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Evidence-based activism for brights: Wish lists
Posted: 19 December 2008 09:03 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I’m interested in brights’ wish lists.

To explain, here’s something that puzzles me and surely others: How is it that we brights[1], who tend to be well-educated and armed with powerful tools like science and rational thought, are losing the “culture war” (vs. supers) on so many fronts?  Why haven’t we figured out and implemented more effective ways to advance our causes?  Is it that we aren’t motivated to advance any causes, or we are but haven’t used science or rational thought to advance them, or we are and have but “supernatural forces” and belief have trumped science and rational thought, or something else?

I’d like to explore some facets of the above issue in this and subsequent posts.  To keep it short, I’ve grossly oversimplified the issue and made no attempt to define my statements precisely or substantiate them.[2]  I’ll defer those potentially important details for now and jump to the first facet:

What do brights want changed?

Here’s where WISH LISTS come in: I’d appreciate thoughts about any phenomenon brights would like to be different than it is.  By “phenomenon” I mean pretty much any observable event, provided it’s plausibly linked to “bright-ness” (e.g., I wish I could speak Norwegian, but that’s probably not relevant).  A lot of these might be social things like interpersonal attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors, or political things like policies or laws, but please don’t limit your ideas to those domains.  Also, I’m interested in the wishes of individuals—perhaps you, perhaps brights you know or who’ve expressed their wishes to you or publicly—as well as wishes articulated by organizations geared toward brights (e.g., CFI, its affiliates, others).  Let’s not be constrained by the scale of wishes (e.g., how many people are affected) or how realistic they are.  I admit this could be tackled more scientifically[3], but for now I’m just hoping for some personal wishes or wishes gleaned from other sources.

To get things started, here are a handful of personal wishes off the top of my head: I wish that ...

1. more children were encouraged to arrive at their own worldview or religious affiliation after learning about various options

2. fewer people engaged in conflicts motivated by incompatible religious beliefs

3. more people incorporated scientific reasoning and critical thinking into their daily decision making, at least informally

4. fewer people succumbed to deceptive claims made in advertisements or by salespersons who misrepresent their product’s or service’s benefits

5. more brights were comfortable identifying themselves as such or expressing “bright ideas” in social situations

I’ve made no attempt to make these distinct (e.g., #1 may influence all others), and they could all be made much more precise (e.g., using operational definitions of terms like “more”, “children”, “conflicts”, etc.).  For now, though, I’m just brainstorming.

Where I go with this depends largely on where the discussion takes us.  After tossing around some ideas about the sorts of things brights want changed and possibly organizing them (e.g., clustering, classifying), we might at least discuss (a) how to accomplish some of those things on personal and larger levels, (b) what’s already being or been done (successfully or not), (c) potential barriers to “activism” on these fronts and how to reduce barriers, and (d) how to assess whether certain strategies are actually working and determine how to improve them.

I’m especially interested in evidence-based strategies for promoting brights’ causes and what might be borrowed from playbooks used in similar large-scale endeavors (e.g., political campaigns, religious proselytizing, public-health interventions).  I’d be grateful if anyone could point me/us toward existing resources on this general topic (e.g., books, articles, previous discussions in the CFI forums or on PoI).


Footnotes
——————
1. I’m using this umbrella term for atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, humanists, naturalists, secularists, skeptics, and like-minded persons; I’d appreciate a better suggestion.  Also, by “we” I’m just counting myself among the brights; I don’t mean to imply that everyone in, say, this forum considers herself or himself a bright.

2. For instance, I have no data on brights’ educational backgrounds, I’m uneasy talking in broad terms about a culture war pitting brights against supers (instead of about specific issues such as teaching evolution vs. creationism in public schools), I’m not sure what any common “causes” to “advance” might be, and I’m not citing evidence to back up my claim that we’re losing.

3. If I were more ambitious and had more time (and knew how), I’d do a content analysis of, say, relevant books, pertinent organizations’ mission statements, discussions in online forums, interviews, and other sources.  If anyone’s done that—even informally—I’d be curious what they’ve found.

