Those sleazy, lying Harvard Humanists


It’s been flabbergasting to see kooks jumping all over Richard Dawkins, all claiming that Dawkins is softening in his views (do follow that link to Paula Kirby’s article, it is most excellent), when he’s actually just saying the same thing he’s always said.

Now I’m experiencing a similar discombobulation. Last week I had a discussion with Greg Epstein on the radio, in which I said all the same things I’ve always said about religion. The question was “How should atheists talk about religion?”, and here’s a summary of the main points I tried to get across:

The answer is obvious: any and every way they want to. There is no dogma here, so there is no “should”: let a thousand voices roar. So we can have angry atheists and conciliatory atheists, and since there is no central authority, no pope of atheism, no one can say that one or the other is “wrong”. So, ultimately, there can be no disagreement between Greg and I except to acknowledge that we belong to different schools of thought on tactics and priorities.

Those differences, though, don’t mean I get to tell him how to manage his humanism or vice versa. Most of the strain between atheist communities comes from a perception that someone is disparaging our way: we more militant atheists get a lot of flak from the milquetoast atheists that we’re wrong, we’re driving believers away, we’re too obnoxious, that sort of thing…and it works both ways of course: we do things like call milquetoast atheists milquetoast atheists, and have little patience for soft and fluffy approaches.

But I think the final answer has to be that we need all approaches. I wrote something today that pointed that out: that what I favor is the combined arms approach to changing culture, and where I personally might favor the artillery for the biggest bangs, I know we need engineers now and then to repair and rebuild.

But here’s a central issue of contention: FAITH. No one word personifies the absolute worst and most wicked properties of religion better than that. Faith is mind-rot. It’s the poison that destroys critical thinking, undermines evidence, and leads people into lives dedicated to absurdity. It’s a parasite regarded as a virtue. I speak as a representative of the scientific faction of atheism: it’s one thing we simply cannot compromise on. Faith is wrong.

So then we see this one subgroup of atheists and humanists cheerfully endorsing the umbrella of “interfaith” and it drives us into a rage: it’s a betrayal. It’s an abandonment of a core principle of our atheism. We wonder what the heck is wrong with these people — it’s like being a dedicated pacifist and seeing like-minded war haters working with the Pentagon and saying good things about military drones.

I know the usual arguments: there are good religious people doing good work, and it’s a way to join in to those causes as secularists. And it’s true, there is no denying that there are good religious people…but they are laboring under a delusion, this nonsense of faith, and it’s pandering to the bad in order to do good. I can’t do that, and I won’t do that, `and I’ll confess, it annoys me to see atheists doing that. If they are religious people doing good work in the real world, then do it as a secular effort…don’t give the most foolish part of the endeavor credibility by calling it “interfaith”.

So today I got an email from the Harvard Humanists. You wanna see dishonest spin? I’m gonna show you dishonest spin.

Speaking of Humanists and tradition, Greg recently debated biologist PZ Myers, one of the most popular science/atheist bloggers, on the topic of “How should the atheist movement talk about religion?” Myers has at times been a fierce critic of Humanist community work but in this forceful showing, Greg won some major concessions as the two found a surprising degree of common ground. Check out the debate on our website here.

Epstein ignored everything I said and just sailed on over me. And now he’s going to claim he won some major concessions”? Was he even listening to what I said?

I think what he really meant to say in that email was that he learned that his caricature of the New Atheist position was false, so he did manage to hear some things we’ve always been saying this time. Unfortunately, now he’s trying to turn his blithe ignorance our position into a triumph, and selectively turning a blind eye to our differences.

This press release sounds like something from the Discovery Institute. It’s a completely dishonest representation of the discussion. We have not reconciled. And their freakishly fraudulent spin makes me trust them even less.

Comments

  1. iknklast says

    I’m not surprised that Epstein sailed over what you said. When I asked him a question at ReasonFest, he sailed right over my question – or actually, reinterpreted it as though I was asking for his validation of my experience, that I could count my own experience as legitimate. I would never bother with such a thing, because I do not need his validation to know that my position is legitimate, and that my experiences are real. He chose to reinterpret my question the way he wanted it to be, so he didn’t have to actually answer what I really asked. Probably because he had no answer for the question of what essentially boiled down to why an Ivy League chaplain who grew up in a totally different world than most of us live in gets to explain to us what the beliefs of those around us really are? Especially when those around us are so willing to explain their beliefs themselves, and most would be quite surprised to find out that when they think about God (though most of them would say Jesus, so he even got that wrong), they really aren’t thinking about God at all, but merely about community and togetherness with their friends. This he can’t answer, because the only appropriate answer is “I made a lot of arrogant assumptions and laid them on you, and I was wrong”. He can’t, and won’t, say that.

  2. lzrd says

    These people make the same – frankly unforgivable – mistake as creationist zealots of not understanding and not wanting to understand other people’s positions. I just simply can’t consider such people respectable.

  3. says

    I suspect he’s confused about what this means:

    The answer is obvious: any and every way they want to. There is no dogma here, so there is no “should”: let a thousand voices roar. So we can have angry atheists and conciliatory atheists, and since there is no central authority, no pope of atheism, no one can say that one or the other is “wrong”.

    I suspect he thinks that this is somehow a concession that the accommodationists are not wrong to bash gnus; that it’s not wrong to support an organization when it’s being anti-gay; etc (i.e. the sort of shit the accommodationists and “humanists” get criticized for by the gnus)

  4. grahammartinroyle says

    PZ, you’ve gone all fluffy and cuddly at last! Well, looking at your photo, it was only to be expected, you are a fluffly, cuddly looking person.

    Seriously, I get fed up with people that can’t be bothered to listen to what others say or read what others write.

  5. says

    It can be infuriating when people just hear what they want to hear. I guess all you can do is keep saying the same thing and hope eventually it gets through. As you said at the end.

    I think what he really meant to say in that email was that he learned that his caricature of the New Atheist position was false, so he did manage to hear some things we’ve always been saying this time.

  6. ikesolem says

    It’s always worth remembering, at such times, that the word “propaganda” devolved from the name of a Catholic society “For the Propagation of the Faith.”

    So if that press release reads like self-serving propaganda…

  7. deeneely says

    It drives me crazy that even some atheist have bought into the atheism is just a faith like any other. I have absolutely no desire to be a member of an interfaith anything. Sometimes you can go too far in trying to get along with people.

  8. David Marjanović says

    Off topic: Jadehawk, please read your last few e-mails and respond.

    It’s always worth remembering, at such times, that the word “propaganda” devolved from the name of a Catholic society “For the Propagation of the Faith.”

    More precisely from a book, De propaganda fide, “about the faith which is to be propagated”.

  9. David Marjanović says

    I’m sorry. I was getting quite anxious.

    I think you’ll like what I’m talking about, but I’ll shut up now.

  10. says

    This just got added to my list of favorite quotes.

    FAITH. No one word personifies the absolute worst and most wicked properties of religion better than that. Faith is mind-rot. It’s the poison that destroys critical thinking, undermines evidence, and leads people into lives dedicated to absurdity. It’s a parasite regarded as a virtue.

  11. consciousness razor says

    Greg and PZ finished by singing a duet of “It’s a small world after all,” then hugged.

    What? No Kumbaya?

    That was at the drum circle, which is traditionally held at the beginning … for seven hours.

  12. Brownian says

    My understanding is that they’re all such very nice people, so don’t sweat the strawmen and the misrepresentation.

  13. Sastra says

    Well, it works both ways, doesn’t it? The Humanist community at Harvard has often been very critical of the gnu atheists, but my understanding is that the force of PZ Myers’ arguments in that radio debate with Greg Epstein got Greg to back down over his opposition to evolution, admit that there’s a lot to be said for the scientific approach, and concede that atheists can find a lot of value in coming together on the issues that matter to them. He even disclosed that he personally doesn’t believe in God!

    So you see there CAN be progress — if both sides just take the time to properly understand where the other side is coming from in the first place.

  14. says

    From their “about” page:

    Imagine an American Humanism known for overflowing Humanist community centers: each one filled with people of every background, bound together by a common set of Humanistic values, inspired by art, music and nature, performing acts of social service, raising Humanist families, and thinking locally and globally about how to build a more reasonable and compassionate world. Imagine them led by gifted individuals who have been trained as experts in Humanist thought and best practices, using collaboratively developed how-to road maps for developing such centers.

    I go back and forth on what I dislike most about this organization, but most frequent seems to be the terribly high regard in which they hold themselves. On the other hand, I get some amusement out of it, so there’s that.

    And, frankly, their vision isn’t at all appealing to me.

  15. consciousness razor says

    He even disclosed that he personally doesn’t believe in God!

    If it wasn’t you saying so, Sastra, I never would’ve believed it.

    ———

    Imagine them led by gifted individuals who have been trained as experts in Humanist thought and best practices, using collaboratively developed how-to road maps for developing such centers.

    Give me a moment. First, I’ll need to imagine that I’m not laughing hysterically.

  16. says

    @18: One woman from the local Humanist association asked whether our children were also Humanists, and whether the GF of one of them was also a Humanist — you can pretty much hear the capital haitch. It reminded me (and not in a good way) of back in my evangelical days, people would ask if various family members were (born-again) Christians.

    Yes, I’m a humanist, thank you — with a small “h”, please. It’s a decent summary descriptor of my opinions on a range of subjects, but it’s not a goddamn flag of identity.

  17. ikesolem says

    Imagine an atheist/agnostic version of Pat Roberton’s 700 Club, perhaps? That seems to be what the Harvard club is after.

    It’s just so typical. Some of the first recorded human writing, the Sumerian clay tablets, record donations to the temples of the Sumerian god-kings. Some 5,000 years later, they’re still at it.

    What they’re quite reluctant to do, however, is to speculate on how religious belief arose in proto-human societies – first, you had to have a fairly complex language ability, basically the ability to tell stories. Some of the first stories would have revolved around questions like “where did everything come from” and “what happens when we die?” Dreams (animals have been shown to dream) could form the basis of the first passed-on stories. Divine revelation is a most unlikely basis for that development (a nod to Arthur C. Clarke’s alien monolith in 2001, tho).

    Given that such societies revolved around alpha-male leaders, it would be natural to develop the concept of a great alpha-being in the sky who watched over everyone, just as the alpha-male chimp ‘watched over’ his social group. Emotionally pleasing stories about life after death might also be popular. And, somewhen, some clever proto-humans realized they could enjoy lives of leisure, wealth and constant sexual gratification by setting themselves up as the ‘intermediaries’ between the alpha-being (or afterlife) and the general social population. These would most often be beta-males working in association with the alpha-males to establish aristocratic lineages (aka persistent power structures).

    A sleazy little con game, that’s all it has ever been.

  18. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Jadehawk, I don’t know but it is an American obsession. Humanist “experts” who know “best practices?” Puke-tastical. This is bog standard vanity as may be found in any circle of people devoted to elevating their image. Businesspeople, priests, academics—they all do it. We’re witnessing the birth of a New Professional Class self-consciously creating a culture of Learnedness and Expertise complete with its own twee lexicon and idiosyncratic capitalization.

  19. consciousness razor says

    Josh, I’m afraid I don’t understand. Do you mean to say their capitalization is Idiosyncratic or merely idiosyncratic?

  20. David Marjanović says

    I go back and forth on what I dislike most about this organization, but most frequent seems to be the terribly high regard in which they hold themselves. On the other hand, I get some amusement out of it, so there’s that.

    And, frankly, their vision isn’t at all appealing to me.

    Seconded.

    Also, “performing acts of social service”? That’s the state’s job. It’s one of the very few reasons for having a government at all.

    the Sumerian god-kings

    They weren’t considered gods.

    Except that Gilgames”h” was, at least when he had become a legend, considered 2/3 god, 1/3 man.

    We’re witnessing the birth of a New Professional Class clergy self-consciously creating a culture of Learnedness and Expertise complete with its own twee lexicon and idiosyncratic capitalization Sophisticated Theology Anthropology.

    FIFY.

  21. joed says

    politicians always answer the question they want to be asked. never answer the question asked. sounds like there are no humanists/atheists at harvard.
    professor myers, when are you going to learn?!

  22. consciousness razor says

    CR, I apologize.

    Thank you. I am generous enough to provisionally accept it; but do keep in Mind that, unlike me, you are not an expert in Idiosyncratology and are in No Position to make grand Pronouncements about it, as I am.

  23. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Yes, my liege. I bow to your suPerior Number One Idiosyncrasy Information.

  24. quoderatdemonstrandum says

    Myers has at times been a fierce critic of Humanist community work but in this forceful showing, Greg won some major concessions as the two found a surprising degree of common ground. Check out the debate on our website here.

    Hello Harvard Humanists? May I speak to the retractions department?

