Monday, October 3, 2011

Almost Skeptical

So, I'm over at the blog Almost Diamonds where there's a discussion happening about Rebecca Watson. It's a hypothetical set of four propositions which purportedly is a way to convince people like me that what happened to Watson was actually bad. Like, you know, not 'zero bad'.

Anyway, I don't accept her hypothetical for one primary reason. After laying out the four propositions one is invited to take on board, she says this,
Just for now, just assume those things. I won’t hold you to them later. I may point out that it’s creepy to assume a woman is lying unless you’ve got corroborating evidence, but I won’t say, “Well, you said here….”
Well, it's that unless I've got corroborating evidence bit. I do. I've written about it. It's publicly available, independently verifiable and not contested by any of the relevant parties as being a genuine photograph of the time in question, the place in question, and the people in question. It is, therefore, direct evidence. And it is relevant.

Now, we are met with a story (I don't mean that in a pejorative sense one notes) about some set of events that are alleged to have happened. 1.) is that EG was at the bar and 2.) EG was listening to Rebecca Watson. 

Ok then. 2 propositions. If either or both of them is correct, one should expect that a randomly taken photograph of the group at the table would have EG in it.  It doesn't. Further, this is a wide shot of the bar, and seems to include everyone in the bar in it except for the photographer (PeeZus) himself. No one disputes this.

It is therefore a proper question (at least in keeping with the maxim that one should always name names) to ask of Rebecca Watson: which of these dozen people is the one in question?

And ask it of her I did. She answered. Apparently, she has an extremely rare and yet proven-to-be-congenital brain defect which prevents her from being able to recognize faces, called prosopagnosia. I'm no expert on this, but let's do that thing that skeptics do:  analyze public information.

A person with prosopagnosia has difficulty recognizing faces in pictures of even people with whom they're familiar,
Experiments have shown that when presented with a mixture of familiar and unfamiliar faces, people with prosopagnosia may be unable to successfully identify the people in the pictures, or even make a simple familiarity judgement
 The congenital variety is still, as I implied earlier, not yet established such as I know,
The reported cases suggest that this form of the disorder may be heritable and much more common than previously thought (about 2.5% of the population may be affected), although this congenital disorder is commonly accompanied by other forms of visual agnosia, and may not be "pure" prosopagnosia.[1]
Whether it's pure or visual agnosia, one thing remains patent: those afflicted have difficulty in recognizing faces and/or familiar objects. So, let's have a look at Watson looking at pictures to see how she fares:
Watch this video (if you dare). At about the 9:20 mark, she puts up a photograph and correctly identifies 100% of the people in it, to include the stranger in disguise.

What is life for someone who is actually suffering from prosopagnosia?
Less severe case of a congenital variety, accepting it's pure prosopagnosia.
A clinician discusses it.
Note that people with this disorder tend to dislike watching movies (and presumably television shows because keeping track from one scene to the next is difficult if one cannot keep track of who's who).

But Watson loves Mythbusters, and seems to have no trouble picking out the cast at a crowd! Or picking out Dawkins, Myers, AronRa or anyone else for that matter.

If you know a good amount about this condition, I'd love to hear/read your take on the claim by Watson that she has it. Or, if you write an article, let me know and I'll link to it.

So, she claims to have this disorder, but could recognize EG in the elevator having never before met him (only having seen him in attendance at two disparate events), but can't pick him out of a picture the day after? Wow! This condition of hers is mysterious!

One also notes that, despite their attempts to suggest otherwise, it is not at all my problem that the public evidence freely available to all doesn't comport with Watson's versions of events. That's her problem entirely since she's the one expecting people to believe her.

What's likelier: that the picture is wrong and useless anyway because of this never before mentioned disease she has, that the inconsistencies in her story and inability to verify any of it is imaginary, or that a drunken ideologue might tell a lie? You decide!

Edit: Steph writes at her blog, almost diamonds,

Sure, Munkhaus, just like you’ve posted every disability you’ve ever had on the web for everyone to mock. Oh, wait. It’s not like anyone would ever mock Rebecca for anything, right?
Justicar’s basis for his “skepticism” is that Rebecca could name the people in pictures in her own PowerPoint. Are you saying you actually find that somehow compelling?
This is untrue. The 'reason' for my skepticism is that I'm being given a positive claim that obviates all need for Twatson to make any effort to identify her coffee-inviter.  And it's a very, very rare condition that isn't demonstrated to be congenital. There's no information anywhere indicating she's taken a blow to the head.  So, seeing all of that together, I decided to start looking through some of her 'lectures'.

