1. Anthony K says

    Harsh? Hardly.

    Professional skeptics’ organisations have been cruising on autopilot for long enough. I’m not so stupid as to think they’ll wake up, so like the Catholic Church and other organisations who turn a blind eye to abuse, they need to die.

  2. ekwhite says

    A very courageous and principled stand on her part. I would not call it harsh at all.

  3. says

    She is a leader – one of the best bloggers out there. Either the other skeptics’ organizations will shape up, or new ones acting on humanistic values will replace them.

  4. ischemgeek says

    Expressing support for women’s rights while doing nothing to support the cause is like expressing support for sustainable living while using a 3-tonne pickup truck for your daily commute to an office job.

  5. jose says

    Democrats got at least something of a health reform done by not acting like Greta Christina when faced with absolute opposition. Pretty sure America would be worse off by now otherwise.

  6. Dave, ex-Kwisatz Haderach says

    Good for her! Exactly the right response, here’s hoping they listen.

    Semi-related question: Anyone know how connected CFI Canada is with their American counterparts? I’ve been looking for a way to get out in meat-space with my atheism now that I’ve gotten more comfortable with it (thanks in large part to the Horde), and the biggest group here in Calgary seems to be CFI. But I really don’t want to support Lindsay and the assholes responsible for that abysmal not-even-a-not-pology.

  7. says

    @jose #6 – the situations are not analogous. Nations are not really voluntary organizations. When membership is voluntary, and intractable opposition is met, there is no point in compromise on something so basic.

  8. crocodoc says

    Loved her contribution on the last Dogma Debate podcast – but they could have talked about this issue, too instead of only discussing her new book. Maybe next time?

  9. Pteryxx says

    Dave: CFI Canada is independent, they were just founded originally by the main CFI. Go wild.

  10. jose says

    @georgewiman you’re right, the stakes are certainly not as high, still it’d be good to know under what conditions political compromise would be worth it.

  11. Chuck says

    Wow. Resigned her position as columnist for Free Inquiry, rejected an honorarium for a talk already given, and resigned as speaker for an upcoming CFI event. A principled stand. Cheers to Greta.

    I’m off to cancel my Free Inquiry and Skeptical Inquirer subscriptions.

  12. fmcp says

    Dave, I don’t actually know the answer to your question, but Greta did say that she will continue to support the local groups due to their relative independence. I do know that CFI Toronto recently hired a new Executive Director who’s background is in LGBT activism, which I take to be a good sign. There were lots of CFI folk at the Imagine No Religion 3 conference in Kamloops a month back, and I found everyone to be rather lovely (I’m pretty sure I was chatting with some Calgarians, but I wouldn’t swear to it).

    I don’t think any group is perfect, but I suspect that smaller organizations will have less rot in them. That response read like corporate spin for a reason – organizations that large are usually lacking in courage by their very nature.

    I wonder if the local chapters will comment at all? Probably not – they have nothing to gain and plenty to lose, no matter what they say. Still, I’m dying of curiosity about what the chatter is in their offices right now!

  13. zhuge, le homme blanc qui ne sait rien mais voudrait says

    @georgewiman you’re right, the stakes are certainly not as high, still it’d be good to know under what conditions political compromise would be worth it.

    Look, it’s a basic cost/benefit problem. Your analogy is utterly flawed, for any number of reasons. One of the largest reasons is that unlike congress this isn’t a zero-sum game. There are 100 senators and 435 house members per turn, and short of forced expulsion, you can’t change that. So you have to work with what you have.

    In social justice movements, you can create new organizations, support different organizations, work independent of any organization, etc.

    The situations are utterly different.

    So if you think that supporting CFI is worth throwing women/feminists under the bus because of the good work it does that cannot be done/ is not done by any other organization that wouldn’t do the same, go ahead. I, for one, give to Secular Woman instead.

  14. fmcp says

    @Anthony #15, there was a big kerfuffle around a guy named Justin Trottier that was handled really, really weirdly (and I think badly). I don’t know much about it because I was just getting interested in organized skepticism at the time, but I’ve recently had various reasons to chat with Michael Payton (National Director) and I think he’s an ok guy. I also really liked the other people I met. My guess is that it’s evolving in a positive direction, perhaps even because of the fallout behind the crap from back then. Slow, positive progression – the Canadian way!

