Do you have a problem with me or my work? Tell ME.

Ron Lindsay has a post up on CFI today about the shunning of certain atheists/skeptics at conferences. It’s appalling that this topic has to be discussed at all in a group of so called critical thinkers who value ideas and discussion. Or do they?

I was very surprised when I read my name on this list:

In any event, the list of individuals that CFI has been advised not to have any dealings with is long.  In no particular order it includes: Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, Ophelia Benson, Harriet Hall, Russell Blackford, Edwina Rogers, Rebecca Watson, PZ Myers, and Sharon Hill.  I am sure I am forgetting several more.

REALLY? I would like to know why my name is on this list.

I do research and skeptical outreach. I am NOT controversial.

A scant few have notified me saying they think I’m incompetent or annoying or mean but I don’t get hate mail. So, what could be the issue that would put me in this category? I’m left to guess…

I have had a few incidents with people who did not like who I was friends with, who assumed I tacitly supported nastiness against fellow skeptics (incorrect assumption, I might add) and who did not appreciate that I can overlook flaws of certain people in order to admire their overall body of work. I’m not at all interested in the cliques, the parties, or the celebrity pandering. I’m not going to blog about people I don’t like or try to garner sympathy as a victim. That’s not how I feel respect is earned. I judge people on merit and I expect they would do the same and treat others as human beings, not as adversaries.

I avoid the petty shit slinging that has occurred PARTICULARLY among the women in skepticism. It has been sickening to watch and has resulted in many good people throwing up their hands and saying this is worse than high school, then they left. I have had disagreements with some female skeptics yet we remain friends because I respect their work and their opinion. I don’t throw a fit when they disagree with me. I promote feminism by doing whatever I want and expecting to be treated fairly. For the most part, I have. The most trouble I have had is from other women. Is this it? Is this the source of the opinion that I should not be invited to speak at conferences? I don’t know. Speak up.

It is noticeable that there are circles of people who support each other and other outlets who will ignore that you exist. I am unclear why that is. It has always been my philosophy that we have a common goal to promote critical thinking. So, I’m at a loss if you are sincere about the goal, why you would not support others with that goal. We aren’t competing against each other. Someday I hope that this cliqueyness goes away. I’m open to taking steps to get rid of that.

I’m here to do what I think is right. If you can’t appreciate hard work and the fairness that I have always tried to adhere to, so be it. I don’t pander, grandstand or suck up.  You would be HARD PRESSED to find me losing my temper (now being any exception) and saying something bad about someone in public. So, I would appreciate if I can see a calm, reasonable explanation to explain what the issue is here. Because it must be going on behind the scenes. Since I’m not into following the latest gossip, someone tell me what IS the problem? I will honestly try to fix it.

To respond privately, email paskeptic at

About idoubtit

Fluent in science, animals, paranormal culture. Expert in weird news.

0 thoughts on “Do you have a problem with me or my work? Tell ME.

  1. One of the things that has kept me away from skeptic events is that while I admire much that individuals do (them who have a measure of notoriety – I don’t know the others), I also know they are more than skeptics (meaning there is more to them than that one limiting label).

    I believe most of them to be people, and as a rule, people have opinions based on their own likes and dislikes. What I don’t want to happen is to meet someone I admire or find interesting because of things they have written or said, and then find out more than I want to know about them.

    Not from my perspective, but from what I hear, I am fairly uncompromising when it comes to what I consider opinions based on a biased review of what we know. I tend to quickly lose respect for people.

    So, and the comparison is tenuous, much like I might like an actor for their ability to do one thing, I rather not know of their infidelity, drinking, drug use, excessive spending, and general assholishness. It taints those things they do that have worth.

    Long story short, I avoid groups precisely because they always degenerate into this sort of thing. I would say “don’t let it bother you”, or even “wear it as a badge of honor”, but obviously you care about it. Really, you should try to do less of that. Much healthier outlook on life, it gives you.

  2. This type of behavior, and much of the other behavior you’ve mentioned above is quite appalling. The frustration of people who are truly just trying to “do the work” seems to be growing with every event. Many are just giving up.

