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Posted by on Oct 15, 2012 in Miscellany | 13 comments

Drama free? I guess we’ll see.

In one of the early posts here, John Loftus pledged that Skeptic Ink would be a “drama free network“, and I certainly hope that this proves to be the case. Or at least, that certain sorts of drama can be avoided, because having no drama at all seems the wrong ambition (if you’re not offending or challenging anyone at all, then you’re probably not worth reading). Of late – as you all know – we’ve had drama of a different, sustained, and harmful sort. I’m not getting into that (again), except to say that one can regret what various people (on all sides of the antagonism) have thought it necessary to say and do without being guilty of asserting a false equivalence.

Others can chronicle the history if they choose to. Those of us who aren’t interested in that project should at least ensure that we don’t (intentionally) add to the catalogue of harms, and I’d suggest that the Skeptic Ink mission statement is on relatively safe ground – even if only as a minimal commitment. But just as in any other networks, some breadth and interpretive wiggle-room is useful in allowing for different voices to emerge – and just as in other networks, those who contribute here can’t be assumed to agree with each other unless we say we do.

Arguments should ideally always be judged on their merits, rather than through the lens of history or personality. However, the merits of an argument (or the bona fides of an interlocutor) are sometimes difficult to see when people are yelling at each other, or making no effort to see beyond any stereotypes or prejudicial judgements they might have entered the conversation with. And history is relevant to whether one can be judged as sincere. For my part, I’ll be trying to be consistently fair to the evidence no matter who that involves disagreeing with, and I’d hope that readers would do the same. Please read my comment policy (and of course, feel free to make suggestions in terms of edits) to get a sense of what I believe that to entail.

Towards a Free Society was named thus for two reasons, but where one is really just a marker on the road to the primary reason. The Free Society Institute (FSI) is a non-profit organisation that I founded, and am currently chairperson of, which promotes secularism, social equality and scientific interests in South Africa. So, calling this site something related seemed a obvious thing to do from the viewpoint of consolidating the expressions of “the brand”. But of course, both the organisation and the site are so named for a more substantive reason.

South Africa is a deeply religious (mostly Christian) country, and also a deeply conservative one in terms of things like social justice. Yes, I realise that foreigners might have believed the hype of a liberated and transformed society, but sadly, things like “corrective rapes” for lesbians occur here, and our Chief Justice is a man who believes you can pray the gay away.

So, the FSI has been an advocate for free speech, free thought, gender and racial equality and so forth. We’re also emphatically secular, and almost all of us are atheists. For me, atheism is a simple by-product of critical thought – the inescapable conclusion which follows from the available evidence. This annoys some folk, I realise, but I don’t think atheism all that interesting in itself. More interesting are the thoughts, confusions, biases, cultural forces etc. that lead to religious belief, and the negative consequences that can follow from those factors.

It is these causes of belief – and the ways in which they manifest in society – that will be the primary focus of Towards a Free Society. Because identifying and eliminating these causes is surely part of the strategy for freeing us from dogma, superstition, and also – perhaps especially – prejudice.

  • John W. Loftus

    Welcome! Glad to have you here with this as a focus. Annoy away. 😉

  • Edward Clint

    In contemporary usage, “drama” is idiomatically pejorative (unless describing the genre of tv, film, or theatre). It refers to a neurotic, inflated sense of importance of events which are only really important to the egos involved. For example, no one ever says “so much drama over 9/11” because that is a serious event with real, not imagined, importance.

    I do take your point though, that the network is not rightly sterile and devoid of editorial opinion. There is nothing whatever wrong with weighing in on relevant events, and I hope that you do just that. Commentary from sound and sage minds like yours could do a whole lot of good, sir.

    Welcome aboard.

  • Zed Zero

    (humor alert)No drama, HA! These guys just laid a steaming pile of A+ on a couple of the blogs and the flies are buzzing away.

    I keep up with African news generally and hope to be returning soon. So I am glad to hear an African perspective and will read regularly.

    Can you get me Jolandi’s autograph? That would be awesome;).

    • From what I can gather from interviews, Yolandi’s autograph probably looks something like this: “X”.

      • Zed Zero

        Ouch, that had sting to it. Of course you are assuming she would use a pencil to autograph something.
        Kill this in moderation if you like. You and I maybe the only people here who have heard SA rap music…and I maybe the only here that likes it….That’s a quality insult all the same.

    • “These guys just laid a steaming pile of A+ on a couple of the blogs”

      It is not uncommon that in our age of female emancipation many guys feel demasculinised and are marking their place in society by laying a steaming pile. Other guys earn their A+ writing a dissertation. The revelation that a person’s entire social repertoire can be defined by an IQ of 65 is rather pointless when millions out there have an IQ of 165.

      Human stupidity will be with us, as long as there are humans. But we’ll also always have human intelligence. I wish this network nothing but the best.

      • ZedZero

        Are you psychic? I just finished my degree thesis last semester on a moral U.S. foreign policy response to climate change with an emphasis on Africa. See CCAPS where got my inspiration: http://strausscenter.org/ccaps/ (This is really fascinating stuff about your own backyard).The fun part was that I got a 108% on it. Apparently math is not my philosophy prof’s strong suit but, it does make for an A++.
        I do take exception with “millions out there have an IQ of 165”. This sounds like an exaggeration to me and I do find freaky people need love too.

        So is there something about Die Antwoord that really gets up SA’s nose?

        Sorry Jacques, I think I am going for record of comments section policy violations in one post here but, this is too funny.

  • Clare45

    It has been suggested (I forget who said it) that a drama Llama could be a unit of drama. On a scale of 1 to 10, perhaps 1 to 5 would be acceptable levels and 5-10 would be insulting, excessive or over-the-top.

  • Guest

    Dis goed om jou hier raak te loop, Jaques.

  • ertjies

    Dis goed om jou hier raak te loop, Jacques. Voorspoed.

  • ThePrussian

    (testing this new Disqus profile…)

    I confess that I can’t stand Rousseau, but welcome aboard. Here’s to profitable collaboration and some merry sectarian feuding.

  • bluharmony

    Right, it’s the causes of the beliefs that fascinate me, because those causes must have existed before the beliefs and, thus, they are somehow a part of us. Though given the knowledge we have now, they need not be.