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Posted: 19 December 2008 09:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Adam, I think you’re starting off with an incorrect assumption: that secularists are in fact losing the culture war to theists. I think that we are in fact winning that war. The theists certainly think so. Consider the changes that have been made in the last 50 years:

1. School prayer
2. Holiday creches
3. Religious imagery in public places
4. Abortion
5. Gay rights
6. Advertising has become more intelligent (you wouldn’t believe how stupid it was in the 1950s!)
7. Christmas has become more secularized.
8. Civil rights
9. Feminism

There have been a few areas of retrograde motion:

I believe that religious activity is on the upswing (but I don’t know if that’s a long-term trend or a short-term blip)
The teaching of evolution has come under some pressure—mostly ineffectual
Politicians are more ostentatiously religious (although this does not seem to change their behavior)

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Posted: 19 December 2008 10:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Hi, Chris.  See my Footnote 2 about my unsubstantiated claims; had I been more specific in my opening statement, it could easily have been several paragraphs longer (though limited by my ignorance about available evidence).  It’s too harsh to say we’re “losing” the culture war, and frankly I don’t even know what that really means in a clearly defined way; that is, what’s a concrete operational definition of “losing the culture war” that anyone could observe and use to evaluate whether we’re winning or losing?  Also, to be clear, I certainly don’t mean to diminish the substantial efforts many brights/non-theists have made or the victories they’ve accomplished; I’m hugely thankful for this forum, for organizations like CFI, and for many other resources available to brights seeking a community, support, ideas, etc.

That said, what I’m trying to get at is this, in a nutshell: I suspect a lot of brights look around at their families, social networks, communities, larger societies, and other supersets of which they’re a member and see things about they’re not happy (specifically, things related to supernatural beliefs and their consequences).  So, although it may be that great strides have been made to “brighten” the world, I think there’s more to be done.  Maybe a lot more.  I hope the successes you list (and others) can be used to motivate and inform further advances—preferably sooner than later.

Partly why I’m trying to tackle this idea of EVIDENCE-based activism is because that’s the kind of thinking I’m most comfortable with (my training and career are in statistics and research methodology).  I’m not claiming this is the most effective way to approach the general problem; I’m mainly curious to see what comes of this discussion, and it’d be salutary if it helped interested others think about related issues.  I think it could be useful to think like we might if we were doing program evaluation on, say, a large-scale public-health intervention, and tackling like a social scientist might.  This isn’t this particular kind of work I do (i.e., program evaluation), so I’m not an expert, but I think the basic strategy would involve defining some goals in sufficiently concrete ways that we could evaluate empirically the extent they’ve been accomplished, then using well-designed studies (perhaps first on small scales) to evaluate the effectiveness of plausible strategies for achieving those goals.

I’m curious how the successful changes and “retrograde” areas you mentioned would fit into a wish list (without worrying for now about concrete operational definitions).  I won’t put words in your mouth, though.

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Posted: 19 December 2008 10:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I like your point about the problems of thinking in terms of winning and losing; I think it’s better to just take each issue one at a time. Although that’s a purely tactical approach without strategic guidance, I fear that the enunciation of an overarching strategy might well play to the worst fears of the fundamentalists.

As to methods, I believe that the best overall technique available to us is to “come out of the closet”. There was a transitional period during the 60s and 70s where people had to unlearn subtly racist behaviors that they had learned in the 50s. I was brought up in the South, and as soon as I came of age, I immediately embraced the goals of the civil rights movement, but I still found myself with subtle behaviors that I had to make a conscious effort to inhibit. First I stopped laughing politely at racist jokes. Then I learned to frown at racist jokes. Eventually I learned how to voice displeasure at racist jokes without triggering a confrontation. And I learned how to walk out on conversations that included racist undertones after I had made my protest. In each case, this was really a matter of developing the courage to stand up to group norms. But by doing so, I helped to change those norms.

