Cracks in the “Wall of Silence”

Adam Lee has a post up at Patheos wherein he alleges that four prominent white cis male atheists (Richard Dawkins, James Randi, Michael Nugent, and Jerry Coyne) have been maintaining a “Wall of Silence” around Michael Shermer. Let us consider each of them each in turn.

Richard Dawkins’ supposed “wall of silence” consists primarily of provoking rambling discussions about drunk sex and/or rape on Twitter, like this:

and this

and this

I don’t expect anyone can seriously argue that these hypothetical tweets just happened to pop up immediately after Oppenheimer’s article on BuzzFeed, and while I am not generally in a position to agree with Stephanie Zvan on any particular issue in the ongoing atheist gender wars, I am just as “certain Dawkins’ tweets were an attempt to defend Michael Shermer” as she is. Not exactly what I’d call silence.

James Randi has not (to my knowledge) commented on the Oppenheimer article directly, although he is quoted therein. That quotation alone puts the lie to the idea that Randi is somehow erecting a wall of silence around this topic, but perhaps more telling is that the longest-running and best-attested discussion of what actually happened is currently hosted at his website ( and last I checked no one has tried to delete the thread or any of the various eyewitness statements or wild-eyed third-party speculation posted therein.

Michael Nugent has an eponymous website at; so let’s just tap the Google machine and see how well his own wall of silence is holding up. Oh, shit. Other than this post, this post, this post, and this post, it looks like Nugent’s wall is holding up just fine. Granted, hosting multiple lightly-moderated threads on topic doesn’t generally count as silence, but let’s not get too nitpicky about it.

Finally, we come to Jerry Coyne. Ok, you’ve got me there. So far as I can tell, he has not been interacting with these allegations at all. And that’s okay. So far as I can tell, nothing obliges him to do so, and one biologist does not a wall of silence make.


3 thoughts on “Cracks in the “Wall of Silence”

  1. An Ardent Skeptic says:

    I’m maintaining a “wall of silence” on this issue because I don’t possess enough facts to make a fully informed decision. I don’t think reserving judgement (because I know what I don’t know) makes me part of any “wall of silence” conspiracy. Quite frankly, it might have been better if more people had maintained a “wall of silence” instead of talking out of their asses. It’s the inability of people to keep their mouths shut when they are not in possession of all the facts that seems more problematic to me than the so called “wall of silence”.

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