The very first one I opened finds her accurately identifying and putatively recognizing 100% of the people in a photograph.

Add to this her perfect ability to recognize and intercept celebrity atheists at conventions and it makes one rather dubious of her ad hoc claim to having a very rare brain defect.

First, I was presented with a claim: she has that disease.
Second, I postulated a hypothesis: she doesn't have this disease.
Third: I went looking for evidence that might bear on it.
Fourth: I noticed that in all cases of which I can reasonably obtain she demonstrates no indication of having the disease.
Fifth: I rejected the claim she has the disease because all available evidence is inconsistent with how people with prosopagnosia seem to operate: namely, she can identify people in pictures.

49 comments:

John Greg said...

Sounds like a case for Mr. Occam's Razor.

Spence said...

There is only one response for asking Steph difficult questions....

B&

The Justicar said...

I'm afraid he's a hippy who doesn't believe in shaving. It's too mainstream these days.

Stephanie Zvan said...

You're fucking kidding me, right?!? OMG, Rebecca can identify all the people in the family photo that she included in her own PowerPoint who have arrows pointing to them in the order she determined before the talk! She could never have memorized the order while she was preparing! That couldn't possibly be the very basic reason she got it right!

Damn, dude. That's the best laugh I've had all day. Even after having seen your "damning" picture from the conference.

But you just keep on with your bad skeptical self. I'll be over here giggling and pointing.

The Justicar said...

I said watch the video. Feel free to watch all of it. I only pointed out one example.

Also note all of the other people who she recognizes based off of their pictures.

This is hardly the *only* example of her successfully identifying people in a picture.

The Justicar said...

Oh, and the picture isn't mine. But she can ID the people at her table without difficulty!
The only instance in which she can't identify someone is specifically EG. His is the only face she can't manage.

Mysterious!

AlekNovy said...

Mysterious indeed. Funny how all mysterious coincidences work out in her favor.

I think you're doing such a great job on exposing this fraud that your critics are shi*ting their pants. I literally am reading blogs all over, and they tend to mention your name (justicar) in the same line as bunch of emotional attacks and ad-hominems, but they don't provide counter-argument for half the stuff you say. 

Their favorite weapon seems to be the "faked exaggared incredulity" card, like "Omg, justicar, I can't believe you said that", like Stephanie just did without finishing the videos or reading your point carefully.

AlekNovy said...

Also, a really important part in all of this, is the original event, and why she did something biggotted and hateful in the first place. All the aditional stories are just piling up on the initial problem which was never admitted.

Here's an interesting analogy on homophobia and how it relates to watsongate...

http://aleknovy.com/2011/09/24/rebecca-watson-and-gay-bodybuilders/

Tyler DiPietrantonio said...

Lying bitch is lying.

AlekNovy said...

In short...

-> Michael gets approached politely in an elevator by a gay man and is propositioned for cofee and conversation

-> Michael gets on the internet and shoots a video saying "Listen up you homosexuals, don't hit on us straights in elevators, that's downright creepy. Homosexuals, don't be creepy, mmkay?"

Most would agree that's a mild, but damn obvious form of homophobia. However, Michael than goes on and keeps inventing more and more reasons for why he was justified in making that statement which just bury him even deeper and proves his entitled, homophobic character.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Yes, because the number of times she can "identify" pictures that she chose to put in her rehearsed presentation is indicative of...something. But it couldn't possibly be something like preparation. *snerk*

Scented Nectar said...

She brings up 4 am again, the meme that is the new midnight. Hmmmm

AlekNovy said...

WARNING:

Guys who disagree with stephanie, you might not want to post at her blog. At least, you do so at her risk. She just said that she treated my comment as "spam" because it contained a link.

The way the comment-anti-spam system works is that if someone reports your comments as spam, the system then sees you as a spammer from then on.

It has happened to me in some religious zealot communities. If you disagree with them, they flag you as spammer, and then you can't post comments anywhere on any blog (they all use the same database). It takes weeks to clear your name.

The Justicar said...

I know! Like how she prepares to recognize all of those famous people she runs into at conventions. The way she can make a b-line for them shows she has done her homework.

(or can spot famous people a mile off)!

Scented Nectar said...

Ok, pausing again to say WTF???? Poker sex with PZ? PZ trying to sex on stage? Whaaaaat????? Maybe Becky is still a little tipsy or full out still drunk. O_o

Scented Nectar said...

Pausing again. What's in that bottle of pop? LSD?

AlekNovy said...

"But Watson loves Mythbusters, and seems to have no trouble picking out the cast at a crowd! Or picking out Dawkins, Myers, AronRa or anyone else for that matter."


