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Center for Inquiry turning to the Right?
Posted: 15 February 2007 08:43 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I have read and heard from several persons - including one CFI staffer - that the CFI Florida conference in April has matched up a talk on Islam with a right-wing governmental seminar boasting such right-wing and conservative speakers as members of the US "special forces", CIA types, and Israeli generals!!! 

I sincerely hope this is a bad rumor, but it seems - from this staffer who says CFI/CSH has done enough "left wing" stuff that it is time for a Right-wing conference - that indeed CFI’s break from humanism has finally led to the connection of angry-atheism with the Right-wing! 

This certainly, if true, seems to be the end of CSH’s claim to humanism and indeed the end of humanism at CFI.

Can anyone tell me what the hell is going on?

[ Edited: 18 May 2007 06:07 PM by dougsmith ]
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Posted: 15 February 2007 11:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I certainly hope the rumor is not true.  As I see it one’s theological beliefs, one’s ethical views on the treatment of others, and one’s socio/political views are separate, although there are often some correlations. 

I know quite a few who are politically conservative and not particularly humanistic, but who are atheists or agnostics. 

I am an atheist and a humanist and a political/social liberal.  I joined CFI because it dealt with the first two of these three sets of belief and occasionally showed a liberal slant.  If it becomes politically conservative I would have to resign because I wouldn’t feel comfortable supporting such an organization.

It will be interesting to watch what happens.

Occam

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Posted: 15 February 2007 12:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Yes it will.
I won’t be surprised if the organization turns to the right. I’ll be saddened if it does.
J

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Posted: 15 February 2007 01:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Well I for one am pretty disenchanted with ANY organisation that disappears public forum posts from long time contributing members without excuse or explanation. It seems rather fascists to do so, and you can’t get much more right wing than fascism. So right leaning CFI wouldn’t surprise me at all.

To explain further: another registered long-term poster made a thread on a controversial topic, he and i had a few rounds of dialogue on the issue and suddenly the entire (was it 6?) posts vanished with NO explanation or editorial of any kind…perhaps they displeased god.  rolleyes

I have sent PM’s to the Admins and Moderators on the issue and the only response has been basically: “Don’t know, but I only work here and I’m just a volunteer anyway”. Sounds rather Naziesque to me….

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Posted: 16 February 2007 02:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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[quote author=“cgallaga”]Well I for one am pretty disenchanted with ANY organisation that disappears public forum posts from long time contributing members without excuse or explanation.

I think I know which thread you’re talking about, and if it is, I was wondering where it went, too.  I first saw it Monday morning (I think), but I didn’t have any particular comment to make, even though I was interested what others would make of it.  When I came back Wednesday, it had been “moved”, but to where?

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Posted: 16 February 2007 03:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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[quote author=“cgallaga”]Well I for one am pretty disenchanted with ANY organisation that disappears public forum posts from long time contributing members without excuse or explanation. It seems rather fascists to do so, and you can’t get much more right wing than fascism. So right leaning CFI wouldn’t surprise me at all.

To explain further: another registered long-term poster made a thread on a controversial topic, he and i had a few rounds of dialogue on the issue and suddenly the entire (was it 6?) posts vanished with NO explanation or editorial of any kind…perhaps they displeased god.  rolleyes

I have sent PM’s to the Admins and Moderators on the issue and the only response has been basically: “Don’t know, but I only work here and I’m just a volunteer anyway”. Sounds rather Naziesque to me….

I have been asked to respond to a couple quick points (even as we are very busy preparing for events in Indy, this week’s podcast, and some campus events, as well as some print deadlines for the magazines).

1. Barry’s post about our upcoming conference on radical Islam: yes, we are featuring speakers from the ideological left and the ideological right. I believe we also have CIA experts, a former Al-Qaeda member, and many secularist/dissident apostate Muslims. We don’t have a political litmus test for contribution to the conversation. Some of us here at CFI in fact are “right of center.” Others, like Barry, discount one’s commitment to secularism and humanism if one is not far left of center. Still, it doesn’t follow that humanism, secularism and atheism are leftist. (This is a long discussion Barry has had with many on this forum.)

2. Regarding the removal of a certain post: this is a public forum, and we are cognizant of the responsibility to confront controversial topics with both honesty and prudence. This is not a forum to discuss every topic imaginable, for confessions of one’s deep dark secrets, revelations of one’s sexual history, etc.  We have a certain purview. Arguments about and defenses of child sex, for whatever reason, are not conducive to the aims of the CFI discussion forums. I believe this was explained at length to those involved in the discussion thread.

