and edit war with RationalWiki about it. It’s foreign territory and outside the echo chamber. But when we have pages on privilege, or the “Amazing” Atheist telling women we should give their rapists a medal, it’s very different. They come, and they challenge and they complain. It shows that people exist within the self-declared “skeptic” and “rationalist” and “atheist” communities who haven’t yet woken up to these gender or race, or sexuality issues. And I’m not even sorry to say it, but they are just fundamentally wrong on those issues.

In short, it’s an area we can preach in, and should preach in, but actually we don’t. It’s just that even a smidge of that sort of thing is enough to make people feel uncomfortable (“Rape Culture? But ”I’M” not a rapist!!!!”) and go on the defensive.

You know what, never mind. Laughing at Conservapedia because “ZOMG!! Teh Assfly is teh dumbs!!!!” is so much easier.


24 thoughts on “RationalWiki on its “issues”

  1. ”. That can mean whatever the hell you want it to mean, but if it’s not going to be about making the world a better place then what is your fucking point of existing?

    The point is to see the world for what it is. Making the world a better place or being selfless has NOTHING TO DO with being objective first. That’s where you start inserting normative statements where objective ones belong, and it’s what turns an encyclopedia into a forum for rhetoric. The proliferation of unsound and unproven statements on what was supposed to be an encyclopedia is why non-leftists and moderate Atheists don’t respect RW now.

    If you want to throw off the shackles of doctrine, dogma and religion, then why do so just so you can become more of an asshole?

    Again, skepticism is only about trying to seeing the world for what it is, and nothing more. If you don’t want to be an asshole on top of that, well that’s a separate layer requiring separate debate, and you should have another wiki for that.

    • Well, thanks for your two cents on an article that’s 2-3 years old that literally no-one really cares any more.

      But if your point is to see the world “as it is”, then what’s the end-game there? What’s the actual point or reason for seeing it “as it is”? Because you make it sound like it’s easy ego-boosting, the idea being that you get to see “reality”, unlike all those other silly sheeple, and feel better about yourself. I don’t find that a convincing motive. I can satisfy that by simply believing anything I want, I don’t need to consider human rationality. If I want to see the world as it is, it’s so I can change it – particularly for the people most badly affected by it. Often that requires addressing our own pre-existing biases and acting on critical thinking rather than paying lip-service to it.

      • I just saw your “Femme Heil!” article and I don’t think it’s possible to reason with you if you’re either a feminist or an SJW. It’s an utterly reprehensible thing that you’ve walked away from religion, and yet embraced another modern religion rather than thinking for yourself.

        The part where you say seeing the world as it is is not as important as seeing some happy end-game to work toward, and is the kind of mentality that will lead you back into some kind of religion by another name. “I can believe anything I want, I don’t need to consider human rationality.” Yes, you’ve admitted you’d rather embrace a lie and act blindly on it, than to put all energies on seeing the world accurately first? You cannot call yourself a skeptic if you meant that sentence. It’s incredibly sad to me that you can’t prioritize being a skeptic first, and a political liberal second, and there’s no more that needs to be said there.

        • “Femme Heil!” – oh, that one that involved a huge amount of satire and was a companion piece to RationalWiki turning into an anti-feminist dude-bro space?

          Look, if you’re incapable of telling satire from the real thing, then you don’t know enough to debate feminists and “SJWs”, and you certainly have no right lecturing me on skepticism or reality.

  2. So basically you all are sticking your nose in social issues because your orginal goal is done?

    To assert left ideologies as rational wiki has done as more reasonable is rather arrogant. They have pretty much become a tumblr wiki without the porn.

    RW should stay out of social issues.

    • I’m pleased that you read and understood the above so thoroughly. You’ll also find that, generally speaking, it’s not “left” ideologies as much as “make the world a better place” ideologies, rather than “fuck you because I got mine” ideologies. Now quit making the world a worse place.

  3. Declaring yourself to be a rationalist or a skeptic cannot “mean whatever the hell you want it to mean”. These are not made-up Tumblr identity terms but have actual meanings. Also, not too sure how to reconcile your screed against “assholes” with the proclamation that “if you’re not pissing people off you’re doing something wrong”.

  4. Pingback: Spherical Bullshit

  5. Is RW still arguing over this? This kind of thing is why I only read the WIGO RSS feeds these days.

    Nice rant though. People will learn eventually, I hope, or fall away.

    • You say “arguing”. Really it’s just a few people seem oblivious to the zeitgeist shift of the place that’s happened in the last year. Collectively the site was at least 3 years late in recognising the shift away from Conservapedia, so I suppose progress is speeding up.

  6. I generally agree, but I also think an important goal of skepticism isn’t just to convince skeptics that, say, homeopathy is bullshit. We need also to convince the masses that it’s bullshit.
    A small point, but one I feel is necessary nonetheless.

    • Indeed. Although the wider context is with respect to the behind-the-scenes of RW’s article creation and discussion.

      And I also think this is something that can also go out to the “great unwashed” too. As they are, naturally, responsible for society’s ingrained bullshit. Convincing society as a whole that you don’t *need* to keep buying your son blue construction toys and your daughter pink baking toys is on par with convincing them that evidence-based-medicine is a good idea.

      Because let’s be honest, the average person doesn’t really go in for alternative medicine. They’ll still see a GP for serious issues and it’s all very niche in the grand scheme of things. But social bullshit is (dare I say “by definition”?) everyone’s fault.

  7. Anyway, come the Singularity, the Femilisk will inspect your past blog posts, judge your reaction to Tumblr social justice warriors, and treat its simulation of you according to whether you were NAUGHTY … or NICE.

    Eight arseholes will be tortured in the future for each dollar donated! Please help fund this eventuality.

  8. There’s nothing about gender/sexuality or social issues in general that is impervious to pseudoscience, fundamentalism or authoritarianism. But as a social culture, the atheist/skeptic/rationalist community has its own golden calves, one of which is sexism. It’s not hard to remove the religious aspect of gender complementarianism and replace it with “well men evolved to be leaders because testosterone” or some other pseudoscientific explanation. And there are few men in the community willing to quirk and eyebrow at that.

    • God forbid someone tells you men are taller on average than women! How do you think that came about? This is why Rationalwiki should stay away from social issues – the SJW crowd is populism embodied.

      Have fun pretending political correctness exists because it is so true on every count. LOL


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