  25. jfigdor says

    Oh come on, PZ. Yes, “concessions” is a little bit of a stretch. It seemed more like you two discovered a fairly extensive bit of common ground. But calling us sleazy liars? Over. The. Top.

    And Atheism/Humanism are not faiths. They are commitments. One is a commitment to the belief that there is no sky-daddy god. The other is a commitment to methodological naturalism coupled to an ethics derived from human welfare (Rawls, Singer, etc.). http://www.americanhumanist.org. There is no faith involved in Humanism, as I see it.

  26. says

    @34: Then stop talking about “interfaith” work when there’s no “faith” to be “inter” about.

    (Note: AFAIK I’ve never met you before, so I don’t know if you personally do the above, but you appear to be defending the Harvard Humanists in this instance)

  27. Brownian says

    But calling us sleazy liars? Over. The. Top.

    This is true. I think a little shave with Hanlon’s razor is in order here. I’m not being facetious when I say I’d like to rule out incompetence before I start looking for malice.

  28. says

    @Eamon Knight:

    Yes, JFigdor is a Harvard Humanist apologist, whether he’s a member of them or not. He came around before and wandered around defending them without answering important and hard questions like why the fuck they would give the Humanist of the Year award to Seth McFarlane?!

  29. says

    It seemed more like you two discovered a fairly extensive bit of common ground.

    PZ didn’t discover anything. but, like he said, it seems Epstein for the first time ever managed to actually hear that particular part of what PZ was saying. wonder how long he’ll remember it?

    ne is a commitment to the belief that there is no sky-daddy god.

    *sigh*

  30. consciousness razor says

    Then stop talking about “interfaith” work when there’s no “faith” to be “inter” about.

    Well, you know, it’s a little bit of a stretch, but for what it’s worth, that whole “commitment to naturalism” shit is really just to get people in the door. How much and in what sense anyone means what they’re actually saying… well, that’s sort of beside the point, isn’t it?

  31. Brownian says

    Thanks for the vote of little to no confidence, Brownian, lol!

    Look, I’m trying to charitably interpret the stream of WTF that comes out of the HH. I’m willing to accept you’ve simply drunk too much of your own Kool-Aid™ rather than actually being evil.

  32. screechymonkey says

    I wonder, though, if this isn’t what victory looks like, at least in part?

    First they deride Gnu Atheists as angry, militant, shrill, etc.

    Having failed to put a dent in the popularity of the Gnu approach, now they claim to have partly won the Gnus over. Why, that PZ Myers is “now” saying it’s good to have multiple approaches! And Dawkins “now” “admits” that he isn’t certain that a god doesn’t exist! (I think this actually started with Hitchens, whose death made him a convenient recipient of this Strange New Respect: “you know, Hitch at least [insert faint praise], unlike these other Gnu Atheists.”)

    Five years from now, I expect they’ll be claiming that they basically agreed with the Gnu project all along.

    If I’m right, I expect the next sign will be an effort to brand some people as New New Atheists (or Extreme Atheists or some such thing), who the hand-wringers will declare are So Much Worse than the Gnus.

  33. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Screechy, that’ll be XXxTreem! Atheistz, now with 50 percent more Shrill Rage.

  34. robro says

    #18 @ SC (Salty Current), OM

    “Imagine them led by gifted individuals who have been trained as experts in Humanist thought and best practices, using collaboratively developed how-to road maps for developing such centers.”

    Just wow! The priesthood of the Humanist. Really? Do we have to confess our sins to join the club? I can sing bass in the choir.

    Actually, though, this reads more like marketing spew for a technology company and it’s about as appealing as that.

  35. jfigdor says

    @consciousness razor:

    So have you ever been to one of our programs? Because if you had, you would know that we regularly feature programs focusing on naturalism, from inviting Tom Clark from the Center for Naturalism to give talks to our group, to our science advocacy. So please judge us, but don’t judge a made-up version of us. Come visit our community and see what things are like before you proclaim us evil/incompetent.

  36. jfigdor says

    Hey folks, you realize that a significant population of the Harvard Humanists is made up of people who would consider themselves New Atheists/Anti-theists (including me). We don’t persecute New Atheists, we hire them.

  37. screechymonkey says

    jfigdor@47: Then maybe you ought to have some words with your “leaders” who are giving you a much different reputation than what you claim is the reality.

  38. truthspeaker says

    Imagine them led by gifted individuals who have been trained as experts in Humanist thought and best practices, using collaboratively developed how-to road maps for developing such centers.

    Protip: unless it’s your senior year of high school, nobody is impressed that you got into Harvard.

  39. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    We don’t persecute New Atheists, we hire them.

    But when they’re not your personal friends, you hound them online for being “mean” or “disrespectful” to your personal friends. Then you suggest those who have actually been slandered by said friends in public ought to send private emails to your personal friends to find out what they “really” think. And you refuse to acknowledge the double standard.

    No, you’re not the most egregious of the lot, Jonathon, and yes I have observed you reasonably criticizing some folks some of the time.

  40. consciousness razor says

    So please judge us, but don’t judge a made-up version of us. Come visit our community and see what things are like before you proclaim us evil/incompetent.

    Sorry, I don’t live close enough to Cambridge, and in any case, attendance at your events isn’t necessary for the kind of determination I’m making. (Tom Clark’s great, by the way, but please don’t use him as a decoy.) A naturalist doesn’t make it a point to be involved in “interfaith” groups or conferences, except to denounce them unequivocally as ethical and intellectual frauds.

  41. jfigdor says

    @Screechymonkey:

    I can’t control what my co-workers personal beliefs are and what they write in their private time. And unlike some of the other staff members, I don’t write for Huff-Po or manage a blog, since I’m busy working with community members. But let me assure you, HCH is out there to represent all Atheist/Humanist/Nontheist voices. We are all in favour of the diversity of the atheist movement. And there will always be a home for New Atheists in the Harvard Humanists as long as I’m working there.

  42. consciousness razor says

    But let me assure you, HCH is out there to represent all Atheist/Humanist/Nontheist voices.

    Then please just fucking stop. Represent your own damn voices, if you think you have something original to say.

  43. jfigdor says

    @consciousness razor:

    Where do you see Tom Clark or any other prominent naturalists rejecting interfaith? Citation requested. And if so, how does rejection of supernaturalism (and acceptance of naturalism) entail the rejection of interfaith service? Total non-sequitor. Naturalism doesn’t imply anything about ethics, other than the fact that ethics should be predicated on the ability of humans and other organisms to suffer.

  44. jfigdor says

    @consciousness razor

    So you’re telling us to shut up? Censorship is your solution? Wow. Well-argued.

  45. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    And another point, and this really sums it up: it’s pointless you lot calling for charity and civility (for rather odd values of civility, mind). That ship has sailed. Professional accommodationists and some of the HH crew have consistently, unfairly, and outrageously misrepresented outspoken atheists. They’ve been throwing us under the fucking bus for years now and sucking up to the Interfaithy and theist friends at our expense.

    So you can tell them to go fuck themselves until they cut the crap. There is NO moral equivalence to what they’ve been doing and our exasperated response to it.

    Stop wasting your time. We’re not going to put up with bullying and we’re not going to ignore it. Unless all this “please be charitable” rhetoric is actually getting you off your time would be better spent giving your compatriots a firm talking to about their unethical crap.

    Jesus, it feels just like when I was bullied in high school for being gay and even my friends suggested I “tone it down” and “be more understanding.” Yeah, Jonathon, I mean it. It is like that. Deal with it.

  46. baal says

    It’s unsurprising that new atheists are persistently misrepresented and their arguments marginalized; the Xtian’s would have to admit being heinous and wrongful if they were fair or actually started with a relevant understanding. The cognitive bias against actually listening is very strong since it hurts their personal identities as being the ‘best’ but victimized members of society.

  47. janine says

    But let me assure you, HCH is out there to represent all Atheist/Humanist/Nontheist voices.

    You are mistaken. You speak only for yourelf and your group. You do not speak for me.

    Do not ever make this claim again, that is the fucking height of arrogance.

  48. sawells says

    @56: your reading comprehension is terrible. You’re being told to speak in your own name and not in the name of other people who didn’t ask you to represent them. You simply do not get to “represent all nontheist voices”.

  49. says

    @jfigdor:

    You don’t represent my voice. When I voiced my disappointment with your choice of Seth McFarlane as Humanist of the Year, you ignored it. You still ignore it, and you’re likely to continue to ignore it.

    You represent the voice of the rich white man.

  50. consciousness razor says

    So you’re telling us to shut up? Censorship is your solution? Wow. Well-argued.

    No, that’s not what I’m telling you. Here’s my solution: learn to fucking read, asshole, and make what you’re saying comprehensible when you write.

  51. janine says

    So you’re telling us to shut up? Censorship is your solution? Wow. Well-argued.

    Also, you dishonest shit, cr did not call for censorship.

  52. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    You’re so goddamned full of your Kind Nice Ethical Humanist Self you don’t even realize how stunningly arrogant it is to presume to speak for everyone! Jesus Christ — do you all have narcissistic personalities?

  53. janine says

    If Seth MacFarland is a humanist to be admired, I want nothing to do with it.

    Fortunately for me, I do not need to pay attention to their form of humanism.

  54. jfigdor says

    @Josh, Official SpokesGay:

    I understand you’re angry at some people at HCH (I can guess which one…), but do you realize that now you’re just spewing hate at the person who’s trying to advocate for your position within this organisation? I’ve never thrown you or any other New Atheists under the proverbial bus. Quite the contrary. I’ve defended folks like Dave Silverman, Al Stefanelli, JT Eberhard, and others.

    And as far as the gay bullying comment, I really, really don’t see anyone at HCH bullying anyone. We take our commitment to treating all people with dignity and respect quite seriously. If you have an example of anyone on HCH staff bullying anyone, please post it here or email me (my email is on the HCH website) and I will personally bring it to the attention of the staff member.

  55. joed says

    best to just ignore ol’ jfigdor. he will say anything to create chaos and havoc amongst the blogers here. jfigdor is, as they say, “one of them”. you can’t beat him because he can say anything he wants and you are trying to be somewhat reasonable. i don’t understand why professor myers continues to try to converse with the jfigdor type of goon.

  56. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Jonathon, please read more carefully. My objection was to your frequent defense of colleagues’ bad behavior by upbraiding the targets for being insufficiently civil. It was not an objection to you personally, nor did I accuse you personally of bullying anyone.

    Second, for the love of Pete, I didn’t say anyone was bullying me in a way that was like anti-gay rhetoric! I said that your defense of their unethical mischaracterizations reminded me in a parallel way of a tactic used in other situations that sides with the aggressor.

    This is totes frustrating. I’m a good writer, and even on my least eloquent days I’m capable of making my argument crystal clear and easy to comprehend. This just isn’t that hard—why is it hard for you?

  57. janine says

    I understand you’re angry at some people at HCH (I can guess which one…), but do you realize that now you’re just spewing hate at the person who’s trying to advocate for your position within this organisation?

    You are fucking doing it again!

    You! Do! Not! Fucking! Speak! For! All!! Of! Us!

    You arrogant Santorum-For-Brains.

  58. jfigdor says

    @Janine, again, thanks for the hate. I’m sorry your choice for Humanist of the Year didn’t win. Seth MacFarlane wasn’t my top choice either. I understand your reservations about his transphobia and anti-feminist humour, and FWIW people asked him hard hitting questions about it during the Q&A.

    As far as the censorship thing goes, I don’t get the point. Where has HCH ever claimed to speak for all atheists? We may have a diverse membership, but we don’t claim to be the Vatican of Atheism or any other such nonsense. We only speak for ourselves and for those who share our perspective.

  59. ewanmacdonald says

    jfigdor: Nobody is trying to censor you. Did you honestly misinterpret what CR said or were you being dishonest?

  60. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Stop it Jonathon. You don’t get to characterize anger as “hate”, which you know perfectly well is Liberal Code Word for Suspect Character.

    And stop it with the equating “you don’t speak on my behalf” with “censorship.”

    Honest question—are you actually this thick or do you just not care about accuracy?

  61. says

    Jesus Christ — do you all have narcissistic personalities?

    I believe they do. Even when they’re trying not to act that way, they frequently slip into such arrogant, self-congratulatory statements that I almost can’t believe what I’m reading. It’s happened in pretty much every conversation I’ve seen with them, not to mention Stedman’s own posts. They can’t help themselves. They really do imagine themselves as the Bold New Visionaries of Humanism everyone – whether they know it or not – wants and needs to lead them.

  62. jfigdor says

    “Jonathon, please read more carefully. My objection was to your frequent defense of colleagues’ bad behavior by upbraiding the targets for being insufficiently civil.”

    Citation requested. Where have I told Gnus to stop criticizing their fellow atheists?

