I have to share this public post by Kavin Senapathy because, by the time I got to the fourth paragraph, I’d facepalmed myself into an angry stupor and was feeling really pissed off at CFI. How can Robyn Blumner and CFI kick themselves in their own asses so hard? It ought to be anatomically impossible, but there they go.
I have an update about how the Center for Inquiry and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry have reacted to my recent Undark essay (https://undark.org/2020/02/20/center-for-inquiry-race-pseudoscience/) in which I criticize their indifference to matters of race, racist pseudoscience, and the white supremacy among their ranks.
Wait for it …
Within days, they removed all of my Skeptical Inquirer articles and my Point of Inquiry episodes from their website.
That’s right, my writing on things like quack autism “cures,” spurious birth practices including lotus birth, the “breast is best” mantra, pesticides, alternative medicine, mom guilt, and more have been unpublished. My podcast interviews with people like Carl Zimmer, Angela Saini, Massimo Pigliucci, Paul Offit, Adam Conover, Alison Bernstein, Iida Ruishalme, Claire Klingenberg, Sarah Taber, Susan Gerbic, Jen Gunter, and more on everything from MSG to OCD to the alarming resurgence of race science have also been removed from their website in apparent retaliation.
I’m not angry about this. I am bewildered, especially because CFI CEO Robyn Blumner is a self-styled “free-speech purist.”
Still, I’m not surprised— erasure and hypocrisy are among the most tried and true tools of white supremacy. As I wrote in my essay, “The most insidious white supremacy doesn’t carry tiki torches of festering hatred. It comes from well-meaning people who nevertheless uphold power structures with whiteness at the top.”
Skeptics: To those without the power to stand up to this as loudly as you’d like to— I see you and I respect you. To those with the power to stand up to this, I encourage you to do so. I also trust that, when you look at yourself in the mirror, you know which camp you belong in.
A particularly telling part of this is that Blumner has been sending emails in which she attempts to disparage me using, of all examples, an excerpt from this post (https://www.facebook.com/kavin.senapathy/posts/10156420934416875):
“My atheist role models growing up were my parents and my uncle. Today, my non-religious role model is, above all others, me. I also have a gaggle of deeply good non-religious friends who, amazingly, found their way to a non-religious belief system without ever reading a sentence by one ridiculous man whose name rhymes with Shmichard Schmawkins or his esteemed colleagues.
Honestly, none of these celebrated mediocre old white atheists are actually necessary. They’re not enlightened. They’re washed the fuck up. Yes, many people *have* found their way out of religion due to their work. But if you think that other brilliant non-religious thinkers who meet and surpass the abilities of these dudes don’t exist, then you live under a racist rock.”
I stand behind this statement.
I’m not sure what part is so particularly offensive, Robyn. My use of the word “white” isn’t the problem— it’s the racist, colonialism-tinged drivel that spews forth from Dawkins’ bigoted mouth and social media accounts.
It’s hard to see the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and Skeptical Inquirer reduced to a mere shell of the former pillars of skepticism that once inspired the formation of skeptical organizations stateside and around the world. It appears that certain individuals have infected CSI with their denialism and reductionist Newtonian worldview— a worldview in which “science and reason” can be neatly compartmentalized and isolated from sociopolitical forces. It’s cringeworthy and painful to witness. As one friend and ally put it, it seems that they’re afflicted with a terminal sclerosis.
All of that said, most of the responses to the Undark essay have been overwhelmingly positive. For instance, one award-winning science writer and woman of color who was invited to speak at CSIcon 2020 has informed CFI that she can’t make it this time, but “I would be happy to consider coming to speak at another time in the future if you would consider reinstating Kavin Senapathy, and also appointing more people of color to your board at the Center for Inquiry. Indeed, I’d be happy to join the board myself!”
This person is easily among those I most respect in the entire world and would make a fantastic addition to CFI’s Board. To see her email was a balm for my heart—I don’t want to be reinstated, but I do care, and ultimately still have hope that CFI’s skeptical soul isn’t beyond reviving.
I want to profusely thank all of the individuals and organizations that have shown support to me in the wake of all of this— for one, the Board of the European Council of Skeptical Organizations has stepped up to host all of the articles that have been removed. I appreciate it so very much and plan to take them up on it shortly.
To those still doing the hard work to try and change CFI, both from the inside and outside, you have all of my support. And to those still doing the hard work outside of CFI, you also have all of my support. Don’t hesitate to reach out if there’s something I could do to help; I’m extremely accessible.
We have work to do.
As I wrote, “Tackling these issues of race, diversity, and inclusion is hard, but worthwhile. And if legacy organizations like CFI refuse to confront these issues — both outwardly and within their own ranks — it’s reassuring to know that there’s a growing global community of skeptics who have shown willingness to heed the call. For the sake of the longevity of the skeptic’s movement, it is crucial that they — that we — succeed.”
I’ll sign off with a nod to *all* of the people who take a skeptical approach to their work on the front lines during this pandemic. I’m fairly certain that most who do skepticism well— that is, those who seek the bald-faced truth and strive to abide by it— call themselves things like “teacher,” “nurse,” “journalist,” “scientist,” “student,” “parent,” “Target cashier,” “delivery driver,” “friend,” and much more, and only some of them identify as skeptics. I truly believe that those who claim the badge of “skeptic” must tip our hats to all of the badasses out there who view science not just as a method, but as an integral part of the way they carry themselves in the world.
Oh, well. At least I bailed out of CFI and the skeptic movement 7 years ago. I haven’t regretted it since, it’s become a major shit-show.