Catholic Andrew Sullivan recognizes Ceiling Cat

November 26, 2013 • 1:47 pm

UPDATE: Several readers who follow The Dish have told me that Sullivan does contribute considerable original material. Since I glance at it only occasionally, I was obviously mistaken, and I apologize to Sullivan for saying otherwise.


Andrew Sullivan’s website, The Dish, had a post three days ago called “How voyeurism has evolved.” It’s actually An excerpt from Julie Peakman’s The Pleasure’s All Mine: A History of Perverse Sex, claiming that voyeurism has graduated from the public and intrusive (spying on women at swimming pools) to the private and unintrusive (watching porn on your computer).  It’s not that profound—Sullivan seems to get paid for merely collecting other people’s writing—but does deserve mention for two reasons. The first is its picture:

Screen shot 2013-11-24 at 5.45.03 AM

And the second is that the title includes the word “evolved.”  Could it be that Sullivan, a staunch Catholic, is now becoming a staunch Cat-lick?

h/t: Greg Mayer

32 thoughts on “Catholic Andrew Sullivan recognizes Ceiling Cat

  1. Yes, I think it is indeed quite possible.

    A couple of years ago here I suggested that one day Sullivan would likely “come around” to living the life of a fully rational person. How he maintained his composure while you publicly whipped him to a pulp always astounded me. In hindsight I think he may have been soaking it in.

    I really do hope it’s the first sign that the ultimate transformation is underway. Andrew deserves it.

    1. Not a chance of Sullivan coming around. He is totally infatuated with the new pope and thinks the Catholic church will soon be a great thing.

  2. Andrew’s website is no longer affiliated with The Daily Beast — he went independent nearly a year ago.

    It’s also inaccurate to say that all he does is aggregate other people’s writing; he does plenty of original pieces, as well as lengthy responses or collections of his thoughts on what other people are writing.

    I disagree with plenty of what Sully writes (especially when it comes to religious matters), but one thing I’ll always credit him for, is that he’s not afraid to admit he’s wrong. He makes a note of posting dissenting views, and has even pointed to writings on this website more than once since you guys butted heads a while back.

    1. I do not get the appeal of Sullivan

      Did he every apologize for the Bell Curve nonsense? All the belligerent rhetoric directed at good faith critics of the Iraq war? His arrogant, bombastic “feud” with Paul Krugman?

      I also think he was one of the original purveyors of the “contrarian-ism for its own sake” school of opinion journalism, which lead to the slate-pitch and many other variations of pseudo-profundity.

      1. Since you asked – yes, he has apologized for his role in covering the Iraq war, and continually refers to it as one of the great shames of his professional life. He has actually gone a lot further than just an apology, and written in-depth about his own post-9/11 hysteria and self-deception, and now refers to his own writing from that time as repugnant. Sullivan has been painfully honest about all of it.

        He also frequently posts and comments on things Krugman writes – but now seems to agree with a lot of it.

        Sullivan has gone through a lot of changes over the past decade, and “belligerent” is definitely not a word I’d use to describe him any more. He occasionally slips into overly-emotional territory with some of his arguments (particularly religious ones – see his e-mail debate with Sam Harris), but by and large is a worthwhile read otherwise.

        He has also become one of the most vociferous critics of the modern GOP, and his writings on this topic are fantastic.

        1. Thanks for your courteous reply to my admittedly provocative post. I did ask because I honestly don’t follow him.

          Good for him.

          However, having seen him be deeply, stupidly wrong for years on issues close to my heart, I’ve no desire to be reacquainted regardless of his current thoughts. I realize reasonable people can differ about this, but I hope you can understand how I feel.

          Would like to know if he’s had a similar retreat on The Bell Curve? Last I heard he had not.

          1. He has not. He frequently demonstrates a bullish ignorance about the actual workings of science, and knows less than nothing about statistics. No matter how many times it’s explained to him that “race” and “IQ” are social constructions that only correlate because neither are objectively defined, he continues to find reasons to misunderstand.

    2. I agree with scottoest above. I generally try to avoid reading Andrew’s blog on the weekends because he posts all the “god stuff” then. This weekend he posted something about some theologian responding to Dawkins’ comment about everyone being an atheist with regards to all other gods except their own. That one was a real dud, the argument made by the theologian was pathetic. Sometimes I feel that Andrew posts these just to get some response from irked atheists.