I think we can do much the same with atheism/theism. I see no need to cram my atheism down anybody’s throat, but if somebody tries to rope me into a group activity that endorses religion, I can politely demur but encourage them to continue. “Hey, I don’t want to be a wet blanket; you guys have fun. I’d rather sit this one out.” The difficulty comes when the activity is half-cultural, half religious. This time of year, it’s singing Christmas carols. These are an important part of our tradition, and they do act as social bonds. And what the hell is wrong about singing about Santa Clause, Rudolph, sleigh bells, or yule logs? I have no problem drawing a line at Oh Come All Ye Faithful or Little Drummer Boy (although I have been known to substitute “Ba boobly eye boop” for “pa rumpa pum pum”). But what about “Silent Night”? That is truly a beautiful song. Do I reject beauty that has a religious attachment? Is Michelangelo’s sculpture “Pieta” less beautiful because it’s religious?

Hard questions.

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Posted: 19 December 2008 11:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Just a few quick points for now, Chris (I’d love to read and write posts all day, but that doesn’t put bread on the table):

1. Although it’s tempting (for me, at least) to focus on the religious aspect of advancing brights’ aims, I’d like to keep in mind the perhaps broader aims related to diminishing supernatural belief and improving critical thinking and naturalism.  Religious matters are clearly a huge part of this mix, but I think it might ultimately be more productive to also keep ideas outside of religion in mind (if nothing else, to reduce some potential resistance).

2. I agree there’s a tension between tactics focused on micro-problems and strategies aimed at macro-issues.  (This line of thinking isn’t my forte, as may be painfully clear, but I enjoy learning about it.)  On one hand it seems much more feasible and less daunting to identify very specific phenomena to change and go about tackling it (e.g., convince my mother that most atheists aren’t bad people) than to deal with phenomena on a larger scale (e.g., convince more people to become atheists).  On the other, tackling these smaller problems might be a much less efficient use of resources than aiming somewhat larger; also, it’s conceivable that certain ways of tackling smaller problems might make it more difficult to deal with larger issues.  So, I think it’s useful to start with some idea of the large collection of aims and maybe organize (e.g., classify) them so that while thinking about tactics and strategies these sorts of inefficiencies and conflicts between aims can be minimized (though not avoided entirely).

3. I’m glad you mentioned concerns about an “overarching strategy.”  That kind of bugs me, too, and I’m really not aiming to develop some sort of Grand Plan of Attack.  Mainly I’m hoping to explore some evidence-based approaches people or organizations might use to promote “bright ideas” (BIs); I’m curious what others’ thoughts are about this evidence-based way of thinking as well as about particular aspects of such an approach (e.g., what are some of the aims on people’s wish lists?).  Although I’m not sure how realistic this is—due mainly to my limited time and intellect—one fantasy I have is that out of discussions like this we might develop a collection of ideas that individuals or organizations with more resources could pursue.  For example, suppose there’s a fairly broad consensus that we’d like to see more openly secular individuals in public office; wouldn’t it be great if we could come up with a list of EVIDENCE-BASED suggestions for how individual brights as well as bright-focused organizations could best allocate their resources to achieve this specific aim?  I’m not saying that’d be easy, but if some of these goals really are worthwhile maybe they deserve more time, effort, and SCIENTIFIC backing than we’ve given them to date.

4. As to your “coming out of the closet” (CootC) approach, I like this general idea and would like to explore it more fully in terms of an evidence-based approach.  (Granted, this line of thinking may seem reductionistic or downright naive; nevertheless, I think it’s a good example to work with.)  My general questions are, What empirical evidence is there that a CootC would work? and How might we gather evidence about this?  To answer these questions, I think we’d want come up with some operational definitions of CootC (i.e., what publicly observable behaviors or phenomena count as CootC?) and of what it would mean for CootC to “work” (e.g., what are some publicly observable phenomena that could be unambiguously interpreted as CootC having worked?).  Perhaps it’s useful to think about these operational definitions like this: Suppose we wanted to empirically compare two different strategies for promoting BIs to decide which one is the best use of resources (e.g., for an interested bright-focused organization or when applying to a grant funding agency); if we were going to plan an empirical study to compare these two strategies we’d want to be very specific about what exactly the strategies were and how we were going to compare their effectiveness.  Your specific examples of responses to racist jokes and conversations in social situations are in the direction of operational definitions I have in mind.

