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Jerry Coyne - CFI Declares War On Atheist
Posted: 29 September 2010 10:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Michael De Dora - 29 September 2010 09:24 AM

I think placing focus on the issue of official CFI positions versus employee thinking misses an important point. I get the sense that many believe John Shook’s essay—even if written under the guise of speaking freely as an employee—does not fit into CFI’s mission. That is, “Yes, we understand his essay is not an official CFI position statement, but why the hell would CFI employee someone like John Shook?”

For my own part, I think John’s essay and its problems—poor language choice and perhaps a lack of specificity—merited serious, critical discussion. It’s unfortunate that certain aggressive and hyperbolic approaches make that discussion hard to have. My issues with the essay aside, I see two problems with the argument regarding John’s place at CFI.

First, I’m not entirely sure John was working outside or against CFI’s mission with his essay. He did not question the importance of secularism, reason, science, free inquiry, or humanist values. He did not argue against atheism and promote evangelical Christianity. He was arguing against a specific approach atheists take. Certainly atheists out there believe there is little to no use to studying theology and other religious arguments; that much is obvious. Whether or not that approach is harmful or wrong is an issue worth debating. It’s one thing for John to love reading theology; but do all atheists need to do so?

Second, the argument ignores than John has written hundreds of other quality blog posts, organized fantastic conferences, given great talks and lectures, run online courses on humanist thought, and done numerous other things to serve CFI’s functions.

Yeah, fair enough.

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Posted: 29 September 2010 10:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Skepticus -

None of what you describe is disinformation. It’s opinion. It may be crappy bad stupid opinion, you may be entirely right to disagree with it, but that still doesn’t make it disinformation. “Disinformation” is a euphemism for “lie” and you haven’t shown that I lied about anything.

It would be nice if you would simply take that word back. Nobody likes being accused of lying.

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Posted: 29 September 2010 10:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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Michael -

He did not argue against atheism and promote evangelical Christianity. He was arguing against a specific approach atheists take.

He did “argue against atheism” in a way, by doing this common thing of generalizing wildly. You did it yourself. It’s not the case that “atheists” take a specific approach; different atheists take different approaches. In the middle of a torrential backlash against outspoken atheism, it’s important to word arguments of this kind in such a way that they don’t generalize about “atheists” or “new atheists” as opposed to some or a few.

And “John has written hundreds of other quality blog posts” - really? Hundreds?

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Posted: 29 September 2010 10:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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Ophelia Benson - 29 September 2010 10:31 AM

Michael -

He did not argue against atheism and promote evangelical Christianity. He was arguing against a specific approach atheists take.

He did “argue against atheism” in a way, by doing this common thing of generalizing wildly. You did it yourself. It’s not the case that “atheists” take a specific approach; different atheists take different approaches. In the middle of a torrential backlash against outspoken atheism, it’s important to word arguments of this kind in such a way that they don’t generalize about “atheists” or “new atheists” as opposed to some or a few.

And “John has written hundreds of other quality blog posts” - really? Hundreds?

Yes, and I did mention I had problems with his language and lack of specificity. I wish he had been clearer. But I still think there is reason discuss the specific approach he outlines in the essay.

On the second note, I just counted off about 93 posts on the CFI blog alone.

http://www.centerforinquiry.net/blogs/jshook/

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Posted: 29 September 2010 10:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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That being said, don’t forget my larger point with that comment, which was about Shook and the CFI mission.

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Posted: 29 September 2010 11:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Jerry Coyne - CFI Declares War On Atheist

How’s that for a generalization?

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Posted: 29 September 2010 11:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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Michael, sure,  I wasn’t disputing that it’s worth discussing such issues; I was saying it’s not good to join in the backlash against outspoken atheists in the process.

93 posts - which is different from “hundreds.” You say “on the CFI blog alone” - does Shook have another blog? If he does I’m certainly not aware of it, so it’s hard for me to “remember” that he’s done hundreds of good posts when I’ve never known that in the first place.

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Posted: 29 September 2010 11:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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That being said, I’m not forgetting your larger point, I’m partially disputing it. I think it relies partly on some loose or vague claims, and that’s why I’m disputing them.

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Posted: 29 September 2010 11:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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Ophelia Benson - 29 September 2010 11:28 AM

Michael, sure,  I wasn’t disputing that it’s worth discussing such issues; I was saying it’s not good to join in the backlash against outspoken atheists in the process.

93 posts - which is different from “hundreds.” You say “on the CFI blog alone” - does Shook have another blog? If he does I’m certainly not aware of it, so it’s hard for me to “remember” that he’s done hundreds of good posts when I’ve never known that in the first place.

OK, so I overshot the number. It was a rough guess based on a quick look at his archive. To my knowledge he’s only contributed a few blog posts elsewhere (like The Huffington Post). But he has also written for Free Inquiry quite a bit. Allow me to edit my post and you tell me if the point still stands:

Second, the argument (that John’s work at CFI doesn’t fit into the organization’s mission) ignores than John has written 93 blog posts for CFI; contributed essays to Free Inquiry magazine; organized fantastic conferences; given great talks and lectures; run online courses on humanist thought; and done numerous other things to serve CFI’s functions.