And further, the guy was supposed to be in hearing distance remember. So she can't use the excuse that she doesn't recognize his face because he was farther away in the bar.

- By the very notion that he within hearing range the whole time
- She's admitting he was in close visual range as well

So she can't use the excuse she didn't remember his face.

Scented Nectar said...

(pause again) How funny, abusing the helper assigned to her with headgames for days on end. :(

Scented Nectar said...

No conscience eh? I'd agree with her on that one. Funny that she easily admits it. Oh the arrogance of a sociopath... :(

AlekNovy said...

She still hasn't unspammed me. If I find that I have been blacklisted on the spammer database, I will be officially reporting this Stephanie for false-flagging.

Is this how she deals with people she disagrees with?

Scented Nectar said...

Bailing at 12:40. There's only so much of her I can take. This is the worst one I've seen yet. It's almost enough to believe that she has indeed invited a lot of hate mail. I'm thoroughly appalled.

The Justicar said...

Sorry about being slow in responding to comments here, gang. There's a bigger fish to fry, and I'm waiting on the story to break so I can publish. I'm about to burst at the seams!

Mikovits is going down, hard. Like Watson on a history question about Galileo's manner of death.

0verlord said...

Yes.

John C. Welch said...

Oh Steph, you're hilarious. So riddle me this: How is it she remembers that he was actively listening to her every word in the bar, what he said, what time he said it, his mannerisms, his general age, BUT SHE CANNOT REMEMBER HIS FACE???


Man, that is some awesome IRL facial blur tech they got in Ireland. With that level of personal obfuscation, no wonder she was creeped out. I'd have shat myself!

The Justicar said...

It's not a blur, silly. It was sudden onset of a rare disease that seems not to persist in Watson. It only seems to recur when she's shown a picture with EG in it.

Yeah, I'm sure Steph is going to answer you; make sure to hold your breath.

AlekNovy said...

"It's not a blur, silly. It was sudden onset of a rare disease that seems not to persist in Watson."Haha, I spit out the drink I was reading. That was hella funny.

AlekNovy said...

" How is it she remembers that he was actively listening to her every word in the bar, what he said, what time he said it, his mannerisms, his general age"

And mind you... This is before even knowing the guy :D 

- So not only did she manage to track exactly which of her words he was listening to (despite her disability)

She did it before she even knew of him (remember, her official story says that he's a stranger who's never talked to her before the elevator, just a random face in the conference crowd).

- Most of us people WITHOUT a disability can't track this much information about a random face in the crowd, a face we've never even met yet... Yet she can? Gawd... she keeps digging a deeper and deeper hole...

Again:- The guy was supposedly in the conference room when she said the TWO sentences about not liking to be hit on

- He was one of a CROWD of strange faces she doesn't know and hasn't spoken to or met yet (just a crowd of members)

- This implies she manually tracked every face in the crowd when making a speech, making note who was listening to what part of the speech, and who took bathroom breaks when

I CANT DO THAT AND I HAVE PHOTOGRAPHIC MEMORY

So how did she (upon entering the elevator) go "oh, I know this guy, he's that one guy who was in the crowd when I talked about not wanting to be hit on, that one guy among the crowd".

Maybe her disorder goes in cycles? At moments she has SUPER-recognition? And then it goes into zero-recognition?

AlekNovy said...

" Like Watson on a history question about Galileo's manner of death."

To be fair, a lot of smart people mix up the Galileo death story :)

Michael Gray said...

You seem to be one of the very few who is actually applying real skeptical principles to this dubious event.
To qualify as a Watson supporter, one is required to shun all skepticism, and accept her unsupported dogma on every point without question.One must also dismiss any and all extant contrary evidence against her constantly morphing anecdotes in order to be accepted as a member of this new little toxic cult. Apostates are hunted down with venom.One must dismiss the evidence which *should* exist, but does not.

One thing that relates very closely to the alleged face-blindness, is her temporary accent deafness!
She is quite unable to say what accent EG had. A Boston native in Dublin must surely have been able to discern EG's accent? What was it? Watson makes much of mocking various accents on SGU, so we know that she can keenly discern them.
Her transient disabilities seem to come & go on a very very convenient schedule!

Of course, like any irrational cult, acolytes MUST resort to logical fallacies, lies, ad hominem attacks, veiled threats (yes, you: PZ!), actual threats of anal rape combined with animal cruelty, and might devolve one day to actual violence against skeptics.
Watson's actual undisguised & public plans to detain Richard Dawkins against his will (criminal kidnap), and perform some sort of criminal outrage, (rape was hinted at as an option, if I remember correctly), against his person whilst being detained is but one example of where this has been publically mooted by Watson's devoted and insane disciples.

