Thursday, 21 June 2012

Elect the fourth horseman - some candidates!

In yesterday's post I introduced the idea that it might be time to 'elect' a new fourth horseman, who who have the tough task of replacing Hitch. It would be difficult.  To quote one of the remaining three:

Hitch had more wit and style than a few civilisations that I could name! -- Sam Harris.

The role might be one like that of Paul in the New Testament - not there at the beginning but amazingly influential in the progress of his cause. 

Who might we have on the candidates list?

Elect the 4th Horseman's substitute

These are the names that I could suggest, listed in strict alphabetical surname order (although not in the same order in this picture).  All of these people have strengths as great as Hitch's, albeit in different areas.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Dan Barker, Peter Boghossian, Jerry Coyne, Brian Dalton (Mr Deity), Matt Dillahunty, Sean Faircloth, Penn Jillette, A C Grayling, Paula Kirby, Lawrence Krauss, Pee Zee Myers, Maryam Namazie, Steve Novella, Aron Ra, James Randi, Michael Schermer, Eugenie Scott, Victor Stenger, Neil deGrasse Tyson.

I'm sure there are many others.  Add your suggestions in the comments, which are allowed to be anonymous if you prefer.


Small note: Nobody called Rebecca is on the list!



Related Posts:
Introduction: Elect the fourth horseman - some candidates!
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!
And one from yesterday: Could anyone ever replace Hitch?

93 comments:

derjermister2 said...

Peter Boghossian would be a good one.

Selena Johnson said...

Peter Boghossian, P Z Meyers, or Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Selena Johnson said...

Or A C Grayling.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Peter Boghossian has been building a name for himself, and has found a way to bring out the ignorance in others. For that he should get it.

MaHernandez said...

Ayyan Hirsi Ali, Lawrence Krauss, Neil deGrasse Tyson, or Peter Boghossian would be my picks.

Unknown said...

Peter Boghossian would be my first choice. It is a very hard choice, because it's such a great list though.

Vahan Setyan, PhD said...

Dr. Peter Boghossian is the one. He has depth and breadth in this perspective that is direct and unapologetic.

Jeff Dee said...

Seems to me it should be someone who also wrote a successful popular atheistic book and became widely known at about the same time at the other 3 horsemen. Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Jeff Dee said...

Though I'd suggest we add Vic Stenger to the list; if so, he'd get my vote also.

Rational Mexican said...

Richard Carrier!

Anonymous said...

Having seen Begoshian in person, he would defiantly fit the bill. As would the others too of course. His style is very direct, and like another person stated, unapologetic. Very Hitch-like.

Gary W. Longsine said...

Peter Boghossian has advanced a unique and valuable contribution to the project of human emancipation (if I may borrow this phrase from dearly departed Christopher Hitchens). Boghossian largely ignores the entire edifice of religion, as these tend to be things which people often feel very deeply about. Instead he advances the idea that faith itself is nothing more than a flawed reasoning process. He's working to remove the layers of obfuscation wrapped around faith, all the alternate oily definitions which allow the shell game or the sleight of hand which protects faith. Faith claims are knowledge claims, he insists, and any other use of the term faith is incorrect. Faith is a flawed reasoning process. If you cannot engage in a healthy reasoned discussion of your claims, and if you insist that faith is the only basis on which your claims will stand, then you are not sitting at the adult table. You have ceded your right to participate in the discussion.

Finally, Boghossian advances the idea that socratic pedagogy is the most effective way to help people realize that faith is not the only basis, nor even a healthy basis on which to build their world view. He has practiced people shed many types of false belief by starting with the question, "Are you willing to be wrong?" or "Can you imagine anything which would convince you that you might be wrong?"

Boghossian's argument is orthogonal to and compatible with the many other arguments advanced by Harris, Dennett, and Hitchens, as well as the many other who have contributed over the past couple millennia.

emily hudson-evalt said...

Peter Boghossian!

clem said...

of the ones listed, i lean toward pz, eugenie, or jerry. but how about hemant mehta? john loftus? richard carrier? they have all written respected books on the subject and are pretty public faces. carrier brings formidable academic cred, as an ex-fundamentalist preacher, loftus knows the 'enemy' from the inside, and hemant mehta is a great organizer, and why not a 'friendly atheist' to take hitch's place? it has a certain irony value.

Christina Pearl said...

Peter Boghossian. His style is brash enough to replace Hitchens' and he has humility to boot.

Plasma Engineer said...

This is a surprisingly good response to a tentative blog post and I think all your comments have added value. A big thank you to everyone.

I'm interested that nobody has yet added Steven Pinker. I knew I would miss some obvious people.

Of course it is not altogether a coincidence that Peter Boghossian was at the top left of my picture, and that his name has come up quite often in the comments.

