Loretta Breuning cannot help but enter

June 17, 2014 • 9:14 am

Dr. Loretta Graziano Breuning, author of the Atheist Butter piece I highlighted earlier today, has developed Maru’s Syndrome, and is showing up in the comments on her piece. But, as always in such cases, she’s not helping herself. Take this comment, pointed out by reader Draken:

Screen shot 2014-06-17 at 10.57.19 AM

Ecumenical? Really? How balanced, how even-minded, how fair of her!

Presumably, as Draken noted, she’s unaware that creationism is a problem. 42% of Americans accept straight Biblical creationism for the origin of humans, another 31% favor theistic evolution, in which God intervenes, and only 19% accept evolution as purely a naturalistic process. That, folks, makes 73% of Americans accepting some form of creationism or Goddy intervention in evolution.  And those people, Dr. Breuning, try to force their views into the public-school science classroom. It happened in Dover, it happened at Ball State University, and it’s happening all over the country as religionists try to pass “critical treatment” laws, or teach creationism in voucher schools supported with public money.

Breuning may see herself as above the fray, but somebody has to be in the trenches, whether it be Zack Kopplin, the National Center for Science Education, or the Freedom from Religion foundation.  Yes, Dr. Breuning, you can keep your hands clean while the rest of us try to keep kids from being lied to in science class. You can use your smarts to bash atheists—a far more important task.

Exaggerate the threat? Look at the data, look at what state legislatures are doing, look at what Republicans say about evolution.

The woman is clueless, and not just about atheism.

59 thoughts on “Loretta Breuning cannot help but enter

  1. I’ve seen people attack climate scientists similarly.

    A group of reactionaries (be they creationists or climate-change deniers) sees the consensus of a scientific discipline as heresy or a threat to their own status. They proceed to smear and denigrate the scientists and their discipline in an effort to discredit the idea that threatens their dogma. The scientists are, understandably peeved and some of them actively fight the smears and misinformation.

    Eventually, along comes some rube like Breuning wondering aloud why these uppity scientists are so exorcised about those poor, unassuming reactionaries.

    1. This reminds me of a common ‘criticism’ leveled by conservatives at environmentalists or other varieties of activists who oppose the conservative points of view. They say that we become ‘shrill’ during cordial give and take discussions. What they fail to point out is that their side favors less environmental regulation and more exploitation because it brings jobs and economic growth. Our shrill response is that it causes species to be threatened, and species extinctions. And oh yes, global warming which will lead to loss of coastlines, economic and large scale economic and environmental disasters. So being a little agitated does make sense, does it not?

      1. I’m rightfully upset; you are shrill; he is a fundamentalist.

        What they really want is to make their case while the opposition is only allowed to say “I don’t agree but gosh, I hate confrontation on this issue.”

        1. Conjugation of “to be resolute”: “I am firm, thou art stubborn, he is pigheaded.” – M.V. Hughes, “A London Girl of the 1880’s.

  2. I was wondering what her background is and I found a LinkedIn profile:

    She has a BS in Labor and Industrial Relations from Cornell, and a Ph.D. in International Trade from the Fletcher School at Tufts. She taught International Management to MBAs and Seniors(?) from 1984-2005 at Cal State, East Bay. Since retiring, has been a Docent and Tourguide at the Oakland Zoo. She started the Inner Mammal Institute – “making peace with the animal inside.”

    Somehow this made her an expert in unrelated fields.

    1. And that explains her ‘PhD’ title for a web comment! I wonder if she walks around wearing a lab coat.
      Oh, and I am Mark Sturtevant (B.S., M.S., PhD, and B.S.C.) (the last one will be known by Red Dwarf fans.

    2. It pisses me off that she (and psychology today) seem to think that a degree followed by some letters qualifies her to discuss mammal neuroscience as though she were some expert in the field. Yet, she has the audacity to pass herself off as one. I don’t give shit that she wrote some books, I spent the last 4 years studying behavior, and I’m still not “expert.”