  15. Uncle Ebeneezer says

    @Jose- another reason it’s a bad analogy: There is no other Congress through which to pass major National legislation. And in many cases legislators are faced with the difficult choice of Pass Something Flawed vs. Pass Nothing, because those are the only two options. Atheism/skepticism etc., doesn’t have such a zero-sum dynamic. Greta will simply put her energy into other organizations and speak at other conferences. CFI will face increased competition from organizations that take the concerns of feminists more seriously.

  16. says


    Yeah, we got a lousy health care bill which was originally designed by Mitt Romney which guarantees the profits of insurance companies at the public’s expense. And all we had to do was let the Democrats repeatedly silence anyone who mentioned the idea of single payer or a public option, both of which would be better and more economical! What a great analogy! Frankly, I wish we had had some Greta Christinas in Congress at the time, instead of the useless lumps of crap who pass for Democrats these days.

  17. Dave, ex-Kwisatz Haderach says

    Thanks for the link Anthony, that wasn’t there when I read Greta’s thread, and thanks to everyone who answered.

    So check it out, but hold back on a commitment til I see where the leaders stand, locally and nationally.

  18. says

    A friend of mine in High School once said: “When you’re insulted, you can leave or you can stay. If you stay, don’t be surprised by whatever happens next.” I realize it may sound a bit simplistic, but some in this thread have raised the possible implications of leaving this organization. Consider also the implications of staying.

  19. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Fair enough on Greta Christina’s part in the circumstances.

    CFI can’t say they haven’t been given a chance to respond better or warned of the possible consequences.

    Wonder if enough people do that whether the CFI will see reason dump Lindsey apologise and change or keep digging and going downhill

  20. LeftSidePositive says

    PZ, I noticed in reading Amanda Marcotte’s piece that her wording regarding your position on CFI was necessarily not as clear-cut as how she could describe Rebecca’s response. I see that you’ve reported approvingly of Rebecca’s and Greta’s decisions to boycott CFI–but have you made such a commitment to boycott CFI yourself? These things generally work better when more people stand up for them unequivocally.

  21. says


    Democrats got at least something of a health reform done by not acting like Greta Christina when faced with absolute opposition. Pretty sure America would be worse off by now otherwise.

    Setting aside the complete inaptness of your analogy, how many Republican votes did the Democrats get on the Affordable Care Act by “not acting like Greta Christina”?

  22. ChasCPeterson says

    if i was PZ Myers, I wouldn’t appreciate commenters trying to tell me what to do.

  23. zhuge, le homme blanc qui ne sait rien mais voudrait says


    That was my first thought too. I figured I’d give the benefit of the doubt, and that it was meant that progressives like Pelosi and Brown voted for the moderate compromise they could get through McCaskil, Pryor, Nelson, et al.

  24. azpaul3 says


    PZ is a big boy and can take criticism and advise for that it’s worth (maybe nothing).

    But PZ’s situation in this is much different than Greta’s. Ms. Christina and the other women in the movement took a personal hit right on the chin. The rest of us got only a stinging glancing blow.

    Though he is not a girl he is The Tentacled One and as such could have a stronger voice from within. Someone from within, especially such a strong opinion leader as PZ, should be throwing stones at these guys from within the camp.

    I could see PZ and others following Greta’s lead on this and would advise against such a move. But should he decide to do so, which sends a strong message in itself, we can support such a move.

  25. LeftSidePositive says

    Yeah, Chas, it’s just sooooooo oppressive when a commenter asks someone to clarify his position and makes a supporting argument for which action she thinks is best! Get your smelling salts!

    azpaul3, I’m going to have to strenuously disagree with you about changing this “from within.” For one thing, the claim of “I’m changing this from within!” can often be a way for that individual to enjoy the support and advancement in a major organization, while having an always-at-the-ready excuse for why he can’t do more (See Obama, Barack: on…well, just about fucking anything, really!).

    Moreover, I seriously doubt PZ is as “within” as you seem to think he is on this case…as Ron Lindsay still acted like a total ass and still isn’t being held accountable for it. If PZ has the incredible powers of persuasion you claim, I would have expected none of this to have happened in the first place. More likely, all one will get for PZ staying “within” is that they can use his name to sell conference tickets, benefitting them at very little cost of self-reflection. HOWEVER, saying “your ability to use me to sell conference tickets stops RIGHT NOW” is going to have a much stronger effect on people whose main goal seems to be how much they can minimize and manipulate to get away with keeping the status quo. Furthermore, these sexism fights are very, very public, and by telling CFI to stuff it, he is showing others beyond CFI what is and is not acceptable behavior. Far more importantly, this fight is about the future of the secular movement, not about the future of CFI. The goal is to make the secular movement as diverse, just, and inclusive as possible, and whether or not this involves CFI withering, dying and getting out of the way versus CFI becoming a positive vanguard of that change is completely immaterial to me. PZ shouldn’t try to focus on getting CFI to come around (however long *that* will take!) and ignore how many activists are being put off by their behavior and how many other more worthy conferences and orgs are getting their attention and funding diverted away by the deeply flawed CFI.

