Diversity in the atheist/skeptic communities: An evidence-based approach

The mainstream media has picked up that within the atheist community, there’s been a growing discussion about a perceived lack of diversity among the people viewed as leaders of this movement. I’m not going to rehash the entire discussion (Ashley Miller’s 2013 article "The Non-Religious Patriarchy: Why Losing Religion HAS NOT Meant Losing White Male Dominance" provides a good starting basis) but much of it has focussed on (the important) discussions of why and how the movement should build diversity, with not as much being said about whether things are actually changing.

In the spirit of Sense About Science’s Ask For Evidence campaign (though unaffiliated in any way), Chris Hassall asked me while I was living in Leeds if I could help him research trends in diversity among the leadership of the skeptic/atheist community. It’s a question he’s been thinking about for a couple years (at least) and one I was eager to help answer (particularly being unemployed at the time).

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Discriminatory engineers?

One of my undergraduate classmates linked to an article on a recent Alberta Human Rights Commission tribunal finding that Alberta’s professional association for engineers (APEGA, formerly APEGGA – which it’s referred to in the decision) discriminated against an international applicant. APEGA is already planning to appeal the decision.

The 67 page decision is available on the APEGA website.

So what happened?

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The first rule of comedy: Aim up

Last night in Vancouver comedian Ian Harris came to town as part of his “Critical & Thinking” Tour. The show has been promoted by the BC Humanist Association and other skeptical groups, so naturally many of my friends in town went to the event.

From the reports, it sounds like Ian Harris was funny and a hit.

Unfortunately, the host for the evening at Yuk Yuk’s, the comedy club that hosted the event, was less humorous: discussing rape, ranting about feminists, and generally complaining about half* of the human species. When his ‘jokes’ fell flat, he suggested men would pretend to not find them funny or boo him just to get laid.

This line isn’t unfamiliar to anyone who tries to defend their jokes against the “politically correct police” or the liberal censorship brigade.

What it misses though is one of the keys to good comedy and satire: The targets of your jokes should be at least as well off as you.

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