I have only recently become aware of his work. It is slightly depressing that so little of it has been released to the internet so far. Tomorrow's post features a commentary on a recent interview with him.

Plasma Engineer said...

Thanks for the suggestions. I had been hoping to fill in the gaps in my knowledge and I appreciate your help. I had considered Richard Carrier - I think he shows good promise as you say. The academic approach might not quite substitute for Hitch's way with an more general audience. Its hard to tell isn't it.

Plasma Engineer said...

I think I agree. Style without fear, and a great speaking ability. He plays the audience so well, and never seems to shy away from a hostile audience either.

Plasma Engineer said...

Yes - very.

Selena Johnson said...

Actually I have decided out of the four I said I liked... I would have to say Peter Boghossian.

Plasma Engineer said...

Yep - he's there on the list already. Not at all far from the top either (from my humble perspective as a poor physicist).

Plasma Engineer said...

Ayaan is also near the top of the list for me.

Plasma Engineer said...

I appreciate that comment and share the difficulty with the choice. Thank you.

Justin Vacula said...

Boghossian!

Plasma Engineer said...

He seems to be bubbling to the top doesn't he and (I think) sensibly. If this blog post only serves to make a few more people aware of his work then it will have achieved its aim, but all the others are great candidates too.

Plasma Engineer said...

A good choice too. Thanks.

jweiss11 said...

Steven Pinker's name should be thrown in here. He's something of a mentor to Sam Harris and in the same league of career accomplishment as Dawkins and Dennett.

Plasma Engineer said...

You are not in the minority with this choice. Thanks.

Plasma Engineer said...

Yep.

Plasma Engineer said...

He's there, and we see too little of him these days.

Tess said...

Peter Boghossian

Plasma Engineer said...

I continuously fail to word things so well. I appreciate this comment very much. Thank you.

Plasma Engineer said...

Yes - mea culpa. After making up the image I have thought something similar.

Josh Kellough said...

Peter Boghossian.

Dan M said...

Peter Boghossian!

Dan M said...

Just pointing out that this is just an arbitrary title. All these men and women have done great, inspiring work. =)

Plasma Engineer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John W. Loftus said...

Victor Stenger's book was also a NY Time Bestseller at the same time. If having a NY Times bestselling atheist book doesn't qualify then what does?

Anonymous said...

I would humbly suggest Matt Thornton as well. At least to recognize his incredible efforts and impact.

Plasma Engineer said...

Yes - he's there, next to Eugenie Scott who is at the bottom right. A very strong candidate too, in my biassed opinion as a less successful physicist than he is.

Plasma Engineer said...

Ah yes - an interesting name to add. Thank you. I must find some of his work because so far I have only hear about him second hand.

Anonymous said...

Peter Boghossian

Steve Mattsson said...

Boghossian, Jellette, or Tyson.

Alan Litchfield said...

Peter Boghossian!

Anonymous said...

Peter Boghossian!

Benjamin Smith said...

Dr. Peter Boghossian for the win!

Anonymous said...

NdGT has the strong voice, quick mind, and intellect, but I'm afraid not the anger and that he's too political to take it on as he should; otherwise, top choice.

After that, boy. I've seen Meyers and he's good but just not quite articulate enough. I'm thinking Lawrence Krauss would be my from-the-hip pick.

Damn it I miss Hitch. Something awful.

Will G. said...

Dr. Peter Boghossian is the obvious choice here! His knowledge and enthusiasm are unmatched by any other. His focus on rationality and the scientific method make him the perfect person for this. For example, he uses these methods to perfectly illustrate that the the reasoning process behind faith is flawed. You wouldn't use faith to learn how to drive a car would you? Also, his in-your-face, intense, but humorous and scintillatingly engaging style of teaching is a perfect blend. My vote is definitely for Boghossian!!

Plasma Engineer said...

All excellent points. See tomorrow's post which will link to Peter Boghossian's work. I think you might like him.

Troy King said...

I am currently following Boghossian's momentum. He is certainly making people take notice with his clever lectures, and saying what is on his mind. If he only had a glass of scotch in his hand during interviews, as he does have certain Hitchens qualities. So Boghossian gets my vote!

Anonymous said...

Boghossian is doing the heavy lifting

Kim Cooksey said...

Dr. Peter Boghossian.

Gary W. Longsine said...

Steven Pinker and Michael Shermer have contributed truly excellent and valuable work, to humankind, as have Ayaan Hirsi Ali and others. The balance, for me, was tipped by the realization that Peter Boghossian has advanced an argument compelling and a method elegant which take the fight directly to the religious. This by the way, is the primary appeal of the "new atheists" in particular Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens, but also Dennett to an extent that isn't as obvious given his comfortable, grandfatherly and gentle manner. Darwin's Dangerous Idea is a frontal assault on the castle, by which he earned his horse.

