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Jerry Coyne - CFI Declares War On Atheist
Posted: 30 September 2010 08:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 46 ]
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Joshua Slocum - 30 September 2010 08:26 AM

You’re completely unable to see the difference between Enemies Waiting to Pounce, and reasonable people (many of whom are supporters) who are legitimately pissed off at Shook’s actions and do think CFI has some responsibility for distancing itself from them and preventing this kind of spill-over in the future. Skepticus - what’s your problem? Why are you unable to simply disagree? Why do construct boogeymen with nefarious motives when a simpler explanation (and one less fraught) would do?

When was CFI supposed to distance itself from Shook’s Huffpo essay? How should they be responsible, what actions should they take in the future? Are you saying some weren’t ready to “pounce” in a way? The title of this thread is from Coyne’s blog post, also read the comments from it I outlined later - plus what is the deal with CFI blogs coming into it Joshua?

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Posted: 30 September 2010 08:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 47 ]
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The other thing that bothers me about your comments Joshua is that I’ve attempted to keep this thread about a certain type of argumentation. To see my legitimate concern over Shook’s essay see my comment #13.

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Posted: 30 September 2010 08:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 48 ]
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Skepticus - 30 September 2010 08:42 AM

When was CFI supposed to distance itself from Shook’s Huffpo essay? How should they be responsible, what actions should they take in the future? Are you saying some weren’t ready to “pounce” in a way? The title of this thread is from Coyne’s blog post, also read the comments from it I outlined later - plus what is the deal with CFI blogs coming into it Joshua?

Skepticus, I answered many of your questions already, and, in another post in this thread to De Dora, I made some suggestions about what I think would be a responsible way of dealing with this in the future. Your unnecessarily aggressive attitude is making me want to pounce on you - can you please chill out and consider that those who disagree with you might not be monsters? Jesus.

If anyone was ready to pounce, it’s because many of us feel (justifiedly) besieged for our outspoken atheism. If anyone was ready to pounce, it was not an ingrained disposition to pounce at CFI. Rather, it was shock at the perception (whether you agree with it or not) that an ALLY, CFI, had joined in the atheist-hounding.

If you’re not willing to even acknowledge that this might be legitimate, whether you agree or not, stop talking to me and go pick a fight with someone else.

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Posted: 30 September 2010 09:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 49 ]
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Joshua Slocum - 30 September 2010 08:29 AM

1. CFI employees don’t write articles in mainstream venues that inaccurately characterize a wide swath of their own constituency.

2. CFI employees take a modicum of care to ensure that, when debating topics of legit. interest to the skeptical/atheist/CFI community, they don’t feed into and perpetuate vicious stereotypes that have been hindering the ability of outspoken atheists to have a place at the conversational table.

3. CFI and its employees have a discussion about how to balance editorial freedom with CFI’s stated goal of ending the stigma associated with being an atheist or agnostic?

I’ll be glad to discuss these.

1 (and parts of 2). This of course is incumbent upon the employee. This obviously can be a matter of opinion and also can incorporate how certain people within the constituency view a persons opinion. It is basically the idea a “majority” (even if they are not affiliated with CFI in any way) rules by how certain people believe they are portrayed by the opinions of someone affiliated with CFI. If a piece criticizes the skeptical movement - or as I have seen several times in the past few years that the past way of doing things have “failed”, it has been a “failure” (this of course would include all standing organizations and advocacy approaches) - or the countless pieces I have read by people affiliated with CFI who have openly criticized CFI (including within the domains of CFI) - they should reconsider. Of course, those that wish to openly criticize by this undefined standard would fine themselves perhaps going elsewhere since “inaccurately” may be just how the management of CFI feels at the time.

2. This is also employee based. Again, basically a matter of opinion that is fostered by Shook’s essay. If someone actually does see a problem, or outlining potential problems they see within the said communities they should take care not to potentially say something that mirrors anyway the opponents of said communities.

3. Again, this is basically about Shook’s essay - unless of course you are referring to anything else?

What these add up to really - unless you are in charge I guess - is an attempt to mussel opinion based on the potential reactions of those within the community and since we are not dealing with objective standards here there will be a lot of “calling it” and thus we begin down the road of potentially stifling opinion to fit the “majority” of management of CFI or most ardent critics of opinion.

[ Edited: 30 September 2010 09:23 AM by Skepticus ]
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Posted: 30 September 2010 09:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 50 ]
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Skepticus - 30 September 2010 09:15 AM

What these add up to really - unless you are in charge I guess - is an attempt to mussel opinion based on the potential reactions of those within the community and since we are not dealing with objective standards here there will be a lot of “calling it” and thus we begin down the road of potentially stifling opinion to fit the “majority” of management of CFI or most ardent critics of opinion.