  63. janine says

    Janine, again, thanks for the hate.

    So, pointing out the arrogance that speaking for people who never asked you to is “hatred”.

    You are not just arrogant, you are a fool.

    I’m sorry your choice for Humanist of the Year didn’t win.

    You are assuming that I had a choice and that I care. I was merely expressing disdain that some people consider him worth emulating.

    Seth MacFarlane wasn’t my top choice either.

    (In my best Christian Bale sneer.)Good for you.

    Bloody stupid git.

  64. consciousness razor says

    As far as the censorship thing goes, I don’t get the point. Where has HCH ever claimed to speak for all atheists?

    Let’s suppose it hasn’t, in which case, your assurance above that they do was wrong. All you have to do is use your Harvard education to infer what the proper response is, and I have full confidence that you will fail to do it.

  65. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    They really do imagine themselves as the Bold New Visionaries of Humanism everyone – whether they know it or not – wants and needs to lead them.

    I’m definitely leaning toward that view. Which is just more frustrating; I’ve met such people and it’s an ingrained personality trait that literally makes them unable to comprehend how others see them. There’s simply no psychological space available to understand that not everyone conceives of themselves that way, and that what seems normal to them strikes some of as actually offensive and potentially dangerous.

    Shorter: it’s the character trait of a politician.

  66. says

    Figdor, have you any idea how grossly mendacious and presumptuous you are being in this thread, and how you come off as attempting to lecture “your inferiors”?

    You were told not to presume you speak for bluntly spoken Gnus. We don’t want your brand of “advocacy.” And you willfully conflate this request with a demand for self-censorship.

    Further, you willfully misconstrue what Josh said. He did not accuse you of homophobia or bullying. He said that your tactics are reminiscent of those of people who enable bullies. When you chide oppressed people for being “too harsh,” “too militant,” “not trying hard enough,” “hateful,” etc. etc., you are enabling their oppression.

    At Comment #72, you ask:

    Where has HCH ever claimed to speak for all atheists?

    In comment #53, you wrote:

    But let me assure you, HCH is out there to represent all Atheist/Humanist/Nontheist voices.

    I realize that any number of well-trained, well-spoken idiots get into academia, but my impression of you is that intelligence is not the issue here. Intellectual honesty is.

    This, by the way, is not “hate.” It is a plain-spoken assessment of your character. Not having gone to an Ivy League university, I don’t really give a rat’s ass if this assessment is too déclassé for your tastes.

  67. sawells says

    jfigdor posts: “HCH is out there to represent all Atheist/Humanist/Nontheist voices.”

    We say: no you don’t.

    jfigdor posts: “Where has HCH ever claimed to speak for all atheists?”

    Amazing.

  68. Aquaria says

    As far as the censorship thing goes, I don’t get the point. Where has HCH ever claimed to speak for all atheists?

    You did, dumbass.

    Remember this?

    But let me assure you, HCH is out there to represent all Atheist/Humanist/Nontheist voices. We are all in favour of the diversity of the atheist movement.

    So are you stupid, a liar, or both?

  69. says

    @jfigdor:

    Fuck! STOP ignoring me. It wasn’t Janine who voiced transphobic concerns over McFarlane it was me.

    It’s appalling your organization even considered McFarlane for the position. It doesn’t right matter who won, but to have his name in the ballot it’s like saying that Rick Santorum was an appealing candidate for the Humanist of the Year award. McFarlane’s main body of work is transphobic, homophobic, misogynist, and racist – and your organization awarded him as a humanist to look up to!

    What kind of humanist association rewards someone for being a fucking vile piece of garbage?!

  70. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Citation requested. Where have I told Gnus to stop criticizing their fellow atheists?

    There’s no way to say this that won’t sound insulting, and right now I’m not interested in being insulting: Do you have reading comprehension problems? Because I feel like when I ask “Is this real butter or is it margarine,” you answer “When did I ask for cereal for breakfast.”

  71. jfigdor says

    In the world of academic philosophy, we have this thing called “reading charitably.” It means that when someone writes something, and you realize there are two different interpretations of what they say, you don’t assume the stupid/ignorant/incoherent choice, and try to step into the author’s shoes to see what they mean. Here’s an example. At one point, I said HCH represents all atheist and Humanist perspectives. By this I mean that when I get into conversations with religious folks, I don’t simply articulate the Humanist position, but I also mention that there is a Gnu Atheist position, and an Anti-Theist position, and a skeptic position, etc. This is very different from claiming to speak for all atheist/agnostic/non-religious people.

    It would be the height of arrogance for any one organisation to say they speak for all atheists/agnostics/Humanists. I am not familiar with any time where the HCH or any of its employees have claimed to speak for all atheists/agnostics/non-religious people. If I’m wrong, citation requested.

    When I read your arguments, I try to understand what you’re getting at and give you the most charitable interpretation I can see. I assume that each and every one of you wants to see a world where secular and non-relgious Americans (and anywhere else) are given equal rights and equal treatment to religious citizens, in other words, an end to anti-atheist bigotry. We approach this project from different sides, but we are all committed to a world where people understand that you can be good without god and that you can lead a life of meaning and purpose without a belief in god or any other supernatural nonsense.

  72. truthspeaker says

    jfigdor says:
    1 March 2012 at 2:40 pm

    As far as the censorship thing goes, I don’t get the point. Where has HCH ever claimed to speak for all atheists?

    You did. In this comment thread.

  73. Aquaria says

    Wow. It’s too bad big-budget musicals are out of style. You’d have a considerable career with that tap-dancing you can do.

  74. sawells says

    “In the world of academic philosophy, we have this thing called “reading charitably.”” — jfigdor

    Well lah-di-dah. I’m an academic natural philosopher. I went to the original Cambridge, not your johnny-come-lately colonial outfit. We have this thing called “Don’t blame your readers if you write liked a concussed gibbon. It is your job to be clear, not your readers’ job to guess something good you might possibly have meant”.

  75. janine says

    So, claiming that you speak for all humanists means that you have not by use of “reading charitably”?

    How the fuck can you communicate with each you. No wonder you have determined that I hate you, you are “reading charitably”.

    You are digging that hole so deep, you are now using a drill.

    The diamond tipped drill of inanity.

  76. Aquaria says

    It would be the height of arrogance for any one organisation to say they speak for all atheists/agnostics/Humanists. I am not familiar with any time where the HCH or any of its employees have claimed to speak for all atheists/agnostics/non-religious people. If I’m wrong, citation requested.

    We’ve shown you the citation, dipshit. This means you are the height of arrogance, cupcake, because you said it. Do you acknowledge it? Nope, you just tap-dance, tap-dance, tap-dance, Ginger Rogers.

    But keep ignoring all of us who point it out to you. It makes you look so intelligent and honest.

    Not.

  77. sawells says

    Obligatory typo! :)

    I wonder, jfigdor, what did you _think_ people were responding to, if not your “representing voices” comment? Did you think everyone had just randomly started yelling at you? Not very good at charitable reading, are you?

  78. Aquaria says

    Aw, has jfigfuckface run away now, rather than acknowledge he’s a liar and bullshitter?

    Poor tap-dancing diddums.

  79. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Sawells, that says about all that needs to be said on the topic.

    AMEN! HCH does not speak for me either, so they should stop pretending they do. This is what I meant when I said you need to listen. If you were listening, you would understand why we say that.

  80. janine says

    Aquaria, using the magical powers of “reading charitably”, he knows how much we all hate him and is running for safety.

  81. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    Note to self: While at this blog, do not mention which grad school I attended.

  82. fastlane says

    Funnily, I hadn’t heard of the HCH before this. Reading PZ’s opening made me think their publicist(s) is(are) a little conservative with the truth. I suppose that’s what PR people do though, spin….

    With the defense they are getting from jfigdor here, I’m thinking they deserve little more than contempt…and the occasional pointing and laughing.

    I’ll speak for myself, thanks.

  83. janine says

    ‘Tis, most of know that you are intelligent enough to not make the claim to speak for all of a vast group. I will not holf the latest troll on you.

  84. says

    In the world of academic philosophy, we have this thing called “reading charitably.” It means that when someone writes something, and you realize there are two different interpretations of what they say, you don’t assume the stupid/ignorant/incoherent choice, and try to step into the author’s shoes to see what they mean.

    Which is why you “charitably” read consciousness razor’s request to stop claiming to speak for all “Atheist/Humanist/Nontheist voices” as a demand for censorship.

    Not very good at walking the walk are you? Either that, or you are just being a dishonest hypocrite trying to tap-dance his way out of a jam his lying mouth got him into.

  85. consciousness razor says

    What’s so frustrating to me is not each isolated incident, which sometimes could be charitably interpreted as an honest mistake, but the general pattern of obliviousness, arrogance, dishonesty, etc. If those aren’t some of the problems, then I’m truly stunned that such intelligent people could be so consistently incompetent at basic communication, especially considering it seems to apply only to this one particular domain.

  86. says

    Well lah-di-dah. I’m an academic natural philosopher. I went to the original Cambridge, not your johnny-come-lately colonial outfit. We have this thing called “Don’t blame your readers if you write liked a concussed gibbon. It is your job to be clear, not your readers’ job to guess something good you might possibly have meant”.

    :D

    ***

    I assume that each and every one of you wants to see a world where secular and non-relgious Americans (and anywhere else) are given equal rights and equal treatment to religious citizens, in other words, an end to anti-atheist bigotry. We approach this project from different sides, but we are all committed to a world where people understand that you can be good without god and that you can lead a life of meaning and purpose without a belief in god or any other supernatural nonsense.

    You’re doing it now. Do not presume to identify my goals as your goals or to reduce my goals to yours and then tell me what my project is. There is overlap between our sets of goals, but they are not identical. I reject your false “we” and rhetoric about common projects, so do not claim to speak on my behalf. If you don’t understand my goals, you have no business claiming to represent them to religious people, and I’d just as soon you speak for yourself.

  87. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    jfigdor #86

    In the world of academic philosophy, we have this thing called “reading charitably.” It means that when someone writes something, and you realize there are two different interpretations of what they say, you don’t assume the stupid/ignorant/incoherent choice, and try to step into the author’s shoes to see what they mean.

    In the real world, we have this thing called “reading for comprehension.” It means when somebody has written something in plain, ordinary English then we take what they’ve written as a simple, unvarnished statement. If there are two possible interpretations of what they’ve said in a conversation and we’re unsure of what they mean, then we ask for a clarification. However your statement

    But let me assure you, HCH is out there to represent all Atheist/Humanist/Nontheist voices.

    is not in the least ambiguous or vague. You claimed you folks at HCH spoke for all atheists.

    At one point, I said HCH represents all atheist and Humanist perspectives. By this I mean that when I get into conversations with religious folks, I don’t simply articulate the Humanist position, but I also mention that there is a Gnu Atheist position, and an Anti-Theist position, and a skeptic position, etc. This is very different from claiming to speak for all atheist/agnostic/non-religious people.

    I see, you don’t actually represent us but you do mention us in passing, as an “oh by the way” afterthought and just to cover all bases. Thanks for explaining. Too bad that’s not what you originally said.

  88. otrame says

    Imagine them led by gifted individuals who have been trained as experts in Humanist thought and best practices, using collaboratively developed how-to road maps for developing such centers.

    I suppose these “gifted individuals” will expect to paid for this leadership, right? And how will we know if the leader we follow is the right kind, you know, gifted and teaching best practices? Oh, I know, we insist that they go to your training school and not some flight-by-night place and we should insist that they stick to orthodox best practice, and maybe we should all contribute a little money every month to insure that our trained experts can spend all their time leading us. It wouldn’t have to be much. Maybe 10% of our income. Yeah. That all sounds… familiar.

    In any case, if jfigdor is an example of “gifted individuals who have been trained as experts in Humanist thought and best practices,” I’ll pass.

  89. ChasCPeterson says

    We have this thing called “Don’t blame your readers if you write liked a concussed gibbon….”

    that was pretty funny, especially for a philosopher.

    (Other than that, looks to me too like more internet narcissists. I fear their like is here to stay.)

  90. jand says

    @ 90
    “I’m an academic natural philosopher. I went to the original Cambridge, not your johnny-come-lately colonial outfit.”

    pukes inside his mouth, swallows,

    asks

    are you for real?

  91. joed says

    i did listen to the pod cast and the harvard guy really used professor myers. but now WE KNOW professor myers is the leader of the atheists. the harvard guy is an expert at twist–he sounded like donald rumsfeld.
    my advise to Dr. Myers–don’t get into a pissin’ contest with a skunk because you can’t win. also, try to stay away from people like this harvard guy, he really used you.

  92. screechymonkey says

    I don’t simply articulate the Humanist position, but I also mention that there is a Gnu Atheist position, and an Anti-Theist position, and a skeptic position, etc.

