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Oh god.

aargh

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A think tank of thought leaders.

It actually says that. They actually call themselves that.

A think tank of thought leaders.

Thought leaders.

They accept the title “thought leaders.”

Comments

  1. otrame says

    That is just…..

    What the hell did they think the reaction would be. Joy? Relief, because we finally have some fucking THOUGHT LEADERS so we won’t have to do all that pesky thinking any more?

    Jesus H. Christ.

  2. Blanche Quizno says

    Perhaps that’s the most appealing photo of Shermer they were able to get O_O

    *LOVE* your group’s reaction, Gem Newman.

    But I’m wondering – since THEY are the “thought leaders”, does that make us “thought followers”? “Unthinking followers”? “Followers who quietly and patiently wait to be told what to think”??

    I’d really like to know how I’m supposed to classify myself :\

  3. says

    They reached out to our local group, and our reaction was something like this.

    They reached out to you? To do what– lead you in thought?

    Which is sort, I guess, like leading people in prayer or in a rousing rendition of 99 Bottles of Beer on the wall– you do it for them, and/or do it really loudly.

  4. says

    So far, most of their thought seems to have been directed towards changing their name. I don’t think this organization has been in existence for a year and it’s already been the Global Secular Council, the Secular Global Institute, and now the Secular Policy Institute.

    Our Fellows* are the heart of the Secular Policy Institute. They are distinguished scientists and scholars who are dedicated to the idea that policymaking should be informed by scientific evidence. They represent the world’s leading thinkers, as gauged by:

    1. Scientific and scholarly standing, measured by research and peer-reviewed journal publications
    2. Peer recognition, measured by reputation and by national and international awards
    3. Standing in their field, measured by membership on journal boards, grant panels, and honorary associations
    4. Institutional affiliation, as measured by institutional rankings by the National Research Council
    5. Highest degrees in their respective fields (e.g., Ph.D., MD, JD)
    6. Prestige and visibility, measured by their number of keynote lectures, book chapters, etc.

    I’m embarrassed for them.

    Their latest news: “Secular Policy Institute at the CPAC: A Right-Minded Think-Tank at the Conservative Political Action Committee.”

    That’s swell.

    *Fellows: 23 men, 7 women.

  5. says

    According to the email, they wanted to to “list [us] as a coalition participant”. In exchange, we would apparently get to “influence our national campaign for secular values”, participate in a “weekly call on national issues”, get “individual attention from our superstar thinkers”. We also pointed out, “Um, when you say ‘national’… we’re in Canada.”

  6. says

    get “individual attention from our superstar thinkers”

    Hilarious.

    We also pointed out, “Um, when you say ‘national’… we’re in Canada.”

    For thought leaders, they do seem consistently confused about the meaning of common terms like “global” and “national.”

  7. yazikus says

    Wow, that is a pretty spectacular PR failure. Does anyone know who is in charge of their social media blurbs? In other words, who in the hell thought that this was a good idea??

  8. says

    Probably the same people who thought it was a good idea last summer? It’s hard to imagine they could have recruited new people who would also think this was a good idea…

  9. yazikus says

    You are right. I just don’t understand how they expect to be taken seriously at the ‘global/national’ level.

  10. newenlightenment says

    I know. Wouldn’t you think they at least would have ditched that photo?? Of Shermer leering into the camera?

    Well the weirdest one in that pic is probably Dawkins, he looks like someone did a terrible taxidermy job on him….

  11. yazikus says

    with his arm over whats-her-name’s shoulder.

    Isn’t that the lobbyist Edwina Rogers, she of the money wrapping paper fame?

  12. PatrickG says

    @SC (#16): The “Our Cause” page is cute, but I love the “Our Mission” page more. :)

    They have one Major Project™:

    Each year the Secular Policy Institute convenes some of the world’s most prestigious scholars and scientists to develop and disseminate compelling resources to influence the world’s decision makers… At the end of the event, secularists organize to visit Congress in number for scheduled meetings with staff

    Apparently, there’s a Congress of World Decision Makers I was unaware of. Way to go, International Thinkers!

    The Other Projects™ are even more hilarious. Particularly this one:

    We build and maintain the world’s most comprehensive list of secular resources – See more at: http://secularpolicyinstitute.net/our-mission/#sthash.5APLZEBk.dpuf

    Apparently, secular resources are limited to books, articles, papers, and surveys. Only the thinky stuff can be a resource!

