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Austin Cline

On Diversity, and the Lack Thereof...

By February 23, 2012

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It's been brought to my attention, publicly and privately, that the finalists for the various categories in the Agnosticism / Atheism Readers' Choice Awards are lacking in diversity (mostly). All I can say is: yeah, you're right, the finalists are almost entirely white and male and, yeah, you're right that that's a problem.

That's partly my fault. If I had been paying closer attention, maybe I would have noticed and been able to do something about it. But there's some blame to spread around, too - how come more readers didn't submit a more diverse selection of nominees? Yeah, you, sitting at the computer - I'm talking to you.

But it's mostly me. I'm the one doing this, so ultimately the responsibility for whatever happens lies on my shoulders.

So what should I do about it? It's easy enough to sit here and observe that there's a problem, but nodding my head agreeably doesn't accomplish much. Unfortunately, I don't actually have any answers at the moment.

For one thing, there are a lot of constraints imposed on me by the general structure of the event. I can't, for example, set my own timetable to accommodate a solution, no matter how good the solution might otherwise be.

For another, it has to be a solution that is still fair and still reflects what this is: Readers' Choice. I can't simply pick a list of finalists from a diversity hat.

So this is something that I'm going to be thinking about. Fortunately there is time to come up with a solution. And, even better, some very smart people have been trying to help by giving me advice and feedback. I think I'm much more likely have a workable, fair solution because of their kind generosity.

February 23, 2012 at 10:03 pm
(1) Victoria says:

How about asking ‘diversified’ ahteistic, freethinkiing, sceptical websites and see if they want to have their links on your website (for free?). I mainly use your website, but to have links of other websites would be convenient to have.

I don’t want to go to some pseudo-atheistic website (assuming their might be one out there) and make comments, send emails, etc. I knew I could trust About.com and have been happy here. Although, I did recently sign up to recieve Blog X, Greg Laden’s website recently which is where I found a link to this article.

February 24, 2012 at 6:47 am
(2) dreadfulscathe says:

It’s only a problem if skin colour, race or sex are considered note worthy when it comes to this subject – but I would argue they are not. I note that all finalists are human – is that not enough ?

You could attempt to manipulate things based on various criteria like skin or hair colour but it will always be manipulation. Of course, if the voters are letting their prejudices influence them in their selection, then shame on them, but what can you do about that without manipulation or some sort of “voter bigotry test”?

February 24, 2012 at 11:29 am
(3) Guy Chapman says:

It would be interesting to see the long-list – I don’t know of many blogs that major on agnosticism rather than atheism.

February 24, 2012 at 1:22 pm
(4) Staks says:

Some group is always going to be excluded, someone is always going t feel they should have been nominated, someone is always going to think that someone who was nominated, shouldn’t have been nominated. My advice is don’t have awards any more. They just cause drama and distract from our fight against bad ideas and beliefs.

February 24, 2012 at 2:16 pm
(5) BrainFromArous says:

“I can’t simply pick a list of finalists from a diversity hat. ”

But my dear Austin, that is exactly what you will have to do, in the end, to silence such critics.

Because, in the end, this has nothing to do with “diversity” in the original meaning: variety, difference.

This “diversity” is merely a code-word for certain people’s race- and gender-politics baggage.

So your defense of “Hey, it’s a reader poll” won’t satisfy them because even though it’s the truth… that doesn’t matter.

February 24, 2012 at 11:36 pm
(6) LJ Briar says:

I don’t have any bright suggestions, will let you know if I come up with anything, but I just wanted to say that this appears to me to be an excellent response, so bravo.

February 25, 2012 at 1:52 pm
(7) Zdanna says:

To other commenters:

Check out Greta Christina’s blog post before you decide that making efforts to include a diverse and inclusive list of choices is counter to the Readers’ Choice awards.


February 25, 2012 at 7:26 pm
(8) mike says:

Yeah all white people suck and all black people are awesome! Yay diversity!

