Ron Lindsay has an interesting post about the fad for shunning fellow atheists and skeptics.
I am motivated to write about this topic for a couple of reasons. First, Russell Blackford has recently announced via Twitter that he will not attend any conference at which Rebecca Watson or PZ Myers is speaking. Second, in the last few months, a number of individuals have advised me that CFI and its affiliates should never invite certain persons as speakers. This advice has often been accompanied with a statement such as “If X speaks, I will not attend the conference.” There was a flurry of such advice around CSICon, the Nashville conference of our affiliate CSI, presumably because our speaker list reminded people of objections they had to this or that individual.
In any event, the list of individuals that CFI has been advised not to have any dealings with is long. In no particular order it includes: Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, Ophelia Benson, Harriet Hall, Russell Blackford, Edwina Rogers, Rebecca Watson, PZ Myers, and Sharon Hill. I am sure I am forgetting several more.
I’m so proud.
Of course, there are persons who combine controversial opinions with outrageous, intolerable behavior or express their opinions in such a fashion that they do not allow for a meaningful exchange of views (e.g., their “views” consist largely of a string of racist epithets). Similarly, there are persons who repeatedly make demonstrably false claims, whose every word out of their mouths, including “and” and “the” (to paraphrase Mary McCarthy), are lies. Such persons would not be invited to speak at CFI events.
Without scrutinizing every statement that has ever been made by the individuals listed above, I am confident that none of these individuals falls into the “unacceptable” category. We will continue to invite them to CFI events when warranted.
Actually I do combine my controversial opinions with outrageous, intolerable behavior, but I keep the behavior secret. Only the members of the Outrageous Intolerable Club know about it, and they would never spill.
Let me also respectfully suggest to my long-distance friend Russell that his position that he will not attend conferences where Watson or Myers is speaking does not rest on a sound argument. One has to be very charitable when trying to interpret a tweet, but Russell appears to believe his position is justified, in part, because an organization “supports” an individual by having them speak at a conference. Not so.
And as Russell knows from his own experience of speaking for us, “support” cannot mean financial support because typically we do no more than cover expenses. Occasionally we offer honoraria, but the amounts involved are so small as to constitute mere tokens of appreciation.
I think the “support” idea comes from the – what to call them – the organized haters of the composite monster that haunts their dreams, made up of a few Freethought bloggers and Skepchicks, and now something they call AtheismPlus. They started ranting early about not “supporting” Rebecca (or, rather, Twatson or Becky, because that’s how they roll) by paying to go to conferences. They have a delusion that she gets paid big bucks for speaking, and that we all do. We get paid ZILCH, just as Ron says. That idea gets recycled a lot, and I suspect that’s why Russell echoed it. That’s odd, in a way, since he would know, as the organized haters don’t, that speakers don’t get paid.
If Russell believes that Myers and Watson trade in bad arguments, or perhaps no arguments at all, but just unsupported assertions and accusations, then the best remedy for that is the time-honored one of pointing out the flaws in their claims. Or, if one thinks enough effort has been spent on rebuttal, simply ignoring them. Shunning and boycotting are extreme responses best reserved for truly exceptional cases. I would hate to see the atheist and skeptic communities dissolve into a snarl of dueling fatwas.
Quite so. And not just shunning; not just public shunning; but addressing the public shunning directly to one of the organizers of the Australian Skeptic event. That’s a great deal too fatwa-like.
Don’t worry though; I’m not feeling smug. Ron linked to a post of Jerry Coyne’s from two years ago –
A couple of years ago Jerry Coyne claimed that CFI had declared war on atheists. No, really. Moreover, he specifically mentioned me as someone who had gone out of his way to criticize CFI’s atheist supporters. No statement by me was provided as evidence. And I assure you this this declaration of war on atheists was news both to me and Tom Flynn, who never suspected we might declare war on ourselves.
– and I had a look and oh what do you know, there I am being very obnoxious to…Melody. That’ll larn me. (Or not, because I’m a brat.) As Ron says –
(Remember when accommodationism and not sexism was the big issue in the atheist community? Ah, the good old days.)
Yes. Lots of allegiances shifted between those two days.