      Also note that her books a self-published. She is a self-appointed expert of the mammalian brain. She seems to stretched her “Ph.D.” to included a fields she has no business pretending to represent. The fact that Psychology today lets her blog reside their doesn’t say much for them either. It’s morons like her that give psychology a bad rap.
      She’s a Poser!

      1. Ah, but she is in the Economics/MBA-JD ballpark, and it inexorably follows that by virtue of that she is qualified to competently hold forth on ANY topic.

        (On the other hand, what do I know, to presume to hold forth here? 😉 ?)

        (Captain Kirk to Captain Picard: “Who am I to differ with the Captain of the Enterprise?”)

    3. Anyone who wears their Ph.D. on their sleeve or puts it after their name on a popular “science” book it almost certain to be a fraud of some kind.

  3. maybe it’s time to start publishing some meta-analyses of this spate of atheist-bashing articles, together with a searing commentary.

    1. It’s hard to know where to begin. Atheist-bashing is nearly indistinguishable from criticism eulogized towards atheists from religious people. In both cases, the atheist basher and religious person do not think much good will come from being openly critical of religion and its tenets. Secondly, they both think atheists are fanatics.

      Let’s start with something simple: my existence. As far as I am concerned my cohesive understanding of the universe is undermined by theological claims. If that makes me a fanatic, so be it.

  4. What is a “docent” anyway? It can’t be any kind of educator despite the etymology, because anyone with a teaching role at a zoo would not be totally clueless about the system of ignorance known as creationism. Perhaps some kind of caged exhibit?

    1. wiki is accurate on this one:

      “Museum docent is a title used in the United States for educators trained to further the public’s understanding of the cultural and historical collections of the institution, including local and national museums, planetariums, zoos, historical landmarks, and parks.

      “Prospective docents generally undergo an intensive training process at the expense of the educational institution, which teaches them good communicative and interpretive skills, as well as introducing them to the institution’s collection and its historical significance. They are also provided with reading lists to add to the basic information provided during training, and must then “shadow” experienced docents as they give their tours before ultimately conducting tours on their own.”

    2. I thought a docent is one of those people who explain stuff about the exhibits to visitors. They let them pet hissing cockroaches and hold a bit of dino bone, stuff like that.

  5. So, she’s never heard of the Wedge Document? I challenge her to produce a document that outlines how atheists are working to sneak atheism into the classroom and discredit science.

  6. For someone claiming to be ecumenical, she’s expressing a surprisingly naive and parochial perspective. Even if evolutionary scientists (i.e. Jerry and Richard) did exaggerate the threat, she makes several assumptions in saying that’s for social purposes, much less that it qualifies for fundamentalism (which seems to be thrown around simply as a lazy slur against people who seem to her to be too forceful rather than actually dogmatic). It’s logically possible, for instance, that a person could exaggerate a threat for tactical reasons, or because they genuinely think the threat is so serious. Jumping to a fake psychological assessment of those she critiques is borderline ad hominem. And as Jerry points out, she’s not even right that exaggeration is occurring among this group of people.

    Also, I remember Jerry pointing out that creationism is just a symptom of a larger anti-scientific religious trend, as in the statistics he produces that show how much of the population would not change their beliefs if science contradicted it. As well as the correlation between religiosity and economical/social dysfunction. For what reasons does she think opposing this sort of thing is self-incriminating hypocrisy? Hypothetically speaking, would she have denounced civil rights leaders of last century as being no better than racists and sexists, or concerned historians as being no better than patriotic propagandists trying to make history class into a “God Bless America” fest?

  7. While I can’t agree with Breuning regarding threat exaggeration, I am dismayed when I see titles like these two on YouTube:

    [indent]Hitchens tears Religion a ‘New One’ in only 46 Seconds!

    Sam Harris simply destroys Catholicism

    Such titles only provoke a tribalism response from the religious. Once that occurs, there is no hope that theists will give thoughtful consideration to the arguments. Instead, it insures that a litany of logical and informal fallacies will be the reaction no matter how well presented the case.