Boghossian's move, once you fully grok it, is truly profound. He rejects the inherent premise that religion is the default, and that it has already dominated the board with a three millennia long flood of obscurant moves, which must be countered. This game has played on for centuries, endless defense against myriad rapidly proliferating and mutating claims (it is with obliviousness to irony that religion itself does indeed evolve). Two millennia of religious apology amounts to little more than a denial of service attack upon the Enlightenment and human reason itself. Boghossian refuses to play the game offered by the religious, endlessly debating silly unanswerable questions to which the obvious answer is "I don't know, and you cannot know, either."

Boghossian defeats them at once, by identifying the claims as knowledge claims, and rebuking them all, with a single move: I don't know, and you cannot know, either. This frees him, and us, to look at the very core problem: the use of faith as a method to sort truth from falsehood. It doesn't work, and has no better chance of working than does random guessing. Faith is a method of reasoning, which does not work, and cannot work.

The Boghossian argument is pure and elegant, like a judo roll, playing the inertia of religion against itself. The religious assert faith as a virtue, and make any arbitrary claim, pretending to know something they do not know. Boghossian steps slightly to the side -- reminding us that pretending to know things that we do not know is not virtuous -- he let's religion come in close as it wants, and lets it strike with any argument in its arsenal, grabs it round the neck of faith, and exposes its inner weakness. Faith is a fundamentally flawed reasoning process which carries you further from the truth on average, and which can carry you closer to the truth only by accident, or by cheating (i.e. by using reason and evidence to bolster your faith based claim.) Once you cheat, you have conceded that faith is insufficient, and you've accepted the tools of reason and evidence, so you must and can only accept the outcome of those tools: your claim may be right, wrong, or unknown, but not because of your "faith".

Gary W. Longsine said...

An Immodest Proposal

So that was my reason for supporting the nomination of Peter Boghossian as a new Horseman of the Apocalypse. However, I'm not really satisfied with this frame.

I propose that with the death of Christopher Hitchens, it is time to retire the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse moniker and metaphor. Instead, we have a growing legion of champions, akin to the Knights of the Round Table. One might be tempted to roll with Knights of the Apocalypse, perhaps, but I suggest it's time for something less sardonic.

Knights of Reason.

There is room at this Round Table of Reason for several more than four, and we deftly avoid the unfortunately sexist "men" in Horsemen. Dawkins, Dennett, and Harris have already seats at the Round Table of Reason. One new member each year could be voted in, with an award presented at one of the big reason conventions, TBD.

Finally, I suggest that it is the members of the Knights of Reason, themselves, who make the final selection of a new member, if any, once each year. The community should make nominations, and defense, as I have done above with my nomination of Peter Boghossian.

Anonymous said...

Tyson shouldn't even be on the list.
- Giordano Bruno -

Anonymous said...

Love Doc B but he's too new at this.

Plasma Engineer said...

I fully agree with your first reply, and agree with most of the second. I feel a little queasy about the use of the term 'Knight's' though. It sounds as though there has to be a King to knight the Knights.

Otherwise yes, to limit it to an artificial four would be a shame when there are so many great proponents of rationalism. Of course I was not really expecting to achieve a consensus. Its really interesting to see the names that are coming up though. Thanks again.

Gary W. Longsine said...

No King needed. All members get to vote on new members.

Renee Barnett said...

Peter Boghossian!!

Anonymous said...

Peter Boghossian!!
http://www.portlandmercury.com/portland/faith-no-more/Content?oid=5876950

Plasma Engineer said...

I agree that we wouldn't want a 'one trick pony', but I think he has already shown himself to be better than that. Gary Lonsine's comments here represent his work very well.

Plasma Engineer said...

More like a republic then. :)

A said...

Well, I do hate to intrude upon this Peter Boghossian love fest (because I am a big fan of his too) but uh...it seems to me that the three remaining living "horsemen" already chose a replacement for Hitch at the Global Atheist Convention in Australia a few months ago: Ayaan Hirsi Ali. And the remaining three SHOULD be the ones to "replace" if replacement there be (and as if Hitch could ever really be replaced). Also, the more I think about it, Hirsi Ali is the perfect choice: She adds some estrogen to the otherwise testosterone fest, she is NOT a white male, and she represents a non-western point of view in that she came from Islam, and not the "Christian West" as do the other three. I'd say she is a perfect balance to the mix. And a refreshing one too.

Anonymous said...

Most of the candidates are great but, knowing the other three horsemen, Neil deGrasse Tyson (with his spark, sense of humor & knowledge) would fit in just perfect.

Anonymous said...

