Tracey is a frequent contributor to the Friendly Atheist online blog and co-moderator of the Friendly Atheist Facebook page. She has been a very vocal opponent of the Ark Encounter (referred to as AE from here on) from the first moment that she heard of it and joined the fight to prevent the project from ever coming to fruition. But last year, at an AE press conference, she had an opportunity to meet Ken Ham in person and came away with a very different, and in my opinion a very humanistic, perspective. She wrote all about it, shortly after the AE opened for business (in Williamstown, Kentucky), in a blog entitled Ken Ham Isn’t a Big Bad Ogre: Why I Feel Bad About Ark Encounter
Click on the title if you want to read her blog in full. Considering that the AE project cost approximately $100 million, and is patently ridiculous as well as completely unscientific, her kind and compassionate words about the man himself drew some serious criticism from many of her followers. She has been quite clear that she is still very opposed to the project, finds it harmful to impressionable people not to mention the taxpayers in Kentucky, and can’t wait for it to close. However, she finds no useful purpose in attacking the man behind it all but found him “to be quite intelligent and crafty in his endeavors, however misguided they may be.” She seems to feel that as ridiculous as his beliefs are, he seems to genuinely believe that he is doing the right thing and that what he believes is absolute truth. She found the humanity in him and feels sorry for him due to the evident failure of the project to even come close to opening projections, and its very likely demise. I was quite impressed with her, again in my opinion, very humanistic approach to the whole thing.
She later (and only just recently) addressed her critics and further defended her position, in a Youtube video entitled Response to “Ken Ham is not a Big Bad Ogre Again, click on the title if you want to watch the video. She has an interesting use of language in the video that may not be suitable forchildren, so be forewarned. I found myself quite impressed with her composure in this video, especially when reading posts from critics. I think that she did a great job of reiterating her position and reinforcing the Humanist perspective at the same time. I have no idea if she considers herself a Humanist but, from this episode, I believe that she is even if it’s only been a recent development in her worldview, possibly triggered by her first interaction with Ken Ham. I also think that it’s quite telling how someone’s perspective can change dramatically when addressing a person face-to-face. One of the biggest problems that I see with interactions on the internet is that people can be, and often are, anonymous and therefore have a tendency to dehumanize the people that they are interacting with. That can be a serious detriment to useful dialog. Even when not being completely anonymous, I’ve noticed that people often attack other people’s character when they would never say such things in person.
One of the things that Tracey said in her blog was “Ad hominem attacks are the last resort for people who have nothing intelligent to say”. One online definition of Ad Hominem attacks is “marked by or being an attack on an opponent’s character rather than by an answer to the contentions made”. As can be seen repeatedly on many online exchanges by people with differing perspectives, this approach usually devolves into something ugly and rarely changes anyone’s beliefs. This has been quite apparent recently, even in our own community, during online discussions about our current presidential race. Considering how important this election cycle is, I would say that that is truly tragic. The same could be said about climate change, veganism, vaccinations, etc. Some of these issues can have a profound effect on the future of humanity so it behooves us to clearly communicate concepts and ideas in a much more constructive way. This speaks to how we, as Humanists, are likely to be more effective at communicating with people that we strongly disagree with, no matter how absurd we feel that their beliefs are. I believe that she has shown a good example for the rest of us to follow. I also feel that Tracey is someone that we should keep an eye on in the future. She apparently has much to offer our community.