There are three leaders of the skeptic
community that have had astonishing allegations thrown at them in the
last few days. It started when Karen Stollznow posted a piece
reporting on four years of sexual harassment including sexual
She declines to name who it was or the
organization(s) within which it happened. However, there were a
number of people who knew the story and it came out that the person
was Ben Radford, deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer science magazine
and a Research Fellow at CFI.
The next day Carrie Poppy confesses
that she had a similar experience at the JREF with D.J. Grothe.
Given that D.J is gay the misogyny is likely to be of a much
different character. This report confirms aspects of the case with
Radford and Stollsnow at a couple of TAM meetings. Carrie's email
included copies of a number of emails documenting the history of the
To top off this there are several
allegation that Michael Shermer is a serial rapist.
We have only modest confirmation of any
of these allegations and we have not heard from those who are accused.
However, the quality of these claims suggest strongly that something
is very wrong.
For those who do not know there has
been a very stupid culture war in secularism ever since an event
called Elevatorgate. There was a strong feminist component and the
other side that can be loosely associated with MRA, men's right
activists. At its worst many women who are secular bloggers or
leaders are subjected to rape threats, death threats and grotesque
twisted insults. DC's own Melody Hensley is only one of many that
have been the recipient of this mistreatment. I have been ignoring
this culture war as much as possible under the theory that if I am
not personally tripping over this junk we can have our local sense of
community uninfected with this nonsense. Just as the Westboro
Baptist Church should not be used to define all of Christianity, this
ugliness should not be used to define American skepticism or
secularism. My guess is that there are relatively
few people responsible for the ugliness of this war.
With that as a background, my reading
of MRA contingent is that they are being remarkably silent with the
current revelations. There seems to be too much substance and
credibility behind these allegations. This might be a major
historical transition point. I may be wrong but I think organized
skepticism will need to see some major changes.