Like any religion, it is these actions to which they must adhere, as they have zero facts with which to back-up their increasingly bizarre claims, and many facts that argue against them.
We are witnessing the birth of a very toxic, dangerous and anti-skeptical cult.

I am increasingly arriving at the forensically supported conclusion that EG is a fabrication that seemed convenient at the time. A lie that got way out of hand, and is now returning to bight it's author hard.

Michael Gray said...

(Repost: Delete if my original makes it through:)

You seem to be one of the very few who is actually applying real skeptical principles to this dubious event.To qualify as a Watson supporter, one is required to shun all skepticism, and accept her unsupported dogma on every point without question.One must also dismiss any and all extant contrary evidence against her constantly morphing anecdotes in order to be accepted as a member of this new little toxic cult. Apostates are hunted down with venom.One must dismiss the evidence which *should* exist, but does not.

One thing that relates very closely to the alleged face-blindness, is her temporary accent deafness!
She is quite unable to say what accent EG had. A Boston native in Dublin must surely have been able to discern EG's accent? What was it? Watson makes much of mocking various accents on SGU, so we know that she can keenly discern them.
Her transient disabilities seem to come & go on a very very convenient schedule!

Of course, like any irrational cult, acolytes MUST resort to logical fallacies, lies, ad hominem attacks, veiled threats (yes, you: PZ!), actual threats of anal rape combined with animal cruelty, and might devolve one day to actual violence against skeptics.
Watson's actual undisguised & public plans to detain Richard Dawkins against his will (criminal kidnap), and perform some sort of criminal outrage, (rape was hinted at as an option, if I remember correctly), against his person whilst being detained is but one example of where this has been publically mooted by Watson's devoted and insane disciples.

Like any religion, it is these actions to which they must adhere, as they have zero facts with which to back-up their increasingly bizarre claims, and many facts that argue against them.
We are witnessing the birth of a very toxic, dangerous and anti-skeptical cult.

I am increasingly arriving at the forensically supported conclusion that EG is a fabrication that seemed convenient at the time. A lie that got way out of hand, and is now returning to bight it's author hard.

The Justicar said...

I am obliged to. Then again, I don't have a political axe to grind, and I'm not trying to engineer a society.

"X is true."

Hrm, all these data cast doubt on it.

"heretic!"

Maria Maltseva said...

For the record, I don't believe it either. I never have. She had no problem recognizing me, a stranger, on a JREF cruise multiple times. She recognized me again at Dragon*Con. If you have to resort to excuses such never-before-mentioned-or-evidenced face blindness to show the mere possibility of your uncorroborated story, chances are high that it's a lie. She could recognize EG during her speech so as to see that he was listening, later that night so as to see that he was listening (as if this is even possible), then in the elevator, but not now. Yeah, likely story.

Also, is she drunk while giving the Santa talk?

The Justicar said...

When does one see her at conventions sober? She spends quite a lot of time drinking it would appear.

Since she has this disorder: Twatson, that drunken face you see staring at you in the mirror all the time. That's you.

Spence said...

I refer you to my comment right up the top *points*.  Admittedly that was a (slightly) pre-emptive guess on my part, which is a bit foolish, but I think evidence is now mounting in my favour.

She's claiming it's not a true ban, by which she means, cogent, logical, reasonable arguments with evidence that are difficult to counter will be binned with some kind of post hoc excuse.  But feel free to post stupid things that she can respond to - they'll go straight up on the post.  Guarantee it.

The irony is of course, she "posits" a stupid narrative on zero evidence about elevator guy.  She then says anyone doing *the exact same thing* to Watson is "creepy".  When Justicar presents actual evidence, we get the squirming and the BS.

It's embarrassing to watch, especially when these people claim to be skeptics or critical thinkers.

Spence said...

Indeed.  The actual event (elevatorgate) is as dull as dishwater.

What is fascinating is the irrational response from the likes of Myers+horde, Zvan etc etc.

The way they invent their own contrived narratives on no evidence.

The way they get angry when people actually try to bring evidence and reason to the table.

Dogmatic, religious zeal.  The very thing they supposedly rally against, but they can't see it in their own actions.

Scented Nectar said...

Speaking of that picture, is that the same size that PZ published it initially as? The reason I ask is because it's 600x449 pixels, which is not a standard size. It seems to have been cropped for some reason. Whoever is to the right side, and who seems to be whoever Watson and the guy beside her are listening to, are missing.