    Is this meant to imply that the Gnu Atheist position, etc. are not part of the Humanist position?

    (My question is sincere, because I’ve never gotten a satisfactory grip on just what Humanism is supposed to be. And yes, I’ve read various statements and manifestos from Humanist groups, but they’re so vague in an agreeable-sounding way that I’ve never been able to figure out if that’s really all there is to it or if there’s a bunch of subtext.)

  93. fastlane says

    aaronpound:

    Not very good at walking the walk are you? Either that, or you are just being a dishonest hypocrite trying to tap-dance his way out of a jam his lying mouth got him into.

    Oooh. I know the answer to this one! Pick me pick me!!

  94. Brownian says

    It would be the height of arrogance for any one organisation to say they speak for all atheists/agnostics/Humanists. I am not familiar with any time where the HCH or any of its employees have claimed to speak for all atheists/agnostics/non-religious people. If I’m wrong, citation requested.

    This is what I was talking about with Hanlon’s razor. I’m charitably assuming this is just stupidity, and not actual dishonesty on jfigdor’s part.

    For instance, several people have pointed out that:

    Where has HCH ever claimed to speak for all atheists?

    is at odds with this statement:

    But let me assure you, HCH is out there to represent all Atheist/Humanist/Nontheist voices.

    Now, I think the charitable interpretation is that you meant HCH attempts to include as many atheist/humanist/nontheist voices as possible and so be maximally representative, rather than speaking for all.

    But that’s me “reading charitably”.

    It’s quite a bit more difficult for me to charitably interpret your ‘citation requested’ bullshit where you ignore every poster who pointed those two statements out. Now, I don’t know if you’re too busy stroking your Grand Humanist Poobah hat or what the fuck, but if you’re going to play ‘request citation’, then you’ve kind of committed yourself to fucking reading people’s comments for that citation.

    It’s this kind of “we don’t give a shit what you think; we’ll tell you what you want and how best to get it”, among other shit, that seems to be endemic within your organisation. Hell, I think the Pope considers himself more fallible than you people seem to.

  95. jand says

    @111,112,113 did I have a point? (no sarcasm) I only had a strong feeling that the feeding frenzy was derailing the thread. Was becoming the thread.

  96. burntorange says

    PZ, your post on “sleazy, lying Harvard Humanists” provides the perfect opportunity for me to ask a question that has puzzled me for a while. You answer the question of how atheists should talk about religion “any and every way they want to.” This makes absolutely no sense to me. Should we not, as secularists, as advocates of science, “eat our own dog food” as the saying goes? That is, should we not, instead, ask “what does the scientific research say?” True, we make noises about research done on how the brain works, etc. And there’s George Lakoff doing his thing. But these are exceptions; shouldn’t this approach be the rule? If the science says militantism doesn’t work and the milquetoasts have the right approach shouldn’t we all get behind that? On the other hand, maybe the research will tell us that we need to identify different qualities of receptivity in our intended audience, and that we should adapt our approach as required? Or, on a personal level, shouldn’t we take the Darwinian approach and allow our methods to evolve toward greater effectiveness? In the end, we want our hot air emissions to have a positive effect, right?

    The idea that each of us may arbitrarily adopt an approach based on personal whim smells of precisely the kind of “faith” you disparage in this post. No, we need to find ways that are demonstrably effective, and not merely engage in our personal choice of intellectual masturbation.

  97. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    burntorange #119

    If the science says militantism doesn’t work and the milquetoasts have the right approach shouldn’t we all get behind that? On the other hand, maybe the research will tell us that we need to identify different qualities of receptivity in our intended audience, and that we should adapt our approach as required? Or, on a personal level, shouldn’t we take the Darwinian approach and allow our methods to evolve toward greater effectiveness? In the end, we want our hot air emissions to have a positive effect, right?

    The science says that what approach is most efficacious is entirely situational. Sometimes one approach will work on a specific individual and at other times a completely different approach will work on the same individual. In other words, it all depends.

    The idea that each of us may arbitrarily adopt an approach based on personal whim smells of precisely the kind of “faith” you disparage in this post. No, we need to find ways that are demonstrably effective, and not merely engage in our personal choice of intellectual masturbation.

    Both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were effective spokesmen for civil rights in the 1960s. Their approaches were considerably different.

  98. screechymonkey says

    burntorange, I think there are two main answers to your argument:

    First: Right now, there is no clear evidence that any one particular approach “works” or doesn’t. Which means that in the meantime, there’s no particularly compelling scientific reason to choose one approach or another, and if anything a diversity of approaches is more likely to prove informative.

    Second (and more significantly): Your argument assumes that there is a single goal. One of the things that keeps coming up in the Gnu-Accomodationist debates is that this simply isn’t true. Accomodationists seems to be more focused on persuading religious people, and specifically on doing so on immediate, short-term issues: getting them to support the teaching of evolution, getting them to vote for Obama, etc. Nothing particularly wrong with those goals, which many Gnus share, but it simply isn’t all there is to it. Gnus are also concerned with (among other things) building our own community, and with undermining the unwarranted “respect” that faith claims in public discourse.

    Basically, the approach that works for getting that nice, reasonable school board trustee who attends the local liberal Christian church to vote against some creationist proposal isn’t necessarily (and probably isn’t) the best approach for trying to ensure that we’re not fighting the exact same battle 30 years from now.

  99. says

    @119: In addition to #120 & #121: There seems to be this implicit assumption that there exists a single Optimum Rhetorical Strategy[tm] and we should find out what the research says that is, and universally adopt it. I think that’s obviously wrong. For any polarity you care to name — evo/cre, theism/atheism, secularism/theocracy — there’s a whole ecology out there. People hold a variety of different views, different degrees of attachment to their respective views, in different combinations, interacting in different environments. For some audiences, polite discussion on one specific issue, intentionally putting other issues aside, is probably most appropriate. In other situations, a verbal blitzkrieg on all fronts simultaneously is called for. You use an evolutionary analogy, but evolution doesn’t produce just one solution to the problem of survival and propagation — why should we?

  100. says

    In the world of academic philosophy…

    Y’know, I’m not an academic, but this blog is chock full of them. Sawells is not the only one of them with credentials in philosophy.

    Deeply condescending explanations are inherently disrespectful and impolite.

    Others have already beaten me to addressing your inability to speak concisely and the incongruity of demanding “charitable reading” when you insist on interpreting criticism as “hate” and “censorship.”

    Consciousness Razor:

    I’m truly stunned that such intelligent people could be so consistently incompetent at basic communication

    and Brownian:

    I’m charitably assuming this is just stupidity, and not actual dishonesty on jfigdor’s part.

    I really do not think the problem is a deficit of intelligence. I think the problem is that Figdor, Epstein, Stedman, et al. really and truly believe that they are our intellectual and moral superiors and that Figdor has come here to put us in our place.

    Again, this is extremely typical of Harvard.

    ‘Tis:

    Both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were effective spokesmen for civil rights in the 1960s. Their approaches were considerably different.

    And it should be pointed out to burntorange that while MLK Jr. was committed to nonviolence, he was no accommodationist.

  101. burntorange says

    ‘Tis Himself, OM & screechymonkey:

    I’m aware of those arguments, but find them very unsatisfactory:

    “what approach is most efficacious is entirely situational”

    I mentioned this possibility; however, it does not address the obvious next step: how do we tell which approach is best for which audience? What does the science say?

    “Both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were effective spokesmen”

    No argument on that; again, when do we choose “I have a dream” and when do we choose “by any means necessary?” Sure, trying different methods is good, but the typical one of us is not much more capable of applying science to their personal interactions than are the theists. We need research and journalism on this issue.

    “and if anything a diversity of approaches is more likely to prove informative”

    is there a clearinghouse for data collected from these scientific experiments? (yes, that was a hint of sarcasm) The plural of anecdote is not “data” for us any more than it is for the theists.

    “Your argument assumes that there is a single goal”

    If so, that was not my intent.

    “building our own community, and with undermining the unwarranted “respect” that faith claims in public discourse.”

    Valuable goals, but should we do so using unverified assertions of fact and personal opinions?

  102. Brownian says

    I really do not think the problem is a deficit of intelligence. I think the problem is that Figdor, Epstein, Stedman, et al. really and truly believe that they are our intellectual and moral superiors and that Figdor has come here to put us in our place.

    I should have stuck with my original term: incompetence.

  103. madscientist says

    Hahaha. It’s Hah-vud, dude – your UM professor’s salary is his pocket change so he must be Right.

  104. says

    I can’t believe how long this idiotic “See! See! Gotcha!” bullshit is going on for. I also can’t believe how surprised Rowan Williams and the moderator, (I’m sorry I can’t remember his name, but he was a ‘Sir’ something) were at this *turn* in the conversation. Surely one of them must have read The God Delusion?
    NO? Then maybe at least one of them saw “Expelled (NIA)? Y’know, the scene with Ben Stein’s cute and vapid numbers game? Or seen any interview with Bill O’Reilly or Jon Stewart or anybody, any speech?
    Anything?
    Anywhere?
    NO?

    NO?

  105. David Marjanović says

    And Atheism/Humanism are not faiths. They are commitments. One is a commitment to the belief that there is no sky-daddy god.

    *headdesk*

    Atheism – godlessness, quite literally – is the lack of a belief that there are deities. (Or, usually, anything supernatural at all.)

    It’s the lack itself, not a commitment to it. *whine* PZ, I want Comic Sans!

    Where would the difference between “commitment” and “faith” even be!?! Maybe I’m culture-shocked or something. You see, I’m a scientist. The evidence changes my opinions – I don’t even really do that myself; the idea of “committing to an opinion” just rings all available alarm bells (and my ghastly door bell, gah).

    It is your job to be clear, not your readers’ job to guess something good you might possibly have meant

    When I started writing scientific papers, the very first thing my thesis supervisor told me was (paraphrasing from memory): “You will be misunderstood, so it’s your job to minimize the number of opportunities for misunderstandings.”

    Both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were effective spokesmen for civil rights in the 1960s. Their approaches were considerably different.

    To some extent they probably required each other – knowingly and willingly or not, they were playing “good cop, bad cop”.

  106. screechymonkey says

    burntorange@124: “is there a clearinghouse for data collected from these scientific experiments? (yes, that was a hint of sarcasm) The plural of anecdote is not “data” for us any more than it is for the theists.”

    Good for you.

    So what do you propose? Should we all just shut up and wait for you to publish your double-blind peer reviewed One Study To Rule Them All, and then all dutifully fall in line?

    I gave you a serious response to what I thought was a serious question, but now you’re starting to sound a bit like the science-worshipping caricature who thinks that he shouldn’t get dressed in the morning until he’s conducted a scientific survey of which pants leg to put on first.

  107. says

    FIrst off, I’d like to state nobody speaks for me but my girlfriend and myself, and if this dude is out to represent his organization, he’s done a shitty job. He sounds like a corporate ombudsman or some shit, with his “Not my first choice” jackassery. Either show some fucking spine in disagreeing with your allies, or don’t even bother with such half-assed attempts at ‘reconciliation’ when clear, major problems are presented (And make no mistake: “This person has no respect for anyone but Able Whitey McStraighterson” is a major problem for a fucking humanist)

    Well lah-di-dah. I’m an academic natural philosopher. I went to the original Cambridge, not your johnny-come-lately colonial outfit. We have this thing called “Don’t blame your readers if you write liked a concussed gibbon. It is your job to be clear, not your readers’ job to guess something good you might possibly have meant”.

    Sir, I do not know you, and you do not know me, but know that you have won my respect for this.

    Not to mention I’ve fucking read academic philosophy, and one could hardly fucking say some of the most famous names in the field were remotely fucking charitable charitable to those they disagreed with.

    No argument on that; again, when do we choose “I have a dream” and when do we choose “by any means necessary?” Sure, trying different methods is good, but the typical one of us is not much more capable of applying science to their personal interactions than are the theists. We need research and journalism on this issue.

    Have you heard of the Overton Window, you pompous twit? Or you know, any other studies on this and related matters? May I suggest you do your own fucking research to see what already exists, rather than coming in here and demanding that, while we must show your work, you are free to lounge about?

    Seriously, what the fuck? You haven’t done one jot of academic work and you berate someone else as an unscientific, faith-driven nitwit?

  108. Therrin says

    again, when do we choose “I have a dream” and when do we choose “by any means necessary?”

    Is one of those not included in the other?

    We need research and journalism on this issue.

    It sounds like you’ve done a lot of hard research on the topic. Looking forward to your publication.

  109. echidna says

    David Marjanović :

    When I started writing scientific papers, the very first thing my thesis supervisor told me was (paraphrasing from memory): “You will be misunderstood, so it’s your job to minimize the number of opportunities for misunderstandings.”

