Lately, the “Rational Response Squad” has been making a bit of buzz in the atheosphere (and even in the theosphere).
Vjack asked for opinions from his readers before writing a fair review of RRS and their site. He found them to be “immature at times” but remarked that this “is a good thing.” Their aggressive, bold and ‘in-your-face’ style of attacking theists appealed to Vjack and he noted that they probably have a strong appeal to teens. Vjack also had some decent constructive criticism, suggesting that the RRS tone down the “chip on their collective shoulders” in an effort to play nice with the rest of the atheist/rationalist community. He also found their website to be “something of a mess.” I’ve always found it to be an html travesty and its poor design was the single biggest reason for me not staying on the site every time I ever visited.
Hemant Mehta, a.k.a. The Friendly Atheist, had a couple of blog posts that were critical of the RRS and their “aggressive tactics.” He compared and contrasted his method of outreach with that of the RRS and ended up with a response from Brian Cutler, one of the lead personalities of this group, which was to fallaciously measure “de-conversion” outcomes. I say fallaciously since there was no regard for methodologies or controls, so such an outcomes claim is meaningless from the start.
Enter Reed Braden of UnorthodoxAtheism, who revealed that he encountered Cutler and one of his sidekicks in a chatroom where they made accusations that Richard Dawkins had or was having an affair outside of his marriage. This accusation made in the wake of RRS apparently not being able to ride the Richard Dawkins Foundation coattails. Braden later published another chatroom transcript where Cutler attempted to plead, beg, and -finally- threaten Braden in order to prevent him from further discussing or publishing the accusation. Ostensibly because “If this news gets out, Richard Dawkins will be nothing tomorrow (Brian Sapient),” although it smells strongly of self-preservation, mostly since it hasn’t much chance of being true based on the juvenile and irrational actions of the, perhaps, inappropriately named RRS.
I think that’s the most sound advice I’ve heard so far. Reed Braden already removed the two posts I mentioned above (so you won’t find them in the links, but you might still find them in your rss feed aggregator or on Planet Atheism), which is probably a good thing. And, as for the RRS, they’re not in my links list, not even in this post. In my opinion, shaped mostly over the last few days, the Rational Response Squad is misnamed, juvenile, and without lasting academic or redeeming merit. They’re that train wreck you can’t avoid looking at, but at the end of the day you’re glad you weren’t on the train and their significance is forgotten.