CFI is an excellent counter-weight to the Right-wing Christian dogmatics who tend to dominate so much Popular Consensus in the United States.
My education in Religion was with Jesuits at university, so I have a rather catholic view of such matters, with an appreciation of the valuable role of Religion both socially and individually, but an equally great appreciation of the vast potential for abuse, misuse and tragic misadventure inherent in supernatural morality (or Received Knowledge of any kind). As much as we need Religion we also need organizations like CFI to help keep it as far from the powers of government (or any extra-governmental authority) as at all possible. Human nature dictates there will always be witch hunts, and ‘burning at the stake’, in one form or another….but we should endeavor to keep it to the absolute minimum possible.
As I view it as a fundamentally Leftist political advocacy organization, I find CFI often rather horrifying (and somewhat frightening in a few cases), but valuable in opposition to the interjection of Received knowledge (usually in the form of supernatural religion) into government and hence the imposition of that and its commensural damages upon an otherwise innocent commonwealth. It’s especially useful in countering the popular tendency to credit personally and socially valuable myths with character beyond their reality, i.e. the ‘norm’ in all cultures and times.
I see CFI as precious enough for what it’s ‘against’ to abstain from too much offense at what it’s ‘for’.
This appears to me to be a particularly American view of the world, conflating religious with right and secular with left. I think that’s a bit glib.
Science is neither left nor right, simply an attempt to use the best tools available to us in order to be as correct as possible. Left or right is a reflection of what one does with that information—how it’s weighted and acted upon.
Take, for example, drug policy. Decades of research have shown that criminalization regimes don’t materially affect long term supply or demand. Significant research has also shown that medicalization regimes do materially reduce individual and societal harm from drug use. Those are, as near as we know them, facts.
Someone on the left may decide that in the absence of supply / demand effects, harm reduction is a worthy policy aim—and thus promote decriminalization and investment in treatment programs. Someone on the right may decide that harm reduction is less important than punishing bad behaviour, and thus promote steeper penalties. Both of those policies are supported by the same set of facts—they’re simply different value judgments.
The problem is that (as 30 years of cog psych research as shown us) we don’t usually make decisions that way. What we typically do is decide on a policy approach based on values, then look for evidence that supports it and ignore or attack evidence that contradicts it. In the example above, the right doesn’t like to admit that its focus on justice may come at the expense of compassion, so they double down on supporting facts and attack contravening facts. The left doesn’t like to admit that in order to be more compassionate, some really bad folks will not be punished, so they do the same with “their” facts. At that point, the ad hominems start to fly.
This is why I think the most important activities the CFI is engaged in are the skeptical ones, not the atheist and humanist ones. A respect for science and critical thinking, as well as practiced metacognitition to shield us from cognitive biases, are our best defense against extremism.
Welcome pdenorte. Glad to have you here. Feel free to jump in and join the conversations. It seems to me you have some views that could be interesting, but I agree that the religious are not necessarily right and Seculars are not necessarily left. I know of religious groups who are on the left, rather than the right.
I see CFI as precious enough for what it’s ‘against’ to abstain from too much offense at what it’s ‘for’
I would have to respectfully beg to differ with you on that one. What CFI and a number of other skeptical organizations are for is a rationalist science/evidence based worldview with an eye towards promoting critical thinking as opposed to buying any sort of pig in a poke based on faith alone.
Idealogues of any stripe, left, right, or whatever lable one cares to apply aren’t particularly cozy with that.
Some of the issues that come to be labeled “leftist” are really a joke. Strange that if you believe in Manmade Global Warming (AGW) that you are considered on the left. AGW has nothing to do with politics. Bush invading Iraq didn’t follow the traditional conservative party line of “no nation building.” Nation building was looked at by conservatives before that war as liberal, naive, and idealistic. However, conservatives fell in line and supported his war. Now when people criticize the Iraq war they are considered (by conservatives) as “leftist.”
Pdnorte, your view of CFI is completely wrong. I’m afraid your right wing political and theistic views have poisoned your mind. Humanism is a philosophy that focuses on humans and humanity rather than being outer directed. Secular humanism recognized that much of this outer direction was from religious organizations so tends to work at avoiding their destructive influence.
As far as “left” goes, that not a tenet of the organization, however, many of the members tend to be more liberal politically that the average voter. We do also have a moderate number of politically conservative members as you may discover by reading some of the thread archives.
You say “This appears to me to be a particularly American”. Without digression into the erroneous use the term “American”, when what’s meant is “U.S.”, and errors almost unavoidable given the lack of a good, un-awkward objective for citizens of the United States, as distinct from those of all the other distinct societies in north and south America, just let me say
Yes, it is a “particularly” estadocentric view, entirely. However, at least I did try to use terminology divorcing it from the particularly estadocentric political labels completely divergent from their meaning in the Estados Unidos elsewhere - specifically the term ‘liberal’. Conservative, however, is bit harder to frame. If I could I certainly would.
When politics become ‘scientific’ it’s a good bet that Science will become politicized. I very much see that happening today. We shouldn’t forget that in his farewell address Eisenhower saw fit to warn as much about the government, academic, scientific “complex” as he did the so commonly referenced military industrial one.
I see CFI, regardless its sterling qualities, as very much a part of exactly the kind of combination that Eisenhower was warning of as a serious threat to freedom and the long-term stability of our institutions. But let’s not get too excited about it. Potential problems are cause for deliberate consideration, not running around with our hands in the air screaming “we’ve got to do something…we’ve got to do something!”
Actually there’s no ideology involved in ‘anthropomorphic global warming’, however much politicians on all sides (even those who’s ‘other jobs’ are as ‘scientists’!) impute ideological character to any critique or support for it. When political attachment to a scientific idea becomes such that any questioning of it is viewed as dangerous, even heretical, it’s safe to say we’ve diverged rather far from the true character of Science. This does appear the case with so-called “man made global warming”.
The ideological question isn’t around climate change and its likely sources (yes, it is not a given…just more or less a likelihood…) which are still evolving, even as they’ve firmed up substantially over the past decade or so.
It’s revolves around far more speculative predictions of the future progress, and resulting consequences…a far less reliable matter, and most especially, what (if anything) should be ‘done’, by whom, and in what manner. The first item is highly speculative, as most (perhaps all) catastrophic consequence projections made previously have not materialized. The costs of emergency action to address these, therefore, would have been complete waste. This is not a firm basis to establish credibility for current ‘projections’ & etc. The latter set of issues, is (of course) purely political, and hence, inescapably ideological. Attempting to justify a political position on a scientific argument is one thing, claiming that position IS science….however is another, and ultimately must lead to widespread rejection of entire areas of the scientific view. It is not only an inaccurate progress, but one that must, ultimately, be horrifyingly destructive. If Science is made into an ideological agenda, then I would contend its basis as social organizing principle is doomed, and doomed within our lifetimes, and we’ll all live to see irrationality and superstition supersede Science as the arbiter of the factual basis upon which social decisions (politics and ideology) are made.
I think that’s a rather stiff price for personal righteousness and empowerment.
We should never underestimate the power of the irrational. Trotsky wasn’t it, who said something about superstition and barbarism being limitless…an apt comment on the eve of WWII by a man who saw so contradiction in falsehood, oppression and murder in interests of his own ‘scientific truths’......