    “We aren’t competing against each other.” – Unfortunately, many of the large organizations ARE competing for the same small pool of people who donate or pay for their conferences. And they seem to do be quite ruthless about this competition.

    1. I don’t know… there is a huge overlap of people and the 3 big orgs have been very cordial towards each other over the past few years which is good to see. I think they would do well to differentiate themselves even a bit more than they already do.

      I was mainly talking about individuals at odds with each other, or “brands” for lack of a better term. Maybe they do think of that as competition. But that’s not wise when you are trying to grow an audience.

  3. Everytime I think the current internal debates have reached a new “peek” and things are inproving something else come along to keep me sad and disheartened. Ridiculous. Defacto lists of the ‘in’ and ‘out.’

  4. I’m simply shaking my head at the list. Sharon Hill? Hello? Well and any of them. Even the most contentious people on the list, give talks on topics that have nothing to do with anything controversial. Watson wrote an article about skymall. If she gave a talk about the Skymall catalog, she has something good to share no one would have any reason for being upset about. People are not defined by their controversies. People are complex, you’ll agree with some of their work and disagree with other parts. In a way, I wish we were truly more like say the Army, we may disagree but in the end we have the same goals and I’ve got your back.
    Our goal should not be “Fewer but better skeptics” but “Let’s get the word out there” Sadly, I have had a family member drop out from the movement because of the fear of being targeted and hey, this person was moving from student to being employed. The fear? An employer would Google their name. Both sides have taken their hatred to the point of personal attacks that can impact the daily lives (and employment) of the people they are attacking. We’re losing good people here.

  5. Some women are perpetually stuck t the 13-year-old “you can’t be my friend if you’re friends with her” stage. Maybe men do ths as well, I just don’t see it up close. I’ve been pretty disgusted by the cat fights and name-calling. I think you do a great job.

  6. “I’m not at all interested in the cliques, the parties, or the celebrity pandering.”

    This (along with the sharp focus and strong content of your work) is precisely why you are respected and appreciated — and probably also why someone has the opposite reaction.

  7. Let’s not forget the reinforcement of the “followers”. PZ and Watson both have near-rabid fans/followers. In the fan’s eyes, neither PZ nor Watson can do any wrong. Consequently, I believe both are emboldened by their fans, and are less likely to question themselves when offering up “the way things are”.

    One of the reasons I follow DN is because there is no compromising. When something is reported, if it’s crap, it called crap. If claims are made , and they turn out to be false, so it is said, and the claimants are called to task because of it. The other reason is that it is strongly anchored in facts, not opinions. If the facts don’t support it, it’s called out.

    This may be a reason why the name Sharon Hill is on the list. Most large “skeptic” organizations are well down the “conciliatory” road.

    I assume that has to do with wanting to pull together large coalitions to advance goals that overlap with those of disparate groups. For example, it may be both atheist and religious groups have the common goal of wanting religion out of politics, albeit for different reasons. Therefore, if you want to form a group presenting a cohesive message, you don’t want to piss off religious people by saying stuff like “so; which made-up crap to you believe in?”

    I personally think that is the wrong approach, but powerful skeptics have pushed that agenda (let’s work together, and we’ll overlook the fact you are completely irrational, and possibly delusional) to the point it’s the accepted “path”.

    To that end, regardless of one’s opinion of PZ or Watson, they do speak their mind, and they do not pull punches.

    Not as abrasive, and not spouting spurious personal opinion, but that is also the hallmark of DN. So, it may not be a matter of being abrasive, but rather uncompromising in calling “bullshit” when stepping in some.

    I could be wrong.

    1. I have to disagree with you in a sense that I don’t think that the main detractors for DN ( are skeptics. I mostly anger anti-vaxxers and the pro-alt med, pro-paranormal crowd. Those aren’t the ones attending skeptical conferences.

      There are about 3 people I can think of who have come right out and told me they don’t like me because it doesn’t fall in line with their strongly held opinions. But they have ASSUMED WAY more than was warranted about me. What they assumed was wrong. What I wanted was a discussion. What I got was a dismissal. Very irrational and unprofessional. They then continued to do that to others. So, it’s not really about me. It’s about the world that doesn’t conform to their wishes.

