Richard Dawkins writes in yesterday's Washington Post [Who would rally against reason?].
March 24th is a landmark date for Washington, D.C. Thousands will converge on the world’s leading capital city to celebrate the crowning human virtue of reason.I agree with Dawkins. "Reason" and rationality is what we should be promoting. If we are successful, then religion will disappear and atheism will be the default position. As Dawkins puts it in The God Delusion, the real battle is between rationalism and superstition or between reason and superstition.
How have we come to the point where reason needs a rally to defend it? To base your life on reason means to base it on evidence and logic. Evidence is the only way we know to discover what’s true about the real world. Logic is how we deduce the consequences that follow from evidence. Who could be against either? Alas, plenty of people, which is why we need the Reason Rally.
Dawkins has a series of videos called The Enemies of Reason. They are promoted as: "Professor Richard Dawkins confronts the epidemic of irrational, superstitious thinking with logic, observation and evidence - in other words, through reason." Here's the episode on superstitious beliefs in health and medicine.
It's obvious that anyone who opposes vaccination and/or promotes alternative medicine is an enemy of reason. It's difficult to imagine how such a person could be invited to speak at the Reason Rally in Washington, right?
So why are Senator Tom Harkin and Bill Maher speaking if they are clearly enemies of reason [The Reason Rally ought to have some standards]?
It's because some of the organizers of the Reason Rally do not agree with Richard Dawkins. They see this event as an atheist rally and the speakers are being invited because they are prominent atheists, not necessarily rationalists. Hemant Mehta of Friendly Atheist is one of those people [Plan Your Own Reason Rally and Then Tell Me How It Goes].
Look, the organizers spent a long time listening to the suggestions of dozens of people (representing tens of thousands of atheists) regarding who should speak at the Rally. They did everything in their power to contact all the “big names” that people said they wanted to hear at the Rally. They rustled up and managed the hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding needed to put on an event of this magnitude. They got every major organization in our movement to work together to make this work — and that’s not an easy thing to do. They had to deal with the speakers complaining about their prominence on our website (yep, it happened).This is going to be confusing. Who's right? Is this a Reason Rally as Dawkins and PZ Myers think or is it an Atheist Rally as Hemant believes?
Just about everyone believes in something irrational. Including atheists. So, yes, you’re going to hear people at the Rally who hold ideas we think are completely unreasonable. Maybe even harmful.
If we got rid of every speaker who held an irrational belief, there would be no one left on that stage.
So deal with it.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t call them out where they’re wrong. Have at it. I did it, too. In many cases, they deserve it. But to suggest the organizers are at fault for inviting really famous atheists who hold some view you don’t agree with is absurd. Almost as ridiculous as faulting them for accepting a greeting from a sitting U.S. senator who stands to lose a lot more than he’ll gain for addressing our crowd.