In case you haven’t heard, Richard Dawkins had a stroke last week. It appears that he is recovering. As many of you know, he was a great friend to Christopher, and is a strident spokesman for science and reason. Humorously, his doctor told him that in the future he should stay away from controversy. Good luck having that order followed, doctor.
Here is a personal audio. message from Richard Dawkins, which he recorded for his fans:
Yes, they are all nice faces, but beyond that, they are all trustees of Project Reason, an organization dedicated to spreading science and secular values, founded by Sam and Annaka Harris. Christopher was a trustee.
Project Reason is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation devoted to spreading scientific knowledge and secular values in society. We seek to encourage critical thinking and wise public policy through a variety of interrelated projects. The foundation can convene conferences, produce films, sponsor scientific studies and opinion polls, hold contests, publish original research, award grants to other charitable organizations, and offer material support to religious dissidents and public intellectuals — all with the purpose of eroding the influence of dogmatism, superstition, and bigotry in our world. While Project Reason is devoted to fostering critical thinking generally, we believe that religious ideas require a special focus. Both science and the arts are built upon cultures of vigorous self-criticism; religious discourse is not. As a result, religious dogmatism still reigns unchallenged in almost every society on earth—dividing humanity from itself, inflaming conflict, preventing wise public policy, and diverting scarce resources. One of the primary goals of Project Reason is to change this increasingly unhealthy status quo.
Many of you will have seen this classic, but for those of you that are new to Hitchens and his orbit, it is well worth watching.
The film documents an almost two-hour roundtable discussion with the so-called new atheists: Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett. The group, also nicknamed“The Four Horsemen of the Non-Apocalypse”, met at Hitchens’ Washington DC apartment on September 30, 2007. For the non-Biblical scholars amongst you, the name is a reference to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in the Book of Revelations.
I am glad someone had the foresight to document this.
Anyone interested in Christopher Hitchens will likely appreciate activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s most recent book, Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now. Ayaan was born in Somalia, but escaped her repressive upbringing, and a bumpy road (she was working with Danish cartoonist Theo Van Gogh when he was killed), and became an activist. In Heretic she asserts that Islam must be reformed, and that change can come only from within the religion. She then lays out recommendations for how such reform can be achieved. Not surprisingly, this has irritated some. Brandies University, in a sad move for a learning institution, revoked it’s offer to give her an honorary degree (New York Times: Brandeis Cancels Plan to Give Honorary Degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Critic of Islam). The University caved in to pressure from those calling her anti-Islam. Hitchens warned on many occasions, that the day would come where one would not even be able to criticize Islam without being called an Islamophobe. We are there.
Ayaan was scheduled to participate in the original meeting of the so called Four Horseman (the provocative informal two-hour discussion with Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris) but had to cancel at the last minute. She did, however, participate in a follow up event with the same group (minus Christopher of course) at the 2012 Global Atheist Convention, in Australia. Dawkins welcomed her as a Horsewoman.
In the clip below, Ayaan responds to a question by Mr. Hitchens at the 2007 at the American Enterprise Institute.
If you want to learn more about Ayaan Hirsi Ali, visit the site of her foundation, the AHA Foundation, which aims to put an end to honor violence, forced marriages and female genital mutilation.