Thursday, 16 June 2011

Mischief or insight?

"How can you be a militant atheist? How can you be militant non-stamp collector? This is really what it comes down to. You just don't collect stamps . . .

It's like sleeping furiously. It's just wrong!"

A C Grayling may have been an (almost) uncontroversial, non-milititant atheist a few weeks ago when he said that.  Since then he was elected president of the British Humanist Association and he is due to take up office shortly.

Unfortunately though, a storm has blown up and tonight the web site of the Pod Delusion has reported that he has decided to stand down after all.  It seemed probable that he (as an honourable man) might have felt it necessary to do this, as the needless controversy could put the BHA in a bad light, but it is nontheless sad for all involved.

But is this just mischievous campaigning from James O'Malley I wonder?  It was clear from last week's podcast that their sympathies were, at least, divided.  At the time of writing, the BHA's web site mentions nothing about it and I suspect foul play.

The problem is (of course) about Grayling's establishment of the New College of the Humanities with its controversial £18,000 per annum fees.  I find it very surprising that such a furore has been created over the news about the NCH.  Others have been drawn in by association, including Richard Dawkins.  How unusual for these two famous men to be under the spotlight on a matter of the education business, instead of enjoying the notoriety of being prominent and inspiring atheists.

It seems that everyone is criticising them.  But why?  After all, as Dawkins has said, £18,000 might be a lot of money to a student, but in a society where we are plagued with greedy executives, lawyers and bankers, the sum is as nothing for the education of their children.  He would like free education to be available to all again and rightly points out that it is the UK government that is denying that to our children.  His fees for lecturing will all go to charity, and he said that the protestors might as well protest against anyone with a car of higher than average value.

Imagine a picket of all the Porsche dealers in London.  That really would get the news.

I wouldn't be surprised if Grayling and Dawkins have been sleeping furiously for the last couple of weeks, but I for one would wish them a peaceful and restful night instead.  I don't like the inequality in the world either, but I don't see why two of the most inspiring rational thinkers of our time should be pilloried in public for this alleged 'offence' against humanity.  There are greater evils in the world.  Why not go for those who have become wealthy at the expense of the rest of us due to the banking crisis, or for the The Roman Catholic Church, or . . .  the list goes on.  Obscene wealth is all around us world-wide, and establishments like the NCH are just helping to redistribute it again.

Come on folks!  Get some perspective.

Update:  As of 22:30, I still see no sign of an announcement from the BHA and nothing on Twitter except the above link and another odd reference on a site called Bright Green.  Wouldn't it be funny if someone had successfully scammed one of the best skeptical podcasts in the world?  (I'm pretty confident that they have a good sense of humour at The Pod Delusion, and its still possible that the news is true.)   p.s.  I must have mentioned before that The Pod Delusion is a favorite!

Another update 17th June:  It was insight, not mischief.  See the BHA's announcement.

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