Last month, PZ Myers tore into some twaddle by David Sloan Wilson about how religion was actually a force for good and that New Atheists are just wearing their cranky pants, explaining that any movement that systematically oppresses large segments of the population (particularly women) inarguably results in more harm than good. Sloan then retaliated by accusing PZ of “not functioning as a scientist” when it comes to religion, a claim he supported with ample amounts of fussy backwards pedantry. PZ subsequently pointed out how Sloan entirely missed the point, focusing too closely on his garbled idea of proper scientific rigor and being blind to the countless instances of actual faith-sanctioned female oppression around the world.
Well, surprise, surprise: Vox Day thinks Sloan’s blithe nonsense is right on and even stops belching out his usual childish ad-hominems long enough to try and prove how PZ isn’t thinking in a sufficiently sciencey manner:
[C]onsider PZ's inept response to Wilson, especially the specific questions he poses:
Rather than condescendingly telling us about evolutionary dynamics, I’d like Wilson to get specific.
1. How does depriving girls of an education benefit women?
2. How does raising girls with the expectation that their purpose in life is to bear children benefit women?
3. How does throwing acid in their faces when they demand independence from men benefit women?
4. How do honor killings benefit women?
5. How does stoning rape victims benefit women?
6. How does female genital mutilation benefit women?
7. How does letting women die rather than giving them an abortion benefit women?
What is amusing here is the way that PZ throws out these questions as if they are at all difficult to answer, as if he is making some sort of cogent point simply by asking them. Now, I'm sure Wilson would come up with some different answers, but as will be seen by the answers I provide, by asking some of them, Myers is doing little more than demonstrating the very unscientific attitude of which he is accused! It's important to understand that one need not find these answers to be absolutely conclusive or even convincing to recognize that they are scientifically valid answers, which is to say that they can be used to generate hypotheses and then subsequently put to the scientific test, at least to the extent that social science can reasonably be considered science.
With that much self-trumpeting build-up, I’m almost eager (in a sinisterly apprehensive sort of way) to see just what Vox comes up with to prove PZ wrong. Firstly, explaining why keeping girls uneducated is actually good for them:
1. Because educating women is strongly correlated with reducing their disposition and ability to reproduce themselves. Educating them tends to make them evolutionary dead ends. "Germany now has the highest number of childless women in the world. This trend has been going on since at least the 90s. What we also know is that the higher the level of education, the more likely a woman is to remain childless." -Professor Norbert Schneider, Mainz University. 40% of German women with college degrees are childless. Does PZ seriously wish to claim that not reproducing is intrinsically beneficial to women? Does he really find it hard to understand how not reproducing is evolutionary disadvantageous?
You know it’s not gonna be an easy ride when you can readily identify a number of blatant logical errors in the very first attempted refutation. Firstly, you can’t use statistics gleaned from one single sample pool (Germany) to illustrate an alleged problem that supposedly affects womankind at large, least of all with a correlation as broad as “birthrates amongst women with different levels of education”. Second, lower birthrates are only a bad thing in evolutionary terms if they start to affect the population as a whole (hence why no-one is accusing post-menopausal women and lesbians of endangering the survival of the species). Even if German birthrates are down, humanity as a whole is hardly concerned.
But most of all, what’s good for women in an evolutionary context is unrelated to what’s better for overall well-being, the heart of PZ’s post and the issue itself. The fact that women who’ve gone to school are less likely to play the role of baby pez dispensers is neither indicative of a danger to the human race, nor of a threat to women’s experience in society. In fact, it’s largely indisputable that allowing women to make their own damn choices regarding their bodies and minds is not only a self-evident goal of any supporter of liberty, it’s also the prerogative of anyone claiming to be a decent person in the first place.
But then, I did say “largely indisputable”, as there are still some who apparently think that keeping girls out of school and clueless about reproductive health is what’s better for them – namely, cranks like Vox Day.
2. Because raising girls with the expectation that their purpose in life is to bear children allows them to pursue marriage at the age of their peak fertility, increase the wage rates of their prospective marital partners, and live in stable, low-crime, homogenous societies that are not demographically dying. It also grants them privileged status, as they alone are able to ensure the continued survival of the society and the species alike. Women are not needed in any profession or occupation except that of child-bearer and child-rearer, and even in the case of the latter, they are only superior, they are not absolutely required.