As Thomas put it (and I agree): “We dont intend to provide a forum for the discussion of absolutely each and every idea under the sun, but instead focus on advancing science and reason in our society. We also have to be mindful of our audience, and our cultural competitors, and how things can be taken out of context (liability). “

If you want to have a heated conversation about the ethics of sex with your children or with children in general, I think there are a number of other communities on the internet where that would be more fitting.

3. Decisions to limit discussions that cultural competitors can use against the organization aren’t tantamount to Nazism. Not only a gross overstatement, its rather an offensive charge.

D.J.

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Posted: 16 February 2007 05:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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[quote author=“DJ Grothe”] I believe this was explained at length to those involved in the discussion thread.

As one of the two members of the discussion I can say for certain your belief is unfounded. I asked a few officials of the board (one an admin) and received no reply other than: a short “Not me, didn’t admin’s get in touch? I don’t know, above my pay grade”.

[quote author=“DJ Grothe”] tantamount to Nazism. Not only a gross overstatement, its rather an offensive charge.

Tantamount no… esque yes especially given the above claims of having made explanation whilst dodging private messages asking for such. And you didn’t just limit or censor the thread you cased it to vanish into thin air and obviously did not communicate anything to at east two people posting in this thread. That IS trying to rewrite history. And it is pretty crude after being outed for CFI’s own shortcomings to try to run down the person who complained.

(tantamount |ˈtantəˌmount| adjective [ predic. ] ( tantamount to) equivalent in seriousness to; virtually the same as : the resignations were tantamount to an admission of guilt. See note at same .

esque suffix (forming adjectives) in the style of; resembling : carnivalesque | Reaganesque | Houdini-esque.

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Posted: 16 February 2007 05:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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It should be said that I PM’ed both posters in the questionable thread the following statement:

“I have decided to remove the conversation from public viewing only because it appears to be well outside the bounds of CFI’s educational mission. That’s not to say it won’t ever appear, but I want to ask some colleagues to see if this discussion is appropriate for CFI’s online discussion forums. I hope you’ll be patient in understanding and show good will while I consult with my colleagues about this.”

I then had additional correspondence with the original poster.

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Posted: 16 February 2007 05:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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What fun.

I retract “tantamount,” and still strongly disagree that removing the post “resembled” Nazism, or that it was “Nazi-esque.” The comparison is over the top, but such overwrought reactions are not unheard of on discussion forums.

I believe Thomas said he emailed an explanation to all participants involved in that thread; maybe it was a PM through the forums, and not a direct email. He’ll likely try to respond to all of this today. D.J.

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Posted: 16 February 2007 05:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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[quote author=“Thomas”]It should be said that I PM’ed both posters in the questionable thread the following statement:

“I have decided to remove the conversation from public viewing only because it appears to be well outside the bounds of CFI’s educational mission. That’s not to say it won’t ever appear, but I want to ask some colleagues to see if this discussion is appropriate for CFI’s online discussion forums. I hope you’ll be patient in understanding and show good will while I consult with my colleagues about this.”

I then had additional correspondence with the original poster.

I received no such message. Check your sent box.

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Posted: 16 February 2007 05:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Regarding the charge that removing the questionable thread was fascist: I’d note that while this forum is open to the public, it is not a public space free-for-all. We have Moderators and Administrators who not only encourage constructive debate and dicussion but also keep this place free of spam and questionable or objectionable material, such as discussions defending sex with children.

We do not shy away from controversial topics (they are our bread and butter in a sense) but still, we have a mission, and some discussions are outside of it.

Additionally, since this forum is hosted on CFI’s servers there were legal considerations to hosting such a discussion.

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Posted: 16 February 2007 05:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I have tried to stay out of this issue, since I believe it is sufficiently problematic as to require response by CFI directly. This forum is a free service provided by the Center and they have every right to make the decision that certain topics are out of bounds. The reasoning provided by DJ and Thomas was absolutely to the point.

In this context, reference to Nazism is grotesque. Or perhaps more accurately, it is sophomoric.

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Posted: 16 February 2007 05:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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I think a discussion of whether CFI is contemplating or is shifting to the socio/political right is germane.  I’m sorry to see this thread usurped by this rather narrow complaint about whether or not removal of posts on a sexual practice with the initial poster’s male child is valid. 

