Very interesting, especially this comment by Dawkins:
"Be that as it may, what this remarkable bile suggests to me is that there is something rotten in the Internet culture that can vent it. If I ever had any doubts that RD.net needs to change, and rid itself of this particular aspect of Internet culture, they are dispelled by this episode."
Anyone who has frequented atheist or christian forums (with some notable exceptions, such as this one!) knows that things quickly get heated and nasty, and very unreasonable, ad hominem things are said. Very far from "clear thinking" and more like a cesspool than an oasis. I don't visit RichardDawkins.net any more, but I have sometimes wondered how he felt about the rabid and often irrational discussion that takes place.
It seems now we know.
This isn't the first atheist forum to go through ructions. Why Won't God Heal Amputees? split twice into alternative forums due to internal arguments (I know because I was there for both splits). Apparently the Secular Web forum went through a similar unpleasant schism a while back.
What do these atheists think they're doing? If they keep up this internal nastiness, people might mistake them for christians!
It seems to me that a lot of the things atheists complain about 'religion' are actually problems with large organizations; competing egos, frustrated leaders, factions and internecine feuding. These things seem more obvious on the Internet. Now that atheism is becoming more organized, the same trends are manifesting.
There's a major atheist conference on in Melbourne next month, with all this forum's favourites in attendance: Not only Dick D. but PZ Myers, Sam Harris, Hitchens (I think, but he only visited last month) et al. It prompts the thought that atheism is acquiring religious characteristics: prophets, rallies, apocalypse if the preaching is not heeded, and demonization of unbelievers.
Sounds like trouble in the chlorinated kiddie pool, erm I mean the clear thinking oasis...
It prompts the thought that atheism is acquiring religious characteristics: prophets, rallies, apocalypse if the preaching is not heeded, and demonization of unbelievers.
I can imagine a future of evangelical atheism. Every Wednesday you go to the Reason Temple where the Master Bright reads from the "Book of Rationality" (my favorite passage is Dawkins 4:23). Southern baptist atheists are up in arms because schools are teaching philosophy, and trials are held over whether they can put stickers advocating logical positivism on the text books. People get annoyed when those smartass Xians put Christ fish stickers on their cars, mocking their darwin fish stickers.
Post by humphreyclarke on Feb 26, 2010 9:32:52 GMT
I don't understand why they can't simply move the forum onto a better system without all this drama.
The comment about schisms inevitably occurring is absolutely right. I remember once trolling the debate section of the Stormfront neo-nazi forum with a multicultural avatar and trying to convince it's occupants that the holocaust did in fact occur. It quickly became clear that the forum had split between those who subscribed to a 'racist world view' but thought that the holocaust had occurred and those who subscribed to the 'racist world view' but thought that the holocaust was pure invention. Ever so often the denialists would have a purge of the non-denialists and kick them off the forum. You can band people together under a common cause for only so long before things start to unravel, especially when the only thing people share is 'a lack of belief'.
Don't tell me that 'suppurating rat's rectum inside a dead skunk that's been shoved up a week-old dead rhino's thingy' Richard Dawkins has deleted all my posts.
What about the epic 'Jesus never Existed' thread?
Oh, well. The search function was rubbish anyway.
Don't worry Humphrey, according to this thread on rationalia.com full backups have been made by enterprising and aggrieved ex-forum members who plan to host a copy of RDF somewhere with a decent search engine etc.
I had hundreds of old posts on there and found it deeply frustrating some months ago when the search engine went crazy. It's a useful personal resource, hundreds of hours of my time digging up info, finding quotes and links etc to refute some stupid argument or other. And as the same topics come up time and time again it's handy to be able to review your old posts.
His account ends before Dawkins himself stepped into the fray. Until then many atheist forum users had mainly blamed the chief tech support guy Josh Timenon, who is employed by Dicky D, for the terrible way things had been handled, and looked to Dawkins to come in and sort things out. But instead Dawkins made a special announcement on the forum and came on like the Old Testament God, blasting them all for their hateful mob-mentality and foul-mouthed ingratitude, and demanding either grovelling apologies or solemn statements of support:
Surely there has to be something wrong with people who can resort to such over-the-top language, over-reacting so spectacularly to something so trivial. Even some of those with more temperate language are responding to the proposed changes in a way that is little short of hysterical. Was there ever such conservatism, such reactionary aversion to change, such vicious language in defence of a comfortable status quo? What is the underlying agenda of these people? How can anybody feel that strongly about something so small? Have we stumbled on some dark, territorial atavism? Have private fiefdoms been unwittingly trampled?
