Dateline: SPRINGFIELD, MI—Speaking jointly at a press conference after coming to a unanimous decision at this year’s Skepticon, held at Missouri State University, representatives of the New Atheist movement condemned sleep and sex for being irrational.
“Religious faith is clearly unreasonable,” said author Sam Harris, “but so are your unconscious dreams and so is your sex life. If we’re going to survive the coming technological advances, we’ve got to smarten up and cut all ties to our primitive ancestry. We’ve got to become posthuman.”
Asked how Harris handles his biological needs for sleep and sex, he told reporters that he expects we’ll soon develop the technology to allow the brain to cope without the input of the irrational subconscious and with a permanent state of insomnia. Until then, he said rationalists should keep a journal of their dreams and “berate and flagellate” themselves each morning if the dreams they recall having had “descend into the fantastic.”
“As for sex,” biologist Richard Dawkins cut in, “it helps to be British. Puritanical prudishness and the effeteness following the decline of your country’s empire go a long way to making you sufficiently embarrassed about sex’s animalistic aspects to learn how to repress your wayward lusts.”
Reminded that Dawkins has written about the need to appreciate nature’s beauty, he said that poetry and a sense of wonder are alright “as long as one employs the deflationary technique of understatement and keeps a stiff upper lip.”
The biologist PZ Myers pointed out that the problem isn’t just irrationality; it’s when irrationality becomes dangerous. “People kill for God, but they also kill for sex,” he said. “Families break apart due to affairs. When we’re overcome by sex hormones we may not wear protection and so we transmit diseases. Moreover, we set a terrible example, hiding our degrading sex life, keeping that skeleton in the closet even as we rightly ridicule religious folks for their lunacy.”
Our unconscious biases, too, he said, “drive us to all manner of counterproductive prejudices. We mustn’t allow our unconscious to rear its ugly head, not even in our dreams.”
Biologist Jerry Coyne added that we can maintain the human population using artificial insemination, “to avoid the follies of romance and sexual play.” He said that as a child he loved to dream he was Superman and he could fly just by holding out his arms. But when he learned we can fly only with airplanes or the like, he “condemned that dream as a piece of foolishness.”
Dawkins went further, saying we should punish our kids when they “indulge in games of pretense. Faith-heads abuse their children by teaching them nonsense,” he said, “and we rationalists must do the opposite, teaching them reason and science; else there shan’t be a counterweight to religious superstition and we’ll be on the brink of extinction.”
Historian Richard Carrier told a story of how a little girl approached him at Skepticon, holding a ball of aluminum foil and calling it the moon. “I told her it’s not the moon and that if she tried to hold up the moon it would crush her flatter than a pancake.
The girl ran off crying and I relished each and every one of those tears, because they signaled her growing disenchantment with the world. We can’t afford to be irrational anymore; technological advances have raised the stakes too high.”
Philosopher Daniel Dennett reported that he’s working on a device to alert him when someone nearby is entering REM sleep, during which time the person “would be expected to have begun spoiling her rational mindset with a foolish dream.”
He warned that he intends to drive around at night, to locate “the offenders against Reason,” and to blast his car horn “to set things right.” Dennett then proudly showcased the new logo for New Atheism. It features a stylized drawing of a man, holding a hammer in each hand and smashing his heart with one hand and his genitals with the other.