      1. Not saying the main detractors are skeptics . . . suggesting, and I am in no way “in tune” with the movement (or whatever it is called), that perhaps DN cuts a wider swath than they would like. If I am not mistaken, you do touch on religion, new age stuff, politics, morals, etc.

        Many skeptics exclude themselves from certain topics, supposedly in the name of “true” skepticism, whatever that is.

        Like I said, I could be wrong. As a rule, that’s my usual assumption, but it does not keep me from saying stuff that crosses my mind.

        It will be interesting to learn, if you ever do, what the reason for such prestigious inclusion.

  8. If someone wants to boycott an event because they disagree with someone else’s views, you are better off without them. This goes beyond unprofessional to being just plain childish. If I avoided everyone I’ve had a disagreement with, I would spend the rest of my life locked in a room by myself.

  9. It should be also noted the referenced article argued against excluding or boycotting.

    I understand wanting to know the “why”, but on the other hand, if that’s the thinking in that organization, perhaps it is a good thing to find out as opposed to have it spoken about behind one’s back. Maybe one can then rethink their support for such an organization.

    1. I don’t always agree with everything CFI does, just as with the other skeptical orgs. But, that is the point. We have differing opinions. I have said my piece in places yet I continue to support them because we have more in common than at odds. The core of skepticism is to critique. And the fact that shunning people whose opinion you don’t like is happening as a normal thing around these parts is the disturbing behavior. Those people aren’t skeptical, they are closed minded and often very mean spirited.

  10. At first I thought this was a list that CFI had made themselves. Then I reread the paragraph you quoted and it made a lot more sense.

    I can see the reason for most of the names, due to them being somewhat polarizing and controversial and has some rather rabid fans and detractors. But you? That surprised the hell outta me.

    I honestly can’t figure out why you were on that list and who would find you so controversial or polarizing. So I’m guessing this is much more a case of someone who just doesn’t like you personally, rather than anything really based of professionalism and your hard work cause I haven’t seen many skeptics lash out against you either, and certainly not enough that they would feel a boycott of a conference you’re attending is a proper response to you and the conference.

    So I’m rather mindboggled by your inclusion on this list.

      1. I find great offense at that remark . . . what have you got against lines in the sand? Often maligned, they can have a beauty all their own, and their lack of permanence makes them both rare, and worthy of appreciation when chancing upon them.

        . . . depending on the angle of the sun, using a polarizer might help looking at them . . .

          1. Yeah, few people can. A good rule of thumb is “if in doubt, assume I am”.

            The traditional meaning of the phrase is all that you say, but another way to look at lines in the sand is that they can and do move . . . and they moving sometime is indicative of small victories. One hopes eventually they run out of sand.

            The traditional meaning is tied to military history, but the modern meaning has been greatly diluted by these lines indeed shifting with changing circumstances. Whenever I hear “line in the sand”, I don’t assign the finality or permanence usually associated with them. If anything, quite the opposite.

            Sorry about the attempted humor in the previous reply; I do that sometimes, assuming people will get the joke. I’ll try to keep it to a minimum here, or maybe avoid it all-together.

            I’ve taken up enough of your time (and mine). Hope you get an eventual answer to the shunning thing, and would be pleased to read about it here.

  11. I think you being on the list may have something to do with you having followed @AngrySkepchick on Twitter. Remember the to-do about it a few months ago?

  12. Oo! name on the big list eh, what next?
    Well! I’m stunned to read about the shunning from conference of the popular, credible, critical thinker and blogger Sharon Hill,
    Without explanation,!
    Sounds like typical petty jealousies to me of a well loved and respected contributor.
    Look forward to reading more.

  13. According to Ron it was a very few people who thought I was on the wrong side of the feminism issue. If that’s the case, they are sorely disillusioned considering my career history in a predominantly male field. Also, being much older than some of these current “activists”, I’d say I pull rank. As I said, I prefer to lead by example rather than whine about being a victim. That has not gone over well.

    It could have stemmed from that follow “crime” but as I said, that is pathetic. Gender traitor my ass.

  14. I have been doing quite a bit of thinking about this issue and have come to the conclusion that we all must, and do, draw “lines in the sand” so to speak. It’s the reason there are laws against murder, theft, etc… As a society, we have made the ethical call that certain behaviors are unacceptable and should be punished when those lines have been crossed.