Be that as it may, what this remarkable bile suggests to me is that there is something rotten in the Internet culture that can vent it. If I ever had any doubts that RD.net needs to change, and rid itself of this particular aspect of Internet culture, they are dispelled by this episode.
If you are one of those who have dealt out such ludicrously hyperbolic animosity, you know who should receive your private apology. And if you are one of those who are as disgusted by it as I am, you know where to send your warm letter of support.
What has really incensed the forum users though is that Dawkins has firmly put the cart before the horse: blaming the immediate locking down of the forum on the users and moderators own violent responses to the original proposal to change the forum after 30 days. But as they rightly point out, the quotes that Dawkins used as examples of their depravity don't even come from the Dawkins forum, but from Rationalia.com, and were posted some time after the RDF forum was locked into read-only mode, as a reaction to that event.
In between the original first responses to the original announcement and the final lock-down of the forum the administrators employed by Dawkins had removed a number of posts criticising the proposals and deleted the accounts of specific moderators who had complained, leading to the loss of thousands of their personal posts. The logs recording these actions were also subsequently deleted so that no record of these actions exists. Also at one point in order to frustrate users trying to make their own archive of the forum the standard WGET command that savants might use to create their own personal backup was reconfigured to point to a Rick Astley youtube video – a well-known internet practical joke known as Rick-Rolling.
So there has been some real, genuine underhandedness, petulance and spite from the forum administrators representing Dawkins. In terms of emotional intelligence their choices and responses have been remedial.
There’s a great deal of shock, incredulity and general cognitive dissonance over the fact that Prof Dawkins hasn’t materialised in a shining beam of logic, unearthed the truth via his extraordinary powers of reasoning and delivered peace and justice to all by simply being sensible and intelligent. Instead he appears to have made a general mess of things, shown appalling insensitivity and bad judgement concerning the forum users who have gathered in his name, and then made things worse by looking down his nose and expressing his general distaste for them and the forum. Rationalia.com and related sites where ex-RDF users have taken refuge are full of declarations expressing varying degrees of disillusionment with Dawkins, swearing they’ll never pay for another one of his books again, they agree with his opnions but dislike the man, etc etc.
Strange how Dawkins never showed this distaste during the years that most of the RDF forum users spent unrestrainedly slagging off religious people.
My favourite moment has been this post from rationalia.com, in response to complaints of how unfair Dawkins was being about the negative comments from moderators and other forum users. I could frame it and hang it over my fireplace:
Re: First reaction by Richard Dawkins. by Nora_Leonard » Wed Feb 24, 2010 7:17 pm
Virphen wrote: "The pathetic thing is it focusses on the absolute worst of the reaction, while completely ignoring all the perfectly calm, rational expressions of frustration and concern made by hundreds of people."
But that's exactly what he does when it comes to religion and religious people. Why should we be surprised?
Post by humphreyclarke on Feb 26, 2010 17:45:45 GMT
I've read the description of what the new forum is going to look like and it seems to be very controlled.
"The new discussion area will not be a new forum. It will be different. We will be using a system of tags to categorize items, instead of sub-forums. Discussions can have multiple tags, such as "Education", "Children", and "Critical Thinking". Starting a new discussion will require approval, so we ask that you only submit new discussions that are truly relevant to reason and science. Subsequent responses on the thread will not need approval—however anything off topic or violating the new terms of service will be removed. The approval process will be there to ensure the quality of posts on the site. This is purely an editorial exercise to help new visitors find quality content quickly. We hope this discussion area will reflect the foundation's goals and values."
Does this mean that if someone tries to start a thread entitled 'The Christian Dark Ages' it will be vetoed for being silly? or not being related to science or reason?