There’s a Reason Rally happening somewhere soon, apparently. And there’s some fuss over who’s going to be there. People just can’t seem to agree on who should be allowed to attend under that hallowed banner of reason, and who has already cast themselves too far into ill repute with their unreasonable positions.
I can understand Hemant’s frustration. He’s trying to get some notable names to the event, some regular favourites among the skeptical crowd, as well as some long-sought-after political notice from actual big-time representatives. But they’ve all pissed people off at one point or another, and alienated people with whom they might have got along. This is something shared by politicians, skeptics, rationalists, scientists, celebrities, and everybody who’s ever lived.
PZ Myers in particular has serious issues with some of the attendees, and with good reason. There’s more than one person known for endorsing alternative medicine on the list, as well as a couple of religious senators. They don’t exactly sound a perfect match for the usual critical thinking crowd.
But there are certain values that I think the Reason Rally is about. Reason, for instance. The importance of basing our beliefs and public policy on evidence, on factual data, on a carefully tested scientific understanding of the world that’s liable to change at any time in the face of new evidence.
Also, the virtue of respectful disagreement, and our ability to take wildly opposing positions on specific issues without becoming spiteful and furious and rejecting each other from every aspect of our lives. If compassion and kindness aren’t among the Reason Rally’s most important values, then I want nothing to do with it.
So, I say why not invite Tom Harkin, thank him for offering his address and for his positive support of freedom and secular values in his political office, and let him pay some public lip service to our shared cause. Then, openly and respectfully and clearly, explain why his stance on alternative medicine is uninformed, unsound, and at odds with the message that supporters of the Reason Rally want to promote.
Invite Bill Maher, cheer him as he tells some jokes, agree with him publicly and loudly as he discusses the inanities of religious prejudice, and also let him know that you think some of the things he’s said about women have been inappropriate and damaging and come from a place of ignorance.
Bring Dawkins along, tell him The Greatest Show On Earth was wonderful, and ask him if he has any further thoughts on why his elevatorgate comments may have elicited such a strong negative reaction.
Get Penn Jillette to do some magic and shout about God, and tell him you’re really not okay with that time he called a woman a cunt, and see if it’s something he regrets.
If people want to support reason, let them come. Not a single idea may pass unchallenged, the criticism and picking apart of fallacious logic must flow freely – but if you’re going to insist people shouldn’t even be there because they’ve ever been an asshole in the past… Well, you just enjoy that party. You’ll have lots of space to yourself.