I agree with the comment that there are many forums on the Internet where such a discussion would be within their purview.  I wasn’t upset by the thread, but I see it as similar to if I posted some of my favorite cooking recipes.  They just wouldn’t fit in the CFI forum.

Could we get back to the socio/political aspects of the discussion?

Occam

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Posted: 16 February 2007 06:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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[quote author=“Occam”]Could we get back to the socio/political aspects of the discussion?

Occam

Yes,

CFI is niether liberal nor conservative and we don’t side with any one political party (some of us are liberals and some are conservatives, but all of us share our common mission). When we examine Christian claims or promote secularism in the west we are labeled as liberal, yet when we do the same for Muslim claims or promote secularism in the Islamic world we are called conservative. Think of us as an equal opportunity critic. We promote reason and science in all areas of human interest including politics but do so by examining the issues and not parroting political dogma.

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Posted: 16 February 2007 12:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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[quote author=“Thomas”]Regarding the charge that removing the questionable thread was fascist:

If CFI had acted above board this complaint would never have arisen. There is no doubt that CFI has a right to maintain its board as it sees fit. But to make such a deletion without ensuring a direct notice to the participants(I still have yet to receive this note other than in this thread) and a general notice to the forum population, is problematic at best. Especially because, Thomas, when the first note I sent on the subject was a week ago, directly to you, when you and I were online simultaneously. You could have simply replied to that as a start. But as advocatus has pointed out other forum observers were following and wondering what was up. To have a shadow police mechanism is fine, but to have one that acts without some reasonable transparency…well you guys own the site so I guess that’s fine as well…but it is a slap in the face of the public you invite in to participate.  If we don’t know the rules, are not helped to understand what is going on, and see unilateral unexplained action, why will we invest time and thought to propagate good discussion on this board?

And as for squeamishness about child sexual abuse, it seemed a fine topic for the last POI (EDIT: I just noticed that the Marci Hamilton ep aired some time in early 06, but was only pushed through iTunes to my iPod last week), and also fine for my posted comment on that. So I have to disagree with Occam and say that from a posters perspective it was a far cry from cookies…the line is not only fine but erratic.

[quote author=“dougsmith”]
In this context, reference to Nazism is grotesque. Or perhaps more accurately, it is sophomoric.


[quote author=“DJ Grothe”]I retract “tantamount,” and still strongly disagree that removing the post “resembled” Nazism, or that it was “Nazi-esque.” The comparison is over the top, but such overwrought reactions are not unheard of on discussion forums.

In the light of this full and public disclosure I retract the charge, and apologise for any “over the top” or unintended offence, it certainly was not a personal remark about any one, but a remark on the “corporate entity”. I would defend myself by saying that this equivocation came after 5 days of trying to get an answer through private channels with NOTHING but 2 moderators saying I don’t know, someone should tell you.

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Posted: 16 February 2007 04:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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CFI IS moving Right, but Humanism can’t follow

DJ said:

Barry’s post about our upcoming conference on radical Islam: yes, we are featuring speakers from the ideological left and the ideological right. I believe we also have CIA experts, a former Al-Qaeda member, and many secularist/dissident apostate Muslims. We don’t have a political litmus test for contribution to the conversation. Some of us here at CFI in fact are “right of center.” Others, like Barry, discount one’s commitment to secularism and humanism if one is not far left of center. Still, it doesn’t follow that humanism, secularism and atheism are leftist. (This is a long discussion Barry has had with many on this forum.) 

DJ et al: I looked at a sample of the talks, and did not see too many “ideological Leftists” on the roster.  But whether or not there ARE any such presenters is not the issue.  While it is true that secularists and atheists can be Leftists or Rightists (and that not all ideas are so easily categorized as either or), there ought to be a level of respect for the humanists among the membership and outside world. 

It is clear to me that CFI would never host a forum with the religious Right UNLESS it was a debate (and I am sure CFI would put up their best minds to oppose such a person(s) if this were to occur).  This is because the religious Right (unlike the religious Left) often do not support the separation of church and state and often set their attack dogs on atheism and atheists (not to mention science) themselves. 

I do not think - ideologically speaking - CFI would endorse the religious Right at a CFI Conference - which is what they’d be doing by having such persons speak on the same “side” as CFIers.