      1. I’m glad to see people standing up for Andrew Sullivan He can be pretty silly about Roman Catholicism and Christianity in general, and I find the mawkish nonsense he prints on Sunday mostly unreadable, but he has stood up against the use of torture by the US (many intellectuals, including scientists, haven’t bothered), and he has apologised for his irresponsible support for the Iraq War (I crossed swords with him over that, and have found it hard to forgive some of his intemperate remarks about opponents of the war), and he seems to be tempering his ideological conservatism, listening to black writers like Ta-Nehisi Coates and realising that racialism, particularly in connexion with American life and politics, is a more complicated matter than his ‘principles’ had allowed him to recognise. He has also supported Obama to the hilt in seeking some kind of rapprochement with Iran; and generally supported Obama against the near treasonous irresponsibility of the Republicans (‘near-treasonous’ is a charge with which I think he would agree).

        1. I might add that I wholly understand Latverian Diplomat’s feelings – I felt that for a long time, and still do, if to a less degree than LD; certainly, my feelings about AS are very conflicted.

      2. Yeah, that post about the infamous Dawkins comment was cringe worthy. But in true Sullivan fashion, the next day he posted a series of e-mails he received, smartly criticizing him for the post – and he takes it on the chin. No pithy responses – I like that about him.

        Sully’s thinking on religious matters has always struck me as really “mushy”, emotional, and nonintellectual, and I think it’s because his religious faith has played a large role in his difficult life as a gay, HIV-positive man.

        He’s the type of believer who will intellectually surrender to criticisms of Catholic dogma, and harshly criticize the church himself, but will eventually fall back on vapid deepities like “God is love”, or what have you. Read his email debate with Sam Harris, for a prime example of how hard it becomes to nail down Sullivan’s religious beliefs, when he gets backed into a corner.

        However, as long as you avoid his blog on Sunday, you can usually avoid the worst of his religious crooning. He’s still a good read on issues like Iran, the GOP, healthcare, and so on… though he can also be a bit much when he starts droning on about Oakeshott or Burke.

        Sullivan is extremely imperfect, but his blog is still one of my daily reads

        1. Imperfect I can live with. Hitchens was imperfect in some of his views, at least from my perspective. But his wrong ideas were always backed up by a serious commitment to honesty and reason.

          Sullivan, however, deceives himself in the most childish ways whenever religion enters the room. It is especially grating given, as you say, “religious faith has played a large role in his difficult life as a gay, HIV-positive man”. It is as if he’s a victim of a sort of Stockholm Syndrome and can’t see it. Drives me crazy.

          1. Yes, gbj, you’re right. And that, in the end, is why, despite his apologies for his behaviour over the run-up to the Iraq War and the generally agreeable positions he has taken regarding torture and Iran (though not, as someone has remarked, where bell-curves and ‘racial intelligence’ are concerned), I still find it very difficult to trust AS. There is a self-deception, mawkishness and sentimentality at his heart (NOT principle, as he is so fond of proclaiming, whether conservative or otherwise)that makes it very difficult not to suspect that, given the right trigger, he might do a repeat performance of his Iraq War hysterics.

  3. As an avid reader of both his and your website, I feel the need to push back slightly against the jab you took at Mr. Sullivan’s site, specifically the line, “Sullivan seems to get paid for merely collecting other people’s writing.”

    It’s true that Sullivan and his team push a heavy volume of posts/links that give voice to other opinions and writings, and that’s one of the main reasons why I like his site – it’s not just some echo chamber for his own thoughts and opinions. I like that he shares the floor with those with whom he disagrees.

    One reason you might not be getting hold of the mountains of stuff he’s writing – especially lately – is because you’re going to the wrong website.

    In fact, your charge that he’s basically collecting money from other people’s thoughts is literally incredible given that you can’t even get the name of his site right. You called it The Daily Beast (his writing was at one time hosted there, but it wasn’t his own site) instead of what it has been called for years now, The Daily Dish. So other than the fact that anyone who follows his stuff – and even disagrees with some of it – would probably agree with me that Sullivan puts out more substantive writing in a week than you do in three months, you make yourself look bad by not even getting the name of his website.

    And on top of that, if you had actually read any of Sullivan’s stuff, you’d know he is/has long been a staunch supporter of science, and has held that evolution is true for as long as I can remember reading him.

    I really like your stuff, Dr. Coyne. I learn a lot from you and look forward to your posts every day. But you should apologize to Sullivan for this dumb remark.