February 25, 2012 at 8:04 pm
(9) mike53 says:

The atheist movement I once identified with has become so quick to silence any voice of dissent it makes me think that we’ve become just as bad as religious people.

We need atheism 3.0 with leaders that care about whats actually true as opposed to promoting their own intellectually dishonest ideology and deleting any comments that disagree.

When being politically correct has become more important than whats actually true we need a new movement and new leaders.

Stop being sheeple followers please, get up from your pew and think for yourself.

February 26, 2012 at 8:16 am
(10) Andrew Hall says:

Let me first start off with saying that I like Victoria’s comment “How about asking ‘diversified’ ahteistic, freethinkiing, sceptical websites and see if they want to have their links on your website (for free?).”

Secondly, the ideal way of solving the problem is to broaden the base of the atheist movement at the grassroots level. Nurturing local communities of atheists outside of academic campuses will bring in a more diverse population. More diversity in the voting pool will eventually mean more diverse choices for favorite blog.

February 26, 2012 at 6:52 pm
(11) Eric O says:

I’m glad to see that you’re addressing this issue. I can’t really come up with a fair way to manage the awards unless you have numerous subcategories, like “skepticism and sexuality”, or “irreligiosity outside the West”.

Another thing worth considering is that Readers’ Choice Awards may not be the best way to achieve the desired goal, which I assume is to showcase blogs, communites, podcasts, and other atheist resources. You already do book reviews – why not just expand on that? Have a blog of the week feature, for example.

February 27, 2012 at 6:47 am
(12) Steve Schuler says:


Screw Greg Laden and Greta Christina. They are just a couple of hypersensitive vigilante diversity cops stroking their own egos at the expense of your efforts. The candidates you have chosen display more than enough diversity for me. If you are satisfied with the contestants, on the basis of whatever criteria YOU are comfortable with, that is all that really matters. As you are already aware, Christina has publicly stated that she wants to bow out of this years competition in protest of insufficient diversity amongst the finalists, but that she is willing to participate in future events IF the contestants meet her standards. Do what you think is right Bro, but I think that since she has publicy pissed all over you this year she warrrants no future consider as a participant in any event that you sponsor.



February 28, 2012 at 7:04 am
(13) Austin Cline says:

The candidates you have chosen display more than enough diversity for me.

And they are all white.

So, a group that is all white is “more than enough diversity” for you. This implies that the presence of non-whites would be too much diversity for you.

Do you have any idea how that sounds?

Is there any substantive difference between “all white people is more than enough diversity for me” and “I don’t want to see any non-whites”?

February 28, 2012 at 8:05 am
(14) Steve Schuler says:

Frankly Austin, if all of your candidates were disabled, queer, Eskimo, dwarfs that were selected solely only the objective merit of their work, that would be enough diversity to suit me.

And no, I don’t really care how that sounds.

At risk of potentially offending your atheistic sensibilities, I’d like to quote a Christian leader, Dr. Marin Luther King, who said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

That works for me.

February 28, 2012 at 10:05 am
(15) Austin Cline says:

Frankly Austin, if all of your candidates were disabled, queer, Eskimo, dwarfs that were selected solely only the objective merit of their work, that would be enough diversity to suit me.

Except no one has been chosen here based upon any “objective merit of their work” and you know that. So this is not merely a red herring, but a deliberate one.

And no, I don’t really care how that sounds.

You don’t care how it sounds or looks to deliberately employ clear logical fallacies in defense of a position? Good to know…

February 28, 2012 at 8:19 am
(16) Steve Schler says:

By the way, I don’t know if you have followed the comment threads on Christana’s and Laden’s blog posts pertinent to this issue or not, but my thinking is fleshed out a bit more in both of those threads.

Not being a particular fan of popularity contests in general, that particular aspect of this controversy is very insignificant to me. Do whatever you think is right, I don’t really care one way or another.

In the larger scheme of things, all of this amounts to less than zero.

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