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Posted by on Nov 25, 2012 in Philosophy, Politics | 9 comments

Ron Lindsay on atheist blacklists

Ron Lindsay, CFI President, today posted this interesting blog “On shunning fellow atheists and skeptics“. Why I find it interesting is not really because it says anything particularly profound – it basically says that the CFI will not be bullied into dis-inviting or inviting certain speakers, and that we should all remember that you can oppose someone’s beliefs in one area without thinking their input in general worthless. It’s interesting because it’s going to quickly serve as yet another example of someone stoking the fires through attempting to be reasonable, and because Lindsay didn’t seem to anticipate this.

What I mean is: there’s no quarrelling, as far as I’m concerned, with the idea that someone can be sensible in some respects and not in others, and that inviting someone to speak at a CFI conference can’t be assumed to be an endorsement of what they say. There’s also no quarrelling with a person who wants to avoid a conference that person X is speaking at, as a political statement. But Lindsay’s post didn’t need the particular examples of Blackford, Coyne, Watson or Myers to make those general points, and making those points now, using those examples, means that those points are going to be obscured by detractors (and defenders) of those particular people piling in to cite counterexamples intended to show that Lindsay picked the wrong cases to make his general points.

And so, the general points will get lost, and a post aiming to be reasonable is going to be used as fuel for more sectarian unreason. And Lindsay will be more firmly entrenched (according to observers) as in either camp X or camp Y. But hopefully I’m wrong, and one day, we’ll get back to treating arguments on their merits, instead of engaging with straw persons and caricatures.