    1. I follow Sullivan’s site and am even a subscriber, and I definitely don’t agree with you that Sullivan puts out as much creative content in a week as Jerry does in 3 months (also, Sullivan has a full-time staff to run that site, and they contribute posts too). He does mostly link to other people’s work, which is why I subscribe, so that’s not a criticism. I think his team does a good job of linking to a lot of interesting stuff that I wouldn’t find on my own, especially with my time constraints as a grad student. Jerry puts out an incredible amount of creative content, especially since he has his own full-time job and no paid staff, so I hardly think it’s fair to compare their output anyways.

      I do enjoy Sullivan’s creative work, which is substantial, but I’m not sure I’d describe him as a staunch supporter of science. He seems really confused on many scientific issues and his team links to a lot of hyperbolic pop-science stories. Besides all the Bell Curve stuff and his embrace of Charles Murray, a particularly strong example is that he thinks pot is a wonder drug with almost infinite medical potential, all based on his overenthusiastic embrace of anecdotes and a few very small preliminary studies. He isn’t an enemy of science, but I doesn’t think he even really understands how science works, much less what the evidence shows on most scientific issues.

      1. Dan, you’re probably right that measuring their output quantitatively, or qualitatively for that matter, isn’t worth any real argument. I made that statement more for effect anyway, because I was frustrated that Dr. Coyne, while admitting that he doesn’t even visit The Dish very often, was essentially accusing Sullivan of taking money for other people’s ideas. Thankfully and unsurprisingly, Dr. Coyne has since apologized for that remark.

        On the science of Evolution, I’ve never once read a refutation by Sullivan, which is the particular issue Dr. Coyne was referencing. I might have gone too far in saying that he’s a staunch supporter of science, but then again, I do read Sullivan as a pretty open-minded non-(material)scientist on most scientific matters.

  4. Ha! I read both your website and Andrew’s blog (typically in that order with a whole bunch of other sites in between). A couple days back when I saw the image of the Ceiling Cat in one of Andrew’s posts that you talk about, I almost did a double take. At first I thought my RSS app had some bugs and it was mixing images from the different feeds. So I actually went to the webpage to make sure and lo and behold, Ceiling Cat did indeed grace the pages of The Dish.

    1. I lick cats.

      I bite them much more than I lick them, but I’ve been known to lick them, too.

      If you think licking cats is gross, I probably shouldn’t let slip that Baihu frequently shoves his nose up my nose…


      1. My cat licks me, a lot, grooming my beard and sandpapering my face. I do not lick back, but there are ways to nuzzle without getting a mouthful of cat hair.

    1. Not that I doubt you, but I’ve been on the internet almost daily since 1998 and have never encountered the term anyplace else but here. But perhaps the Wikipedia entry uncovers it:

      ‘”Ceiling Cat” is a character spawned by the[LOLCat]meme. The original image was an image macro with a picture of a cat looking out of a hole in a ceiling, captioned “Ceiling Cat is watching you masturbate.” [29] There followed numerous image macros with the format “Ceiling Cat is watching you [verb ending in/rhyming with -ate]” with Ceiling Cat superimposed in the upper left hand corner of an image macro depicting the appropriate action. The underlying theme is that the cat is looking down on you, almost in a form of judgement.’

      1. I don’t have time to look it up again but when I was (twice) doing research on what the heck Ceiling Cat is, I also ran across some hilarious (or at least I thought hilarious) discussion that Ceiling Cat may actually be behind a _wall_ rather than up in a ceiling. I don’t know if it was tongue-in-cheek of course (who cares) but I thought it was an added humorous layer to the meme. The article referenced the thickness of the drywall as being thinner than that used for ceilings. It was very clever, funny, or who knows, obsessively serious.

  5. The “Evolution” in the title snipe is probably a little amiss…

    The Catholic church accepted the theory of evolution some time in the 1960s. Not that anyone told the priest in the 1970s, who I had for religious instruction and kicked me out of class for asking awkward questions about dinosaurs. (Thus ensuring my complete loss of faith. Thank you Father Phelan.)

    1. The Catholic church accepts a theory of evolution. But not the same one that scientists have spent the last 150 years figuring out. For the Catholic church to accept the Theory Of Evolution that is the foundation of the science of biology it would have to accept that no gods are necessary to account for the existence of Homo sapiens.

      1. The Catholic Church allows it’s members to accept the theory of evolution as long as they accept gods hand in the process…Basic creationism.

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