    I also found it amusing how narrow the resources are. For example, of the 20 books (yeah, you read that right. Twenty is the new “comprehensive” number!) they list as secular resources:
    * 8 are written by Steven Pinker
    * 8 are written by Victor Stenger
    * 2 are written by Stephen Law
    * 1 is written by Lawrence Krauss
    * 1 is written by Thune Cerling

    Again, that’s the “most comprehensive list of secular resources” there is. 20 books by 5 people, with 16 of them by only two authors.

    Comprehensive! Pathetic. Aren’t they the least bit embarrassed to have this publicly viewable?

  13. Forbidden Snowflake says

    Is that Sam Harris? Mr. ‘My fans are being shitheads? What’s it got to do with me?’ calls himself a thought leader now?

  14. yazikus says

    So, didn’t Rand Paul create his own ophthalmology certification board to certify him as an ophthalmologist? How is this really any different?

  15. says

    I was actually confused and thought this was somehow a really old post being brought up as new thanks to them using that same awful photo. Now I’m left wondering if their reaction to all the criticism of their use of “Global” while being mostly white and American or British was to drop the “Global” instead of actually working on being global and diverse. These people are just awful.

    Also worth noting – they have a scrolling portrait gallery that lists all the fellows… And Taslima Nasrin who is conspicuous as being the only one listed without “Fellow” after her name.

  16. yazikus says

    On the “Who We Are” page it is interesting to read each blurb. Some are descriptive like:

    Expert on Technology and National Security

    or

    Poet, Columnist and Novelist

    and then you have some that are just odd, like

    Terrorism and the Middle East

    or

    Scientific History, Pseudoscientific Claims

    You would think they have an editor who is looking out for things like consistency.

  17. says

    I have to admit, I find this morphing organization and its various sites no end of amusement.

    Again, that’s the “most comprehensive list of secular resources” there is. 20 books by 5 people, with 16 of them by only two authors.

    I noticed on that page that one of their “Objectives” was to “Gather the world’s leading secular books, academic papers, demographic studies, and articles and make them available for decision-makers.” I was wondering what that could mean in practice.

  18. says

    There’s a backstory to all this morphing, which I’ve been told but can’t keep straight, because…yawn. Somebody offered a big lump of cash to set up the first incarnation, then all the wheels fell off, then there was some kind of reboot, and – here we are. But it seems to be exactly the same along with a few additions, so…I don’t get it about the reboot. They started over, but nothing is different.

  19. says

    You would think they have an editor who is looking out for things like consistency.

    The whole thing is riddled with errors. From the home page:

    Join the Coalition!

    Free Funding for Your Projects
    Free Muscle with Government
    Free News on Secular Trend
    Dozens of Think Tank Celebrities

    Some of the inconsistency in the site and its message no doubt reflects the continuing incoherence of their goals (other than the constant of self-promotion). But just in general so many paragraphs look oddly cobbled together:

    Partner with the Secular Policy Institute to show our strength to Congress. We support greater separation of church and state, lower prejudice against those who don’t believe in God, and fostering professionalism in how secular groups grow and market themselves. Those are values we can get behind!

  20. John Horstman says

    @otrame #2, Ophelia #3: Right?!?! First though: Man, that’s a lot of White people. Second thought: Of course Shermer has his arm around… I think that’s Edwina Rogers?

    Is this intentional parody or unintentional self-unaware self-parody?

  21. says

    There’s a backstory to all this morphing, which I’ve been told but can’t keep straight, because…yawn. Somebody offered a big lump of cash to set up the first incarnation,

    Ugh, that coy Bella and Stella Foundation business. (I continue to be confused about all of this. I mean, Rogers and Dawkins alone are absurdly rich. I don’t understand why they would need money from outside, secret sources. I’ve always despised the lack of transparency in many atheist-secular-humanist organizations. I can’t trust an organization when I can’t find out who’s funding it, even if it doesn’t look – as this does – like an ineptly run vanity project.)

    then all the wheels fell off, then there was some kind of reboot, and – here we are. But it seems to be exactly the same along with a few additions, so…I don’t get it about the reboot. They started over, but nothing is different.

    Yes, it’s exactly the same.

  22. themann1086 says

    Rogers and Dawkins alone are absurdly rich. I don’t understand why they would need money from outside, secret sources.