    1. You are making assertions without support. Many theists in fact do NOT respond in a “tribal way,” but are intrigued by “strident” atheism and, in fact, that’s what started them on the road to nonbelief. I’ve heard this many times. So until you can give data showing more than just your belief that being nice helps convert theists, admit that you have no facts to buttress your claim.

      I have lots of stories saying otherwise. You can dismiss them as merely anecdotes, but show me one theist who says, ‘You know, I’d be more open-minded about rejecting my faith if only those atheists weren’t so STRIDENT!”

      1. “You can dismiss them as merely anecdotes, but show me one theist who says, ‘You know, I’d be more open-minded about rejecting my faith if only those atheists weren’t so STRIDENT!””

        I’m not sure this couldn’t theoretically be the case subconsciously. There is a possibility of a psychological backfire effect, in which having one’s beliefs refuted only makes believers dig in their heels. Harris also describes work in The Moral Landscape (Chapter 4, endnote 54, if you want the reference) which suggested that participants evaluating truth statements that run contrary to their beliefs take a special pleasure in refuting them, (which could potentially make it a pleasurable habit for them, decreasing their critical review of said statements). There’s also his suggestion in Chapter 3, page 121 (and continued in endnote 34 of that chapter) that people treat truth statements as identity badges, and that we “actually like the truth, and we may, in fact, dislike falsehood”, suggesting people don’t always take neutral truths neutrally. Combine the two, and it’s at least hypothetically possible that there are theists whose dislike of atheists makes them less likely to be open and receptive to the concept.

        I wonder if you’d think it interesting to make a conspicuous public challenge of that sort: challenge anybody high-profile, and who can do so, to produce samples of theists who claim they’d change their minds if atheists softened up a bit. Or to produce examples of letters from theists who were ex-atheists that were persuaded by the logical arguments of theistic books, or something. Unless you’ve already done that, or don’t think it worth it, in which case just ignore me.

      2. “…show me one theist who says, ‘You know, I’d be more open-minded about rejecting my faith if only those atheists weren’t so STRIDENT!”

        I cannot instantiate the above but then that is not an example of what I meant. Typically, people don’t consciously think they’d judiciously consider an argument but for a lack of niceness. A tribalism response tends to be a reflexive one.

        I’m not advocating walking on egg shells, I’m saying we should avoid turning a discussion into something akin to team sport. Note that I’ve had nothing to say about the way Hitchens or Harris or Dawkins present their arguments, I’ve only objected to the way the discussions are framed by the us-versus-them quality of the YouTube video titles.

        1. It is hard to avoid ‘us vs them’ or invoking the tribalism when discussing religion – a profession of othering.

          Any questioning of MY RELIGION is considered to lack niceness and an attack by many faithful.

          Those titles re-written politely, yet pointedly, would still be perceived as attacks on their person.

          Believe it or not, many do respond to framing you object to. People come to realise how ridiculous the myth is through many means. Ridicule is one of them.

          Carlin has a classic piece and there’s a young Aussie(?) who is very funny and brutal while commenting on the Raping Children Church.

    2. Those types of titles provoke people in the same way that Judas Priest or Ozzy Osbourne provoke people to do violence. If someone is disturbed by Heavy Metal or ostensibly offensive YouTube videos, to the point that they harm others or themselves, then there is a more fundamental problem.

      I, for example, have seen ads for medications that are far more repellant than most videos I see on YouTube. Or ads for a fast food meal that costs $5 and weighs in at 2500+ calories. I feel no compulsion to buy these products and they certainly do not cause me to respond with tribalism.

  8. As someone who grew up in Deep East Texas in a medium town, I can assure Dr. Breunig that threat of creationism is not exaggerated. I went to a public high school where evolution was taught by a teacher who openly mocked it, rolled her eyes at references to natural selection, and in retrospect taught only the misconceptions that creationists have about actual evolution. I was ostracized by both teacher and student for having the audacity to correct these misconceptions.