    If we are claiming to be skeptics, then there are certain principles and ideals that are implicit with that claim. Skeptics are supposed to reach provisional conclusions based on evidence. That means that we should always do our best to engage in healthy debate and keep an open mind. When we fail to do so, we should admit our failure and apologize for it. If we do not set standards for ourselves (those lines in the sand) and police our own behavior, we become hypocrites. At which point, we have no business telling others how they are doing their thinking incorrectly.

    I expect to be held to the standards that my claim of being a skeptic entail. I want to be told when I am failing to do so. And, I should apologize for having done so, when that criticism is justified. If I do not think it is justified, then I should be able to argue my case with reason and evidence, rather than dismissiveness or personal attack.

    Equally, I should hold my fellow skeptics to those standards. And if they exhibit a PATTERN of behavior that is in direct conflict with the qualities one should expect from a skeptic, I have the right to state my opinion that they are not a decent role model for skepticism, and they are not someone whom I wish to support. When doing so I must state my objections with the evidence I have collected which I think supports my claim, not with generalizations or personal insults. (This ‘one strike and you’re out’ trashing I’ve been seeing isn’t appropriate behavior from skeptics either, BTW.)

    If we are claiming to be people of reason, then we should behave as such. And, IMO, if we want to keep it real we must police ourselves and our own.

    1. That’s very good. I don’t draw lines in the sand for means of “with me or against me”, that’s what I meant. I actually GREATLY value the friendships and very good rapport I have with people who don’t agree with my application of skepticism and are on the paranormal side of the fence.

      My lines are drawn when I know that a conversation can not continue or a person can not be reconciled with. I regret that I feel there are a few people who are not reconciliable and I do actually ignore them. The Mabuses, the cranks, the haters (in actuality there are SO VERY FEW haters but they have problems with everyone not just me, so I don’t take it personally). There is a point where you simply can’t waste your time and damage your mental health trying to deal with some people. That’s OK. But let’s not overdo it and start proactively shutting people out who are supposedly working at the same goals as you.

      I screw up a lot. I did apologized for the incident that perhaps may have started or played a part in this mention of blacklisting. However, that was a response to something else that hurt me. That person did not apologize. So, I do believe in apologies and admissions of wrong. It is a very good route to take.

      I’ve been frustrated by people whom I thought were my friends but choose sides instead of being fair. And I’ve been frustrated by those who privately said, “yeah, you got shit from that, it was awful” but would not say things in public or to that person because they did not want to upset their “celebrity” friend. That makes me sad. I won’t say “don’t do that” because that person has good reasons, I’m just saying it bothers me. So, I won’t say anymore “Don’t be a dick”, but I will say it bothers me, I wouldn’t be mean like that and it unfortunately does affect my feelings toward you. I guess that’s what this post was really about, it was my way of saying THIS bothers me and give people a chance to explain. No one came forward to do that. I’m not surprised. But it did tell me those few people aren’t worth my time worrying about.

  15. In the short time I’ve paid attention to computer provided Skepticism (I’m a long time reader, though , from a family of mostly Atheists), Ms. Hill seems like one of the most thoroughly likable and hard working people I’ve known of, on matters of skepticism or otherwise. To balance motherhood with providing such a well made product as Doubtful News is quite an accomplishment, and she deserves respect and support, not harassment and contempt. I’m a little dismayed. I hope everything goes well for her. She’ll have my support, for what it’s worth.

  16. Sharon,

    Comment #31 does a great job of summing up my feelings about you and your work.

    I share a common goal with you – the promotion of critical thinking based on evidence – and feel you work in a way that is most likely to achieve the goal of promoting skepticism, because what you do shows it’s value.

    However, we make a mistake when we assume that someone who claims to be a skeptic shares our goals. And, if we let these “skeptics”, who apparently don’t know how to behave like we should expect, go unchecked because we’re all assuming that we’re all working towards the same goals, we’re destroying ourselves because we will become an example of exactly what we claim to be fighting against.

    Everyone who is unwilling to take a stand for fear of whatever is part of the problem not part of the solution. We are letting the extremes do all of the talking because we moderates want to play nice and hope the whole thing will just go away. Well it won’t!

