George of the Fumble?

3 November 2009 at 2:12 pm (Uncategorized)

Well, the South African sceptical/agnostic/atheist/anti-religion blogosphere is abuzz with speculation. Question marks and suspicions are flying about, randomly colliding with particles of rumour and fragments of guesswork, leaving smeary trails in a murky cloud chamber of conjecture.

The Big Question is: Whatever happened in the curious case of George Claassen’s dual blogicides?

For the past few years, George maintained a blog called “Prometheus Unbound”. This sceptical blog dealt with various issues like psychics, pseudoscience and charlatanry, but it focussed particularly on the folly that is religion. The blog disappeared unannounced a few weeks ago with the hosting site reporting that the blog had been deleted by the authors. The final blog entry was a contentious one that examined how certain public schools were violating their purely secular mandate by promoting religious practices among pupils. The possibility of legal action against those schools was raised.

At first, the possibility was mooted that the blog had been deleted by a vengeful religious fanatic who had managed somehow to obtain administrative login credentials. This now seems very unlikely, as will be clear from subsequent developments. George soon after established a new blog called “Prometheus Liberated” and posted three entries in rapid succession. He gave no public explanation on the new blog as to what had occurred with the old one, but shortly before the latter’s deletion, he withdrew from the campaign against the schools, citing as motivations personal reasons as well as attacks on his person. At first, he had mentioned “technical problems” that allegedly were being attended to. The blog is still deleted.

The new blog suffered the same fate a few days ago, again without any prior announcement or explanation. While it will probably do little good to hypothesize about what prompted a virtual repeat, one is left to wonder. Is George fed up with contributions of some or all of the regular commenters? Is he being threatened somehow to leave off writing against religion? Blackmailed, maybe? Or is it something like indecision about whether to continue this work or to wipe the slate clean in some privately cathartic eruption of on-and-off misanthropy?

None of the above possibilities seems to fit properly.

We think George has something of a moral obligation to clarify these odd happenings, even if only to that small group of regular commenters that has travelled alongside him over the past few years. Depending on the circumstances, some kind of assistance with, or resolution of, the problem could be reached.

George, scepticism and atheism do not necessarily mean that you have to fight every battle alone.

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9 Comments

  1. Objective said,

    “Is George fed up with contributions of some or all of the regular commenters? Is he being threatened somehow to leave off writing against religion? Blackmailed, maybe? Or is it something like indecision about whether to continue this work or to wipe the slate clean in some privately cathartic eruption of on-and-off misanthropy?”

    If i have to speculate i would venture misanthropy – and that is really sad although i think understandable.

    Reading your sentence i took stock of myself…and concluded that i would most probably be guilty of misanthropy myself for a large part of the human population but certainly not the species.
    I know too many great people and great names in the history of mankind to make it general.

    The battle is a tough one as you no doubt know but not one over which we should lose any sleep. While the damage they do is incalculable i am convinced that good reason and logic will ultimately truimph. I have to hold on to this conviction to retain my sanity.

    I hope that George will realise this if indeed his recapitulation resulted from some catharsis of self doubt or misanthropy.

  2. Objective said,

    From the interview with Hanlie Retief:

    George is quoted as follows:

    “Ek volg die Carl Sagan-benadering, ek hou my opsies oop. Ek sê nie daar is nié ’n God nie, want dáárvoor het ek ook nie bewyse nie.”

    “Vroeër vanjaar skryf prof. George Claassen in Rapport hy is geensins skaam om ’n ateïs genoem te word nie, maar hy’s g’n militant.
    Vanoggend, hier in die joernalistiekdepartement se Eduardiaanse gebou in Stellenbosch, sê Claassen in sy sagte, ordentlike stem: hy wil nie meer ’n ateïs genoem word nie.
    “Moenie dit aan die groot klok hang nie. Noem my eerder ’n sekulêre humanis.”

    Too many hard core atheists on Prometheus….best to be rid of them lest he becomes associated with hardcore (militant) atheism.

  3. defollyant said,

    I don’t think one can reasonably expect perfect consistency from a person. Any person. I think we all feel, to a greater or lesser extent, the tension between what we believe actually to be correct and the circumstantial demands of social etiquette. Humans are social animals for fairly obvious evolutionary reasons. Some of us on the fringe find it hard to understand how principles of truth must come a shoddy second to avoiding confrontation or conflict, but we can sympathise with the idea that peace and harmony are beneficial to all. It’s the prioritisation of these ideas that marks the differences.

  4. defollyant said,

  5. Oubaas said,

    Probably not “some privately cathartic eruption of on-and-off misanthropy”, just bad manners.

  6. defollyant said,

    Oubaas, in your own way you’re less compromising than I am. In truth, that surprises me – mightily so. Is this the result of a specific betrayal, personal or otherwise?

    (There is no intended undertone of any kind here, just plain curiosity.)

    Regards,
    Wire-arse #2.

  7. Oubaas said,

    No personal betrayal, but surely a betrayal of the values we hold dear. I’ve never liked the burning of books, and this is what George did. You have a unique responsibility when hosting a conversation on the web. It can’t be “owned”, and “emptying the room” this way seems bad mannered to me, to say the least. Not giving an explanation shows particular disrespect.

  8. defollyant said,

    Admittedly, I hadn’t thought of it as a kind of “book burning,” which it surely is. Moreover and as an extreme measure, there is a way of locking a WordPress blog to prohibit further commentary without summarily deleting the whole thing. All eyes looking towards George should now become a little flintier with misgivings.

    The situation urgently demands a clarification, assuming respect should not be wholly forfeit.

  9. BalancedTruths said,

    Sturgeon’s First Law:
    Nothing is absolutely so.

    Sturgeon’s Second Law:
    Ninety percent of everything is crud.

    Sturgeon’s Third Law:
    It is not possible to assemble a device containing small parts withoutdropping one of these parts in a deep-pile carpet.

    –Theodore Sturgeon

    The Three Laws of Infernal Dynamics:

    1. An object in motion will always be headed in the wrong direction.
    2. An object at rest will always be in the wrong place.
    3. The energy necessary to change either of these states is always more than you wish to expend, but never so much as to be totally impractical.

    –David Gerrold

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