    With respect, I suggest Dr. Breunig is sorely mistaken if she thinks that creationists are not actively seeking to teach creationism in public school science class.

      1. Psychology Today — the magazine — was ‘broken’ in its credibility long ago. They’ve published horrible evo-psych articles like Kanazawa’s “black-women-are-ugly” stuff..

        Better to read People or TMZ if you’re randomly picking up magazines.

  9. If it’s wrong to ridicule or debate creationism because it’s not a real threat and only establishes an “Us vs. Them” mentality, then why is it okay to ridicule and debate “fundamentalist atheism?”

    Atheism must be a REAL threat. She’s an atheist but … she sees a common enemy. Rah rah, let us rally.

    There is no God — but don’t try to spread that one around.

  10. The docent’s attitude may be more that politically progressive atheist’s are assholes because of their liberalism, and therefore the problem, while regular atheist’s (not liberal) know how to get along (be polite little accommodationist’s).

    1. There is a religious cartoon in this wonderful mix (a tribute collection), which I note to justify this post. Can’t say that particular cartoon addresses Loretta’s whine, unfortunately, but then only a double-barreled discharge of eight-shot has a chance of hitting a significant portion of that broad wad of bullshit, anyways. I’m gonna miss this guy.


  11. I would suggest people take a look at her blog article titled:
    Don’t Go To Italy.

    Then read the first few comments.

    She tells everyone not to go to Italy because of the Amanda Knox fiasco, calling it a satanic witch trial. But when a transgender French reader says she won’t go to the US because she is afraid something similar would happen to her, Loretta takes exception saying in part:

    “The idea that America throws people in jail for no reason is a popular meme that’s repeated so often that it feels true.”

    “2. Rules and laws protect us from violence, but that side of the story is not covered in the media. People don’t like it when the rules are enforced on them but they benefit from enforcement of rules on others. The media appeal to this natural bias. People want to be above the law. It’s human nature to see the world as it benefits you rather than to see the whole picture.
    3. You are welcome to come. You will be safe.

    Apparently Loretta doesn’t know about the relatively recent US satanic witch hunts which landed a large number of people in jail, I believe of which at least four, three (once) teenage boys and a man who worked at a day care. Yes, one of those daycares where the children said all kinds of horrific abuse happened, including murder, child sacrifice, animal sacrifice, sex and buggery, all without the slightest bit of evidence.

    I think she also fails to realize that some transgender folks have been brutally assaulted, some murdered in many parts of the US by homophobic religious thugs.

    She seems just so completely out of touch.

    1. She also seems to like to generalize about people, cultures, nations. A little too close to bigotry….

    2. If we were to avoid the USA for each mishap of justice, you could close most airports. Remember the Canadian who was “rendered” to Syria (I think) to be imprisoned and tortured?

      At least, Amanda Knox won’t be condemned to death. Or put in a 2 square meter cell to be tortured for months on end.

      So who’s tribal here, Dr Breuning?

  12. I’m another who’s discovered that the Psych Today website is non-responsive – both the link to Breuning’s comment and the article itself are dead.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if someone yanked the article through sheer embarrassment. It really was awful – one of the worst of this type that I’ve read, by a religionist or otherwise. “Strident” in this case seems an appropriate descriptor. As does “steaming bullshit”.

    The reasons why a believer might rail against us are obvious, but why do so many atheists misread their fellow heathens so completely that they’re inspired to Quixotic rampages, utterly devoid of either facts or reasonable appraisals thereof?

    Is it just a case of what I’ve dubbed Rule #774? [source 1=”https://xkcd.com/774″ language=”:”][/source]

  13. Would it be inappropriate for me to copy my comment I made at her blog here, since she seems to have removed the article? I made a point of saving a copy in case something untoward happened to it.

    1. Michael, I wish I had done that. The site broke down just after I made my comment. Now its gone.

  14. She seems to specialise in writing about things she knows nothing about. Why is a woman with no science qualifications writing a blog called “Your neurochemical self” in the first place?

