I’m worried about David Silverman


He may have joined a cult.

He’s the new executive director for a shiny new organization, Transformative Humanists of America, which may not be so new: their web pages sometimes refer to themselves as humanist.com, which seems to be some kind of generic humanist forum. But they’ve gotten together and put together a nearly unreadable mass of words. I’m not sure what they’re all about, but what they seem to consider their main selling point is their mediocrity.

Society is fracturing at an alarming rate with the right hemorrhaging integrity while the Left is cannibalizing itself. As a result the majority middle is increasingly apathetic, disillusioned and without a home. Most people are good, which means suffering is increasing at our own hand. Transformative Humanism can and will help reunify society so we can get back to the business of the Greater Good.

They’ve got a whole section on the Extremism Horseshoe. Yup. Horseshoe theory again. The idea that the left is just as evil as the right, but those who straddle the fence are the best people. Politics are just the worst.

Trump took over and he was more polarizing than Obama had been. Now the left is doing anything it can to make Trump fail, even if it is good for the country. Just imagine the dehumanization and echo chambers that are in effect when we cheer for the failure of nuclear arms talks with North Korea! Trump is a pussy-grabber, so he hates women, so all of his supporters hate women to some degree – that is what the left is saying – dehumanizing en masse, shouting in their echo chambers, and indeed posting things like “please unfriend me if you support Trump”.

How dare you dehumanize Donald Trump for dehumanizing women and minorities! Don’t you realize that makes you as bad as he is?

I tried to figure out what “transformative humanism” is, but the section on “About transformative humanism” wasn’t at all helpful.

Humanism is not a religion, and therefore, is secular by default, like golf is secular. You can be a religious or nonreligious golfer, and you can be a religious or nonreligious Humanist. The rules in golf are secular, because they have no religious position, and the secular morality that we champion here at Humanist.com are also devoid of religion. “Secular Humanist” organizations by definition are exclusionary, divisive, and can be pretty hostile to religious people, but we at Humanist.com are doing this right. Everyone who agrees with our secular reasoning and wants to be a good person by the definition we set forth, is invited, whatever your opinion is on God.

Wait a minute…they differentiate themselves from other organizations that are hostile to religion, but they hired David Silverman as their director? The David Silverman I saw at the World Humanist Congress a few years ago, in which he pissed off a fair number of humanists for aggressively telling them they were all actually atheists, and they ought not to be pretending otherwise? Dave Silverman, Firebrand Atheist? I am mystified.

But maybe this explains the association. It has a whole section that emphasizes forgiveness, and condemns that whole social networking thing.

On-line, with echo chambers in full effect, redemption is often hard to come by. The ability for people to just disconnect from others makes redemption easy, because dehumanized ostracized people are easily replaced, so there is very little incentive for anyone to go through the process that goes against their outgrouping brain and take someone back in, even if they deserve it. Additionally, the outward, proud ostracization that accompanies the echo tunnels creates the Culture of Fear, making it incredibly scary for people who disagree with the outgrouping to voice their support for the ostracized person for fear of being outgrouped themselves. So the silent majority sits in fear of the social extremist minority and the latter rules and the former sits in fearful silence.

Then there’s the section on civil discourse that starts with a quote from Steven Pinker.

“Left-wing and right-wing political ideologies have themselves become secular religions, providing people with a community of like-minded brethren, a catechism of sacred beliefs, a well-populated demonology, and a beatific confidence in the righteousness of their cause.”

― Steven Pinker, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress

If there is one place where the need for social improvement is most evident, it is the area of civil discourse. All over the country and all throughout the Internet, the apparent demise of calm civil discussions and their replacement with hate, extreme labeling and dismissal, and intellectual echo chambers dominates those of us who miss such ideals.

Yeah! The left and right are indistinguishable, just look at the hateful extremism that condemns people like Donald Trump. We need calm civil discussions to deal with Nazis…oh, fuck it. This is just another centrist gang of status quo warriors who want to adopt rules that promote stasis and acceptance of whatever the assholes at the top tell us to do. We may be sliding into a pit, but don’t you dare criticize the people who pushed us in, and you will accept your fate graciously. Namaste.

I find it hard to believe that Silverman has joined these do-nothing wankers, but he himself announced it. I guess it’s all about desperately trying to retain relevance, although I don’t think he’ll find it with these do-nothing babblers.

They really do go on and on at painful length without saying anything. For instance, I read their Who and What We Are page to try and find out who was behind it, who the organizers are. They don’t say! It’s just more platitudes, with a little rebuking of the Left, but nothing specific. It’s tediously empty of any specific content.