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Posted: 29 September 2010 11:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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Ophelia, I’d post this on your blog, but since you’re here: what do you think CFI might do in the future to avoid situations like this?

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Posted: 29 September 2010 11:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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Michael

Hmm. Maybe CFI should just refresh everyone’s memory about the last para on the About page.

Fostering a secular society requires attention to many specific goals, but three goals in particular represent the focus of our activities:

an end to the influence that religion and pseudoscience have on public policy

an end to the privileged position that religion and pseudoscience continue to enjoy in many societies

an end to the stigma attached to being a nonbeliever, whether the nonbeliever describes her/himself as an atheist, agnostic, humanist, freethinker or skeptic.

Emphasis added. Maybe CFI should become more aware that there is a raging backlash against atheism going on, and that the whole point of that is to stigmatize non-closeted nonbelief. Maybe that way people would write more carefully, and thus avoid saying things like what Shook said in his opening paragraph.

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Posted: 29 September 2010 12:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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Seems to me that even 93 posts are sufficient to identify the philosophical make up of an author. If the overwhelming evidence shows that Mr Shook is an avid atheist and seeks to further the cause of rational thinking on the subject of religion, why is it that one single cautionary tale should be considered that he has “declared war on Atheists”.
If the atheist’s motto is reason and critical thinking, the very least one can do is to try and read Mr. Shook’s article in context and with a certain philosophical generosity. Personally, I took the article as an advocacy for greater knowledge and preparedness in debates. Can that ever be bad?
Seems to me that the vehement outcries of war on atheists and demands of dismissal do not reflect attempts at reason and understanding what he was trying to convey.
As far as I can tell, this thing has been blown way out of proportion. But salient points have been made. Now lets wait to see if Mr Shook will clarify and explain the reasons for his unfortunate wording in the article. After all we KNOW he has not converted to theism; why should he (and by extension CFI) be at war with atheism?

[ Edited: 29 September 2010 12:37 PM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 29 September 2010 12:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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Ophelia Benson - 29 September 2010 10:24 AM

None of what you describe is disinformation. It’s opinion. It may be crappy bad stupid opinion, you may be entirely right to disagree with it, but that still doesn’t make it disinformation. “Disinformation” is a euphemism for “lie” and you haven’t shown that I lied about anything.

It would be nice if you would simply take that word back. Nobody likes being accused of lying.

Nonsense. If I wanted to say you were lying - I would have said you were lying. I recently saw your post on claims of “victim”, this is a poor way to show distance from that. You are bordering on lying about my intent.

Your comment to Ronald’s response (see my post #2 & second quote on #4) is what I am primarily referring to as disinformation. Ronald simply states what is not screened by CFI management - he does not mention CFI blogs in that comment - though individuality of opinion is still granted as he points out in another response on Jerry’s blog highlighting the basic disclaimer for CFI blogs - HERE

Your opinion actually states a factual claim: “People just are going to see posts on the CFI blog as representing CFI” - this may well be true, but it still does not detract from what is fact about the policy of blogging on CFI (no matter how many people argue the disclaimer is essentially bogus). It appears obvious it is not a question of post being “totally independent of CFI” - it is a matter of free expression. Seems clear what you are doing is deliberately misrepresenting Ronald’s response to create the appearance that the stance of CFI concerning it’s policy is misguided and wrong because others may see individual statements as representative of CFI.  For all intents and purposes it has the order of propaganda - aligning the comment up with the discussion of the Shook essay and reactions to it to foster apprehension about the integrity of postings at CFI blogs and to instill a level of fear that the policies and expressed opinions will not offer a safeguard against public opinion who see those as damaging (or attempt to take advantage).

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Posted: 29 September 2010 04:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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Skepticus - it’s not nonsense at all. Disinformation is essentially lying - and now you’re actually accusing me of lying. You need to stop doing that. It’s libelous. (It’s also not true - I’m not lying.)

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Posted: 29 September 2010 04:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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Skepticus - 29 September 2010 12:56 PM

Your opinion actually states a factual claim: “People just are going to see posts on the CFI blog as representing CFI” - this may well be true, but it still does not detract f

But it’s clear that people - a whole lot of them - did see Shook’s piece as representing CFI. You can’t just magic that away by saying they “shouldn’t.” And because so very many people did, I really do think it’s wise for CFI and Shook to take a look at that. It might be there’s a reason for it, and that all of us who saw it that way aren’t entirely, obviously unreasonable. I’m not saying this to be scoldy; I think it would help CFI and the disgruntled (I’m one of them) avoid this kind of thing in the future. Some of the reactions to Shook’s piece may have been overblown (though I tend to think not), but the response by CFI staffers and regulars on this forum has been universal defensiveness. Everyone else is nuts for even thinking about the fact that Shook’s piece might be seen as representing CFI. That’s not reasonable on you guys’ part.

[ Edited: 29 September 2010 04:40 PM by Joshua Slocum ]
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