Re Doug and Barry fued?
Before I address what Doug last wrote, let me comment on the few comments by Bob, Holy Avenger, and surprising, Jimmy. My postings have always been meant to respond with all due respect to my fellow poster’s ideas and opinions. Also, I do not feel I should be confined to addressing only the positive work of CFI ... CFI and their apostles do that quite well on their own.
As an activist humanist who seeks above all to have humanism accurately promoted to the public, I feel it is my philosophical duty to critique, when appropriate, where I feel organized humanism goes astray. That said, let’s look at my recent posts.
My posts in the ‘What is Humanism’ section deal with how organized humanism promotes humanism itself, and I used the unfortunate unsophistication of CFI/CSH in their misguided response to the Danish Cartoon “controversy” to make my points. I feel all of my comments there were in line with a defense of humanism, and no organization should be off limits to critique ... especially such a large, and potentially influential organization such as CFI. In these posts, and the ones on the recent de-evolution of Free Inquiry Magazine, I am consistent with this duty. I am honest, to the point, passionate, and willing to debate my points.
In this “Human Nature” thread, I reviewed my posts before writing this response, and found this:
In my response to Deb (‘Re Debbie’s questions’), I think I offered a well thought-out analysis in answering her questions, and did so with utmost respect. I know Debbie personally, but I would not act otherwise to any stranger on the forum.
In my first response to Doug (‘Response to Doug; Tue Aug 29, 2006 3:19 pm’), I see no attacks on his person, or CFI. The response was appropriate and short. Subsequently, Doug’s response to me (‘Tue Aug 29, 2006 3:50 pm’), and mine back to him (‘Tue Aug 29, 2006 4:20 pm’) were more of the same - polite and thoughtful.
Doug’s next response was mostly polite too, and the little comments both of us made re Pinker and Dawkins seemed perfectly appropriate to me as they are public intellectuals who put forth powerful ideas which are back by powerful people and groups. Yes, I am confused as to the particular choices of scientists CFI promotes and more baffled by all those they omit - at least when they make their core arguments about humanism - because, it seems to me, that they are looking the wrong way. But I am allowed to say this, am I not? And I am far from being cruel or rude. If anyone things I am, they ought to read most blogs or message boards - especially those about politics and religion! Anyway, Doug ended this particular post with: “Er, haven’t yet heard any non-statist system that would function with 6-10 billion people on this planet ...”
A bit of sarcasm, and a bit odd since, of course, I HAVE heard of such systems and have been arguing on the posts for them for some time now. My return, “Er.. You have not read very much then,” was a bit of my own sarcasm, and like Doug’s, meant to ‘bust chops’ a bit about things both of us are passionate about. I do not see much harm in either of our “Er’s.”
Now, in the post where I offer my “Er”, I have many other comments, all of which seem to be polite and on target. The only one worth calling me out on was when I said, “Your comments about hierarchies and the website I cited are not worth responding to. You are not understanding me ... too much Pinker and Dawkins, I guess .”
I admit this comment, when I looked at it just now, could have been better worded .. even though the smiley faces should have set the proper tone. I was not saying ALL Doug’s ideas or opinions are not worth responding to, because they obviously are as I responded to many of them all over the forums! I was just frustrated with the last few comments he made, because, he REALLY DID NOT seem to be understanding me, and it was not gonna matter if I responded back because I’d just be repeating myself. Doug seemed to be frustrated as well, when in the next post he wrote, “there isn’t really anything that merits reply in what you say.” And of course, I responded, perhaps getting carried away with myself, “most of your posts do not merit responses since they are often off the mark. But I respond anyway because too many folks at CFI are also off the mark!”
Now, re the first sentence, let me apologize for the tone. Clearly Doug and I began as just frustrated with one another, but I took it one step further. I have to admit that I meant what I said in the sense that I DO feel much of Doug’s opinions are off the mark, but since I DO enjoy discussing these opinions with him, I clearly find some merit in most of what he’s said over the last few months. Doug, after all, is not Tibor Machan!
And speaking of Machan, my second sentence should come as no surprise based on my other comments on these forums. I DO think many folks at CFI are missing the point about humanism, and that CFI DOES promote dubious characters which they loudly proclaim to be humanists or enlightened scientists; but as I said before, there should be no reason I should NOT be able to express these views because CFI is a public entity with an ideology that, like ALL ideologies, needs to be questioned to keep it (and its promoters) honest. If CFI claims to be the vanguard on humanism, then humanists all over should be able to challenge CFI if they feel CFI has got something wrong.
As for some of the scientists and others whom CFI promotes, their ideas are certainly up for debate - as are all public intellectuals’ - and thus my saying Pincer’s ideas are dubious at best, and Hitcher’s ideas are malignant and anti-humanistic, is fair play, and their defenders should debate my claims and not act as if I am overstepping polite conversation. Think of me as the Leftist Sam Harris if you will. We need not be polite about what we feel is misinformation.
Otherwise, why have an open forum in the first place?
