Archive for 22 June 2011

Welcome, Dispatches!

A few days ago, I wrote to Ed Brayton, author of the awesome blog “Dispatches from the Culture Wars” on Science Blogs to see if he’d be willing give my Feminist piece a look, and he surprised the bejeebus out of me by responding. And today, he put up a post and opened the topic up for discussion on his blog! Go visit, please.

So, Ed agrees that this subject should be addressed in skeptic circles, but takes issue with my belief that “I would have died without AA” is a thought-stopping cliche. When I wrote that, I knew how provocative that line would be, especially because I know that there are people who would be dead had they not done something to overcome their addiction. Believing that it was literally AA that saved one’s life (as opposed to the assertion of one’s free will over ingrained habits and behaviors, or the decision to do something, whatever it is) prevents people from being able to think critically about it. They literally believe that outside of AA await jails, institutions, and death — and whether that’s true or not, believing it’s true is all that matters. Poking holes in a belief system that is keeping someone alive is not very nice.

A variation on this is the arguments that AA members, or people in the field, use to stop any criticism: “An alcoholic might read what you wrote, decide not to go to AA and die!”

So, I wanted to address that issue right up front, because it seems to be the thing that gets in the way of a genuine exploration of this issue. The bottom line is that if we are concerned about the one guy who might die because we criticize AA, we also have to be concerned about the many, many more people who have died of their addictions because we are  not having this conversation.

Thank you, Ed.

Quote of the Day

Here’s a comment from a self-described skeptic* posting in the AA thread on James Randi’s forum. According to Godwin’s Law, I think we just won the whole Internet:

I just returned from a visit to ‘Stinkin Thinking’. The views there have a lot in common with racists and bigots.

You know if you see a black guy smoking crack they all smoke crack or if a Jew ask for something to be discounted it’s because all Jews are cheap.

Apparently if someone is raped by an AA member we are all rapists, if someone is convicted of robbery and goes to AA we’re full of criminals.

When some 46 year-old jackass tries to pick up a young woman at a meeting, we’re all horny drooling predators. I’ll give them credit though, they aren’t sexist, supposed there’s a bunch of “cougars” in our midst too. Scary stuff.

* He wrote this after telling me that since I am on a skeptic website, I have to provide evidence — as long as the evidence doesn’t come from Orange’s website. Is this a new thing among skeptics? To refuse to evaluate a study objectively because you don’t like this one other guy who references it?