  15. For someone claiming to want to be ecumenical, she should look up what the word actually means. It doesn’t mean diplomatic, non-confrontational, accommodating,secular or agnostic – it means:

    Representing a number of different Christian Churches:

    Promoting or relating to unity among the world’s Christian Churches:


    So – does she really want to represent or unify many Christian Churches?

    1. A very good point, and a very unintentionally ironic thing for her to say.

      Slight pedant point:
      The definition appears to be from the New Oxford American Dictionary, the one found on Macs, rather than from the Oxford English Dictionary (the OED).

    2. Many people in the US use the term figuratively: I’m going to play nice with all of you, not confront any of you. Let’s not have any arguments.

      Certainly gives a pass to many very bad ideas. (We) ‘Muricans seem to be afraid of vigorous debate. We don’t debate, we either are “ecumenical” and don’t discuss it, or we go on “talk radio” and spew to the converted.

      I think that’s why atheists in the US so often get tagged as “strident” etc. We have the nerve to directly confront the ideas of the believers (clutch my pearls!). To them that means you aren’t playing nice and you are attacking them, not their ideas (they can’t tell the difference).

  16. Not sure why so many said they can’t get the article. Here’s the link that worked for me,

    Article – Fundamentalism Comes Naturally to Atheists Toohttp://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/your-neurochemical-self/201406/fundamentalism-comes-naturally-atheists-too?quicktabs_5=0

    Comments link at the bottom.

    1. Sometimes I can get the article and other times I get a broken website. Access is being blocked to some people somehow. Not sure what is going on.

  17. Tell us again Loretta about how fundamentalist atheists are. Then show me atheists who do this:

    California Pastor John MacArthur said during a recent edition of his “Grace to You” show that parents of LGBT kids should cast them out of their lives and “turn them over to Satan.” Americans Against the Tea Party reported that the pastor was responding to a question from a congregant about parenting a gay child.

    “My adult child just ‘came out,’” wrote MacArthur’s viewer, “‘in other words declared to be a homosexual. What do I do?’”

    “You know, the answer depends,” answered MacArthur. “If that adult child professes Christ, claims to be a Christian, then that becomes an issue for confrontation of the sternest and strongest kind because that falls under Matthew 18.”

    “If that person doesn’t repent and turn, you take two or three witnesses, and confront again. If there’s still no repentance, then tell the church. And if the church pursues it and there’s still no repentance, then there’s a public putting-out of the church, that person who professes to be a Christian. That’s how you deal with that.”

    Non-believers, he said, don’t matter. “They’re just acting like a non-Christian.”

    However, “if they profess to be a Christian, you have to alienate them,” he said. “You have to separate them. You can’t condone that, it’s inconsistent with the profession of Christ. So, you isolate them. You don’t have a meal with them. You separate yourself from them. You turn them over to Satan, as it were, as scripture says.”


  18. Earlier, Reasonshark mentioned the backfire effect, the astonishing effect where someone who is confronted with disconfirming evidence, rather than abandon his erroneous belief. clings to it all the more resolutely. I submit that the backfire effect is a tribal response. In that context to abandon a belief, even though no longer supportable, is to surrender to a rival tribe, to give up part of one’s identity, to lose part of one’s sense of being.

    About the backfire effect: http://web.archive.org/web/20110511211719/http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bnyhan/nyhan-reifler.pdf

  19. I do love how Breuning’s claim is exactly what she did in her lies about atheists, making some “common enemy” so she can feel superior and attempt to create social bonds. And sell books, of course.

    Projection, isn’t it fun! 🙂

    Dear Dr. Breuning,

    Creationists are liars. They ignore facts and spread false information. Liars deserve to be attacked when they try to spread their lies and they harm people. It is not “fundamentalism” to show a liar for what he or she is.

    I can see how you don’ want liars attacked for what they do. That would mean that you would be held accountable for the lies you’ve told and I’m sure you don’t want that.

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