Now, the same is true of the sort of folks CFI-FL is endorsing.  I do not see these people set up as debaters AGAINST humanists, but on the same team!  Nowhere, either, do I see a stance taken by CFI to indicate clearly that the Rightists involved are so for pure ‘inquiry’ reasons or because they may be secularists or atheists and CFI wants to foster an overall debate with these folks. 

SEE, while CSH is still a part of CFI (and the main part, I would say), it has to be made clear that CFI speaks for humanists as well as atheists and secularists.  That some secularists or atheists (or skeptics) at CFI are Right of center is irrelevant because CSICOP, CSH and the other “projects” are all under the same CFI banner ... CSH need to be considered when such events are planned.  Where is the dislaimer explaining why these Rightists were invited on the CFI “side”?

This is the kicker folks, I agree with DJ - as I’ve already mentioned - that WHILE secularism and atheism cannot be labeled Left or Right (of course there are few Right-leaning religious people who would agree to that statement because - to them - atheism and secularism are automatically Leftist because - to them - democracy is Leftist), HUMANISM cannot be Rightist.  It does indeed follow that humanism is Left of center for all the reasons found in the history of humanism and in the manifestos. 

Indeed, humanism may still be (in America, at least) too mainstream Liberal because Humanist Manifesto 2000 embraces capitalism… which is clearly an anti-humanistic system.  Anyone who claims otherwise is just trying to sell magazines under a ‘big tent’ which can intice lots of rich capitalistic donors (and no, I am not a communist or statist socialist)...

The systematic watering down at CFI (and CSH, it seems) of humanism is astonishing and very disconcerting.  After 9/11, Bush squandered pro-American sentiments by turning this country to the far Right and doing the same to US Foreign Policy.  Similarly, CFI has neutered CSH and humanism (now described by some at CSH as “just a method of inquiry”  :shock:  ), and this conference proves this. 

There is not one ounce of concern expressed (none that I can see, at least), that humanist members of CSH might just be a bit concerned over CFI embracing folks more likely to be embraced by the Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise, the editors of Commentary or National Review, or even groups like the Massad (I note DJ left out the Israeli military speakers from his post). 

CFI has acted much like the Neo-Cons in how they have ‘disappeared’ humanism and replaced it with sidebars - science advocacy, angry-atheism and secularism… all while pretending that they are being “good inquirers.” 

Good inquirers?  When I see leading members of the 700 Club or the Discovery Institute paraded about under the umbrella of inquiry at a CFI conference (not as the “enemy”) then I might believe that CFI has gone neutral on ethics and morals.  But then, CSH/Humanism would be dead anyway ... Not much different from today. Just when did all those ethics and morals Kurtz always talks about turn fascist or Right-Wing?

I suggest that humanists take a cold hard look at where CFI has taken CSH and humanism, and will continue to do so while all you are supporting them.  More support comes from humanists than angry atheists or skeptics, so if you want CSH to be a humanist organization again, act before it is too late.  It’s your money!

PS:  I wonder about this ex-Al-Qaeda member?  Does he feel 9/11 was NOT blowback? Does he think Bush did the right thing in Afghanistan and Iraq?  Does he think 9/11 was all about religion? 
Thomas said:

CFI is neither liberal nor conservative and we don’t side with any one political party (some of us are liberals and some are conservatives, but all of us share our common mission). When we examine Christian claims or promote secularism in the west we are labeled as liberal, yet when we do the same for Muslim claims or promote secularism in the Islamic world we are called conservative.

Humanism, Thomas, is not dogma, but it is indeed liberal by design.  Get used to it.  ‘Those of you’ who are conservatives may be atheists, but not humanists.  There IS NO “common mission” between atheists and humanists on the sociopolitical/economic scale beyond secularism ... so stop treating humanism AS atheism.

Also, the only reason the examination of Muslim claims are called conservative in the West is because too often, mixed in with these examinations, is Orientalism.  Ibn Warraq is a perfect example of a brilliant Koranic scholar who is completely wrong about politics and the real reasons for “Islamic” terrorism and the rise of political Islam. 

As I have learned at WBAI, some of the post-modern left may often “defend” Muslims mainly because they are often ‘people of color’ (and we have white, Western racism, Imperialism and Colonialism to thank for that), but CFI does not employ atheistic Arabs or the like to talk to the problems with religious fundamentalism (folks like Tariq Ali), but instead reactionaries, racists or -dare I say - ‘self-hating’ ex-Muslims instead. 

Parading around Islamiphobes like Hitchens, Warraq and Harris is why you are called conservatives… THESE men are conservatives!

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