    Quite right. And here comes this clown, misconstruing every post written to him, and having the gall to complain that people were being uncharitable in their interpretations of the dubious ambiguity in his own sloppy writing; all the while asserting his Harvard superiority. It’s as if he thinks that his Harvard credentials are enough, and people should accept his musings without any effort exerted on his part to actually present a clear argument.

    For example:

    But calling us sleazy liars? Over. The. Top.

    That’s it. That’s his rebuttal. He hasn’t even bothered to give any counter argument beyond a bare assertion. All the rest is talking about himself and his group, not about what was said.

  110. says

    Jfigdor: you talk about being charitable, & that my characterization of Harvard humanists was over the top. I disagree. What HH did was contemptible: I made no concessions to Epstein at all, and he blatantly misrepresented the outcome of the discussion. It’s as if afterwards I announced that I’d converted Epstein to the firebrand way of atheism. It would be a lie.

    Harvard Humanists lied about me in their press release, and implied that I now endorse a position I do not hold. They could have presented Epstein’s position, said I disagreed, and left it at that; that would have been the intellectually responsible approach to take. They didn’t.

    Really, I don’t trust you guys an inch.

  111. otrame says

    I really do not think the problem is a deficit of intelligence. I think the problem is that Figdor, Epstein, Stedman, et al. really and truly believe that they are our intellectual and moral superiors and that Figdor has come here to put us in our place.

    I think that is probably about right, but I do think they started off meaning very well. The trouble is they only talked to each other, and an unfortunately high percentage of what they said was; “Wow, we are so cool. We’re here at Harvard and we know stuff and everyone should listen to us.” And when some people started saying “Erm…. I don’t need you to tell me what to think, thanks” they got defensive and started using their “academic philosophy” and “what part of HARVARD, don’t you idiots understand?” .

    And frankly, I think the prospect of leading a great movement of “Humanists” got to be more about the leaders and less about the humanism. Now they are firmly entrenched, surrounded by people who tell them how wonderful they are and how mean anyone who questions “best practices” are, and so sure they are Right and they are “gifted” that they can’t even hear it when someone suggests that a) we don’t need or want their leadership; and b) we really don’t need the hierarchy.

  112. says

    And if so, how does rejection of supernaturalism (and acceptance of naturalism) entail the rejection of interfaith service?

    i… don’t even know how to respond to silliness like that. do you know what the word “interfaith” means? do you comprehend the philosophy behind it?

    Naturalism doesn’t imply anything about ethics, other than the fact that ethics should be predicated on the ability of humans and other organisms to suffer.

    naturalism has no stance on the ethical value of reality and truth-claims? that’s news to me.

    I’m sorry your choice for Humanist of the Year didn’t win. Seth MacFarlane wasn’t my top choice either. I understand your reservations about his transphobia and anti-feminist humour, and FWIW people asked him hard hitting questions about it during the Q&A.

    jesus fuck. can you be more condescending and belittling?

    When I read your arguments, I try to understand what you’re getting at and give you the most charitable interpretation I can see.

    interesting. what do you get out of this? I understand it’s a very optimistic perspective and a very “nice” one, but are you aware that doing this on principle means that you will be incapable of ever battling anti-liberal, anti-social forces effectively? I mean, for example, how can one battle racist/sexist/etc. dogwhistles when one only ever chooses to interpret everything in the most positive way possible?

    anyway, that’s a bit of a rhetorical question, considering you don’t actually do this thing you demand of us, as demonstrated by the fact that you’ve accused janine of hatred, and consciousness razor of demanding censorship.

  113. Rich Woods says

    > “reading charitably.”

    With all due respect, I’ll read you like a bastard.

  114. says

    Imagine them led by gifted individuals who have been trained as experts in Humanist thought and best practices, using collaboratively developed how-to road maps for developing such centers.

    Crikey. They aren’t half up themselves, are they?

  115. says

    Well lah-di-dah. I’m an academic natural philosopher. I went to the original Cambridge, not your johnny-come-lately colonial outfit. We have this thing called “Don’t blame your readers if you write liked a concussed gibbon. It is your job to be clear, not your readers’ job to guess something good you might possibly have meant”.

    beautiful

  116. otrame says

    Re: 137

    Ah, Alethea, love, you have a gift. Succinct and exactly the right nuance. Here. Have an internet.

  117. ikesolem says

    @jfigdor, you say, regarding “commitments”:

    1) One is a commitment to the belief that there is no sky-daddy god.

    Q: How about a sky-mommy goddess? Or a pantheon of Egyptian gods? In fact, current physical theory doesn’t really extend back in time past the Big Bang (a bit fuzzy itself). So, if you want to put a bunch of gods into your ‘picture of reality’, there’s plenty of room.

    2) The other is a commitment to methodological naturalism coupled to an ethics derived from human welfare.

    Q1: This word, “naturalism”. The opposite of “artificialism”? But what about those New Guinea bower birds? Artifice or natural?

    And having a methodological approach is all very well, but the scientific method and the go-pray-in-the-desert-till-you-hear-voices-in-your-head method are not one and the same, are they?

    Q2: I always worry about those concerned over ‘human welfare’ – one reason, historical, is the record of the late 19th/early 20th century eugenics movement. Gotta get rid of these cancerous growths on the body politic! Fire up the ovens, it’s time for human welfare!

    The other reason is that ‘human welfare’ requires above all a stable biosphere – including agricultural production as a component of the biosphere, which is what keeps us all alive these days. Failure to even include any discussion of such basic survival issues indicates a woeful ignorance of critical factors that underlie the survival of any biological community (which is what a city is, rather like a coral reef).

    Similar problems apply with respect to the behavior of most other religions, theistic or non-theistic, in the Harvard Theological Club.

    How about this: Agtheistics (patent pending), I’d bet, would be agreeable to drop the hostility if it was renamed the Harvard Mythology Club?

  118. David Marjanović says

    BTW, Josh, do you have evidence that jfigdor’s parents were stupid enough to name him Jonathon?

    Again, this is extremely typical of Harvard.

    Hm. Did Alfred Sherwood Romer get his demigodlike reputation because he worked at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard, or was it the other way around?

  119. burntorange says

    screechymonkey/129:

    So what do you propose? Should we all just shut up and wait for you to publish your double-blind peer reviewed One Study To Rule Them All,

    No, what I expect is more humility.

    I’m sure there’s already lots of good academic/clinical research out there on communications, there may be no need for additional theist-oriented studies. We’ve got plenty of good scientists in our “camp,” why are they not helping us out with this? I don’t propose inaction, I propose that we gain awareness of our own rhetorical shortcomings just as we would like theists to become aware of their scientific shortcomings. I just want us to become more effective, and calling theists names (even the ones who thoroughly deserve it) may not be effective. Accommodating may be equally ineffective. I don’t really know, but I’m just bemused by the fervor each group has for its methods.

    I gave you a serious response to what I thought was a serious question, but now you’re starting to sound a bit like the science-worshipping caricature who thinks that he shouldn’t get dressed in the morning until he’s conducted a scientific survey of which pants leg to put on first.

    At least I got your attention. No, I’m no caricature, but let’s get it straight: the reason we don’t believe in a deity is that there’s no evidence. Why should we treat our communication techniques any differently? What I’m railing against is the constant pissing matches between the militants and the milquetoasts over the right way to do this. Well, neither of these groups is doing more than expressing personal faith over what will be effective. We’ve got biology, physics, chemistry and medical bloggers writing on behalf of secularism. Why not have communications/psych bloggers to help us understand how to carry our message?

  120. arvindiyer says

    If the question is posed simply as…

    Has Prof. Dawkins altered his assessment of how unlikely the existence of a supernatural being is?

    …then the ongoing avoidable controversy is exposed for the non-issue that it is.

    It maybe a good idea for the hair-splitters over atheism and agnosticism to re-read Prof. Dawkins’ utterances be replacing the words ‘atheism’ and ‘agnosticism’ using alternatives as suggested by Eliezer Yudkowsky in the post ‘Taboo your words‘.

    The simple fact that we can well be agnostics in principle while being atheists for all practical purposes seems to require more elaboration and reiteration even within ostensibly freethinking circles than at first would be expected, and that was the motivation behind these earlier articles.

    There is a God and…

    Why agnosticism is not an option in our time

  121. David Marjanović says

    Hah. Such comes from not refreshing before posting.

    Able Whitey McStraighterson

    I’ll steal that. :-)

    Gotta get rid of these cancerous growths on the body politic!

    That’s not “eugenics movement”, that was official Nazi terminology.

  122. David Marjanović says

    …That should probably have been “not only”, not just “not.

    We’ve got plenty of good scientists in our “camp,” why are they not helping us out with this?

    Because they’re busy with other things?

  123. Lars says

    let’s get it straight: the reason we don’t believe in a deity is that there’s no evidence. Why should we treat our communication techniques any differently?

    So why are you talking?

    Well, neither of these groups is doing more than expressing personal faith over what will be effective.

    And all you’re doing is expressing personal faith over what will be effective.

    We’ve got biology, physics, chemistry and medical bloggers writing on behalf of secularism. Why not have communications/psych bloggers to help us understand how to carry our message?

    Why don’t you consult them yourself, before carrying your message to the Interwebs?

  124. Brownian says

    But calling us sleazy liars? Over. The. Top.

    That’s it. That’s his rebuttal. He hasn’t even bothered to give any counter argument beyond a bare assertion.

    It’s a pattern with them.

    @burntorange:

    I’m sure there’s already lots of good academic/clinical research out there on communications, there may be no need for additional theist-oriented studies.

    You’re sure? Why?

    We’ve got plenty of good scientists in our “camp,” why are they not helping us out with this?

    With what? You’ve asserted that there are data and that somehow, those who have access to it aren’t sharing it because they prefer to act how they like?

    I don’t propose inaction, I propose that we gain awareness of our own rhetorical shortcomings just as we would like theists to become aware of their scientific shortcomings.

    Okay. So, share this evidence that you’re sure exists.

    I just want us to become more effective, and calling theists names (even the ones who thoroughly deserve it) may not be effective. Accommodating may be equally ineffective. I don’t really know, but I’m just bemused by the fervor each group has for its methods.

    You know, after a half a century we still really don’t know the best way to convince people to quit smoking, or to not start in the first place. Spreading information only goes so far, as do price raises and laws against smoking in public places. You may be bemused to know that heated arguments rage on whether or not harm reduction strategies such as promoting chewing tobacco over cigarettes help, or whether cigarillos are a gateway smoke.

    As much as it may please you to think that this is one big genital-waving contest with heels dug in, the data you’re sure exist actually may not in the form you want it to.

    Of course, the truth is that eveyone has a small red button under their left scapula that when pressed, switches them from theist to rationalist mode and vice versa. We all know about it, but dirty infighting is so much more fun.

  125. says

    Why not have communications/psych bloggers to help us understand how to carry our message?

    Hey, idiot, just in case you weren’t aware, psychology and sociology have actual fucking journals with peer review. What you’re doing is a pretty blatant stall tactic. Don’t tell the rest of us to sit on our hands and wait; go look the answer up.

    Also, you may want to read a few history books.

  126. says

    I must also add: I will never again get into a debate with any of these Harvard Humanists, for the same reason I won’t debate creationists. They’re just out to pad their reputation, and they simply cannot be trusted to engage honestly.

  127. screechymonkey says

    “Well, neither of these groups is doing more than expressing personal faith over what will be effective.”

    Wrong.

    You seem to be endorsing a false dichotomy in which everything is either a settled matter of scientifically proven fact, or just personal faith.

    In other words, you’re exactly the kind of believer in “scientism” that I thought was only an accomodationist straw man.

    Tell you what, you go off and annoy the communications scientists for a while, since they’re the ones who can give you what you say you want. In the meantime, the rest of us will express our opinions with whatever fervor we damn well please, and you can wring your hands about it some more.

  128. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    No, what I expect is more humility.

    You first, asshole.

    If you have a question about which approach is most effective and you get “it depends,” which for various reasons you articulate badly you don’t like, then it’s up to you to do the research to refute “it depends.”

    No, I’m no caricature

    No, you’re a supercilious asshole. If the question about which approach is the absolute bestest most goodest way to bring the goddists to atheism is important to you, then do your own research. Don’t whine because nobody is particularly interested in answering a question only you care about.

  129. ChasCPeterson says

    Did Alfred Sherwood Romer get his demigodlike reputation because he worked at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard, or was it the other way around?

    I guess Romer’s reputation is probably due mostly to his textbooks, standard issue for US comparative anatomy and paleontology courses for decades. The Museum’s reputation long preceded him, though. Agassiz started it in like the 1850s iirc.