So ManTM needs women to bear his children, and once that’s over with, back to the impregnation stables with them, ’cause who needs ’em, anyway.
But if Vox has only been typically tedious until now, he quickly veers into the outright disturbing as he actually excuses throwing acid in women’s faces:
3. Because female independence is strongly correlated with a whole host of social ills. Using the utilitarian metric favored by most atheists, a few acid-burned faces is a small price to pay for lasting marriages, stable families, legitimate children, low levels of debt, strong currencies, affordable housing, homogenous populations, low levels of crime, and demographic stability. If PZ has turned against utilitarianism or the concept of the collective welfare trumping the interests of the individual, I should be fascinated to hear it.
I won’t even bother to rectify his usual distortion of utilitarianism (except to point out how “acid-burned faces” are part of the outcome and thus categorically ruled out as a reasonable option by any humane utilitarian, you fucking jackass). Anyone who thinks that doing this to anyone is anything less than the epitome of monstrosity – much less any kind of an acceptable price for anything – is inherently and immediately disqualified from any right to ever calling themselves a decent human being ever again.
Then again, Vox doesn’t apply, so no problem for him. Which brings us to his defense of honor killings:
4. Because female promiscuity and divorce are strongly correlated with a whole host of social ills, from low birth and marriage rates to high levels of illegitimacy.
Your woman thinks she can just up and show some autonomy? Murder that slut before she destroys society. Problem solved.
5. I don't see how this benefits women in any way. The effect in dramatically reducing the number of false rape accusations would, of course, benefit men, but since there is no reliable penalty for false rape accusations in modern society, reducing it would be of little benefit to them.
Oh. Well, glad to see there’s at least one act of wanton cruelty that Vox doesn’t think women deserve.
Not that it lasts, though:
6. By reducing female promiscuity, which is strongly correlated with a whole host of social ills, from low birth and marriage rates to high levels of illegitimacy. But it may not even do so, in which case there wouldn't appear to be any case for it, since female genital mutilation tends to make health matters worse, unlike male genital mutilation, which appears to improve health matters somewhat.
So, slicing off women’s genitals with rusty knives cures them of that pesky sexual independence, but it might also make them ill, so who knows, really.
7. Because far more women are aborted than die as a result of their pregnancies going awry. The very idea that letting a few women die is worse than killing literally millions of unborn women shows that PZ not only isn't thinking like a scientist, he's quite clearly not thinking rationally at all. If PZ is going to be intellectually consistent here, then he should be quite willing to support the abortion of all black fetuses, since blacks disproportionately commit murder and 17x more people could be saved by aborting black fetuses than permitting the use of abortion to save the life of a mother. 466 American women die in pregnancy every year whereas 8,012 people died at the hands of black murderers in 2010.
As always when it comes to matters of abortion, Vox’s entire argument is dismantled in one swipe when it’s observed that terminating pregnancies is neither “murder” (legally or morally) nor cruel to the fetus (given that the vast majority of abortions occur before the fetus develops the necessary neural pathways that would allow it to feel pain in the first place). From any rational standpoint, all it is is extinguishing the life of an unfeeling, unknowing and uncaring parasitic mass of cells. It’s ironic that Vox accuses PZ of “not thinking rationally” when Vox’s own opposition to abortion undoubtedly stems from the typical anti-choicer idea that fetuses can supposedly feel pain or fear before they’re even physically and biologically capable of doing so.
And as for his racist bullshit … I’m not even touching that. Seriously, even my SIWOTI syndrome only goes so far.
So, to recap: Vox tries to correct PZ’s “unscientific” thinking by spewing a bucketload of misapplied statistics, faulty logic and subjective beliefs, all wrapped up in a slimy blanket of condescending faux-objectivity. And that’s not even mentioning his blatant and proud defense of explicit violence against women for the sake of keeping them all nice and oppressed and away from any semblance of autonomy in mind or body.
Because that, apparently, is thinking “scientifically”.