The Atheist Sex Scandal Part 6


Now onto the sixth and final post. And this one involves no extra reading! This one will be on whether or not I believe that atheists in general have been reacting rationally where the sex scandal is concerned. My overall answer is no. Of course there are atheists who have been reacting perfectly rationally to the whole thing, but I think a good portion of the most vocal members have been reacting very irrationally.
Why? Because they automatically assume that the sexual assault accusations are false. As Withteeth showed in an earlier post (see his 5 part series in reply to “Why I Don’t Identify As A Feminist”), only about 2% of rape accusations are false. That in itself makes it very unlikely that any of the accusations are false. Of course, we live in a society where we are taught to view women as liars and rape victims as somehow responsible for the crime committed against them, so it’s not really all that surprising that atheists and skeptics view these accusations as false. However, we claim to be rational and logical. If we are so much better at logic and rationality than the mainstream population, why do we still fall into such socially constructed false belief systems? As was stated in the comment section of my last post, as people who value rationality and logic, our best bet is to withhold judgement until we have evidence one way or the other. Being rational does not mean assuming that a claim is false until it is proven otherwise. That is still making an assumption. It’s making a judgement call that very easily could be false.
I don’t know whether or not the accused men are actually guilty of anything. Maybe they are innocent. I will remain agnostic where this issue lies. However, I’m more than willing to admit that I do have a belief in this matter. I believe that Radford, Grothe, and Shermer are guilty. Why? Because a number of people came forward to accuse all of them. When Stollznow came forward and said that someone assaulted her, others said “I know who did it.” How did they know who did it? Because he had done it to them. Does that really sound like a false accusation to anyone? Grothe and Shermer also both had histories. Grothe knew that Shermer was sexually assaulting people because he had dealt with earlier accusations, but he kept inviting Shermer back to speak at TAM. Randi likewise knew that Grothe was sexually assaulting people, but he just viewed it as “boys being boys.” Even if false rape accusations were more common, their history of being accused of sexual assault makes their guilt far more likely. Yes, all we have is peoples word. It would be nice to have more evidence, and if this were a scientific study it would. But we’re not talking about science. We’re talking about people’s lives. Should Stollznow have worn a camera on her at all times? She wasn’t even planning on naming Radford, so why would she? What about the People that Shermer raped? Should they have planned to be raped ahead of time so that they could collect evidence? After all, all Shermer needed to do to prevent there from being any biological evidence is where a condom. While evidence is a nice thing to have, we need to remember that we have to keep our demands reasonable. Rape is not an extraordinary claim. It happens all the time. And the seeming randomness of crimes makes it difficult to collect any level of significant evidence even for crimes like theft.
I’m sure you’ve noticed that I said nothing about Krauss. There aren’t a large number of accusations against him. I’d still be careful to call anyone a liar, even with redacted claims, since redactions can easily be the result of further harassment. But I won’t say anything one way or the other. I don’t know anything about the accusations against Bill Nye, so I’m withholding judgement there too. I believe that that is the most reasonable position that I can take right now.
So no, the atheist community at large is not being very rational where the sexual assault scandal is concerned. How can we be rational about it? Withhold an opinion where you do not have enough information to hold an opinion, do some research into the accusations before you assume one side or the other, and follow the evidence. And don’t forget to keep your evidence demand reasonable to the claim. It’s “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” not “common occurrences require the same level of evidence as proving God.” And please remember that we’re dealing with people, not science.
I’ve heard people claim that sexual assault accusations ruin lives. Sadly, that doesn’t really seem to be the case: R Kelly and DMX don’t seem to be any worse off for it, neither does Kobe Bryant. In fact, it doesn’t seem to be common knowledge that they were accused. Either that or people just don’t care. Shermer hasn’t lost many fans yet, and I can’t see him losing many more in the future as a result of these accusations. Can rape accusations ruin lives? Sure, but since only 2% of rape accusations are false, I can’t see many lives getting unfairly ruined if any do. I think the victims are the only ones whose lives are likely to be ruined, and I think that investigating the claims is the only way to keep that from happening. The people who say that these accusations will ruin the lives of the accused seem to forget that the victims have lives to. Are the 5 accused men’s lives that much more important than the lives of the people’s that they are accused of assaulting? Isn’t investigating the claims and finding out the truth the best way to prevent lives from being destroyed?
These are obviously very serious issues to consider. And I urge you to think carefully before coming to any conclusions. As I said, this post doesn’t require any extra reading. However, here are two papers that look at this issue from a different angle:
https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B3r-a36Q8l-ZaFNBRlE0TURWUVk/edit
https://docs.google.com/document/d/137q5CIKLykyuV-JxLBdcQnZie0su2jnY2KtyEGXHDv8/edit

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