  130. Ichthyic says

    We’ve got plenty of good scientists in our “camp,” why are they not helping us out with this?

    what makes you think the information isn’t already there?

    Why don’t you take a week, and spend an hour or two in your local uni library looking for peer reviewed articles relating to communications issues?

    I know for a fact you never have, because of what you just wrote.

    In short then:

    fuck off and go read a book.

  131. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    PZ #149

    They’re just out to pad their reputation

    But…but…but isn’t being connected to Harvard enough? And speaking for all atheists even when they’re not? And doing philosophy. Not to mention Harvard?

    And Cambridge Mass, the home of Harvard, is where Car Talk Plaza is. How reputation padding is that??!?

  132. stevewatson says

    @burntorange: I have only the vaguest idea what research there may be out there on moving public opinion — I’m an engineer, not a socifuckingologist. So how about this: everyone just do their thing. PZ carries on blazing away on all gun turrets. Hemant goes on being Friendly. Libby Ann has her safe space where anyone can discuss their religion, or lack thereof. The Hah-vahd Humanists can hold Interfaith Teas with with raised pinkies, little sandwiches and Best Practices. Et-fucking-cetera.

    And the effective strategies will be, well, effective, for at least some demographic. And the folks practicing ineffective strategies will find themselves talking to each other, and no one else (which they may or may not notice).

    All very Darwinian: try lots of different things, and the bad ideas will eliminate themselves.

  133. nightingale says

    On another note, I listened to the podcast and was interested in two things particularly: PZ gets a little worried about the recent NPR article on Richard Dawkins dramatizing the Reason Rally (meet the Harvard Humanists there if you can keep it together), in that PZ is concerned they missed the real threat: himself! Dawkins gets the attention. PZ jealous. PZ, pull back on your diva tendencies will ya???

    Number two was PZ espousing rudeness as a virtue. These two things occur in the last 15 minutes of the podcast by they way. Back to rudeness, why is that such a prerogative for you PZ? Is tit-for-tat appeals to emotion really worth it? Take therapy sessions off the Mall, and bring something constructive please.

    Thanks.

  134. mnb0 says

    “I’ll confess, it annoys me to see atheists doing that.”

    If religious people do good and attribute it to their belief it’s fine with me. Some of them I even admire: Franciscus of Assisi, Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Niemöller, Clemens August von Galen, Martin Luther King. Sometimes it doesn’t matter if someone is religious or not.
    I don’t give a f**k if it annoys PZ or other New Atheists what I’m doing. Since when do you care if you get me annoyed?
    Your annoyance is your problem, not mine.

  135. Ichthyic says

    was PZ espousing rudeness as a virtue

    really.

    rudeness.

    funny, I can’t recall him EVER using those words.

    straightforward, no bullshit, no framing, honest… also: satire, ridicule, mockery.

    but just plain rudeness?

    that would just be boorish.

    like yourself.

  136. Ichthyic says

    bring something constructive please.

    you should try reading some of the “why I am an atheist” posts.

    you’ll find a good deal of what constitutes a productive approach in them, and you’ll eat your fucking words if you were at all honest.

  137. jfigdor says

    1. Nowhere did I say I was better than anyone by virtue of my credentials.
    2. People have repeatedly misinterpreted my comments about the Humanist Chaplaincy representing the spectrum of atheist/humanist/nontheist views as me suggesting that the Chaplaincy “speaks for” those people. To make it clear, we speak only for ourselves and our supporters.
    3. @PZ: If you think we’re such an evil/morally-dubious organisation, please send someone to infiltrate our organisation and report back with data about us. Hemant Mehta sometimes sends readers into Churches that run gay to straight conversion programs to report on them. If we are so untrustworthy, PZ, why don’t you investigate us? Come check out a program, or send a researcher. I would be happy to meet that person and answer any questions I can.

  138. says

    162: this post represents research into the behavior of your organization. It is a data point in the “ethically compromised” column.

    At this point you have to earn my trust. You’ ve lost it completely.

  139. Ichthyic says

    If you think we’re such an evil/morally-dubious organisation, please send someone to infiltrate our organisation and report back with data about us.

    we already know all about strawmen.

  140. ewanmacdonald says

    … why on earth would your response to being criticised for failing to engage dishonestly be a call for an infiltrator?

    What the fuck is going on at HH? Is this that sophisticated accommodationism?

  141. janine says

    @53:But let me assure you, HCH is out there to represent all Atheist/Humanist/Nontheist voices.

    @162:People have repeatedly misinterpreted my comments about the Humanist Chaplaincy representing the spectrum of atheist/humanist/nontheist views as me suggesting that the Chaplaincy “speaks for” those people. To make it clear, we speak only for ourselves and our supporters.

    I must be fucking stupid, I do not understand this.

  142. Ichthyic says

    I must be fucking stupid, I do not understand this.

    Doublespeak: It’s not just for breakfast any more!

  143. says

    Also, I’m one guy with a blog, from Western Minnesota. I do not have an organization. Since when do I have “researchers”?

  144. raven says

    Imagine them led by gifted individuals who have been trained as experts in Humanist thought and best practices, using collaboratively developed how-to road maps for developing such centers.

    Actually, they remind me of a bunch of little kids in their tree fort. Sometimes they are cute when they try to play grownup.

    This isn’t one of those times.

    I didn’t have a problem with humanists or secularists. Until today and I do now. Not impressed.

  145. jfigdor says

    PZ, I’ve got to say, this is nothing like the times we’ve met at various conferences. I remember having a pleasant conversation with you at an SSA conference about how much solace I took in reading your blog while I was in the MDiv program in divinity school. I remember joking that I was writing my thesis about “Ditchkins vs Theism.” I guess I’m surprised at how things have changed.

    Goodbye for awhile.

  146. janine says

    But PZ, you know the drones who make up the hivemind are willing to drop everything and do your bidding.

  147. says

    Otrame:

    …but I do think they started off meaning very well.

    Well, that’s implicit. They have only the best intentions for us, and if only we’d shut up and defer to their Harvardly wisdom, we’d recognize that.

    Ikesolem, while I think that connecting anybody with a concern for “human welfare” to eugenics is over the top and rather libertarian, it’s not untrue that paternalism runs deep in many such people. Those who have had experiences with social workers could tell you stories.

    David M., I have no idea, but it is entirely possible to teach at Harvard (or Oxford or the like) and never become worthy of note.

    Burntorange:

    No, what I expect is more humility.

    Toward you? Why? Also, who the fuck put you in charge? Fuck off, and why don’t you take Nightingale along with you.

    Figdor:

    Nowhere did I say I was better than anyone by virtue of my credentials.

    It’s not something you needed to spell out explicitly. You fairly exude it.

  148. raven says

    PZ Myers:

    Also, I’m one guy with a blog, from Western Minnesota. I do not have an organization. Since when do I have “researchers”?

    You have groupies, fans, and admirers. That is far better than “researchers”.

    PS The atheist movement is a true mass movement from the bottom up, created in large part by fundie xians trying to take over and destroy our society.

    As such it is very strong. Leadership is self selected and followed by again self selecteds. Harvard Humanists aren’t even on the horizon. I’ve heard of Dawkins, Hitchens, and Myers, read their books and writings for years, and liked them.

  149. Ichthyic says

    Goodbye for awhile.

    you mean, you’re not going to threaten to hold your breath?

    shocker.

  150. says

    “Humanist” organisations in the US sure are a heterogenous bunch, maybe it has to do with the somewhat fluffy definition of the term. This particular lot sounds like a club of corporate shills with a hyperactive PR department, but I’ll take Josh’s word for it that this is not so unusual. I’m trying to think of another humanist mob we took objection to here circa 2009, does anyone remember ?

    As to interfaith activities, some of the Aussie atheists are big into that sort of thing, and I can not tell you how much I despise this crap.

  151. Brownian says

    Why is it that none of the people who call Gandhi their hero can spell “Gandhi”?

    No, they’re spelling it right.

    David “Snake Oil” Ghandi was one of the most effective car salesmen ever to have existed. The guy could sell you the Flintstones’ car and have you begging him to rust-proof the undercarriage.

    An incorrigible philanderer, he would only date the spouses and girlfriends of his close friends. One such jealous friend went after him in a fit of rage with a tire iron and ended up walking away with a handshake and a second-hand Pinto. That had already exploded. The financing came with an interest rate so high it frightened Edmund Hillary into taking up mountain climbing.

    Ghandi met his end when he accepted a car meant for Hoffa as a trade-in. The car was wired to explode when the ignition was turned. He managed to sell the car to a senior in Decatur sight-unseen, and would have survived if he hadn’t tried to use the cigarette lighter after what he called ‘victory lap’ in the back seat with a vintage Hustler.

    I wonder if they mean us to think they’re referring to the famous Indian independence leader?

  152. echidna says

    jfigdor,

    Explain in what way PZ was “over. the. top.”, instead of whining and behaving like a prat.

  153. Ichthyic says

    I can has Litany Against Faith?

    raisin!

    no, I mean REASON.

    yeah, that’s the ticket.

  154. Ichthyic says

    This particular lot sounds like a club of corporate shills with a hyperactive PR department,

    or a group of RWAs…

  155. screechymonkey says

    I’ve noticed a recurring theme. Whenever these Humanists are criticized for something they’ve said publicly or posted on their website, we’re told that we need to email the author, or attend one of their events in person. Now Figdor is lamenting that PZ isn’t being as nice to him as that one time they met in person and got along so well.

    It’s as though they think that what you say and do publicly in front of everyone doesn’t matter. (Correction: what THEY say and do publicly doesn’t matter. What WE say and do publicly “hurts the cause.”) That’s just an act for the rubes, I guess. We should all just grin and bear it when Epstein or one of his crew sells out our cause, because he’s actually a swell guy to have a beer with, honestly!

    It’s sort of like being told that Mitt Romney doesn’t actually believe all that crazy shit he’s spewing. So what? It doesn’t matter what a supposed leader is like in the pub when no one else is around, if they’re fucking you over in public.

  156. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Goodbye for awhile.

    I suggest you make it permanent. Your word is toast here, and I won’t believe a word you say due to your constant lies and bullshit.

  157. Woo_Monster says

    PZ, I’ve got to say, this is nothing like the times we’ve met at various conferences. I remember having a pleasant conversation with you at an SSA conference about how much solace I took in reading your blog while I was in the MDiv program in divinity school. I remember joking that I was writing my thesis about “Ditchkins vs Theism.” I guess I’m surprised at how things have changed.

    Just pathetic. Previous positive encounters with someone doesn’t make you immune from criticism when you are acting stupidly.

  158. says

    PZ, I’ve got to say, this is nothing like the times we’ve met at various conferences. I remember having a pleasant conversation with you at an SSA conference about how much solace I took in reading your blog while I was in the MDiv program in divinity school. I remember joking that I was writing my thesis about “Ditchkins vs Theism.” I guess I’m surprised at how things have changed.

    So you’re upset that PZ gave you a false impression of favor by being polite and cordial? PZ, note this lesson. You must be more rude you’re just leading people on you hussy.

  159. Sastra says

    Nerd of Redhead #184 wrote:

    I suggest you make it permanent. Your word is toast here, and I won’t believe a word you say due to your constant lies and bullshit.

    I hope he comes back. I didn’t agree with all he said, but I’m glad he stuck around. And I believe him when he claims to be a gnu.

    The Harvard Humanists are an interesting group. There’s both much to admire, and criticize. From what I can tell, they’re a bit diverse. So is Pharyngula. So I suggest he keeps the ‘awhile’ part and return. He’d probably fit in fine. Because we’re also prickly at the idea that you need to “fit in” to be here.

  160. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    jfigdor #162

    People have repeatedly misinterpreted my comments about the Humanist Chaplaincy representing the spectrum of atheist/humanist/nontheist views as me suggesting that the Chaplaincy “speaks for” those people. To make it clear, we speak only for ourselves and our supporters.

    Because, you insufferable twit, you said in post #53:

    But let me assure you, HCH is out there to represent all Atheist/Humanist/Nontheist voices.

  161. says

    Great post PZ. “Faith” is ruining our society. We live in a world where faith no longer cuts muster. Faith is threatening to drive the U.S. back to the 19th century. The time for standing quiet is way past in my view. However, like you, I think that if an atheist wants to take a “softer” tone in their actions, then by all means, let them do so.

    However, working in conjunction with faith based group is just not an option. It is enabling those groups. There are no good deeds done by any religious group that could not be done by a secular organization. That is the direction that I will take myself and hope that others do as well.

  162. Ichthyic says

    Why do supposedly atheist humanists have chaplains?

    why do RWA’s gravitate towards a charismatic leader?

    same thing.

  163. says

    As to interfaith activities, some of the Aussie atheists are big into that sort of thing, and I can not tell you how much I despise this crap.

