Sunday, September 9, 2018

Old Business

I am asked what I was talking about the other day about my big blow up at the blog I used to write for.  I wrote it up at the time in three pieces I posted here right after it happened.  It's probably more complicated than anyone really wants to go through, but  . . .

The incident I referred to was when the journalist Lindsay Beyerstein posted an inaccurate and seriously distorted piece about a post I wrote dealing with Sugar Ray Leonard's claim that his bad behavior was related to an alleged incident of someone making a gay pass at him when he was an adult.  She misrepresented what I said in her piece which was then used by Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon who repreated distortions of what I said to get a column out of it.  Lindsay Beyerstein is the daughter of Barry Beyerstein who, dead by that time,  had been an active but minor figure in professional atheism ("skepticism") of the pre-Dawkins period, one of the CSICOP gang.   His writing as a psychologist directly supported what I had said in the piece that his daughter misrepresented.  Which I thought was entirely legitimate to point out.  And still do.

Lindsay Beyerstein has had what I assume is a paid role in that kind of organized "skepticism" though I don't follow their antics much while I'm not writing about them I do know that much about her.  It's how I figured out the connection to Barry Beyerstein who I knew about years before that.

In looking at her then "Big Think" blog to research that piece, to see if my name appeared on it before that incident,  I found out that one fan of the CSICOP cult, maybe a member (they posted under a pseudonym) had earlier posted a comment on Beyerstein's blog calling out the flying monkey squad to attack me when I criticized Martin Gardner.   Beyerstein answered the comment so she knew I'd written critically about CSICOP and Gardner,  a, then, major figure in her family side-line of pseudo-skepticism.  Which I found and do find relevant to what she said about me. 

That incident did play a minor but crucial part in my developing thinking about the role that ideological atheism played in damaging a regard for the truth which, in turn, did serious damage to the real left instead of the secular (read "atheist") play-left, something I had written about a number of times before the piece about Sugar Ray Leonard's claim.  To understand it you do have to read the post that started it all and the firestorm of comments (which I think are probably taken down - I haven't bothered to look) which led to me coming to some important conclusions about the uses of stereotypes and accusations and how what was used against gay men was different from what was used to advantage straight men and to damage women and similar issues.

It's complicated but lots of things are.  Now, aren't you sorry you asked?


  1. Whatever happened to Martin Gardner? As an intellectual force, I mean? Or Christopher Hitchens? Even Madalyn Murray O'Hare? Dawkins is practically forgotten, and he's still alive.

    It's not an argument for religion, to point out what a quickly spent force they were. But it certainly doesn't say much about atheism, that so many of its proponents fade so quickly away. Even Russell is remembered more for the Principia than for "Why I Am Not A Christian."

    1. There was a time when Joseph McCabe was a big name in atheism and before him, Charles Bradlaugh. It is an extremely superficial and ephemeral ideology.

      I came to the conclusion that after he couldn't interest Wittgenstein in continuing his work and, then, when Godel demolished the conclusion of the Principia Russell went into being the world's most prominent atheist as a retirement career. If you go back and read the essays that no one reads anymore, it's like a roadmap into pretty much everything that's wrong with the 19th century materialism that was his faith. It is ironic that even more disturbing to him than Godel was probably the physics of the first two decades of the 20th century. His review of Eddington's The Nature of The Physical World is about the gloomiest thing I've ever read on the topic. I think he was a good enough logician that he realized that if indeterminacy were true, along with other features of the new physics, his materialism was without any sound intellectual base of the kind he hoped to find in the logical foundations of mathematics.

      I'd bet that easily 98% of atheists would know absolutely nothing about that.

      Modern theology is entirely more of a rigorous intellectual engagement than even high level atheist stuff.

    2. Well, think about it, atheism is largely the assertion; "God does not exist!" After that, what have you got? It's: "People who disagree with me are stupid!"

      I mean, the first is: "Okay, fine, that's what you think." But the second is just insult. Strictly speaking, if God's existence cannot be proven, neither can it be disproved, so after that, what's left? Discussing the nature of God's non-existence?

      In the end, it's just a bootless enterprise.