5. As for cramming atheism (or other BIs) down anyone’s throat, that’s not what I have in mind (and I don’t think you were suggesting I do).  On the other hand, I’m not entirely content just sitting back and just hoping the situation improves for atheists, secularists, freethinkers, etc.  I agree it can be very difficult to be tolerant of others’ worldviews and traditions but also encourage a shift toward more critical thinking and appreciation for science (since these activities sometimes lead to questioning and abandoning certain worldviews).  That said, I personally think more people would voluntarily move to the Bright Side if the information and resources were available—not by brainwashing or coercion.  That’s why I prefer to think about bright activism in terms of a *public-health intervention* than, say, a culture war: Public-health interventions tend to operate by making evidence-based information and materials available to target groups in compelling ways (e.g., about safe-sex practices, exercise, vaccinations, sunscreen) so people can make their own decisions about how to lead their lives.

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Posted: 19 December 2008 11:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Oh, and to be clear: I really would appreciate any WISH LIST items.  Feel free to just post one or two (or 20) quick ideas, even if they’re interspersed among more verbose posts.  I won’t interpret anyone’s posting such items as a tacit agreement about my general approach.

Thanks.

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Posted: 19 December 2008 11:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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A few thoughts:

1.  I would like to see us work on encouraging the editorial boards of magazines like Time and Newsweek to have journalists on their pay who would target brights, specifically (they have “religion” editors), or at least get equal time and space for brights (to use it as your blanket term) in their magazines.  Ditto for news programs on radio and television for example when Christian Amanpour does a series on “Religious Warriors” maybe she could do something on “Atheist Peacekeepers through the ages.”

2.  Work on following up James Dwyer’s analysis “Religious Schools V. Children’s Rights” to find out exactly how bad the problems that he outlines are, and make recommendations for their alleviation which might involve developing a national standard for the measurement of the quality of home schooling and religious schooling and their regulation.

3.  Run a series of conventions each year which target specific problems of concern to brights - run them like scientific conventions with papers submitted and expert presentations.  Publish the papers and presentations, and use them, and the results of formal meetings at the conventions, to generate further interest and action.

4.  Set up a central organization for brights from all walks of life and all countries, with representation from all brights groups such as CFI and American Atheists (as examples) who would work, from the brights particular point-of-view on global issues such as Global Warming, overpopulation, famine, genocide, the arms race, the dispersing of technology, political models and their effectiveness….......

5.  Collaborate with groups like the PEW Foundation in the development of surveys which target brights and their needs, and which can be used as statistical support for the improvement of the planet by brights and for brights.

6.  The development of a brights’ “political arm” to specifically work on items such as the one you mentioned - getting brights into public office, but also on setting up and maintaining contact with political parties, with political interest groups, and with political campaigns to spread brights political agendas, and to spread the information that we are here to stay, to expand, and to work with them seriously and without derision.


I would be willing to serve on a council/committee/loosely framed group, to begin to work the ideas out and come up with concrete action.

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Posted: 20 December 2008 04:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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PsyStat, I believe your observations are spot on. Failing to use objective social science to advance our goals is inexcusable, yet we do it all the time.

Chris is right in pointing out that we are winning the culture war – sort of. But we’re not building our organizations, which are also starved for money. That’s where we’re losing, and where strategies like Psy’s are needed. I would like to see explicitly Humanist schools and universities, for example. There’s an Ethical Culture school in Manhattan, but beyond that there’s not much that I know of. Chris might observe, correctly, that most of the universities are actually Humanist in orientation, but I think there’s value in having Humanism promoted more explicitly and formally. So I’m on board with Psy’s stated goals.

