Rough Day for the New Atheists

It’s been a bad day for what’s left of New Atheism.

To start, Pangburn Philosophy is throwing in the towel.  If you have never heard of Pangburn Philosophy, it’s basically this New Atheist Travis Pangburn, some guy  who was somehow able to become the guy who secures and promotes public talks by people like Sam Harris and Michael Shermer:


I’ve largely ignored these talks because they don’t generate any public buzz or receive media attention.  It was basically some diehards from the failed New Atheist movement looking for ways to make some cash by preaching to the dwindling choir.

Well, apparently, the Gnus once again got into some kind of dispute, as scheduled speakers for the latest Pangburn event began dropping out like flies.  Ultimately, Pangburn had to cancel the show and took to twitter to announce that he was done arranging and hosting these shows:

Now Sam Harris is tweeting about Pangburn losing his mind:

In other news of the day,

PZ Myers is celebrating and gloating because the Judge has dismissed Richard Carrier’s lawsuit against PZ and friends.  As a result, Carrier is left standing as one who has been shunned by huge segments of the skeptic community because of accusations of sexual harassment against him.   Carrier promised he would win in court and he went down in flames.  And I suspect that PZ is not done with him.

I consider this development bad news for New Atheism given that a) Myers continues to mock the New Atheists for being too sexist and racist, while b) Carrier was tying to rekindle some of the dying embers of New Atheism with talks about science guiding us toward moral truths.

Let’s end this sad day with a touching video of Travis playing the piano for his hero, Richard Dawkins:

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19 Responses to Rough Day for the New Atheists

  1. TFBW says:

    It’s been a bad year for what’s left of New Atheism. It’s unlikely that there will be any “New Atheism” left to speak of come next year. Sam Harris needs to ride the wake of the much more popular (and distinctly not-atheist) Jordan Peterson to maintain any sort of public profile. The Dawkins/Krauss double act is history since Krauss got thrown under the #MeToo bus. Most of the B- and C-listers are preoccupied with Trump-era politics and attacking each other more often than not.

    Peak New Atheism was the 2012 Reason Rally. It’s all been downhill from there, and there’s not much hill left.

  2. Dhay says:

    PZ Myers reproduces and mocks Travis Pangburn’s “The Equation” on the latter’s About page:

    The Equation
    (A^ + S^)H=F

    Artistic Inspiration= A^
    Scientific Inspiration = S^
    Humanism= H
    Fruitfulness= F
    Peace= P*
    Suffering= S

    The obvious starting comment is that there’s two equations. Pangburn cannot even count to two. (I expect you know the old joke about there being three kinds of mathematician: those who can count, and those who can’t count?) It is of course easily rearranged into one equation…

    (A^ + S^)HxH=P*>S

    …but even if some way to give each term a numerical value were found — none is presented — what exactly is the square of Humanism and what might it signify.

    The ‘greater than’ inequality is suspect, too; in the absence of given values for any term I think we can reasonably assume a full range of values for each term: if the terms on the left were sufficiently small or the term on the right sufficiently large, ‘greater than’ would be logically False.

    Myers’ “Can I just say how much I despise the attempt to come up with a pseudo-sciencey equation with vague and immeasurable variables and invented relationships between the parameters? It’s a great metaphor for the nonsensical crap they’ve been peddling” says it nicely, I’ve just added that Pangburn is innumerate and illogical.

    The paragraph below merits a sneer or two:

    We promote art and science in the community. We do this by finding ways to inspire groups, businesses, communities and individuals with artistic and scientific experiences. Having art and science as your fundamental source of inspiration will begin your path to a more fruitful life. Art & Science will satisfy your required needs for inspirational pleasure with positive and unharmful experiences, yielding real world results. This will better serve yourself, our planet and the future of humanity as art & science are founded within the principles of reality.

    Ah, what “artistic and scientific experiences” are to be obtained by watching and listening to eg Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson chat? What “art and science” is there in those chats to provide some inspiration? I am underwhelmed.

    Then there’s the “your required needs”, which is illiterate (unless it’s not “you” who require your needs but someone else.)

    And do I need to point out that the whole is verbose gobbledygook.


    “Art & Science”, I see, a term repeatedly used, the only term used. Whatever happened to ‘Science and Reason’? Looks like those chatterers were not intended to communicate reason.

    I’m not sure about the “art” part either. Was it how the chatterers’ chairs were arranged tastefully? (or challengingly — I’m rubbish at art appreciation.)

  3. TFBW says:

    As a software developer, absolutely everything about the Pangburn Equation grinds my gears, starting with the fact that it’s not an equation, or even two equations, because what the heck is “FxH=P*>S” supposed to mean, even informally? “The fruitfulness of Humanism equals peace is greater than suffering?” My poor, abused brain! And it’s not like I’m inflexible: I can imagine scientific and artistic inspiration being the Real and Imaginary components of a Complex metric with units of “da Vincis”, and Humanism being a unitless factor on a scale from zero to one (the square of which would be perfectly meaningful).

    Pangburn seems to have not the slightest grasp of the “science”. He can’t even make a decent pastiche of it. It’s clearly just a bunch of mystic runes with magical powers to him. I see potential use for “Pangburn” as a verb to designate cargo-cult-like activity.

  4. unclesporkums says:

    Besides, we know how these farts are actually into mysticism, but deny it. When another one of their darlings, James Randi was doing a Q&A with Alice Cooper, he actually said he believed in the paranormal or supernatural.

