Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Could anyone ever replace Hitch?

With the sad demise of Christopher Hitchens last December, I have been wondering whether anyone else might be 'elected' to the honorary position of '4th Horseman of the Apocalypse', joining Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris.  In fact, I have been wondering whether anyone ever could replace him and who might be qualified to decide anyway.  Is it a democratic vote?  Is it another opportunity for the diverse rational community to be split again? (Or are we lucky enough to find that Rebecca Watson is too busy in her other campaigns of self-publicity to bother herself about this one)?

Three remaining 'horseman',
with worthy guest, Ayaan Hirsi Ali from here.
On Sunday I gave you this link to an excellent Youtube video of Ayaan Hirsi Ali on stage with the remaining three 'horsemen' at the 2012 Global Atheist Convention, 13-15th April, in the Melbourne Convention Exhibition Centre.

Although I know I'm not in a position to have any credible effect on this topic, I am going to indulge myself in a little speculation about the possible candidates.  I can only work from my own limited experience, but I will give a 'shout out' to some of the people who have most influenced my thinking over the last couple of years.

That the original horsemen are firmly on my list goes without saying.  If that were not the case I would not be writing this.

What criteria are important in this selection though?
  • Do the existing three have to approve the selection, or indeed make the selection themselves?  (I'm sure they would want to influence the choice).
  • Is it necessary for the 4th horseman to be a man?  (A tricky, potentially divisive question!  I vote for equality, and against positive discrimination.)
  • Do they have to be white?  (Let's hope that is neither a requirement, nor a reason for positive discrimination.)
  • Must they be an English-speaker?  (I think the answer is yes, in this case, but accept that English need not be their first language.)
  • Should the selection be based on their profession or their performance?  (It would be hard to find another well-read polemicist and commentator like Hitch, but all to easy to select another philosopher to join two of the remaining three.  The trouble is that that might tip the balance too far from the real world.)
  • Indeed should we ban scientists and philosophers from consideration, in favour of an unbiased and well-practised communicator? (I hope not.)
  • Do they necessarily have to be an atheist?  (I think the answer is yes, but . . . what do you think?  e.g. the deist, Thomas Paine, could easily have been a candidate if he was still alive.)
  • Or does nobody care?  (Its quite possible!) 
In the next post, Elect the fourth horseman - some candidates, I will venture to suggest the names of some candidates and invite you to suggest others who I ought to find out about.  If nothing else, we might all learn about the work of some of the stars of freethought who we didn't already know.

Related Posts: 
Next post: Elect the fourth horseman - some candidates!  (Huge number of comments with a clear consensus.)
Initial results of the responses:  Boghossian leads by a mile!
Some of Boghossian's work summarised: Pretending to know things that you don't know!


Tim Houtzager said...

Its a thought decision to see who would replace Hitch and I don't think anyone could ever replace him effectively. Hitch was one of a kind and no one will ever be able to speak with as much conviction and gravitas as Hitch did. That being said there are still many great thinkers and inspirational people out there that could add a lot of to the conversation. Whatever happens and whoever (if there is going to be one) becomes the 4th Horse(wo)man. They should not try to be like Hitch or try to fulfill his role. They should try to be unique and offer a certain specialty that to the conversation that no one else could (not even Hitch). Personally one of the first people that came to mind to be the 4th Horseman was Neil deGrasse Tyson. He is a very likeable public figure and well educated that definitely brings a unique talent to the conversation being an astrophysicist. But Neil has stated in public, as seen in this youtube video:
that he doesn't really consider himself Atheist, but an Agnostic. He says in the video that he doesn't have the time or the interest in discussing Atheism and Religion. At heart hes an educator and wants to educate the world about space & physics. So although Neil would most like turn down the offer of the 4th Horseman I still think hes a one of the great thinkers of our time. And I personally think he would be the best successor to Hitch. Although I don't see it happening. But a man can dream.

Tim Houtzager said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tim Houtzager said...


doood said...

i read the end of the second sentence as, "who might be qualified to deicide anyway."

Darren Pinder said...

Thinking on the spot, I'd like to see A. C. Grayling with the other 3 speakers.

Alive With Tony said...

As someone new to Christopher Hitchens, presently reading his bio and will be obtaining his other works soon, I cannot see why it seems that his major claim to fame was atheism. And that his 'replacement's' major tenent must also be in accordance with this.

Atheism, in this case, is surely the smallest of tags with which to label someone who can clearly see several sides within an argument, and just maybe if there was the chance of a later life, he could have come across some of the transcendent ideas of the Divine that require no adherence to either the God of The Bible or the post modern stance of God as The Logician.

After all he has changed his mind and views radically before.

Alas ...

Max Omni said...
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Max Omni said...

Douglas Murray, unquestionably. He's atheist ("Mohammed made me an atheist"), hard on Islam, is pro-gay marriage, pro- Iraq War, and very much for free speech. He is an Oxford-educated historian and author.

Debating alongside Ayaan Hirsi Ali against Islam:

"'Gays for Palestine'? Give me a break. If 'Gays for Palestine' were in Palestine, they'd have to go Israel."

Anonymous said...

No one could replace Hitchens but the empty space that he left can be fill, with success, by Neil deGrasse Tyson.