To execute a Grand Plan of Attack, we need members and money. To make that happen, we need to pay attention to all areas of human concern, especially as they relate to religious organizations (quasi-religious for those who are not comfortable with the R word): Love, community, fellowship, etc. How many humanist/bright/secularist, etc., meetings have you attended where there was a focus on strong community bonds within the group and the apparently dreaded L-word (Love)? We need to pay attention to what makes organizations work. And why shouldn’t we love each other? For me, it’s the most natural thing in the world, and once we start treating each other that way, the community will take notice. It’s just about impossible to call loving people angry, because that’s not what they’re showing. That’s only one aspect of what we need to work on, but it’s very important.

My Grand Plan begins from within. We need a more systematic approach to what we are about. I posted a topic to explore this many months ago, but like all topics here so far it fizzled after a healthy run by this site’s standards. Such an approach must encompass all areas of being human: action, emotion and sensation, as well as intellect. I call these the domains of Being. Here are some values/practices associated with each domain:

Action: Courage, generosity, service
Emotion: Love, empathy, excitement (part of enthusiasm)
Sensation: the arts (music, painting, culinary, etc.)
Thought: Science, reason, understanding and the core human(ist) Truth, which is our common humanity

All the domains except sensation are what I call the ethical domains: through action, guided mainly by thought and emotion, ethics comes about. Many values cut across the ethical domains. For example, wisdom is primarily of the intellect but it reaches into the emotions; enthusiasm is ethically global (thought, emotion and action). I have an entire framework, developed from Calvin Chatlos’ Human Faith model. After a dozen years working with it, I’m completely convinced that it is what we need to do. Once we have a workable system, we can begin to grow our organizations. Then we can make a difference as “we.” That is when more formal strategies will begin to develop and be successful.

For me, “Humanist” is the umbrella term. While I don’t like wrapping discussions around words, the “human” in “Humanist” best expresses our central concerns. It includes reason, science and non-theism, all of which advance the human condition. You can try to convince the community that the word “bright” doesn’t carry an implication that we’re saying we’re smarter than they are, but I think it’s an uphill struggle – but then most of our struggles are uphill.

I’d like to work with you on this, not just a few posts here and then let it die, but long term. I think it is the best way to approach the general problem, and necessary.

(Is your name Adam? I’m Paul.)

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I cannot in good conscience support CFI under the current leadership. I am here in dissent and in support of a Humanism that honors and respects everyone.

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Posted: 20 December 2008 09:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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The theists have one gigantic advantage: organization. Look at how organized the various religions are. They have defined membership; weekly meetings; dues; and paid activists. Indeed, the transformation of the religious right into a powerful political force was accomplished primarily by organizing all the individual local churches into national groups.

So why can’t we do the same? Well, there’s a reason: we don’t have no social glue. The attraction of churches is as a primary social group. All the primary social groups that have succored people through crises in the past have faded in modernity. Only the local church remains. People have a deep hunger for belonging to a group that cares for them. Like a small prey animal in the open, they are fearful and seek cover. An archaeologist once calculated, on some very tenuous grounds, that people seem to have a need for social groups of roughly 150 people. And guess what the size of the typical church congregation is? Once a church gets too big, there’s a need for something smaller (Yes, there are megachurches with hundreds of members, but they’re an oddity, not the rule.)

I therefore believe that atheists will make little progress until they begin organizing into social groups at the community level. That’s going to be quite a challenge; most brights are strongly individualistic. But I think it can be done if the right formula is used. I would suggest that this formula would involve three things: meetings on Sunday, just like churches; openly declared as atheist; and open discussions of difficult moral decisions created by modern times. People are being faced with lots of novel moral problems, and I think that, if there were a place where they could discuss those problems with others, that in itself would be attractive.

Just an idea.