Also, that picture, even though it's not showing the entire bar, STILL has many people who are not within range of hearing her. The guy across from her, even though he's at the table even seems to be focused on some other conversation at the bar. He's looking in the opposite direction as Watson. How the fuck is she getting away with saying that he was in the bar and heard her yackity yacking all night?

Scented Nectar said...

She is such a fucking liar, and so must many of her supporters, who, just like you must get recognized all the time at events.

And she seems to be drunk as a skunk. Didn't she brag somewhere once at some talk that she woke up drunk and was still a bit drunk now while talking? Can't remember where I heard that though.

AlekNovy said...

I think we say that all the people on the table are within her hearing range as a compromise.

Originally most bloggers when they saw that photo they said "It's just the 2-3 guys right next to her who would hear every line she says (it's a bar, loud bar).

But then the watsonites started YELLING that we're insane for daring to suggest that ONLY those guys could hear her, so most of us expanded it to say "ok ok, the people on the table, it's possible all of those 4 were in hearing range" but that's it.

p.s.

Nice catch on the dimensions. Nobody caught that until now. It's a sure indicator of cropping.

AlekNovy said...

A lot of people have started asking "why did this case blow up so much, the actual 'incident' itself was a mundane every day thing, as was watson's original video"

Myers and his army ironically enough are the ones who made into elevatorgate with their dogmatic persecution. Ironically, they wanted to silence people merely politely critiquing watson, but their irrational response made people speak up MORE, not less.

People speaking up was seen as evidence of evilness in the eyes of the myers crowd, so they started with even more irrational silencing, which made people respond even more and become even more skeptical.

If they had simply accepted the mild criticism at watson at the beginning, it would have never grown to these proportions, but these guys are incapable of accepting deviations in dogma.

The Justicar said...

This is originally how PeeZus uploaded it from twitter. I copied it immediately because I figured it would silently disappear one day.

Scented Nectar said...

Thanks. It really makes me wondering who Watson and the people on either side of her, are looking at, and I suppose, listening to. I noticed the size in my PaintshopPro program when I lightened the picture up to see things better.

Munkhaus said...

Scented Nectar;
Like looking at someones myspace profile, putting that pic into photoshop is likely to be viewed as Scientology level obssessive stalking by "My old man said follow the" Zvan and her numb-bots.

Scented Nectar said...

Yeah. :)

Those two vowels connect to her often it seems. Twot, twat, etc.

Pancho said...

Wow.  Is this what the Rebecca-bashers have turned into?  A bunch of people who can't recognize her answer for what it obviously was: a noble dodge to an infantile question?

She doesn't want to out Elevator Guy; her actions and words over the intervening months have made that clear.  So when someone shows her a picture that EG is supposedly in, she sticks to her guns and says that she doesn't see him in that picture.  Of course that's what she does.  That's what all people of good conscience do when subject to a McCarthy-era tactic like that.

I am truly embarrassed to be part of a group whose senses of honor and altruism are so atrophied that that doesn't even occur to them.

The Justicar said...

Gee, when I don't want to answer a question, I take the noble step of dodging it by something fairly similar to: I'm not answering that question; thank you.

What I don't tend to do is invent for myself an artful dodge that invokes a rare brain defect caused by brain injury to avoid it. Hell, for that matter, I don't tend to invent any reason. Call me honest if you must stoop that low, but that's just me.

And you guys over there on team Twatson simply cannot have it both ways: it's either always name names, or it isn't. Which is it?

Actually, her actions over the intervening time period do not indicate a reluctance to 'out' him; they indicate an inability. A reluctance would be indicated by overtures of the likes I indicated: I am able to answer that question, but I decline the invitation. Or something along those lines.

But we know your vaunted saint Twatson couldn't tell yet another lie - that'd be unpossible!

RaspK said...

The worst part is how all this works against the whole ableist line of messages in the A+ rather expansive clique; it amazes me that, though she rode the very convenient ride of calling other people of for purportedly having a condition, a condition we need add that sharply affects the people having it, everybody in it seems so bent to support her.

Instead, they should be disgusted for her appropriation of a very real problem some people face and which disadvantages them.

RaspK said...

So, it is OK to appropriate a neural condition if it suits one's sensibilities?

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Eric Blair said...

Thanks for taking the time to put this all together, justicar. I couldn't believe that in the discussions on several skeptic sites where I saw this brouhaha being discussed nobody ever questioned the veracity of her story. For one thing I found it hard to believe after all the publicity EG wouldn't come forward and give his side of the story. Now it's pretty clear he didn't do so as he exists solely in RW's imagination.