  5. Dhay says:

    Richard Carrier doesn’t seem to have much to do. His calendar …

    … tells us he’s currently in a five-week period of “On Tour”, which on past performance is driving around, dossing where he can in free accommodation, and chatting and selling his books in pubs. Here’s one day in that period:

    I’ll be hanging out at O’Neill’s in Nob Hill in Albuquerque, New Mexico, from 7-9pm on Thursday, 6 December 2018. I’ll have books to sell and sign. And you can hang out and converse on all subjects. Tell any of your friends in the area who’d be interested, or stop by yourself!

    He’s also unavailable for five days immediately after Christmas (visiting family?)

    And his calendar is so far empty for the whole of 2019.

  6. Dhay says:

    ***Update***: Carrier tells me [Hemant Mehta], “If I can find affordable counsel I’m just going to refile in their jurisdictions, going after each of them separately.”

    The show continues.

    He’ll need to afford better counsel next time. ‘No jurisdiction’ was rather predictable.

  7. grodrigues says:

    “As a software developer, absolutely everything about the Pangburn Equation grinds my gears”

    Now imagine my reaction as a mathematician.

    May the Lord have mercy on us…

  8. Cloud2013 says:

    This video is soooo sad. Why is that women on her f*cking phone?

  9. Dhay says:

    Richard Carrier is the guy who confidently announced that:

    … all correct epistemologies are mathematically modeled by BT [Bayes’ Theorem]. All. There is no valid epistemology, that is not simply described by BT.

    One wonders how Carrier knew he was going to win his case.

  10. Dhay says:

    Here’s Jerry Coyne on 16 November 2018:

    Umm. . . . the only New Atheist who champions scientific ethics, as far as I know, is Sam Harris, who claims there are empirically determinable “right” and “wrong” statements.

    Here’s Richard Carrier on 12 November 2018:

    The role of science in determining moral truth becomes obvious when you start thinking through how we would ansewer the most fundamental questions in moral theory. Such as, “Why be moral?” This is a question in psychology, reducing to cognitive science and neurophysics. “Why be ‘moral’ as in following behavioral system X, rather being ‘moral’ as in following behavioral system Y?” Likewise. Both questions reduce to what humans want most out of life (a fact of psychology), and what most likely obtains it (a fact of how the world and societies work).

    From that I would call Carrier “a New Atheist who champions scientific ethics.”

    Putting the two together, we can conclude that Carrier is so obscure in Coyne’s circles that Coyne either hasn’t heard of Carrier or knows little of Carrier and his ideas.

  11. unclesporkums says:

    So, what “humans” want most out of life is literally pimping themselves at speaking events, and constantly threatening to sue fellow slacktivists who make fun of them?

  12. TFBW says:

    Pro tip to Carrier: if you have to ask, “why be moral,” then you haven’t grasped the concept of morality. If you are merely considering the question from the perspective of behavioural systems and their outcomes, then “morality” as such is not even inside the scope of your analysis: you’re simply engaging in operations research and optimising for some subjectively preferred outcome.

    Step zero in the study of “scientific ethics” is the denial (implicit or explicit) of Hume’s Law.

  13. TFBW says:

    Evidently, there was a lot of, shall we say, “unprofessional” behaviour on the part of Travis Pangburn.

  14. Dhay says:

    I see Richard Carrier’s “How To Help” web page includes a section on hiring him as a speaker, including:

    My calendar fills quickly and I’m often busy, so you should start discussing plans with me two to six months in advance.

    His calendar fills quickly and he’s often busy? Yeah, yeah. Take a look at 2019:

  15. unclesporkums says:

    Pfft. With the latest wave of gnu’s not keeping their grubby hands to themselves, STDCarrier shouldn’t be cruising for dates just yet

  16. stcordova says:

    “STDCarrier”! OUCH!

  17. Dhay says:

    My 16 November 2018 reply, above, reported Hemant Mehta’s ***Update***:

    Carrier tells me, “If I can find affordable counsel I’m just going to refile in their jurisdictions, going after each of them separately.”

    Which he’s doing:

    The show continues.

  18. unclesporkums says:

    But the world would be so much better if religion (Christianity) were destroyed.

  19. Dhay says:

    I’m no legal expert, least of all — obviously — in US law, but not sure that Richard Carrier is going to get anywhere with suing separately in Arizona, Missouri and Minnesota, because (as Hemant Mehta hos told his readers) “Carrier was convinced he had a case in [the] Ohio [jurisdiction] back in 2016.”


    Plaintiffs have time limits for filing civil lawsuits, which differ by the type of claim (in most states). These time limits, referred to as the civil statute of limitations, are meant to help preserve the integrity of evidence and witness testimony.

    Statutes of limitations are enacted to ensure that claims are made while evidence is still relatively vital, and to prevent the constant “threat” of a lawsuit long after the disputed event has occurred. Arizona’s civil statute of limitations laws provide a two-year time limit for personal injuries; but just a one-year limit for libel/slander.

    Missouri and Minnesota:

    Libel/Slander 2 yrs

    If I understand this right the three defamation lawsuits will all fall at the first hurdle, time limits expired.


    Mehta tells his readers (linked in my previous reply) that Carrier appears not to have engaged a lawyer this time; that keeps his own legal costs down, I’m sure, though I suspect he will have merely exchanged one fool for another.

    Why sue again if (as I strongly suspect) Carrier is guaranteed to lose each? It might well be a mistake to assume that Carrier genuinely hopes and intends to win a total of now $4 million in damages (plus costs etc); I suspect that Carrier’s aim is maliciously and vindictively to prolong the anxiety of those he is suing, at the rather minimal cost to himself of filing the three lawsuits.

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