This is just baffling. Do you not understand that ALL organizations that have a state mission require at least SOME adherence to that mission? That their employees aren’t allowed (and this is a legitimate prohibition) to do things that undermine the mission or the constituency? Would it be “potentially stifling opinions” if the ACLU had (which it likely does) a policy barring employees from writing public op-eds denigrating free speech protestors?

How is this not blindingly obvious? Why do you find this so unusual? Organizations don’t run on anarchist principles unless they’re anarchist organizations. And even anarchist organizations wouldn’t let their employees work toward shoring up capitalists regimes.

What are you missing?

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Posted: 30 September 2010 10:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 51 ]
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Joshua Slocum - 30 September 2010 09:54 AM

This is just baffling. Do you not understand that ALL organizations that have a state mission require at least SOME adherence to that mission? That their employees aren’t allowed (and this is a legitimate prohibition) to do things that undermine the mission or the constituency? Would it be “potentially stifling opinions” if the ACLU had (which it likely does) a policy barring employees from writing public op-eds denigrating free speech protestors?

How is this not blindingly obvious? Why do you find this so unusual? Organizations don’t run on anarchist principles unless they’re anarchist organizations. And even anarchist organizations wouldn’t let their employees work toward shoring up capitalists regimes.

What are you missing?

Ugh. What I wrote follows from my reactions to your suggestions. Again, unless there’s something else you wish to bring into this (perhaps the CFI blogs that Ophelia pulled in) then your suggestions are a reaction to Shook’s essay. For example, I have heard several times that the past efforts of the skeptical/atheist etc. communities have been a failure, this of course not only says opinions and approaches have been wrong (obviously as I stated this includes all standing organizations), but also that a potential minority would have shared this opinion. Would we not allow this opinion that it’s been a failure to move forward, even if it states that change needs to be made and possibly could be viewed as an inaccurate assessment?

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Posted: 30 September 2010 10:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 52 ]
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Skepticus - 30 September 2010 10:07 AM

Ugh. What I wrote follows from my reactions to your suggestions. Again, unless there’s something else you wish to bring into this (perhaps the CFI blogs that Ophelia pulled in) then your suggestions are a reaction to Shook’s essay. For example, I have heard several times that the past efforts of the skeptical/atheist etc. communities have been a failure, this of course not only says opinions and approaches have been wrong (obviously as I stated this includes all standing organizations), but also that a potential minority would have shared this opinion. Would we not allow this opinion that it’s been a failure to move forward, even if it states that change needs to be made and possibly could be viewed as an inaccurate assessment?

I literally don’t understand what you’re saying - I think we’re actually talking past each other. I don’t mean that to sound snarky, but it’s like one one of us says “I like butter rather than margarine, how about you,” and the other replies “Al Gore was on the news this morning, and he said. . .”

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Posted: 30 September 2010 10:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 53 ]
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“Do you not understand that ALL organizations that have a state mission require at least SOME adherence to that mission?”(Joshua Slocum)

In regards to CFI’s mission, John Shook has “SOME adherence to that mission”.  Pretty clearly.

[ Edited: 30 September 2010 10:27 AM by qutsemnie ]
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Posted: 30 September 2010 12:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 54 ]
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qutsemnie - 30 September 2010 10:24 AM

“Do you not understand that ALL organizations that have a state mission require at least SOME adherence to that mission?”(Joshua Slocum)

In regards to CFI’s mission, John Shook has “SOME adherence to that mission”.  Pretty clearly.

Yeah, I really don’t understand some of this. Take for instance the continuously bringing up the mission statement saying:

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

I would assume we could apply this evenly. Are terms that I’m seeing so much connected to comments about Shook’s essay like “faitheist”, “accomodationist”, “appeasers” - an attempt to stigmatize certain unbelievers (or seen as truth statements - however, where ever I see it is obviously used in a pejorative sense, intensely so in some cases)? I think the rebuttal would entail the argument that Shook was broad brushing to much and incorporated ideas that may appear from those that disparage atheism. However, we do get back to what is being asked for with allowable content, who decides on the content (including in all venues) and where is the line for what can be said about what number of unbelievers.

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Posted: 30 September 2010 12:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 55 ]
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Michael,


You forgot:

4. CFI employees and other atheist/secular intellectuals could engage in vigorous but civil debate without charicaturing each other, personalizing issues, or behaving like children when criticizing or being criticized by others.

Guess that’s too much to hope for, though. If the level of debate evident in this thread is representative of our ability as a community to embody Enlightenment values and disagree rationally and dispassionately, then the chances our public advocacy efforts will benefit society just went from low to nil.