    To paraphrase my friend’s dad, rich people don’t get rich by spending their own money; they get rich convincing other people to spend their money.

  23. Jenora Feuer says

    To paraphrase my friend’s dad, rich people don’t get rich by spending their own money; they get rich convincing other people to spend their money.

    Yep, OPM: Other People’s Money. And that abbreviation is very deliberate: to some folks, OPM is just as addictive as opium…

  24. carlie says

    I forget if there was someone who was in it and dropped out, but there’s definitely an extra shoulder on the far left of the picture that they didn’t photoshop out.

  25. Al Dente says

    I’m surprised they don’t have the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz movie as a fellow. He’s got a ThD degree. That’s Doctor of Thinkology, which should make him a thought leader.

  26. Al Dente says

    carlie @41

    That’s Bill Nye, who posed for the picture but then dropped out of the thought leadership.

  27. says

    Atheists: Atheism has no leaders

    Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins: Declare themselves to be thought leaders.

    (P.S. Anybody else notice they are all white?)

  28. says

    I’m laughing at the bio of Policy Director Madeline Schussel:

    …Recently, compelled by the secular movement, she contributed heavily to the design and development of the SGI, a think-tank lobbying for Church/State issues….

    SGI is the prior name of this organization. To which she was “compelled” (gasp!) by the secular movement to contribute.

  29. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    (a) I can’t believe I haven’t noticed before now that Sam Harris is trying out Zoolander’s “Blue Steel” look in that picture.

    (b) Maybe if they need yet another new name, they should try Global Oblivious-to-the-image-this-gives-off Council.

  30. says

    (a) I can’t believe I haven’t noticed before now that Sam Harris is trying out Zoolander’s “Blue Steel” look in that picture.

    Ha! That’s exactly it. I was thinking like David Copperfield, then New Age guru. But you’ve got it.

  31. Donnie says

    My turn to pile onto the dreck of “Thought Leaders”.

    Did anyone else notice the followed by Atheist Ireland. When I saw that, my first impression was, “The Nuge (Ireland)” really wants to be part of the Thought Leaders”. I am thinking that The Nuge (Ireland) is like, “Hey, I am a white male. I do thinky thoughty things. I have harangued the unbearable SJW PZ Myers. Why don’t you let me in your thinky thoughty club! Pick me! Pick me!”

    So, essentially, the Secular Policy Institute doesn’t actually do anything for secularism – just thinky thoughty things? The new marketing slogan for SPI. “We think deep thoughts. You do the work!”

  32. Donnie says

    @Ophelia : I want to apologize for referring to Michael Nugent as “The Nuge (Ireland)”. I was working on baking my morning bread, and reflecting. Using school yard naming tactics is the stuff that Abbie Smith does, and provides no useful critique of the cluelessness of the Secular Policy Institute. I stand by my criticism, but using sophomoric taunts via a person’s name is not appropriate or helpful.

    I apologize to the readers of your Blog as well for lowering the conversation.

  33. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    Donnie @51: You’re not the only one who had that thought, I was just unable to put it into words. 😉

  34. Trebuchet says

    There’s a backstory to all this morphing, which I’ve been told but can’t keep straight, because…yawn. Somebody offered a big lump of cash to set up the first incarnation, then all the wheels fell off, then there was some kind of reboot, and – here we are. But it seems to be exactly the same along with a few additions, so…I don’t get it about the reboot. They started over, but nothing is different.

    OK, that explains the feeling of deja vu I got when I saw this. I’d have sworn I saw this on PZ’s blog a couple of years ago. Most likely I did. Nothing has changed, including the picture.

  35. Lady Mondegreen says

    …there was some kind of reboot, and – here we are. But it seems to be exactly the same along with a few additions, so…I don’t get it about the reboot. They started over, but nothing is different.

    They were the Global Secular Council. Now they’re the Secular Policy Institute. What do you want, egg in your beer?

  36. yazikus says

    Well, if they keep changing the name we’ll still know it is them by their use of the terrible title of ‘thought leaders’ for their fellows. Pretty sure no one else does that.

  37. Lady Mondegreen says

    we’ll still know it is them by their use of the terrible title of ‘thought leaders’ for their fellows

    Don’t give them any ideas, yazikus. Next thing we know, they’ll be calling them Intellectual Innovators.

