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Shermer, Dawkins, Myers, and all that crap

September 14, 2014

I was never really an atheist “activist”. I was raised in a secular household, and apart from a couple of brief paroxysms of religious fervour during childhood I simply assumed that religions were just another junk ideology – something that Sasquatch fetishists or New Age bullshitters would believe if they lived in Ye Olden Days.

So the organized atheist movement never really got me excited. Even 9/11 didn’t shake me from my slumber, even though it did confirm Islam as the gravest threat to civilization in the twenty-first century (something most of us would have worked out in the 90s, if we’d been paying attention).

But then things started to change, mostly by me watching a lot of YouTube videos featuring that silver-tongued wizard (the late) Christopher Hitchens. The Four Horsemen were aboard their steeds. It was time for me, the stereotypical loner, to join a real (and large-scale) movement. So I joined the Atheist Federation of Australia, getting a certificate and a bi-monthly newsletter, which I looked forward to immensely. But this new-found sense of purpose did not last. Increasingly I found fellow atheists to be pompous and vacuous, and I allowed my registration to slide – the love affair was over.

But I digress. Like any social construct, atheism has its kingpins: thought-leaders who attract a clique of loyal followers, whose words and ideas are disseminated to the wider world. There is, however, considerable overlap between these groups and sub-groups, and “membership” in one doesn’t necessarily preclude being part of another clan. Someone can be a Daniel Dennett fan as well as being a great admirer of, say, the late Stephen Jay Gould, though their approaches to secularism were very different and resulted in some acrimony between the two.

But this world has changed, especially with the rise of the so-called ‘Social Justice Warriors’ (SJWs) as a force in the secular movement. This has resulted in a hardening of ideological positions and a major schism, exacerbated by such incidents as ‘Elevatorgate’ and ‘Gamergate’ and constantly fanned by Richard Dawkins’ Twitter shenanigans and pathological outrage machine PZ Myers. And Michael Shermer.

Shermer has never really been on my radar. He is part of the skeptic scene centred around renowned spoon straightener James Randi, whose fan base has become largely the province of Right-leaning libertarians, another group I have little interest in – but again I digress. Shermer went to a major skeptics conference in 2008, where certain things may or may not have happened with a woman much younger than Shermer himself. Opinions vary, sides have been taken; anyone interested can research this for themselves. If Michael Shermer has committed a serious criminal offense, he should face legal sanction for this offense – it’s not up to keyboard vigilantes like PZ Myers and his cadres to determine what is just in this matter. That’s why we have a legal system.

That said, Richard Dawkins’ behaviour hasn’t been much better. His previous foray into this territory was a complete disaster, and he would be well advised to leave these issues alone, as one or two incisive Tweets turn into an extended rant that Dawkins inevitably botches. It’s like that iconic blue bird is some sort of Siren that lures him to his doom again and again and again. It’s time for Richard Dawkins to do what any social media advisor would tell him to do: Tweet nothing but pictures of cute animals or the meal he is about to eat.


From → Internet

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