And trust me, both Doug and I have been very polite - even when we went overboard (which may happen in passionate debate).
And after my one “overboard” comment that most of what he says does not merit responses, Doug came right back at me, thus failing to take the high ground. This is what Doug said:
Doug: I will leave it up to others to decide who is being swayed by political ideology here ... you, me or Pinker. But I would suggest that maybe you ought to broaden your horizons a little away from your narrow political theories, at least when posting. Do you have any opinions on religion, atheism, quack medicine, pseudoscience, or other philosophical issues? Or are you only interested in pushing a certain political program?
I’m a little confused about what you see you are achieving here. You have continually disparaged the CFI, the content of Skeptical Inquirer, Free Inquiry magazine, as well as illustrious CSICOP fellows like E.O. Wilson, Pinker and Dawkins. (And, I’m sure, Dan Dennett, who agrees with much of the same stuff). In their place you put political activists, economic hacks, Kennedy-conspiracy mongers and the like. The anti-Pinker page you link to in your previous message is a sterling example. I am certainly aware that there is much in evolutionary psychology that is questionable and speculative. But Dr. Mezmer? I’m sure you can do better than that.
Why ought I “broaden” my horizons even further when what I talk about already seems to be broader then anything Doug himself is talking about? Humanism is a sociopolitical philosophy which only is relevant to the real world when it DOES consider polity, economics, and larger society. When I write in the ‘Politics and Social Issues’ section or in the ‘What is Humanism’ section, these are just the things which should be discussed. If one wants to talk about secularism or other philosophies or community or biblical criticism, there are other forum sections for them to write in and/or read.
And indeed, my comments in the sections I write are broader than most because, well, how many folks on these forums consider Parecon or anarchism (for instance) as anything but fringe or peripheral to a discussion of humanism? Folks are thinking too narrowly as they mainly focus on classical liberalism and capitalism. Very narrow, indeed.
And as for the paranormal, Alt. medicine or the like, those topics just don’t interest me much. Been there, done that ... time to move on to more important issues.
What do I think I am achieving, Doug asks? What everyone on this forum, I assume, is trying to achieve! Seeking and spreading truth and thinking about and implementing methods to improve human society. Are these not what CSH and CSICOP are all about? If CSH and CSICOP are only about attacking religion, promoting atheism, attacking “quacks,” debunking psychics, and promoting THEIR version of reason and science, then why should they pretend to be about humanism or rationalism or social change? Of course, it can be argued that CSICOP and Skeptical Inquirer may be about truth (and perhaps it sometimes is), and therefore should not be critiqued as being neutral on bettering human society, but surely CSH and CFI as a whole ought to be. No?
And it matters in a bad way not to me, nor should it to anyone, that I critique “CSICOP Fellows” because these people are not JUST CSICOP fellows, and as public intellectuals, they are not immune to critique from anybody. And if CSICOP is part of CFI which is about truth and making a better society, and I find the work of some of these persons - and the blind promotion of their work by CFI - to be wrongheaded, then it is my duty as a humanist and a human being to argue this point. Unless you are saying that the authority of these “fellows,” or of CFI, ought to shield them from outside critique?
And I do not think Dan Dennett’s work is as dubious as Pinkers or Dawkins’ even though I think he often claims to have an answer about this or that (such as Free Will), and never actually explains what this answer is… But that is OK, let him stir up thinking, and we can look elsewhere for further research. And I am not painting Dawkins, Pinker or even Hitchens with a broad stroke, because I enjoy some of what each have to say. Dawkins does make interesting comments about atheism and much of his science is interesting. And Hitchens has written great works about Mother Teresa and Kissinger… That is before, as Stephen Bronner once said, he lost his mind.
Also, to call my cited references ‘political activists’ or ‘economic hacks’ or ‘conspiracy mongers’ is both unfair and inaccurate. Parecon is hardly a hack job, people who think politically are not always activists (and if they were, so what? ... Pinker and Hitchens are political activists even if one hides behind “science” and the other behind fancy words and whit). The Kennedy book I cited is evidence-based and not some Oliver Stone movie. And as for Mesmer, don’t fall into the fallacy of the appeal to the authority trap, or its opposite. I do not know the credentials for Mesmer, but his ideas - which match many of those with real solid credentials like Eldredge, Pigliucci, Fry, DS Wilson, du Waal, etc - should be taken on their own merit. And though I have not read most of his work, the essay I linked to was right on.
You Doug, in turn, should think a bit before you use terms like ‘CSICOP Fellows,’ or ‘brilliant theoreticians’ when you describe your heroes because authority is only legitimate when it is deserved. And many other “experts” in the same fields as Dawkins and Pinker have often critiqued them as well for the same reasons Mesmer and I do, so keep in mind that you may be limiting yourself to only those experts or authorities which agree with your own worldview. I used to like Pinker and Dawkins and Hitchens and other too when I first became involved with CFI and learned about their work, but I have also learned about what CFI does not want to promote.. and found much of that far more convincing (and just as scientific)