    Rorschach, I don’t know what you’re referring to here. Quite possibly I’d agree with you about the specific cases that you have in mind. But I don’t take “interfaith” itself to be a bad thing per se. When it’s things like the Australian Council of Churches having a go at the government for not caring for the poor well enough, then go them!

  164. burntorange says

    147. Brownian
    157. stevewatson
    174. Miss Daisy

    Wow, absolutely amazing! I ask a simple, polite question along the lines of “gee, have we ever considered actually paying attention to which communications methods work, and under what conditions” and the response I get is, essentially, that I should STFU unless I have a complete fully-researched solution. Folks, one of the reasons blogs exist is to discuss possibilities.

    When I said I expect more humility, I damned well don’t mean toward me: to you I’m just some anonymous typist, as you are to me. Hell no. I mean each of us needs to be less arrogant about our presumed methods of communication (and I’d like to thank you folks for reinforcing this for me, in both ways).

    And no, I’m very much not an adherent of scientism; on the other hand, the fact that I can’t learn everything through “science” doesn’t mean that I want to just “go with my gut.”

    @stevewatson/157: Thanks for a legitimate, civil reply. Not sure I agree with everything you said, but it was worth reading.

  165. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I ask a simple, polite question along the lines of “gee, have we ever considered actually paying attention to which communications methods work, and under what conditions” and the response I get is, essentially, that I should STFU unless I have a complete fully-researched solution. Folks, one of the reasons blogs exist is to discuss possibilities.

    Why do you think you got the well deserved snark??? First, you aren’t the first to ask that inane question. Second, you failed to do actual research first before you opened your yap. We do respect science and the scientific method, which means if you are interested in an answer, you hit Google Scholar first. Since you didn’t do either, you received the snark you deserved. Try again with less attitude, and YOU do the search before you open your yap.

    When I said I expect more humility, I damned well don’t mean toward me: to you I’m just some anonymous typist, as you are to me.

    No, you were a lazy ass scientist asking a supposedly scientific question. You didn’t do your homework first. If you did, you would know there isn’t a “one size fits all” answer, and saved yourself a lot of deserved grief.

  166. consciousness razor says

    Wow, absolutely amazing! I ask a simple, polite question along the lines of “gee, have we ever considered actually paying attention to which communications methods work, and under what conditions” and the response I get is, essentially, that I should STFU unless I have a complete fully-researched solution.

    Shutting the fuck up is sometimes a legitimate option, particularly when you have nothing to say except the same, tired bullshit others have said here many times before.

    Folks, one of the reasons blogs exist is to discuss possibilities.

    Fuck, but I didn’t realize we were discussing possibilities, rather than listening to you drone about how we have “faith” while providing no evidence for your claims.

  167. says

    When it’s things like the Australian Council of Churches having a go at the government for not caring for the poor well enough, then go them!

    No, that’s different. I don’t mind if the faithful do something useful, good on them. My point is that we non-faitheists have no role in sitting on the podium with a bunch of deluded fools.

  168. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    burntorange #195

    In posts #120, 121 and 122, screechymonkey, Eamon Knight and I gave you polite answers to your question. Your reply in #124 was “I’m aware of those arguments, but find them very unsatisfactory.” You didn’t explain why you found them unsatisfactory, you just made a bald “take your arguments and shove ‘em” response. You then demanded we do some research to answer your question.

    You later whined “No, what I expect is more humility.” Fuck you asshole. If you want research then you do it yourself. Is this concept too hard for your puny little brain to understand?

  169. nightingale says

    160. Ichthyic

    1 March 2012 at 6:45 pm

    was PZ espousing rudeness as a virtue

    really.

    rudeness.

    funny, I can’t recall him EVER using those words.

    Listen at -10:10

    That matter at all to you? And within the context of that moment in the conversation?

    Aside (amazingly): who listened to the podcast? And the whole thing?

  170. burntorange says

    @Nerd/196:

    you would know there isn’t a “one size fits all” answer, and saved yourself a lot of deserved grief

    I said as much in my initial post. If you had bothered to read it you might have seen the real question: how do we determine which approach to use in which circumstances?

    Snark is a lazy person’s technique, it doesn’t actually achieve anything useful. It only gives the snarky person a childish sense of accomplishment. If you want a real accomplishment, just for S&G try getting your message across without snark. You may be amazed at the difference.

    @CR/197:

    the same, tired bullshit others have said here many times before.

    Given that I’m new here I don’t know what others have said many times before. Furthermore, in this case it was on-topic: if PZ posts an entry about X, and if X has been discussed before, it’s still entirely legitimate to post related comments, even if similar things have been posted before.

  171. Brownian says

    I’ve noticed a recurring theme. Whenever these Humanists are criticized for something they’ve said publicly or posted on their website, we’re told that we need to email the author, or attend one of their events in person. Now Figdor is lamenting that PZ isn’t being as nice to him as that one time they met in person and got along so well.

    It’s as though they think that what you say and do publicly in front of everyone doesn’t matter. (Correction: what THEY say and do publicly doesn’t matter. What WE say and do publicly “hurts the cause.”) That’s just an act for the rubes, I guess. We should all just grin and bear it when Epstein or one of his crew sells out our cause, because he’s actually a swell guy to have a beer with, honestly!

    It’s sort of like being told that Mitt Romney doesn’t actually believe all that crazy shit he’s spewing. So what? It doesn’t matter what a supposed leader is like in the pub when no one else is around, if they’re fucking you over in public.

    Well said, screechymonkey.

    Sastra wrote:

    I hope he comes back. I didn’t agree with all he said, but I’m glad he stuck around. And I believe him when he claims to be a gnu.

    Me too. At least jfigdor is willing to talk with us, even if he veers into the timeshare pitch a little too readily. Now if only he’d listen a little harder…

    burntorange wrote:

    Wow, absolutely amazing! I ask a simple, polite question along the lines of “gee, have we ever considered actually paying attention to which communications methods work, and under what conditions” and the response I get is, essentially, that I should STFU unless I have a complete fully-researched solution. Folks, one of the reasons blogs exist is to discuss possibilities.

    I’m going to ask you, as politely as I can, to reread your question, and see if you can figure out why you might have been met with a little hostility.

    Less politely, I’m going to note that the very next three responses to you were considered and respectful, and you retorted with “I’m aware of those arguments, but find them very unsatisfactory” despite having no evidence for your position anyway.

    You asked a question and you got an answer. If you wanted someone to come over to your house, pat your head for being so very smart in coming up with such a clever question that no one had ever considered before (your implication), water your azaleas and then give you a big congratulatory handjob, then please be more specific with your requests.

  172. Brownian says

    Snark is a lazy person’s technique, it doesn’t actually achieve anything useful.

    Do you have evidence for this position?

  173. burntorange says

    @Brownian/202

    Just re-read it. I don’t see what you do, but I’ll take your word that it came off badly. That was not my intent, it really was intended as direct and neutral. This only proves (no surprise to me) that I need to scrutinize my own communication techniques. I’ll give it another look later.

    You asked a question and you got an answer. If you wanted someone to come over to your house, pat your head for being so very smart in coming up with such a clever question that no one had ever considered before (your implication).

    I’m not so arrogant as to believe that any question has never been raised previously. I do know that I’ve not seen it addressed before. I asked the question because it was on-topic for this post. I did not wedge it into an unrelated topic somewhere. And I’m plenty capable both of patting myself on the head and kicking myself. I don’t need anyone else to do it.

  174. Brownian says

    Okay, burntorange. I’m not claiming that you jammed the question in irrelevantly, but you did get answers. Maybe they weren’t to your satisfaction. Then, I guess there’s a knowledge gap.

    So let’s turn this around and make it less acrimonious.

    How do you determine which approach to use in which circumstance? In this thread you’ve shown you can be polite, and you can give some shit too. How and why did you choose to use each?

  175. consciousness razor says

    Given that I’m new here I don’t know what others have said many times before.

    Since you’re new here, you had no reason to assume or imply we hadn’t discussed this issue at length in the past.

    I’ve come to a conclusion similar to what others have already described: that the most effective strategy depends very much on the context and what your goal is in the first place. I’m fairly certain about that much, and it probably isn’t helpful to pose the questions as you did:

    If the science says militantism doesn’t work and the milquetoasts have the right approach shouldn’t we all get behind that?

    Science won’t say an approach “doesn’t work.” We already know that they all have various effects.

    On the other hand, maybe the research will tell us that we need to identify different qualities of receptivity in our intended audience, and that we should adapt our approach as required?

    We can’t assume that the effectiveness of different methods can somehow be evaluated independent of what the desired results actually are. We shouldn’t just be concerned with catering to different audiences, but also with what we’re trying to communicate. That may change: if it turns out one’s message isn’t well-received, it has to be reevaluated, because in every situation communication should be a two-way street. If someone in your audience didn’t frame their dissent in a way consistent with “the science,” which made you feel you could evaluate it comfortably and objectively, berating them about it won’t make either of you any more or less correct and distracts from the issue at hand.

    Or, on a personal level, shouldn’t we take the Darwinian approach and allow our methods to evolve toward greater effectiveness?

    Someone above has already noted that evolution doesn’t produce one species, and it isn’t a synonym for “progress.”

    In the end, we want our hot air emissions to have a positive effect, right?

    Which positive effect? We shouldn’t pretend that everything anyone would consider “a positive effect” is arbitrarily similar.

  176. Ichthyic says

    Listen at -10:10

    I did, you lied.

    PZ was deliberately making fun of the way people call Dawkins ‘uncivil’

    you’re a dishonest little shit, ain’t ya.

  177. rapiddominance says

    Disagreements such as the one we are taking part in currently are not entirely bad. It actually has a mindfucking effect on the enemy.

    On the one hand, “Those atheists say the meanest shit. Bastards!!!”

    On the other hand, atheists stand up for what’s right EVEN WHEN ITS AGAINST EACHOTHER.

    10. cruelty
    9. kindness
    8. “Lets step outside.”
    7. “Lets talk this over.”
    6. agitation
    5. remediation
    4. “I’d like to clock this guy!”
    3. “Now, this is someone I can talk to!”
    2. HARDEN
    1. SOFten
    0. melt

    Good cop/Bad cop; right?

    An impression is being made on our lurking visitors, even now.

    Keep in mind that this effect is not the output of a scheme. Its the result of educated, courageous, passionate, and determined people deploying their whole personhood against a common enemy.

    We’re people who are making mistakes because we cannot afford not to.

    The infighting, troublesome as some of us might find it to be, occurs because we make it a point to discuss difficulties rather than avoid them.

    Possibly, one might even say that its through our insults to one another that we also compliment the other.

    IV. A victory WON together.

    III. A victory CELEBRATED together.

    II. A victory REMEMBERED together.

    I. A future of reason, inquiry, discovery, truth, and peace LIVED together.

  178. says

    I could resist the urge to chime in on the de Button thread, but I can restrain myself no longer. Please do not take the “WE” for representing all atheists. It’s more like a standin for “I, and I think many here as well”

    WE DON’T NEED SELF-PROCLAIMED ATHEIST LEADERS TO LEAD US TO A BETTER LAND. GET IT? SO STFU AND FADE INTO THE BANDWIDTH!

    Thanks, that was cathartic.

    I mean I agree some of us do need celebrants at funerals. And in most countries if we want to get married, we need officiants, but many countries provide those in the form of municipial employees. Here’s a thought: if the religious stopped hogging everything related to death (many cemeteries in the West are church-run, or Buddhist-run in Japan), then MAYBE those officiants would also be available for funerals? Of course there is always the possibility for free-lancers, which is what is happening right now. But try not to ask a pastor to do it, the last funeral I went to was for a nonreligious person and the pastor had been asked to do it as a freelancer, and managed to throw in a number of religious phrases anyway.

    Now I’m all for the everybody-do-their-own-thing approach and it’s my understanding that PZ has been advocating that all along BUT

    – that doesn’t mean gnu atheists don’t get to call out faitheists and accommodationists for intellectual dishonesty.
    – Figdor might claim they only speak for themselves, but that is not the impression they’re giving us. I mean his slip-up in where he said that precisely was illuminating. Since I usually ignore the HHC, I forgot the details, but I also remember there was something about funding for secularist groups around the US, where these chaplaincy groups were perceived to be hogging resources and media attention. If someone remembers the details, a reminder would be appreciated.
    – So the everybody-do-their-own-thing approach has certain limitations where resources are finite. If we’re talking about funding and the distribution of resources etc (it’s telling that Epstein wouldn’t disclose his funding sources), then those who reject the humanist chaplaincy approach as the aping of religious practices need to be vigilant.

