About Me

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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019) and AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021).

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Freethinkers unite!

PZ Myers gets it right in a recent speech posted on his blog, Pharyngula. The whole thing is worth a look, but I especially appreciated these words:

We're a motley mob of deists, agnostics, secular humanists, pantheists, atheists, and who knows what else, and organizing seems to be against our nature. We have to resist that; we have to be willing to work together while recognizing the diversity of perspectives under the umbrella of freethought, and treat that variety as a strength rather than a weakness.

In my not-so-humble opinion, this is great stuff, as I commented over at Pharyngula. It's exactly the right message (though I should make clear that I'd include some of the nicer, politically reasonable, theists and cultural religionists in the "who knows what else").

On the one hand, anyone who is for individual liberty, tolerance, reason, and science, and against religious dogma, authoritarianism, and the various moralities of misery that we find in the world is likely to be fine with me. I'm putting in the words "likely to be" because it strikes me that some people who'd see themselves as falling under that description can nonetheless have moral and political views with which I want no association. If this is too obscure, then ... hint: I don't think that I'm going to be able to work well with hardcore Randian libertarians, though some folks with libertarian leanings, like Ron Bailey, may be valuable allies in the political struggle against neo-Luddites.

On the other hand, any alliance I have with any of these people - whether over specific aspects of my own agenda or over the broader struggle for a genuinely liberal and compassionate society - shouldn't make me shut up about disagreements. The fact is that I'm working with stringent naturalist assumptions, consider this rationally justified, will continue to critique supernaturalist viewpoints as and when appropriate, and will go on being vocal about such issues (albeit in a more conciliatory way than some).

All that said, we live in a world where many kinds of deep conservatism seek to control political power, to the detriment of our freedom and of human advancement. Worse, elements of the Left have been dragged into an alliance with traditional conservatives over such issues as genetic technologies. Those of us who form the party of reason need to establish the broadest alliances that we meaningfully can.


Blake Stacey said...

I'm with you and PZ all the way.

Anonymous said...

I'm in! PZ writes some great articles.

Anonymous said...

Hear hear!: '''though I should make clear that I'd include some of the nicer, politically reasonable, theists and cultural religionists in the "who knows what else"'''

We should be united under our diversity. (We should learn from the "emerging church movement", maybe even include some of them.) It still seems like our local freethinking society is interested in calling a "Council of Nicea" to draw up a creed for membership... *sigh*.

And PZ is just a little too heartless for me... ;)