On the Shutting Down of D.M. Murdock’s Facebook Account

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by Neil Godfrey

Updated about two hours after original posting. . .

Unlike Richard Carrier, I did not receive a request to sign a petition protesting Facebook’s decision to shut down permanently D.M. Murdock’s/Acharya S’s page. This is a shame in some ways, since I would have been willing to seriously consider joining in such an action. It’s a lesson in what can happen when you decide to publicly slander and treat as enemies those who attempt to make forthright, honest criticisms of your work. Had Murdock or several of her followers not so outrageously reacted against my eventual response to their requests to write what I thought of some of her arguments, she would have recognized another potential avenue for supporting her cause against Facebook now.

Having said that, I must also say that I do not agree with the public showing of the image of Nigerian girls being subjected to virginity tests. (Facebook’s terms of use ban any display of nudity.)

Murdock wanted the image shown to shock readers enough to be outraged and act in whatever way they could to doing their bit to having this practice stopped.

But I would beg Murdock and Carrier and others to stop and think:

Would they want such images being shown world-wide if the victims shown were their own daughters or sisters?

Does how we answer that question suggest something about our attitude towards anonymous Africans? Has anyone stopped to ask how any of the girls in the photograph might feel about having that experience posted around the world? Might anyone even think to try to identify and locate any of those girls and ask them for permission to show them undergoing that ordeal?

Is not publishing that photo only adding to the humiliation of the victims?

Another news story that has recently appeared is of a 16 year old girl who was gang raped, dropped unconscious in a sewer pit, and now confined to a wheel-chair. There is an image against the story of a black girl’s head with her face hidden by her hand. The same article says that the image is not of the girl in the story. It even says the name of the girl in the story, “Liz”, is not the real name of the victim.

I don’t believe anyone who knows the real victim would want any photos of her undergoing any of her humiliation (not that they would be likely to exist) being made public.

I can’t help but think that what we are seeing here with the demands that Murdock’s original image be shown (even with the offending sections being blurred out) is a case of dehumanization of Africans. The girls are anonymous, black, in Africa, therefore “we” feel free to use them for political causes without any consideration of their privacy, their personal individuality and right to be treated with dignity.

I am particularly surprised that Richard Carrier, who is so outspoken on women’s rights, seems to have not stopped to think through this one. The story of the rape I mentioned above is no less confronting for its absence of graphic images of the girl being raped or lying in the sewer pit. Humans are creative enough to find ways to outrage readers and motivate to action without violating the personal dignity of those who have suffered unspeakable humiliation enough.

And even Ophelia Benson has joined voices with Carrier on this one. Something somewhere was said about anthropology research. My understanding is that professional anthropologists are bound by ethics standards that forbid anything that violates the privacy and dignity of others.

Closing Murdock’s Facebook page permanently for this one breach, perhaps well-intentioned but also (I strongly believe) very misguided, is disproportionate.

By the way . . . .

Continue reading “On the Shutting Down of D.M. Murdock’s Facebook Account”

When “Trusting the Expert Consensus” is Wrong

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

I am quite happy to defer to “the expert consensus” when that consensus of experts is grounded upon advanced mathematics, quantum physics or anything medical.

There is a blog out there with a curious byline:

A community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality.

The first post on this blog that I read, however, indicated to me that that byline was ironic. That article, Trusting Expert Consensus, is a mix of good and evil, impeccable logic and fundamental fallacies.

In the introductory section of the post we read:

Expert opinion should be discounted when their opinions could be predicted solely from information not relevant to the truth of the claims. This may be the only reliable, easy heuristic a non-expert can use to figure out a particular group of experts should not be trusted.

From that principle I concluded that the opinion among biblical scholars and theologians that there was an historical Jesus should be discounted. But LessRight disagrees. He/she concludes the opposite, in fact.

The reasoning appears to be basically along these lines:

  • Although an obvious minority in the field, there are a good number of scholars who reject traditional Christianity and espouse quite unconventional and “liberal” views (e.g. Crossan, Borg).
  • This subset of scholars, including even a few who are even atheists, for most part accept the historicity of Jesus.
  • Their liberal or non-religious personal views would not lead us to expect them to believe in the historicity of Jesus.
  • Therefore “non-experts” should defer to the view that Jesus was an historical figure.

(By the way, I owe a thanks to J. Quinton for alerting me to this post.)

Yet the same article also concedes that virtually all of even those liberal or atheistic scholars were at some time in their lives believing Christians.

That tells us something that the article nowhere addresses. Continue reading “When “Trusting the Expert Consensus” is Wrong”