You know what else it’s missing? Any mention of major social issues, like racism or misogyny. I guess they’re taking the middle ground on that, too. There’s nothing about science, or concern for the environment — I guess they don’t want to risk colliding with the righties they want to woo! Nothing about politics other than “why can’t we all get along”? No concern about church/state separation. Its only message seems to be that they won’t criticize anyone for being far right reactionary assholes, therefore you should join them.

I don’t think the American Humanist Association has to fear any competition here.

Comments

  1. cartomancer says

    It’s people like this that make me want to hand out copies of Das Kapital on street corners again.

  2. says

    Unclear. As noted, the about pages seem to have been taken verbatim from something called humanist.com, so I blame whoever organized that.

    Also, so much of it sounds un-Silverman-like. If it were something he created, I’d expect a lot more fire.

  3. Oggie. says

    Now the left is doing anything it can to make Trump fail, even if it is good for the country.

    I’m really wondering just what Trump is doing that is good for the country? Appointing extremists to lifetime postions on the federal courts? Gutting the social safety net? Engaging in egregious victim blaming? Blaming all our ills on minorities? Enriching the 1% at the expense of our grandchildren? Doing what he can to destroy public education? Pandering to the exreme religious right? Making it okay to be racist, bigoted and misogynistic? Denying women the right to make choices about their bodies? Minimizing rape and sexual assault from the bully pulpit? What are these good things, Mr. Silverman? Destroying our alliances? Ignoring human rights? Pandering to Russia? Pandering to the oligarchy? Dismantling environmental protections? Hastening global climate change?

    . . . we cheer for the failure of nuclear arms talks with North Korea!

    No one is cheering the failure of the nuclear arms talks with the PRK. Predicting embarrassing failure, and being right about it, is NOT cheering.

  4. cartomancer says

    Also, when one side supports killing the poor and the other side supports not killing the poor, the appropriate compromise is clearly to kill only half of the poor. We can even have a nice Civil Discussion about which poor people to kill, or indeed whether we should kill whole poor people or just half-kill the lot of them.

  5. nomdeplume says

    If only Germany had had a group like this in 1930. All that unpleasantness need never have happened.

  6. screechymonkey says

    Yeah, I couldn’t find any reference to their corporate status, whether they’re a charitable organization (guessing not — even their Donate link doesn’t say so), etc. But now they’re able to hire Silverman as a (presumably) paid executive director?

  7. Reginald Selkirk says

    Most people are good, which means suffering is increasing at our own hand.

    Huh? How does B follow from A?

  8. raven says

    I’ll echo Oggie at 4 and # 9

    Now the left is doing anything it can to make Trump fail, even if it is sic (NOT) good for the country.

    ???
    No they aren’t.
    This is just a lie.
    Trump is failing by himself with huge help from the GOP.
    The left is basically powerless to stop them.

    Just imagine the dehumanization and echo chambers that are in effect when we cheer for the failure of nuclear arms talks with North Korea!

    Flimsy Strawperson.
    No one did that and why should we? This is just another lie.

    Trump is a pussy-grabber, so he hates women, so all of his supporters hate women to some degree – that is what the left is saying –

    Trump is a raging misogynist.
    This is both true and obvious.
    He certainly has nothing but contempt for them and doesn’t see them as equal humans at all.
    His supporters don’t have a problem with this or…they wouldn’t be his supporters!!!
    It’s factually correct to say that most of his supporters don’t think a whole lot of women.

  9. ethicsgradient says

    “Transformative Humanists of America” should look for some outside views – the opinions of the rest of the world. It’s plain to see from Pew surveys that the world in general had more confidence in Obama than Bush, and has even less in Trump than in Bush. You can see a similar pattern (not so pronounced, because it’s about the country, not the president) in GlobeScan surveys for the BBC on whether the USA’s influence in the world is generally positive or negative. There really is a difference in the left leg and right leg of the American horseshoe – the deplorable right leg is huge, and Trump is one of the extremists.

  10. DanDare says

    We are engaged in a struggle over thinking. It’s a battle between those that want to examine issues and reflect and those that want to go with gut feels and generalization.
    That they don’t deal with social inequality, the harm of prejudice, hatred and antiscience tells you that this group is not a middle ground group.

  11. says

    @#4, Oggie

    I’m really wondering just what Trump is doing that is good for the country?