  38. says

    If this is supposed to be some sort of lobby group, doesn’t CFI-US already do that, and equivalent groups elsewhere? Just what value is this thrice-rebooted (by my count) bunch supposed to add?

    The term “thought leader” (which shows up in all sorts of contexts) seems to mean someone who has said or written something influential. That’s reasonable enough, as a phenomenon — after all, isn’t that what we’re all doing here, in our own small way? But promoting oneself as a “thought leader”, especially in a freethought movement, seems just a bit, um, presumptuous.

  39. says

    Yes, CFI and other groups do already do that. Yes, this does look like a completely pointless duplication of effort. Yes, these are the wrong people to choose to lobby Congress and the like.

  40. says

    Isn’t Edwina Rogers the Republican who took over the Secular Coalition of/for America and said atheists need to show more respect for Republicans?

    In any case, what a jucking foke.

  41. Dave Ricks says

    I can’t believe I haven’t noticed before now that Sam Harris is trying out Zoolander’s “Blue Steel” look in that picture.

    Le Tigre’s a lot softer. It’s a little bit more of a catalog look. I use it for footwear sometimes.”

  42. says

    Oh, here’s another delightful bit about Edwina Rogers:

    Ed and Edwina Rogers, the Republican couple who threw twenty years of marriage down the drain over things like not telling each other their whereabouts and, allegedly, having affairs, have now listed their McLean palatial digs for $8.5M. This is the same house where Edwina proudly demonstrated how she wrapped presents in dollar bills while preparing for one of the many events the couple is said to have hosted at the “Republican Shangri-La”. The five bed, eleven bath takes up 15,300 square feet on over four acres of precious McLean land, most of which is devoted to a putting green. But the owners did leave some space for a pool and guest house.

    That was from March 2012. And SCA still thought she’s be a good leader? I guess she had everyone beat in the “materialism” department…

  43. says

    They’re still pestering our group to join. The group’s organizer finally got fed up and said that we wouldn’t, because a lot of these guys were “gross”. That prompted this response from them:

    Gross thoughts? I don’t understand.

    Is there anyone else in your group I could speak with?

    I’ll put it this way. In the last month I’ve traded more than 400 emails with group leaders.

    They don’t normally have this much unexplained anger.

    I mean, come on, really. How can you be a serious person and have so much hate for all three luminaries? Keep it to one, please!

    I’d had enough at this point, so I had to chime in again:

    Hey, you can talk to me, if you want. I founded the Winnipeg Skeptics five years ago.

    While I would have perhaps phrased things a little more diplomatically, I’m certainly no more interested in having the Winnipeg Skeptics associated with Dawkins, Harris, or (especially) Shermer than Ashlyn is. Given what they’ve said recently, and the reaction that we’ve seen in some quarters of the various secular communities, you can’t possibly be naïve enough to be surprised when some people don’t respond positively to your “luminaries”.

    As I said, you can talk to me, but you probably don’t want to. I may have started the group, but Ashlyn is the group’s organizer and leader, so talking to me won’t get you anywhere.

    You should also probably learn to take “no” for an answer.

    This apparently annoyed them a little, because they fired back:

    Hi Gem,

    I already marked you as a no.

    You are a smart, evidence-based person, right? So I have to tell you that you have your facts wrong.

    You are the one who is naïve. From the thousands of groups that I have reached out to, and have traded email personally with about 400 of them, yours seems to be the only one shaking with loathing about the academics who have done so much for the secular movement.

    Perhaps you’ve fallen victim to groupthink, the idea that your tiny community of friends represents the viewpoint of the world. No one’s going to take you seriously with that attitude.

    The fact is, if you are open to facts, that Richard Dawkins personally has more Facebook followers than the whole secular movement put together, and while some people have their concerns, we generally love him. You are the one in the minority.

    Hey, facts are facts, I guess.

  44. says

    Urgh.

    They’re still doing that awful smarmy fan-mag way of talking – “luminaries”??? Who does that, apart from unsubtle advertisers and PR people?

    Also the truth=popularity routine. Dawkins is popular therefore we may not evaluate him, we may only worship and fawn.

  45. tonyinbatavia says

    Gem Newman @66, I am fond of the part where this person speculates that you have fallen victim to groupthink only to then cite 400 other folks they have corresponded with and Dawkins’ massive popularity. Who has fallen victim to groupthink, again?

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