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Posted: 20 December 2008 09:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Chris Crawford - 20 December 2008 09:19 AM

I therefore believe that atheists will make little progress until they begin organizing into social groups at the community level. That’s going to be quite a challenge; most brights are strongly individualistic. But I think it can be done if the right formula is used. I would suggest that this formula would involve three things: meetings on Sunday, just like churches; openly declared as atheist; and open discussions of difficult moral decisions created by modern times. People are being faced with lots of novel moral problems, and I think that, if there were a place where they could discuss those problems with others, that in itself would be attractive.

Just an idea.

Well, to be clear, this is part of what CFI is trying to do with its local centers. But this is a very long term and expensive strategy. OTOH they aren’t (yet?) going for the “meetings on Sunday/openly declared as atheist”-thing, and I hope they never do. That gets too quasi-religious for me, at least. There are already associations that do virtually the same thing, e.g., forms of Unitarianism, Reform Judaism or the NY Society for Ethical Culture. While the first two clearly don’t openly declare themselves as atheist, my understanding is that atheists can attend services there if it interests them.

The downside of rejecting such a strategy, as you note, is that it makes it harder to organize. But I think that’s a cross we’ll have to bear ... wink

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Posted: 20 December 2008 10:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I agree with Chris on the need for organizations that fulfill deep and fundamental social desires. As he suggests, an occasional pot-luck supper won’t do. We need organizations whose members are deeply supportive of each other. The commune goes a bit too far in my opinion, not because it doesn’t work for those who are in it but because it won’t attract many people. I envision tightly-knit Humanist Fellowships.

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Posted: 20 December 2008 02:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I guess my view is much more long term, or you may say, too passive and slow.  I feel the most important thing to do is increase funding for public schools and colleges.  The more education we can expose children to, the less likely they are to accept the drivel and authoritarian stance of religion.  I believe a well-educated public will discard religion without any difficulty, and it will just sink into history.

Occam

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Posted: 20 December 2008 07:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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It strikes me that most of us are already out of any long-term organization - just too old.  Perhaps a good start would be to work at getting as many young people into CFI as we can so that they will expand the work with an eye on the future of the next two generations.  That’s where the action will be.

This could be of some help and some direction: Positive Atheism Gets Positive Write-up [click on the title to get to the article].

[ Edited: 20 December 2008 08:00 PM by Fat Man ]
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Posted: 22 December 2008 10:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Sorry I haven’t contributed to this thread for a few days.  Life intervenes.  smirk 

I’m glad to see constructive reaction to my suggestion to take a more scientific approach to advancing brights’ goals.  (By “my suggestion” I just mean my having begun this particular thread—not that no one’s thought or written about or undertaken such activism before.)  The replies so far give me plenty to contemplate; some folks have clearly put much more thought into relevant issues than I.  Also, I think I should reconsider my initial ideas about how discussion and progress on this topic might proceed.

Although I’d like to respond to each person’s ideas, for now I just have time for three non-specific initial thoughts stimulated by the posts.  I may post more thoughts in a few days after I’ve developed them.

AMBIVALENCE: It’s both exciting and daunting to consider an evidence-based effort to advance brights’ goals.  On one hand, it would be immensely satisfying to use science and rational thought—drawing on the collective wisdom of this and similar freethinking communities—to promote science and rational thought.  For those of us who are convinced a “brighter” world would be substantially better and who are committed to the power of science to inform understanding and decision making, this “science for science” (S4S) approach has considerable appeal.  cheese  On the other hand, to develop a scientifically grounded strategy for large-scale positive social change is a massive undertaking.  Frankly it seems way above my pay grade; I feel utterly dwarfed by the complexity of the issues, the intellectual stature of interested parties, and the scale of the tasks this sort of undertaking would involve.  gulp