  179. Cyranothe2nd says

    Burntorange @ 119,

    For real, there are people doing this research and the answer is, as you’ve already been told, rhetorical effectiveness is situational, audience-driven and dependent on a whole host of other factors. But you don’t have to believe me. It’s called rhetorical theory. Start with the Sophists and Aristotle and when you get to post-post modernism, stop.

  180. raven says

    I just skimmed the latest tempest in a teacup.

    1. It’s really amateurish to misrepresent an event.

    2. It’s really dumb to lie about it when there is a permanent electronic record.

    3. It’s really dumb to keep lying about it when you get called on it.

    Point 3 is simply throwing good money after bad or shooting yourself in the other foot.

    C’mon Harvard Humanists. Grow up. Be smart. The adult thing to do would have been to apologize, correct the record, and learn from it. Not doubling down on the stupid. That just blows your credibility in front of the whole world forever via Google.

  181. Shiroferetto says

    Re: #209, etc.

    Having just come out of a large, local “freethinker” group where the gnu/militant atheists were pushed out by the apologists–and having been one of the gnus–I can tell you that problems like this are just fucking horrible to deal with. I must confess: I can’t motherfucking STAND apologists. Get out of my way, ’cause I got some atheism to do.

    A 650-member Facebook group was completely (and literally) destroyed by milquetoast board members who didn’t like the more aggressive tone that some of us took in the threads. They didn’t like /disagreements/. They didn’t like the fact that some of us wouldn’t let idiots, trolls, and apologists get away with their whackjobbery. So they tore the whole thing down and thought, “This is Progress.”

    The reason I mention this is that #209 really resonated with me–as did the entire thread. I’m so sick of being told I’m not wanted, needed, or “the right type of atheist.”

    We exist for a reason. In fact, we exist FOR reason. I’m not going to stand next to religionistas and smile and shake their hands and tell them how awesome they are. Fuck that on a pogo stick.

    /rant

    Also, for a Harvard boy, he ain’t too bright, is he?

  182. Lyn M: Just Lyn M. says

    rapiddominance @ 209

    I agree that people here can take a few layers of skin off with their comments, and that’s before you can figure out the colourful language part. But I have always felt that they read what you write and think about it. They don’t just go for the throat. If you are trying to make sense and you have thought about what you are saying, I find there is a lot of tolerance. Further, if you also read what is said to you, you can find new ways to look at the situation. Sometimes, you have to back up and try again. But that’s the whole point of discussions like these, I think. You offer ideas and you listen to the reactions. That’s how you get better at it.

    I read the HHC commenters and was quite struck by the condescension. What about the gifted in the groups being lead? Don’t they get to speak up? There seems to be a lot of presuming going on, and none of it suggests to me that there would be a community there in the nice big buildings with the gifted leaders sorting out your problems for you with best practises.

    Sure sounds like they expect followers, though.

  183. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    pelamun #210

    WE DON’T NEED SELF-PROCLAIMED ATHEIST LEADERS TO LEAD US TO A BETTER LAND. GET IT? SO STFU AND FADE INTO THE BANDWIDTH!

    But that’s the whole point about the Harvard Humanists. You’re ignoring this quote from their vision:

    Imagine them led by gifted individuals who have been trained as experts in Humanist thought and best practices, using collaboratively developed how-to road maps for developing such centers.

    Or as Lyn M says in #215

    I read the HHC commenters and was quite struck by the condescension.

  184. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    how do we determine which approach to use in which circumstances?

    You missed my point by not reading my response. You ask the question, you find the answer, then you tell us. We don’t have to discuss old well chewed material simply because you make the decision we need to discuss it, and then try to control acceptable answers. Egotism run rampant from out point of view, hence you were treated with deserved snark.

  185. says

    @jfigdor #162

    Maybe I’m being completely obtuse, but what exactly is the difference between “speaking for someone” and “representing someone”. They sounds pretty damn similar to me and the dictionary even has them as synonyms.

    Clearly you think that there’s some crucial difference, so could you just expand on that?

  186. Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc says

    Sawells,

    Well lah-di-dah. I’m an academic natural philosopher. I went to the original Cambridge, not your johnny-come-lately colonial outfit. We have this thing called “Don’t blame your readers if you write liked a concussed gibbon. It is your job to be clear, not your readers’ job to guess something good you might possibly have meant”.

    Quite possibly the greatest single paragraph that I’ve read for years. Amazing.

  187. MichaelE says

    Reading “charitably”

    How is that in any way an academic standard? If I wrote anything that would require that from the readers I would fail, and quite deservedly so!

    I hope, for the sake of the students at Harvard, that it is not an academic standard.

  188. burntorange says

    @Brownian/205

    In this thread you’ve shown you can be polite, and you can give some shit too. How and why did you choose to use each?

    Right now, UN-scientifically. I use my personal experience which, as several have noted, is far from perfect.

    Different people have different reasons for participating in blogs, e.g. sense of social belonging, validation of beliefs, intellectual validation, thrill of argument, etc. I think about those possibilities and try to form a response that will get their attention and provoke some kind of useful response. The snarky people are often in it for intellectual validation, so I might choose to respond with a question or a little shit of my own to get a response.

    I try never to start with shit, but only use it as a response. When I do give shit I try to give a lower level of shit than I was given (escalation of shit goes nowhere fast), and which also contains some substance that could further the discussion. I have no interest in just saying things like “you moron, if you’d read the books I’ve read you’d know what I know.” I find that childish and unproductive. There are always things I know that others don’t, and always things others know that I don’t. (and plenty we both know that’s just wrong or incomplete)

    I use politeness (and overlook the included shit) when I see an answer that contains a significant amount of sincerity. In those cases, I assume the shit I was given came from a misunderstanding or frustration with something earlier — best to let that go.

    I guess that’s a rough summary. I have no idea if this works because I have only my own subjective experience to draw from.

  189. John Morales says

    [meta]

    burntorange, so: you use your personal experience, but you have no idea whether it works.

    How does that accord with your assertion that “we need to find ways that are demonstrably effective, and not merely engage in our personal choice of intellectual masturbation.”?

  190. burntorange says

    @John Morales/222:

    you use your personal experience, but you have no idea whether it works. How does that accord with your assertion that “we need to find ways that are demonstrably effective, and not merely engage in our personal choice of intellectual masturbation.”?

    That question is exactly on target: I don’t know the answer any better than anyone else. Apparently I made a hash of asking the question and the follow-up, but to give it from a slightly different angle:

    * “We” like to learn about biology and chemistry so we can offer the explanatory power of evolution

    * “We” like to learn about physics to offer rational explanations for the origin of “Life the Universe and Everything”

    But pure reason doesn’t seem to be fully effective, so I’m curious: is there any segment of “us” that studies how to present our message more effectively? Of course, it’s obvious and goes with out saying that there is tremendous complexity in human communication, and there’s much we can’t expect to learn to any depth in the near future. But there is also tremendous complexity in biology, chemistry and physics, and there’s much we have learned about these, just in the last 100 years — and more every year.

  191. says

    I try never to start with shit, but only use it as a response.

    Really. Here‘s one of burntorange’s first comments here, from last week:

    Sounds like bloviation to me. Can be summarized as: we’re creatures of habit; “belief” is a habit that’s hard to shake.

    Sorry, that’s neither profound nor novel. We can do much better than, and we certainly shouldn’t pat ourselves on the back for reasoning such as this which is not much beyond the sophistry of theism.

    It’s bo’s first comment on one of the “Why I’m an Atheist” threads.

    Here‘s bo the previous day, incidentally, suggesting that we stop calling ourselves atheists.

    There is one sure antidote to my SIWOTI, and that’s when I sense that someone is not an honest broker. There’s something familiar about burntorange, but even if he or she really is new to these discussions, I won’t be seeking to educate.

  192. says

    burntorange:

    Given that I’m new here I don’t know what others have said many times before.

    Why is this our problem? As the kids say, lurk moar.

    rapiddominance:

    3. “Now, this is someone I can talk to!”
    2. HARDEN
    1. SOFten
    0. melt

    -1. Lighting of cigarette.

    Shiroferetto:

    A 650-member Facebook group was completely (and literally) destroyed by milquetoast board members…

    Mushy moderates are the death of any activist group.

  193. burntorange says

    @SC/224:

    I plead guilty: I’m new here and didn’t get what the “why I’m an atheist” thing was about. I thought he was supposed to be someone important, rather than a personal statement of a normal guy. My bad, I own it.

  194. quoderatdemonstrandum says

    burntotange @ 223

    But pure reason doesn’t seem to be fully effective, so I’m curious: is there any segment of “us” that studies how to present our message more effectively?

    I think you will find that Chris Mooney claims to have the science on this all figured out and “science says” accommodate like you’re Quisling in Norway in 1940!

    I don’t agree with Mooney’s conclusions

  195. burntorange says

    QED/228: Thanks for the link. I would be skeptical of any claims to have it all figured out. It’s nice that some folks are looking into this, though.

  196. Shiroferetto says

    @#226 Daisy Cutter:

    Couldn’t agree with you more. I keep seeing the same patterns over and over. It’s really starting to drive me nuts. I wish we could have a “religious” schism and let the apologists go do what they want to do and leave the rest of us the hell alone.

    What I find most hilarious is that 80% (pure guess) of the comments on this blog are far more antagonistic and vulgar than what was posted on the FB page that was shut down. Yet this community functions like a /community/.

    Anecdotal evidence suggests that “vulgarity” and “aggressiveness” are not a hindrance to communication, progress, or community.

    Some people just get all fucking butthurt over a few real debates.

  197. curwen says

    It seems the conversation about the Harvard Humanists has faded out here, but I just wanted to point out that PZ’s statements in the debate are, I think, being seriously miscontrued by a Mr. James Croft in the comment thread here:

    http://harvardhumanist.org/2012/03/01/greg-epstein-vs-pz-myers-debate/

    I endeavoured to correct him, but he’s sticking to his guns. Just pointing it out in case anyone else wanted to chime in there.

  198. says

    curwen,

    I think you did a great job already, especially by directing people to this thread. People can get PZ’s side of the story and make up their minds.

  199. curwen says

    Thanks, pelanum. Though just to be clear, the credit for directing people to this thread goes to the anonymous first commenter there, which was not me.

  200. echidna says

    I think that James probably believes that PZ has altered his stance, but I don’t think he has in the six years I’ve been reading him.

    I posted this (currently in moderation):

    James, I find PZ’s position is consistent. He opposes oppression, first and foremost. He holds truth as a high virtue, which pretty much puts him into direct conflict with religion. PZ takes a no-holds-barred aproach when people lie in order to oppress others, especially when they claim the right to control other people’s behaviour is based on religion and therefore can’t be questioned. It gets a little difficult to sort out when those trying to control other’s behaviour on religious grounds might themselves be oppressed.
    There was no concession.

  201. Drolfe says

    Nightingale,

    I too listened to the entire podcast.

    PZ gets a little worried about the recent NPR article on Richard Dawkins dramatizing the Reason Rally (meet the Harvard Humanists there if you can keep it together), in that PZ is concerned they missed the real threat: himself! Dawkins gets the attention. PZ jealous. PZ, pull back on your diva tendencies will ya???

    He was kidding. (That was obvious to me.) What made you think he wasn’t kidding? Unfamiliarity? Maybe it was some of that “Charitable listening” or whatever we’ve been hearing so much about.

  202. jfigdor says

    Time to stir this pot. Here is Greg Epstein’s response to PZ: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/goodwithoutgod/2012/03/the-wisdom-of-balance/

    Here is the comment I left (not sure if Greg will publish it):

    Good post Greg, but I strongly disagree that the IFYC supports atheists, Humanists, and freethinkers. They have made attempts to include us in dialogue, that much is true. But the IFYC and its head, Eboo, have NEVER defended the free speech rights of atheist students and has chastised atheist students for being honest about their beliefs. There are good products of IFYC, Chris Stedman and Mary Ellen Geiss are two of them. But Eboo is an embarassment and should issue a public apology to the atheists he has slandered as “bigoted” and “Islamophobic” in the past. Alas, this will never happen because Eboo doesn’t give 2 $hit$ about the perspectives of atheists and Humanists.

  203. ewanmacdonald says

    I’ve read Greg’s response and I’m still not convinced. For one thing he backtracked on “major concessions” and phrased it instead as ‘ some “concessions” ‘ in his response. And he freely admits PZ didn’t go back on anything he said. That PZ didn’t exhaustively cover every facet of every prior point before is not, I think, sufficient evidence of a concession. It could be one in certain circumstances but I don’t think Greg’s demonstrated that at all.

    I also think his characterising the Sagan quote as cherry-picking is a bit uncharitable. PZ indicated that it was a cut with “…” at the start, and left in the closing part about prudent balance. I dunno, maybe he should have quoted the whole thing, but my takeaway wasn’t that Sagan and PZ were exactly alike.