No offense to Neil deGrasse Tyson, however Peter Boghossian is way funnier, enthusiastic, better sense of humor, and way more spontaneous!! Neil is often dry and boring!

Brandon Morehouse said...

Peter Boghossian and Matt Dillahunty have the most humility of the bunch. Both of them have made incredible inroads in the field of critical thinking lately

Gary W. Longsine said...

There are several other heavy hitters, too, which prompted me to suggest that the Four Horsemen moniker be retired in favor of The Knights of Reason. This group should be scalable!

Anonymous said...

Casting my vote for The Boghossian.

Rich said...

I was also going to pick Boghossian first off. I'd love to see some non-white and non-male for a change though. A few of those would not be good I don't think. In particular Neil deGrasse Tyson most certainly doesn't want to be the atheist anything. He doesn't want to be a spokesperson for atheism so much that he self labels as 'agnostic' although it's pretty obvious that he's just as atheist as the rest of them.

StarMichael said...

Peter Boghossian changed my life and his influence has effected my friends through my interactions with them. I couldn't in conscious vote for anyone else. if it weren't for Pete i wouldn't have even heard of the horsemen or truly, and with ability, be able to verbally explain the value of reason and evidence.

Anonymous said...

Peter Boghossian!

Tom Welch said...

Who else but Dr. Peter Boghossian!

Donna Smith said...

Having met him personally, I would have to say Dr. Peter Boghossian.

Anonymous said...

Peter Boghossian is an up and coming skeptic who has a lot to contribute. I say if not Peter than AC Grayling

prd said...

I would also choose Peter Boghossian, basically for the same reasons so thoroughly worded in several comments above. I would pick him over, say, a Neil DeGrasse Tyson (who I deeply appreciate, of course) only because he doesn't limit himself to foster scientific thinking as NDGT soes: PB has a more active, outspoken stance towards any form of faith-based thinking, religion in particular.

Truth be said, this list of candidates is a real challenge and I, as a linguist, also have a penchant for the missing Steven Pinker.

Anonymous said...

I choose Pete. He's got a very open mind, but not so open that it falls out. He's outspoken, but he earnestly listens to any reasonably logical arguments. One can tell that it's his personal mission to inform as many people as possible about the fallacies and the dangers of non-critical thinking, especially in religion (which he does quite well, to which I can attest).

Pete's the right choice. He'll get done what needs to be done and then some.

Anonymous said...

Peter Boghossian

Anonymous said...

Peter Boghossian please. He is not afraid of going toe to toe with anyone.

Josh Kellough said...

If you are uncomfortable with the Knights needing a king, wouldn't you be equally, or more, uncomfortable with Horsemen needing a god?

Josh Kellough said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CzSMC5rWvos

This is why Tyson is not a good choice. I personally agree with him more than anyone else on this list, however.

l graybeal said...

My vote is for Dr.Peter Boghossian. He is not only a master reasoner and champion of critical thinking, but he is engaging and knows how to effectively, yet humbly, transmit this knowledge to others.

Unknown said...

Dr. Peter Boghossian! Please!

Anonymous said...

Dr. Peter Boghossian!

Plasma Engineer said...

Absoutely yes. I think my antitheistic approach should be obvious to all readers.

Anonymous said...

After I originally read this article, which I was linked to from Peter's Facebook page, I commented on his facebook page, "I think that Neil deGrasse Tyson has gained a lot of popularity, and has become something of a spacehorseman in himself. I think that the variety of backgrounds that these people come from begs the bigger question: "How many horsemen should there be?" Each person is a horsemen as long he/she acts as such. So, I see influential people being raised up within a variety of communities to help give support in Hitchens's death: chemistry, physics, astronomy, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, biology (already being lead by Dawkins), psychology (being lead by Harris), politics..." It is apparent that this community has risen the notorious BOG to be their primary guide. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Peter-Boghossian/

Plasma Engineer said...

The link didn't seem to work for me. This one does though:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Peter-Boghossian/222797534462862

I don't think it is his own page but a fan page.

Anonymous said...

Matt McCormick

Ryan Marquez said...

I've been an avid fan of Boghossian's for years now. I'd love to see him in this role.

DmnDrtyHERETIC said...

Let's add one more vote for Peter Boghossian.

Anonymous said...

Boghossian

Anonymous said...

Boy, so many great choices. On balance, Boghossian fits the bill.

LadyAtheist said...

My vote goes to Lawrence Krauss. Cosmology is a big sticking point for believers. He answers "I don't know therefore God" with "Let me tell you about it"

Kenny Wyland said...

Dr Tyson is one of my personal heroes, but he's a lover, not a fighter and Hitch's replacement can only be a fighter.

I don't know Boghossian, but I guess I'll have to look him up.