One of the things Richard Dawkins said in his health update this weekend was that the stroke he had may have been brought about by stress. Stress in his case is often caused by controversy. And he’s been the subject of controversy recently because he was booted from the speaking roster at the upcoming NECSS conference for tweeting out a video that compared certain types of feminists to ISIS in regards to their supposed rigid ideologies.
Anyway, NECSS took him off their roster of speakers without consulting with him first, something Dawkins felt was discourteous. And there was a lot of debate over whether NECSS organizers had made the right decision (regardless of how they went about it) or acted in haste over something that wasn’t a big deal.
Dawkins pointed out in his message that he had been re-invited to the conference, something that sure as hell surprised me.
Today, NECSS issued a statement apologizing for kicking Dawkins off their roster. They also stated that he had indeed been invited back:
We wish to apologize to Professor Dawkins for our handling of his disinvitation to NECSS 2016. Our actions were not professional, and we should have contacted him directly to express our concerns before acting unilaterally. We have sent Professor Dawkins a private communication expressing this as well. This apology also extends to all NECSS speakers, our attendees, and to the broader skeptical movement.
We wish to use this incident as an opportunity to have a frank and open discussion of the deeper issues implicated here, which are causing conflict both within the skeptical community and within society as a whole. NECSS 2016 will therefore feature a panel discussion addressing these topics. There is room for a range of reasonable opinions on these issues and our conversation will reflect that diversity. We have asked Professor Dawkins to participate in this discussion at NECSS 2016 in addition to his prior scheduled talk, and we hope he will accept our invitation.
This statement and our discussions with Professor Dawkins were initiated prior to learning of his recent illness. All of NECSS wishes Professor Dawkins a speedy and full recovery.
The NECSS Executive Committee
His attendance obviously depends on his health come early May, but this is how the matter should have been handled to begin with. If there’s a debate about Dawkins’ beliefs worth having, organizers shouldn’t be afraid of letting him speak for himself. I don’t speak for any of them, but the ideological overlap between Dawkins and his critics is likely much larger than each side gives the other credit for.
At this moment, though, Dawkins’ name doesn’t appear on the list of NECSS speakers.