OTHERS’ PLAYBOOKS: In my original post I mentioned considering how similar large-scale endeavors have been accomplished—for example, public-health interventions, political campaigns, and religious proselytizing.  I suspect there’s something to be learned from their successes and failures, though it may not constitute rigorous empirical evidence.  Can anyone point me toward resources that describe the planning behind these sorts of undertakings?  Some examples are this CDC Working Group on Program Evaluation and the America Evaluation Association.  Public-health interventions, in particular, seem to parallel what some of us might hope to accomplish, in the sense that we’d like to promote “healthy” behaviors and discourage “unhealthy” ones on a fairly large scale; the behaviors in question might be voting decisions, critical thinking about personal and public issues, etc.  It seems to me that promoting “brightness” encounters similar barriers as some public-health interventions (e.g., handwashing, safe sex, exercising, healthy eating, smoking prevention), insofar as we’d like to see people adopt behaviors or worldviews they may see as aversive—especially if costs are proximal and rewards are distal (e.g., I sacrifice something here and now to benefit others elsewhere eventually).  In fact, I can imagine “meta-interventions” aimed at encouraging brights to become more active in promoting brightness; I know I’m not entirely convinced that activism is worth my time, effort, and other resources.

DO BUT IMPROVE: I’m not suggesting that anyone abandon activism they’re currently pursuing just because it doesn’t have a solid empirical basis.  In most cases it’s probably better to do something, provided it’s reasonable, than to wait (years?) until evidence-based strategies are identified.  This is what’s done, for instance, in areas of medicine where there’s not sufficient rigorous evidence to guide medical practice but medical decisions must be made.  (On that note, some of you may be interested in Archie Cochrane, a [the?] leading figure behind the evidence-based medicine movement, who basically got fed up with how medical decisions were being made; this has spawned similar efforts in the social sciences, like the one named after Don Campbell.)  It might, however, behoove would-be activists to choose and evaluate any actions we take more scientifically, because such an approach might speed and bolster the impact of our individual and collective efforts, especially given our scarce resources.  As an example based on Chris’s earlier remarks in this thread, does coming out as a bright in various ways—which I’ve started doing myself because it seems sensible and “feels good”  grin —actually help the brights’ cause more than it hurts (e.g., alienating friends and family, motivating supers to back their cause more strongly)?  Questions like this are not beyond the grasp of social scientists, despite the bad rap they sometimes get from some who worship the “hard” sciences.

I’ll try to write something more substantive if I can synthesize some of the previous replies; could be awhile, though.

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Posted: 22 December 2008 10:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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PLaClair - 20 December 2008 04:24 AM

My Grand Plan begins from within. We need a more systematic approach to what we are about. I posted a topic to explore this many months ago, but like all topics here so far it fizzled after a healthy run by this site’s standards.

Paul, can you direct me to this topic?  Thanks.

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Adam

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Posted: 23 December 2008 08:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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It seems appropriate to develop a formal study of what is being done by the religious if we are to develop the best atheist activist targets.  I found an article at PBS NOW interesting.  Here is a quote from it:

“While the Religious Right has been increasingly vocal on the political stage, up to this point, there has been no similar religious political movement from the left. In an effort to change this situation, a coalition of moderate and liberal religious leaders have started an organization to mobilize voters in opposition to the policies endorsed by the Christian Right. The new group, named the Clergy Leadership Network, will have no official ties to any political party, but will ‘operate from an expressly religious and expressly partisan point-of-view.’ The CLN seeks to address such issues as economic inequality, American foreign policy in Iraq and other nations, civil rights in the age of increased national security, healthcare reform, and environmental protection.”

The article, “The Christian Left”, (http://www.pbs.org/now/society/faithpolitics.html) offers an overview of ways in which major religious groups have got together and developed their own targets.  For the most part there has been an obviously unplanned learning curve and many lessons have been developed, willy-nilly, without formal analyses.  But there is no reason why we should not develop a formal, planned study of their processes and choices to help make some choices of our own.

Update:  The Clergy Leadership Network is now called the “CLERGY AND LAITY NETWORK”

[ Edited: 23 December 2008 08:52 PM by Fat Man ]
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