Saturday, July 14, 2012

The End of Reason (Reprise)

Secular Shunning (Excommunication)

Thunderf00t Speaks

Thnunderf00t Discusses his Dismissal from FreeThoughtBlogs

Normally, I'm not a big fan of Thunderf00t. I found some comparisons he made in his famous "Why People Laugh at Creationists" series to be unfortunate and not conducive to popularizing science. Insulting the people you are trying to popularize science among doesn't strike me as profoundly clever.

However, there does seem to be an environment of secular shunning at work in the freethought community and more than a bit of it seems to revolve around a certain social climber using unevidenced claims and character assassination as her MO.

Now, don't straw man me. I'm not evaluating Thunderf00t's arguments on the topic this revolves around one way or the other. But I will say that an exchange of ideas requires an environment where an exchange of ideas is possible. Some folks, those whose minds and reason have been overwhelmed by ideology and dogma, won't like that environment - go figure.

It seems freethought, whatever it meant to you before, now means be orthodox or be shunned and banned. Conform or be cast out. I worry for the future of freethought. Soon, we will need a freethought free of freethought orthodoxy requirements in order to be able to talk about anything.

Of course, I wouldn't know anything about secular shunning. It's not like I was banned, on a false accusation, from the JREF forums for having the sheer temerity to be an outspoken atheist and to dare challenge something The Lord God Randi said.

Oh, wait. I was. Imagine that...

P.Z. Myers Speaks

So, here is the video presented by P.Z. Myers speaking of "dismissing" Thunderf00t:

P.Z. Myers Discusses Thunderf00t's Dismissal from FreeThoughtBlogs

I've heard claims on both sides and one important point seems to be missing here. In order to have open and free inquiry there must be an environment where open and free inquiry is not only possible, but encouraged - even if one finds some of the views presented personally distasteful. I see little room for advancement of any subject matter where dissenting views are simply not permitted. What P.Z. Myers depicts as freethought is not freethought. It is orthodoxy requirements. It is ideology. It is dogma.

I thought we were supposed to be beyond that. I thought we were supposed to be advocating for better than that. I thought we were supposed to rely on solid and sound argumentation and evidence, not popularity contests and ideological conformity.

My estimation of PZ Myers is rapidly fading. His apparent disdain for those of us with the inclusive, and epistemologically sound, "lack of belief" understanding of atheism, and now his orthodoxy requirement mentality for the "FreethoughtBlogs" indicates to me that this man has a dogmatic mentality, rather than a versatile, flexible, inquiring one. Now, Thunderf00t may or may not be much better, (I'm not defending Thunderf00t here; I am defending something bigger), but at least he seems to recognize that a debate necessitates that opposing positions at least be permitted to be represented. Something PZ Myers seems to have lost all concept of - if he ever had it. Apparently, "reason" does not involve open and free inquiry in the mind of P.Z. Myers. Now, the Enlightenment was a little bit about exploration and inquiry, was it not?

Now, whoever owns "FreethoughtBlogs" can determine what is and what is not permitted on their site, but that does not mean that these determinations need to afforded credibility. This behaviour, and the rationales for it sound terribly and recklessly familiar, are a terrible blow to Freethough Blogs' credibility. Thanks, PZ Myers, but I can get banned from any fundamentalist site in a heartbeat. You are not representing anything new, innovative, or profound by adopting their tactics and justifications in the name of this ideology rather than that ideology. All you are doing is showing that you have been polarized beyond "reason" by a mere ideology.

Running in Cycles

Historically, skeptical perspectives, are often trotted out to undermine the previous in favour of the new, and then conveniently shucked aside when the new becomes the current. I hold that we need to step sideways, out of the cycle, so that we "don't get fooled again," because orthodoxy requirements are orthodoxy requirements, whomever the "boss" is this time. And orthodoxy requirements always stifle freethought. I recommend we stop using skeptical tools as a matter of mere convenience and actually embrace skepticism.

We need to stop permitting people to dictate the course of discussion on the basis of personal offence and appeals to pity. Surely atheists have heard enough of those nonsensical rhetorical tactics already, and constantly dismiss these rhetorical ploys for the errors they are. By what standard do we say that theists are mistaken to use these "methods," but that "freethinkers" are now entitled to use the very same garbage?

I'll tell you something I have noticed - precious few people are talking about skepticism in the skeptical movement anymore. Everyone seems too wrapped up in this or that ideological showdown. If this weren't so tragically absurd, it would be laughable.

The Ideological Assault

The atheist, and even more disturbing, skeptical movements are now under attack by ideological demagogues seeking the usurp the primary content with their ideological orthodoxies. While atheism does not require non-dogmatism, one would think that even dogmatic atheists would have some sympathy for an environment of dissenting opinion - like one that permits atheists to rise from suppressed obscurity to being able, at least to some degree, to present their case.

For skepticism - remember: the method of doubt the primary function of which is to defend against dogma - to be subverted by dogmatic ideology is entirely unforgivable. This arises, I suspect, from warped and distorted definitions in the skeptical movement presented by those who desire to limit the scope of skeptical inquiry, accommodate apologists, and present ideologies unchallenged by skeptical inquiry. I covered this more thoroughly in "Fluffistry Unchallenged."

We are being fooled again.