In a sudden attack of self-consciousness, I have elected to examine some of my personal likes and dislikes, and to engage in some good, old-fashioned criticism of my fellow humans. Who am I to judge, you say? No-one. But some people, in my most humble opinion, deserve to be lauded or deplored. Besides, I’ve had too many blogs lapse into disuse and neglect to ignore when I actually have the notion and motivation to write. Without further ado…
JT Eberhard – Humanity’s last and best hope in a zombie apocalypse
Those of an atheistic persuasion are probably familiar with Mr. Eberhard as the author of the WWJTD blog on Patheos, and further back on Freethought Blogs and beyond. I chose JT for my first “Yay” simply because he is my preferred source of news on religion, pseudoscience and general geekery, and because he seems like such a nice chap. I also know that he has struggled with – and appears to be currently kicking the arse of- psychological demons in his time, and so I both identify with and admire how he has been able to do so. He, to me, is the model of how an atheist activist ought to be: informed, passionate, and able to make his readers both laugh and fume. Getting angry over the same kinds of thing can be a great builder of kinship, and JT often echoes my own feelings exactly – it’s not enough to disagree with abuses of rights, people and ideas, you need to be pissed off too.
If forced to criticise JT, it would be that he makes me somewhat ashamed that I don’t do more work to support the things I believe in. I know that for years he was involved with the Secular Student Alliance, helping high schoolers and college students set up secular and atheist societies, and maintain them when those students left. This, particularly in the United States, is of vital importance if we are to make it safe for young unbelievers to come out and eventually to relegate religion to its proper position as a person and private predilection, and for this I salute him. Hopefully my own future contains this kind of public service, even in the relatively secular UK.
Of all the atheist bloggers that I follow, JT seems the most human (this is not a sleight on the others, merely my irrational gut feeling). This is a guy who I would really like to have a beer with, although he may be doing the karaoke on his own – it’s only fair to other bar patrons that they not be subjected to my dulcet tones. And more than just sharing a cold, alcoholic beverage, I’d really just like to have a conversation with the man. Hero worship – obviously – is a slightly embarrassing vice, but I can’t help myself. JT is made of awesome.
Quote of Awesome (at least the most recent): “It’s not that I hate god, it’s that you want to be wrong with impunity and I don’t want to let you.”
Andrew Wakefield – The engineer of modern epidemics
On the other side of the coin, we find Andrew Wakefield, the former medical researcher responsible for the fraudulent study linking the MMR vaccine to autism, causing widespread panic among uninformed and innocently frightened parents, and therefore leading to children catching dangerous diseases that ought to be a distant memory. It’s rather difficult to explain my opinion of Wakefield without simply lapsing into a string of obscenities, but I’ll do what I can.
Despite having his medical licence revoked, his study disavowed by the journal that originally published it, and his reputation dragged through the mud, Wakefield remains steadfast in his claim that his study contained no bad data, despite a hand-picked sample and deeply flawed methodology, showing that he possesses one characteristic that sets me off much worse than most others. I can forgive a hell of a lot of wrongdoing if it is genuinely regretted and disavowed, but even as children go unvaccinated, and hence unprotected against terrible illness, this man cannot admit his fault. Again, I might like to discuss this over a beer with him, but the urge to introduce his face to the finer points of my glass might not be entirely irresistible.
To lie about science is, at absolute best, a stupid and pointless exercise – you will inevitably be found out. But to lie about medicine, and medicine administered to protect children no less, cannot be interpreted in any other way than as, to steal a phrase from Penn Jillette, “shockingly fucked up”. The genie is out of the bottle, and it will take a strong and concerted effort to gain back the ground that has been lost as a result of this prick’s selfishness and crass disregard for human life. Fuck Andrew Wakefield. The best that can be said for him is that he shares a small portion of the blame for this crisis with the media who overzealously reported the fallacious findings, but as the facilitator, he deserves the lion’s share of the scorn and hatred.
Edit (Added source): http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/statement-from-dr-andrew-wakefield–no-fraud-no-hoax-no-profit-motive-113454389.html