    I have asked friends to start a new campaign to promote people like you, Brian Dunning, Tim Farley, Sara Mayhew, Harriet Hall, and Kitty Mervine. Start tweeting and advertising the good things you are doing. Start leaving comments on great blogposts to show support for good work. Let people like you know on a regular basis that what you do and the way you do it matters to us. The response I got was “It won’t work because people like drama.” Liking “drama” is exactly the kind of thinking applying skeptic methodology should prevent. We will get exactly what we promote. So my fellow skeptics, you can expect a whole lot more drama and a whole lot less skepticism because it’s the drama that gets the biggest response, not good skepticism.

    1. Of the various camps in the “skeptical” community, some model themselves on things like news sources, magazines, or journals. Or at least somewhat respectful (which of course, we’ll be told, the choice to be so is a choice of privilege) “expert blogs” where one goes to find information. And some camps (on both sides of the various -gates) model themselves more on the likes of Gawker or Slate, which are built on controversy. Given this, why would there be an end to drama, when drama provides a useful ecological niche?

      1. As skeptics we should be aware that camps that are built on controversy are not good skepticism. Skepticism is dispassionate and good skeptics work to promote dispassionate thinking by providing evidence and good critical thought of that evidence.

        Controversial posts play to people’s emotions. They are written in such a way to steer people away from evidence and, instead, elicit an emotional response. I don’t consider this a useful ecological niche for skepticism or skeptics.

        Critical thinking based on evidence doesn’t come all that naturally. To encourage this kind of thinking we need to do our best to behave in such a way that proves its value. Sharon does so by responding to those who have objections with level-headed, well-reasoned responses, not dismissive snark and personal insult. And, she is willing to reconsider her position and apologize if she thinks she has gotten it wrong.

        If we are whipping up controversy and eliciting emotional responses within the skeptic community, we are doing our skepticism wrong. We should be able to discuss any and all issues without personal insults, dismissive snark, and hyperbolic rhetoric. It’s how you resolve issues and move forward in a positive way.

        And, we should be encouraging and promoting people who behave in a way that self-skepticism should dictate, like Sharon does, and discourage and avoid people who play to people’s emotions by using rhetoric aimed at eliciting an emotional
        response. We can’t possibly prove the value of skepticism, if we can’t play by its rules among ourselves, even on the most controversial issues.

        When Paul Fidalgo of CFI wrote a post about Sharon and her work, it should have received lots of comments of support from skeptics who which to encourage not only Sharon but also one of our leading organizations to support and feature work from people like Sharon. That post received exactly two comments. One from me and one from Paul thanking me for my comment.

        OTOH, Ron Lindsay’s post about divisiveness in the community which appeared the day before Paul’s received 348 comments with the usual ugliness which we have come to expect when discussing the problem of misogyny in the community. It wasn’t a fruitful discussion with well-reasoned, evidence based debate. Why, because we have allowed our emotions to cloud our judgement and let the people who play to our emotions control the dialog. This is bad skepticism which we should not be encouraging.

        1. As a scientist and working in the type of environment I do, I get constructive criticism ALL the time and I’ve learned to value that. What I have gotten ONLY ON RARE occasions is less than constructive criticism which I understand and accept will come with whenever you put yourself out there.

          I feel drama instigators are being manipulative and engaging in bad faith arguments. Very un-skeptical and very un-freethinking. I feel playing the victim as some have done is a result of them feeling really put upon but, without realizing it, they have made things considerably worse by doing so. Sometimes, you just have to keep quiet. Or take a break. Or get out, because this is a really tough crowd.

          I don’t really enjoy talking meta like this. It makes me feel uncomfortable and I usually regret what I say because perhaps people will take it the wrong way. I dislike drama and confrontation yet, here it is. A challenge.

          That said, I have had many people (but as was mentioned, not enough) agree with me by telling me I’m doing a good job, stay the course. That’s what I’ll do.

  17. Sharon, you stay the course and Matt and I will support you. When you setup a monthly donation option for this site, Matt and I decided you were worthy of our support on a monthly basis. We will be setting this up starting in January. 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *