I’ve found a new home at Skeptic Ink!
I’m delighted that my personal blog, The Hellfire Club, has found a new home here at the Skeptic Ink Network. First, my thanks to John Loftus and Ed Clint for inviting me here. It’s an honour to join a site with so many fine, independent writers and thinkers, and I’ll feel a sense of responsibility as I make my contribution.
The invitation was offered to me some time ago now, but I was slow to make the move, mainly because I wanted to get a better sense of how it might work while I was also contributing at Talking Philosophy (“TP”) – a site that I’m equally committed to (and which I urge you to follow).
I’ve now had enough experience to be sure that there’s room in my life for both TP and The Hellfire Club, and that I won’t be winding down the latter, as I contemplated at times during 2012. Neither the TP administration nor the Skeptic Ink administration has placed any pressure on me to exclude certain topics, but I now have a fairly intuitive idea of what will go where. With that settled in my mind, I’m very happy to join a network of broadly like-minded, and very capable, writers, with all the advantages of networking and mutual support that this can bring. I already know (and like!) some of these folks, and I look forward to “meeting” the others.
Just briefly, my posts over at TP are going to be written for an audience that contains a fairly high proportion of professional philosophers, or at least of people with a somewhat technical interest in philosophy. That will probably mean longer, fewer, and somewhat technical posts from me, although there will also be announcements, diversions, etc. I certainly don’t want to scare you off by suggesting that TP is an unfriendly, inaccessible, or overly austere place. It’s not like that at all, so check it out (here’s my possibly idiosyncratic selection of my best work there in 2012).
By contrast, The Hellfire Club is aimed at a slightly more general audience, and particularly at people involved in the broad skeptic, atheist, and secular movements… but also at folks who are simply my friends or with whom I have some common interests. I expect my posts here to be briefer, more frequent, and perhaps more in a form that’s open to reconsideration and revision than at TP. In the past, I’ve described The Hellfire Club as my philosophical sandbox – to some extent, at least, I’m testing ideas, and I’m always open to rational, reasonable, civil, mutually-charitable argument.
There will probably be a higher frequency here (than at TP) of diversions, personal announcements, and my own particular whims, though you can expect most of the content to have some fairly obvious connection with philosophy and/or a broadly defined skepticism.
There’s a fair bit more that I could say about my interests, the likely mix of topics here, and so on. I’ll doubtless say some of that in follow-up posts. For the moment, allow me to indulge in just a bit of autobiographical background.
I’m a baby boomer – so a lot of my formative experiences were in the 1970s – from Australia. I was born in Sydney, grew up in Newcastle, lived most of my adult life in Melbourne, and returned to Newcastle a few years ago (largely for family reasons). I come from a working class background, and I’m the first person in my family ever to go to university… but I guess I’ve made up for this by bagging an almost-embarrassingly large collection of degrees, and by spending much of my life doing things associated in one way or another with universities. I’ve travelled widely throughout Australia, and through much of Europe, Asia, and North America (including many visits to the United States).
I’m a philosopher, literary critic, creative writer on occasions, editor, and lawyer. To be clear about this, I’m not a currently practising lawyer, but I’ve been admitted to legal practice and for a time I did practise law formally as a solicitor with a large Melbourne firm. More importantly, I have a long history of doing quasi-legal work in the fields of employment relations and labour relations. This included a lot of experience as a courtroom advocate, something that I did almost full-time for several years. I was regarded fairly highly in that role, and I’m still prepared to take part in the occasional debate in front of a live audience.
My formal qualifications include First Class Honours degrees in both Arts (University of Newcastle) and Law (University of Melbourne) plus separate PhDs in English (University of Newcastle; focused on contemporary fiction and literary/myth theory) and Philosophy (Monash University; focused on philosophical bioethics and legal/political philosophy). Most recently, I’ve been doing a lot of research in philosophy of religion, among other areas.
I’m the author, co-author, editor, or co-editor of quite a few books by now, of which the most relevant are probably the two most recent: 50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009; co-edited with Udo Schuklenk) and Freedom of Religion and the Secular State (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012). I have two forthcoming books: 50 Great Myths About Atheism (Wiley-Blackwell; co-authored with Udo Schuklenk) and Humanity Enhanced (MIT Press). I’ve written quite a bit of fiction, including a trilogy of tie-in novels for the TERMINATOR franchise, and I even won a couple of literary awards for my much-reprinted fantasy story “The Sword of God”.
Current positions that I hold include: Conjoint Lecturer in the School of Humanities and Social Science at the University of Newcastle, editor-in-chief of The Journal of Evolution and Technology, Fellow of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, editorial consultant to Science Fiction Studies, one of the jurors of the annual Norma K. Hemming Award, and chair of the board of the Hunter Writers Centre. I am also a regular op.ed. contributor to Free Inquiry magazine.
One of my New Year resolutions for 2013 is to start getting myself stretched a bit less thin.
Finally, I have strong views about the value of civil discussion. Even if your comments are about people or institutions that you perceive as my opponents, please do not resort to abuse, dogpiling tactics, or vilification. We can all lose our tempers on occasion – I am certainly no saint in that respect – but rationality, reasonableness (i.e. trying to see someone else’s point of view, and being able to compromise to an extent), and charity (e.g. trying to assume good faith and to interpret others’ positions fairly) have much going for them. If you disagree about that, this blog may not be the place for you. At any rate, I’ll be taking the Skeptic Ink comment policy seriously.