A few weeks back, a skeptic’s organization appearing to stand on principle disinvited Richard Dawkins from their meeting:
The Northeast Conference on Science & Skepticism has withdrawn its invitation to Richard Dawkins to participate at NECSS 2016. We have taken this action in response to Dr. Dawkins’ approving re-tweet of a highly offensive video.
We believe strongly in freedom of speech and freedom to express unpopular, and even offensive, views. However, unnecessarily divisive, counterproductive, and even hateful speech runs contrary to our mission and the environment we wish to foster at NECSS. The sentiments expressed in the video do not represent the values of NECSS or its sponsoring organizations.
We will issue a full refund to any NECSS attendee who wishes to cancel their registration due to this announcement.
The NECSS Team
Strong words. But recently, the NECSS reversed themselves, causing Dawkins to gloat:
I am very happy to have been invited back to NECSS.https://t.co/gXrNOHg73l
— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) February 17, 2016
Now, the NECSS writes:
We wish to apologize to Professor Dawkins for our handling of his disinvitation to NECSS 2016. Our actions were not professional, and we should have contacted him directly to express our concerns before acting unilaterally. We have sent Professor Dawkins a private communication expressing this as well. This apology also extends to all NECSS speakers, our attendees, and to the broader skeptical movement.
Dawkins originally made this announcement in an audio recording to this fans. In that recording, Dawkins made it sound like the feminists were to blame for his stroke:
The doctors, obviously, were worried about what caused it. I’d been having blood pressure problems for a while, which the GP and I’d thought were under control, but apparently not. The doctors asked me whether I’d been suffering from stress, and I had to say, yes I had. They keep advising me not to get involved in controversy, and I’m afraid I had to tell them that controversy– that not getting involved in controversy is not one of the things I’m terribly talented at.
I told them that I’d had a certain amount of controversy and was very distressed, and on the 28th of January I was dis-invited from a conference in America to which I’d previously been asked. This upset me very much. I’m used to getting hate from religious nuts and creationists but when I get hate from what I think of as my own people…the left, liberals, feminists and so on, that directly hurt me. And I might’ve been expected to get a stroke after that, if ever.
But paradoxically, the stroke came after I got a bit of good news. On the morning of February the fifth, I had a very gracious letter from the conference organizers, the committee, graciously apologizing for dis-inviting me and re-inviting me, and I was overjoyed at that. And you might think that’s the last time I’ve have got a stroke, but it was actually the evening of that same day that I got the stroke.
Ophelia Benson wrote: So he’s sort of kind of blaming us for his stroke.
Ophelia is apparently so eager to revel in the victim’s-eye-view of the underside of the bus, she overlooked the fact that I actually said the exact OPPOSITE of what she so spitefully alleges. I said it MIGHT have seemed easy to claim that my stroke was caused by the stress of being disinvited by NECSS. But I went on explicitly to rule that out because the stroke came AFTER the joyful news that NECSS had decided to re-invite me. And that, by the way, also rules out the equally spiteful suggestion, by one of the commenters on this site, that the NECSS change of mind was a cowardly response to my stroke. To repeat, for the benefit of those who seem to have difficulty understanding plain English, the wonderful (and stress-REDUCING) news of NECSS’s courageous change of mind arrived, and greatly cheered me up, BEFORE my stroke.
And I most certainly do not “jeer at feminism”. I remain a passionate feminist who looks at the world beyond America and clearly sees that by far the majority of misogynistic atrocities are committed in the name of Islam.
I await Ophelia’s apology and thank her in advance for it.
Next, no, I didn’t overlook the rest of what you said. That’s why I said “he’s sort of kind of blaming us for his stroke” – sort of kind of is there for a reason. You did mention it after all, and there is such a thing as implication. I think you have a tendency, at least on Twitter, to imply things and then get indignant when people understand your implication.
I think Benson is correct, as Dawkins has a history of implying things and then getting indignant when people understand his implication and react to it. In this example, Dawkins admits he was under great stress, but the cause is unclear. Was he stressed because he got disinvited to some obscure meeting? Or was it the “hate” of his “own people?” The latter seems more plausible. The “hate” of his “own people” caused him great distress, where the deplatforming was just the symptom. It meant that the “hate” of “his own people” was having a real-world effect. But then Dawkins seems to invoke some magical thinking – being re-invited was supposed to magically erase the effects of all that stress. But the body does not work that way. Removing a stressor does not instantly erase the effects of that stress up to that time. That Dawkins received the good news just before his stroke tells us his body was still feeling the effects of that stress.
One more thing. Was Dawkins re-invited just before he had the stroke? It’s plausible. But then again, there is no evidence for this claim. Does Dawkins expect us to believe this as a great cop-out?
Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.
The Pro-Reason, Pro-Science crowd never fails to disappoint.