    He has done at least one good thing, although you might call it a virtue of omission: he stopped the TPP and the TTIP, which were both massive giveaways to the rich under the pretext of addressing trade imbalances (which they would not actually do, any more than NAFTA was going to improve the economy for workers). Since they are exactly the sort of thing the Republicans would want*, I’ve been expecting him to weasel around and find a way to reverse course the way he has on NAFTA. I think the only thing preventing him from just changing the name and then claiming victory — which would be enough to fool 90% of voters from both parties — is that there are too many signatory nations already so that making a name change isn’t trivial. The fact that Obama and Hillary Clinton were pushing so hard for both of those treaties has tainted them sufficiently that even Trump’s base would be unable to look the other way if he flip-flopped on them.

    Aside from everything else, the TPP was written to let multinational corporations override national laws which would impede their ability to turn a profit, and the adjudicating body to determine whether this would be permitted would be composed of representatives from multinational corporations, not from signatory countries. In the past when I have mentioned this, people on this very board have told me that that would be okay because those provisions would only be used in third-world countries, the US would be immune, a response which I find troubling from several perspectives.

  12. ridana says

    On-line, with echo chambers in full effect, redemption is often hard to come by. The ability for people to just disconnect from others makes redemption easy…

    Am I being exceptionally dense today, or does the second sentence say the exact opposite of the first? Redemption is hard when you’re in with the group, but if you leave the group you’re easily redeemed? What? >.<

  13. DonDueed says

    Insofar as this organization claims to welcome believers and non-believers alike, that’s not so different from the stated position of more than one FTB blogger and various commenters. It’s been expressed here pretty regularly that it’s better to work with well-meaning religious than with the staunchly atheist slime pit types.

    That may well differ from Silverman’s earlier position, but perhaps he’s come to the same conclusion as (for instance) PZ has.

    The rest of this Transformative Humanism stuff just seems kind of incoherent.

  14. Akira MacKenzie says

    I find it hard to believe that Silverman has joined these do-nothing wankers, but he himself announced it.

    We’re talking about a self described libertarian who set up booths for American Atheists at fucking CPAC conferences as outreach to right wing nonbelievers. Why would you find his current antics surprising?

  15. says

    Now all I’m getting are “page not found” 404 pages for the links, except for John Morales’ “blog” link, which only contains:
    “How To Delete This Post”
    “Design a Stunning Blog”
    “Blogging From Your Live Site Mobile!”

  16. DanDare says

    The problem with working with well meaning religious folks is that you still have to speak up when they try to bring magical thinking into dealing with issues. And it is important to work against magical thinking being spread about. Religious folks still tend to see this as personal attack.

  17. raven says

    The problem with working with well meaning religious folks is that you still have to speak up when they try to bring magical thinking into dealing with issues.

    You can work with the religious on specific issues without that coming up enough to matter.
    One of the headquarters for the anti-Vietnam war movement when I was a kid, was a large Unitarian church.
    With some risk on their part.
    At the time, the antiwar movement was rather unpopular among the general public.
    And their phones were tapped by the FBI.

    I still have good feelings toward the Unitarians and that church.

  18. waydude says

    Ugh, you can’t just call any ideology a religion, that argument is worn out. Sure, there are a few similarities, but if that’s your rubric, my xbox is a temple of worship

  19. says

    Looks like they noticed people were reading their pages, and shut ’em down. Not surprising — it looked like a copy-and-paste job from an older website that wasn’t ready for prime time.

  20. John Morales says

    Not just that — each page had this footer:

    “© 2018 Transformative Humanism: Good People Welcomed. All Rights Reserved.”

  21. ridana says

    @25 That WSJ article is paywalled and I’m not subscribing to read it, but since it seems to be predicated on the assertion that racism is over, I don’t think there’s much there worth reading anyway.

  22. Mrdead Inmypocket says

    This is just another centrist gang of status quo warriors who want to adopt rules that promote stasis and acceptance of whatever the assholes at the top tell us to do.

    Which brought this to mind.

    “I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.” -Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail

  23. karmacat says

    I’m amazed? amused? that they said “but we at Humanist.com are doing this right.” I can’t think of another organization that says this so blatantly. They may think it but they are not so stupid to actually say it.

  24. emergence says

    The problem with these modern “centrists”, especially people like Steven Pinker, is that they aren’t actually part of some neutral middle ground. They have more in common with regressive Republicans and alt-right shitheads than they do with progressive social justice advocates. Self-proclaimed centrists are usually just moderate conservatives who are somewhat less tainted by reactionary fuckwittery than the extreme far right.

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