  26. athyco says

    Moreover, I seriously doubt PZ is as “within” as you seem to think he is on this case…

    I’d have to agree with that, LeftSidePositive, since the only quoted example of “Shut up and listen” Ron Lindsay gave was from PZ. Another was an “I can’t tell you the details, but it really truly happened” Lindsay anecdote. Two were linked: a great post/discussion from John Scalzi which had all the nuance anyone could ask for and someone nobody knows on Daily Kos.

  27. says

    I’m the president of the board of directors of a non-profit group that is fairly well-known in my region. As the CFI events have unfolded, I’ve been aghast at the lack of leadership from CFI’s board.
    If the Executive Director (ED) of the organization I lead acted publicly in a way that was detrimental to the mission and reputation of the organization, insulted or demeaned our members and our community, and/or threatened the organization’s future health [money] and mission s[services/work], here’s what I, as board president, would do:
    – Issue an immediate public statement, acknowledging the incident, and promising an immediate inquiry and a prompt follow-up. By immediate, I mean on that very day. The board president has the authority, and the obligation, to do this. The statement need not “take sides,” only acknowledge the situation and promise action.
    – Convene a special meeting of the board (or in our case, the executive commmittee, to whom the executive reports) to look in to the matter, and hold this meeting immediately, ideally within a week. With modern technologies, board meetings can be held any where and any time. [There was no need for CFI to wait for its next scheduled board meeting; that was its first cowardly act. Perhaps they were hoping the scandal would die down; of course, the delay only fanned the flames. My organization’s by-laws spell out when and how special meetings may be called, and also allow for meetings to be held by teleconference, etc.]
    – Issue a follow-up public statement that includes an unambiguous apology from the board for the Executive Director’s actions; indicates what, if any, consequences will be imposed on the ED (e.g., firing); and describes steps we will take to ensure that from this moment forward, the organization will do better.
    – Follow up on the actions, as promised in the public statement. That might include convening a task force to examine the issue; providing training for staff and volunteers; reviewing our mission and strategy; etc., etc.
    – Issue a later follow-up to indicate what progress has been made, and to assure our community that we take their concerns seriously and have not shelved the whole thing once the scandal died down.
    The entire CFI incident indicates that they are experiencing some erosion of mission, and/or lack of alignment among and between the board and executive staff. If my organization were experiencing this sort of dissonance, I’d spend some time with the staff and board to clarify what we do, and why we do it, and for whom.
    The job description for our ED includes a specific requirement that the incumbent be an effective public spokesperson for the organization AND its mission. If our ED acted as the CFI’s executive did, we would therefore have grounds for firing. Also, it’s hard to believe that that horrible conference greeting was the first time that he had made those views known; the fact that he could give those remarks with no expectation of punishment or backlash indicates that he had probably received validation of his views from members of the board, if not from the president. The rot may be deeper than is evident.
    One of my jobs as board president is to set the tone for how the organization conducts itself. In CFI’s case, I would suggest that in addition to a new chief executive, they need a new board president. That latest flaccid statement from the board is just pathetic; it gives the impression that the board can’t reach consensus and has no strong leadership. I wouldn’t be surprised if that had started out as a stronger statement, and got watered down during a CYA board meeting, with the board president letting that happen and not understanding that the non-statement would be so damaging.
    tl; dr : The main problem here is not only with the chief executive, but with the board leadership. The board president 1) in not acting decisively, shows weak leadership and 2) in allowing the CFI board to issue this pathetic statement, is failing to understand serve the organization and its community.

  28. says

    A principled move. We should all support her and Rebecca’s difficult choice. Especially PZ.

    They need prominent allies. “The standard you walk past is the standard you support.” Don’t walk past, PZ!

  29. DonDueed says

    Quodlibet, thank you for those remarkable insights. If only the CFI leadership had followed that path!

    I’m only sorry now that I let my long-time subscription to Skeptical Inquirer lapse last year, so I can’t cancel it.