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Posted: 30 September 2010 12:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 56 ]
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mckenzievmd - 30 September 2010 12:09 PM

Michael,


You forgot:

4. CFI employees and other atheist/secular intellectuals could engage in vigorous but civil debate without charicaturing each other, personalizing issues, or behaving like children when criticizing or being criticized by others.

Guess that’s too much to hope for, though. If the level of debate evident in this thread is representative of our ability as a community to embody Enlightenment values and disagree rationally and dispassionately, then the chances our public advocacy efforts will benefit society just went from low to nil.

I’m not saying I liked John Shook’s essay. I stated that earlier in the thread. I am saying that we ought to focus on the merits of his essay, not CFI policy. As I do not see the essay completely putting John at odds with CFI’s mission—especially given that it seems to have been misunderstood—he should be able to publish that essay, and we ought to critically examine it.

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Posted: 30 September 2010 12:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 57 ]
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Joshua Slocum - 29 September 2010 04:36 PM
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.

I didn’t respond to this completely, perhaps I didn’t fill in my missing quote which ends: “from what is fact about the policy of blogging on CFI”

You see, Joshua, the “factual claim” does not make it true that post on CFI blogs are “representing CFI” - obviously this goes for Shook’s essay at Huffpo, it was Ophelia Benson that brought in CFI blogs.

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Posted: 30 September 2010 12:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 58 ]
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qutsemnie - 30 September 2010 10:24 AM

“Do you not understand that ALL organizations that have a state mission require at least SOME adherence to that mission?”(Joshua Slocum)

In regards to CFI’s mission, John Shook has “SOME adherence to that mission”.  Pretty clearly.

Some? More like “a lot.” As I wrote earlier in the thread ...

... 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: 30 September 2010 12:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 59 ]
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Michael,

I wasn’t really commenting on Shook’s essay per se or the issue of his association with CFI. I was simply struck by the fact that the quality of the debate among some of the most prominent atheist/secular advocates, including CFI employees as well as others, seems lower than I would expect or hope for. And in particular, the subject of how aggressive we ought to be in our rhetoric and our atheism seems to be elicit the kind of heated personal exchanges I would expect from militant theists arguing points of dogma and scripture. The very issue of how CFI’s “official” position is seen by the public when employees air their personal opinion is bboth connected with and obscured by the issue of the low caliber of the debate, as much of this thread illustrates.

Sorry if I was unclear; I was merely taking you list as a jumping off point for the comment I felt moved to make on the bickering itself more than the underlying subject matter.

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Posted: 30 September 2010 05:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 60 ]
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Joshua Slocum - 30 September 2010 08:29 AM
Michael De Dora - 30 September 2010 08:13 AM

Some potential solutions:

1. CFI employees can continue to write and speak in public, but they must not refer to their CFI employment when doing so (if asked about it, DENY DENY DENY).
2. Or, CFI employees can continue to write and speak in public, but the first sentence out of their mouth, or the lede, must be “My ensuing statements in no way reflect those of the Center for Inquiry” (then let’s just hope media outlets don’t cut that sentence).
3. Or, CFI muzzles its employees and no longer allows them to write and speak in public (hey, we never liked media attention to begin with).

Oh grow up Michael.

How about these:

1. CFI employees don’t write articles in mainstream venues that inaccurately characterize a wide swath of their own constituency.

2. CFI employees take a modicum of care to ensure that, when debating topics of legit. interest to the skeptical/atheist/CFI community, they don’t feed into and perpetuate vicious stereotypes that have been hindering the ability of outspoken atheists to have a place at the conversational table.

3. CFI and its employees have a discussion about how to balance editorial freedom with CFI’s stated goal of ending the stigma associated with being an atheist or agnostic?

This is NOT an unreasonable position. What the blazing hell is so outrageous about it to all of you that you can’t respond except to defend the indefensible, and treat the rest of us like we were insane? Seriously?

This arrow points both ways.
No one disputes the stated goals of CFI except for this: “CFI declares war on atheists”
Mr Shooks article did NOT declare war on atheists. It’s sin was that it was poorly worded. This declaration of CFI having declared war on atheism is patently and demonstrably false, but it did influence many to go even further in demands for dismissal of Mr Shook and pledges of resignation from an organization which is wholly devoted to fostering reason and adherence to facts.

Fact: Mr Shook’s article was ambiguous.  True.
Response: An interpretation that CFI was at “war” with atheism. False.

Fact: Mr Shook has been a long standing defender of the principles of Free Thought and debunking theist falsehoods.  True.
Fact: Mr Shook’s article was ambiguous.  True.
Response: The only solution; dismiss Mr Shook from CFI on threat and promise of resignation.  False.

I believe that there has been overreaction and overreaching by both sides on this SINGLE issue only (lest we forget), as how to resolve a basically internal controversy.
We can do better than that.

[ Edited: 30 September 2010 06:34 PM by Write4U ]
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