More on Hemant’s post about the “Secular Policy Council.”
He starts with pointing out that a lot of their content is identical to content from the Secular Coalition for America – where she used to be Executive Director until she…erm…left it a year ago. Mary Ellen Sikes points out in a comment that the content has a Creative Commons agreement. That sounds benign until you remember that Rogers used to work for them. Quoting Mary Ellen:
In other words, Edwina Rogers oversaw the development of a Model Secular Policy Guide that lacked a copyright, thus allowing her to republish it at another organization. As well, the Creative Commons license for the site as a whole represents a change which I believe (but am not positive) came about under her direction.. Perhaps the SCA Board can explain its thinking about these alterations to its intellectual property status.
Back to Hemant:
It all looked very familiar… and the CEO of this new group was Edwina Rogers.
It appeared that, after parting ways with the SCA, she was setting up her own organization with a lot of overlapping parts.
This new organization didn’t lack credibility. In addition to that large coalition of supporting groups, she had a number of big-name “Fellows” — “distinguished scientists and scholars dedicated to the idea that policymaking should be informed by scientific evidence.”
That list of fellows included: Lawrence Krauss, Peter Boghossian, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Steven Pinker, Rebecca Goldstein, Carolyn Porco, Michael Shermer, and Andy Thomson.
All of those people have now left, and Hemant did an update to say Phil Zuckerman has now joined the leavers.
Hemant wonders why they left, and if it was their doing or the SPI’s.
Last week, I reached out to all the former Fellows I just named to find out if they could shed some light on those questions.
While some of them did not respond, the ones who did, including Steven Pinker and Rebecca Goldstein, told me they asked to be removed. They have no formal connection with SPI anymore.
It’s my understanding that Sam Harris left a while ago, but the rest of the names have all asked to be taken off the list over the past week or two.
And that’s the point at which he dropped the Dennett bomb.
Richard Dawkins — who is the subject of one of the damning accusations in Rogers’ lawsuit — said that he requested to be taken off the list after hearing from Dennett.
He also told me, “I have no recollection of how I [came] to be on the list in the first place.”
That’s pretty interesting considering how his image was used to promote the organization from the get-go:
Yes, yes it is.
That’s actually what I’ve thought about it all along – thought and said – that it’s basically just a list of Top Names, of “Thought Leaders” (never forget it was the Global Secular Council / Secular Policy Institute that started calling them that), for no particular purpose other than having a list of Top Names. It was just some ridiculous Look At Me project engaged in an infinite loop of adding people so as to draw in more people who would draw in more people repeat forever. Look at us being important. Bow.
And at least for now, the cover photo for SPI’s Facebook page still features both Dawkins and Krauss, neither of whom are Fellows anymore:
I asked Rogers about this situation a few days ago (and again over the weekend), but have not yet received an on-the-record statement. If she provides one, I’ll post an update.
Well, she was at the CFI conference over the weekend, being important.
So there you are. A large number of their Top Names have bailed, at least one of them having been added to their list of Top Names without his knowledge or permission. More are likely to follow suit as they find out what’s going on.
The whole thing is an embarrassment.