Are New Atheists Being Nudged to the Back of the Bus?

I think we have more evidence for the decline of New Atheism, for it appears the larger skeptic community is gently nudging them to the back of the bus. Exhibit A: The upcoming 2016 Reason Rally. In 2012, there were many Gnus who spoke at the rally: Dawkins, Krauss, Barker, Myers, and Maher. But in 2016, the Gnu presence appears to have been scaled back. I see only two Gnu leaders listed as speakers – Dawkins and Krauss. And I would speculate that it is their celebrity status that got them the invite. Myers, Barker, and Maher don’t appear to have been re-invited. And neither Coyne nor Harris has apparently been invited.

What’s more, if you look at the list of speakers, they seem to represent the toned-down message that so annoys the New Atheists. Consider who is on the list: Bill Nye, Eugenie Scott, James Randi, and John de Lancie. The qualifications for several speakers seems to be things like “humanist” or “social activist.” The most famous speaker will be actor Johnny Depp (his wife is also as speaker). To help promote the Reason Rally, Dawkins retweeted the following quote from Depp:

My, that’s a long way from Dawkins shouting “Mock them! Ridicule them! In public!”
If Depp’s approach were to characterize the New Atheist movement, this blog would not exist, as I have no problem with his views.
In fact, if you read the comments on Dawkin’s retweet, his fans are outraged. Typical replies are as follows:

  • He sounds, like, you know, like, really, like, intellectual, you know. I mean intellectual, you know. You sure?
  • Entitled to his view, but isn’t it rather a whimpie declaration..”not my specialty”? How is that view a healthy representation?
  • I’m sorry that Johnny Depp faith babble was just fucking incoherent nonsense. He’s an actor, give him a script.
  • of all quotes, you chose this incoherent babble? Come on, now.
  • That’s great and all, but you picked such a weak quote. He sounds so uninterested and unsure about the subject.
  • Well, thats, you know, great, I suppose, is that you have faith, you know, faith.
    this reads like a parody. Is it a parody?
  • If you need to resort to such “thinkers” as speakers, you must be in really bad shape.
  • Give the man more time to lose the Jack Sparrow brain before you start quoting him
  • J Depp, now there’s an intellectual giant
  • that quote sounds like he might be high on peyote.


Yet the Gnu soldiers have yet to figure out the cause of their bafflement. Why Depp and why that quote? Perhaps it is because the organizers of the Reason Rally are working to marginalize the Gnus.

Of course, it is possible more speakers will be invited and that list could include prominent Gnus. After all, the skeptics are trying to gently nudge the Gnus to the back of the bus, not throw them there.  Time will tell.

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4 Responses to Are New Atheists Being Nudged to the Back of the Bus?

  1. Dhay says:

    > I see only two Gnu leaders listed as speakers – Dawkins and Krauss. And I would speculate that it is their celebrity status that got them the invite.

    I think it’s a bit simpler than that; here’s a Reason Rally tweet from October 2015:

    Hearing @RichardDawkins talk abt his new book in KC! @reasonrally is proud to have @rdfrs as a major sponsor :)”
    [My emboldening.]

    It wouldn’t pay to shun the figurehead of the Richard Dawkins Foundation, “a major sponsor”, eh.

  2. Dhay says:

    Two of the (twenty so far) speakers are Richard Dawkins and Yvette d’Entremont (better known as “SciBabe”). As I have commented before, both of these have engaged in the noble pursuit of challenging pseudoscience; but each has been guilty of challenging pseudoscience not with genuine scientific experimentation and rationality, or anything else recognisable as valid scientific method but … but they challenged the pseudoscience of their targets with pseudoscience of their own.

    I cannot myself understand how astrology and homeopathy can possibly work, but I do know this: to ‘disprove’ pseudoscience using pseudoscience that pretends it’s science stoops low indeed.

    The question arises in each case: did each not know that they were not using scientific methods of disproof, in which case their ability as scientists and to be advocates for science and reason is in question; or did they know they were not using scientific methods of disproof, in which case their integrity as scientists and as their integrity as advocates for science and reason is in question.

    The same two questions can be asked of Jerry Coyne, who drew my attention to “SciBabe’s” pseudoscientific experiment in one of his blog posts and presented it as a genuine scientific experiment: is it his ability to use scientific methods and reason which is in doubt, or is it his integrity as a scientist which is in doubt.

  3. GRA says:

    Depp’s wife, Amber Heard, is an atheist. The reason being is because her friend died in a plane crash and therefore all her faith, or whatever faith she had – if anything serious, was destroyed. I’d actually like to hear both of them speak at Reason Rally just for the sake of the LOLs. I get the feeling Depp will be a bit more congenial than Heard (I sense that Heard is a Gnu – arrogant and dumb as rocks).

  4. Dhay says:

    > Consider who is on the list: Bill Nye, …

    Ah, the guy who publicised Ken Ham’s Noah’s Ark theme park back in 2014 — at any rate Jerry Coyne thinks he did, and predicted Nye was going to do so in debating Ham. Without that publicity, says Coyne, the theme park and its messages might not have been funded.

    Now, it seems, Nye has gone back to provide a bit more publicity.

    For those who might claim (Henry Rambow? Sam Harris?) that moderate Christians never criticise the claims of the Literalist Fundamentalists, could I refer them to Coyne’s blog post linked above, where evangelical Christian and (shudder!) BioLogos co-founder Karl Gilberson is restored by Coyne to the honorific title of “Uncle” for his criticisms of the ideas behind Ham’s theme park.

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