Thursday, April 07, 2011

Man, that star fell fast!

Alternate title: Virtue has triumphed! The sword of retribution has cut down Pro-fessor Lawrence Krauss!

Just the other day I commented on Lawrence Krauss's guest post on one of (if not the) most popular atheist blogs on the planet: PZ Myers's Pharyngula.

LK was riding on top of the Gnu atheist world!


Krauss has a friend. A billionaire friend. More importantly the friend is also a scumbag sex offender of the Roman Polanski genre. This post from skepchick denounces Krauss for defending his friend.

Krauss handled this all rather stupidly. Granted it is tough to be in a situation where you are asked to denounce a friend--but there are non-weaselly ways out. You could simply say: He is my friend. I denounce his crimes, but remain his friend and hope to help him find the professional treatment he needs. Or something like that. Instead it appears that Krauss looked for loopholes.

That's all I'll say about that--because I don't really care about Lawrence Krauss and his piece-o-crap friend. You can judge for yourself should you find the affair interesting. I don't. What I find interesting is the fact that on day one he is a hero to the gnu atheists while on day two he is a goat.

I will say that skepchick's (Rebecca Watson) blog post title: Lawrence Krauss Defends a Sex Offender, Embarrasses Scientists Everywhere is incredibly stupid. Krauss's behavior is not an embarrassment to scientists everywhere. It may reflect on his character and may be an embarrassment to Krauss--but it is not an embarrassment to scientists everywhere. We are not a priesthood-we are people who are lucky enough to do science for a living. We come with all the human foibles found in the professions. If Krauss was a house painter, would he now be an embarrassment to house painters everywhere? Dumb.

As an aside, PZ--having just given LK a big ole' soap box--now faced a dillema--not totally unlike Krauss's situation, though different in scale. In my opinion he approached in a rather cowardly way. Without ever mentioning Krauss by name he made a post about himself (well, no surprise there) with oblique links to other bloggers who were doing the heavy lifting, such as Rebecca Watson. Go on, read his post and tell me, apart from following the links, would you have any clue what the hell PZ was discussing?

Among the Pharyngula regulars there is very little wiggle room granted Krauss due to the circumstance that he was defending a friend. The friend's crime was indeed repulsive--but what really prevented the Gnus from any sort of nuanced look at Krauss (not at the friend who committed the crimes who deserves no nuance, but at Krauss who was dumb and evasive in his lukewarm denouncement) are the feminist-flag-raising overtones of Krauss's attitude. Now the Gnu atheists are a tough crowd when it comes to feminism. On Pharyngula they even engaged in atheist blasphemy: His Worshipfullness Dick the Dawk was deemed sexist1 because of high crimes such as attributing gender differences too much to biology and too little to culture, and using "man" and "female" too close together. (I don't know if order matters, or if {man, woman} is preferred over {male, female}, but I do know that {man, female} in too close proximity is the Unpardonable Sin.

I'm not sure I worded that clearly, so here is a summary of what I am trying to say:

  1. Krauss has a scumbag friend who has exploited child prostitutes for sex.
  2. Krauss was an imbecile in the manner he chose to defend his friend.
  3. Since the pedophile is Krauss's friend, Krauss's behavior might be looked at through the lens: it is never easy to throw a friend under the bus--even when he richly deserves it.
  4. The free-thinking Gnu crowd is incapable of such nuance, because what Krauss did strikes them as anti-feminist, and nothing anti-feminist deserves a nuanced look.

1 Much of that discussion can be found by wading knee deep through this thread of pure gnu atheist open mindedness and free thinking. A couple back-to-back examples of free-thinking directed at Dawkins. From free-thinking commenter Ing:
The offensiveness and bad science in some of your [Dawkins's] latest displays is not that there is are differences between the sexes or even currently seen differences in behavior. The problem is that you uncritically contribute those to genetics rather than culture. For one, your million dollar chanalge things ignores the HUGE cultural difference between a women asking a stranger for sex and a random MAN asking a woman for sex. (HINT: ONE SENDS OFF RAPE ALARM BELLS).
This is followed by Phodopus's reply, again directed at Richard Dawkins who foolishly asked "Why is the word 'female' insulting?"
Do you not agree that having women referred to as females while in the same conversation men are referred to as men, has a connotation of the former being a kind of object of study rather than fellow human beings, if only slightly?


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Yes, what a fall from "grace" for Dr. Krauss. David, you made some cogent points (like re "embarrassment to scientists") but I don't think you gave enough credit to PZ and the Pharyngulites, aggravating as they often are. PZ's post may have been obliquely posed, but it's clear how little he thinks now of Krauss. They may focus more on this or that, but are overall rather objectively critical of this guy and I complemented them accordingly. Commenters aren't circling the wagons to defend one of their own, using positivism to cast doubt on whether such things are really wrong, etc. Most complaints accept that soliciting underage girls (and not to imply it would be OK with boys etc.) is "wrong" and excoriate Krauss and his errant pal accordingly. As aside, I worry about the effect on the many scientists who have been sponsored by Epstein.

    More important to me is taking down the fallacious "gaps" complaint that is a fave of Krauss and ilk. The laws that supposedly explain events are in effect a way of talking about the events and how they happen (as Hume noted.) So, asking "why the laws" is not a second level of explanation for which we should expect extrapolation of "naturalistic explanation." That question is itself the complete first-order question, "why these laws with their associated phenomena, and not some other set of laws-phenomena as a complete alternative unit." What *inside* Nature could explain that? It's like looking around in a hexagon to see why a hexagon is there instead of a pentagon: all you're going to get is what it's like to be in a hexagon.

  3. Also, I am supposing that this "...referred to as females while in the same conversation men are referred to as men", implies the former should be called "women" since that is the equivalent social term ("females" is the broad category including for other animals, etc.) But indeed, what a rancidly rancorous thread that was overall.

  4. We are not a priesthood-we are people who are lucky enough to do science for a living.

    Yup, but Rebecca's comment is very revealing, in that it shows that she thinks of science as a priesthood, no doubt because of her scientism.

    And the way the gnus genuflect before feminism shows that they are in the grip of their own unscientific (even anti-scientific) religious ideology of sorts, and the atheism is merely a part of it.