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Australian philosopher, literary critic, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE and HUMANITY ENHANCED.

Monday, August 24, 2015

My Cogito post on the Ashley Madison data hack

I've written a post about this over at Cogito. Sample: "Whatever you think about adulterous liaisons – even if you regard them as outrageous, destructive, morally wicked breaches of trust – this sort of vigilante justice is unacceptable. When vigilantes set out to punish sinners or wrongdoers, the results can be perverse, disproportionate, sometimes extreme and often irreversible. Even the supposed victims of wrongdoers may end up worse off."

Let me put this out there...

The following can apply to a whole range of situations. All the following propositions can be simultaneously true:

1. A group of people can have some genuine - or at least arguable - grievances. Some, or even much, of what they are trying to say in their complaints may be true. As a complication, groups of people may have grievances against each other.

2. Those people can express their grievances in hyperbolic language and/or via disproportionately harmful or disruptive tactics.

3. The criticisms of those people can then be excessive, disproportionate, and unfair - perhaps out of anger at their language and tactics or perhaps in an attempt to avoid addressing the original grievances.

4. There is then scope for the situation to escalate and complicate indefinitely, as everyone involved feels aggrieved and perceives opponents as unfair (or worse). Everyone has feelings of having been done some sort of injustice.

In the various culture wars (and real wars) that we see, there are often elements of all of this. If the people in 1. are behaving sufficiently upsettingly, as in 2., there may be some priority in stopping them doing that. But if their grievances have even a grain of truth, they had better be dealt with honestly sooner or later. Simply demonizing the people, perhaps to avoid giving their grievances and their arguments any legitimacy at all, is harmful and unfair.

What you think this post is all about may depend on what controversies you have been following or are involved in. I'm actually thinking of a several situations. Indeed, something like this is a common pattern. Knowing that is one thing. Doing something about it that might be effective is another. Still... some general awareness can't hurt.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Hugo Awards outcome - this is all I am going to say

The outcome is not far from my take on it all back in July. But it has still been a mess. Hopefully, no more Sad Puppies, etc., next year. As always, if someone has a grievance, explain it logically and reasonably. Convince us. Don't be a spoiler. Don't engage in these sorts of spiteful antics.

I joined as a supporting member of the worldcon this year specifically so I could have a say in the voting. I didn't vote in many categories, but was able to vote where I did have clear views on the merits. I don't feel vindicated, or anything of the sort, by the outcome. The fact is, the awards were pretty much sabotaged by all this nonsense. My more detailed views are in the July post, if you want them, and I won't repeat them here.

One-day philosophy conference in Melbourne

I'm just back from a one-day philosophy conference in Melbourne, convened by Preshil and aimed at Year 12 philosophy students. It was held at the University of Melbourne, and it focused on issues relating to bioethics and technoethics.

I had a great time - I always enjoy interacting with smart young adults who have an interest in philosophy - and I was honoured to be part of a small cast of guest speakers whose other members were Julian Savulescu, Rob Sparrow, and (via Skype) Luciano Floridi. Julian and Rob certainly sparked off each other! The Preshil people looked after us well, and the whole day was a joy to be involved in.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

IHEU open letter to Prime Minister and President of Bangladesh

This open letter, organised by the International Humanist and Ethical Union, has been signed by numerous individuals, including me.

It protests the attacks on humanists, atheists, and secularists, including the brutal murders of five bloggers in the past two year - four of them since February this year. Note that the government of Bangladesh is deeply complicit in the culture of violent suppression of humanist/atheist/secular thought. For example, as stated in the letter:
Furthermore, your Cabinet Committee for Law and Order, headed by Minister of Industries Amir Hossain Amu, on their 9 August 2015 meeting decided “to declare Atheist authors as criminals”, thereby making them subject to prosecution, and intelligence agencies have been asked to monitor blogs to find those atheist writers. Even under the current law, such a mass arrest of people who profess non-religious views in their online communications would represent a grave violation of the international human rights obligations to which Bangladesh is committed. The Home Minister in a separate speech was seen repeating the same warning message.
The letter concludes by imploring the Prime Minister and President to take decisive steps to ensure the safety of individuals whose lives are threatened by religious extremists, and to ensure Bangladesh's compliance with international norms relating to freedom of conscience and expression.

Please check out the full text, which contains much detail about the present deplorable situation in Bangladesh.