Strand 1 Opening Statement by Stephanie Zvan

How can we work together on core issues on which we broadly agree, including promoting reason, critical thinking, science, skepticism, atheism and secularism in the real world?

Four stick figures holding a piece of a puzzle.1. The key to working together under these circumstances is to understand that there are myriad solutions to each of these problems. None of them are complete in themselves, but together, they provide a strong force for change. Additionally, pursuing multiple strategies at once allows us to take advantage of the diverse talents and motivations of those who find value in promoting all or any of these ideals.

2. To use science as the least contentious (currently) of these topics, we already recognize that there are different roles to be played. We recognize the bench scientist and the field scientist. We recognize the physicist and the sociologist. We recognize the philosopher of science and the critic of methods. We recognize the lab manager and the lab technician. We recognize the grade-school science teacher and the PhD student. We recognize the peer reviewer and the science journalist.

3. There are far more roles to be played in promoting science than I’ve listed, but this gets the idea across. We require all those people and more to do good science, and we understand that. We don’t expect Neil deGrasse Tyson to be Shinya Yamanaka or either of them to be Mary Roach. We don’t tell them they’re hurting science because they’re not doing each other’s job. We all understand this.

4. For whatever reason–possibly because the secular and skeptical movements in their current incarnations are much younger, smaller, and more consistently besieged than the broad institutions of science and science popularization–we lose that insight when talking about these movements and their priorities. All sorts of people suddenly seem to know The One True and Proper Way to conduct the campaign for the Pure and Shining Platonic Ideal of…whichever issue we happen to be promoting.

5. According to these people, we may not or we may or we must include religious skepticism under our skeptical umbrella. We may not or we may or we must build friendly working relationships with religious institutions with similar goals. We may not or we may or we must shape our agendas to appeal to groups of people whose relationships to these various issues are very different from the relationships of the white, cisgendered, educated, middle-class to upper-class men who have shaped the traditional concerns of our movements.

6. All of us. May not. Must. Things can get very prescriptive very quickly.

7. That kind of prescriptivism is no more necessary for us, however, than it is in science. Beyond the basics of ethics and efficacy, we can take as many approaches as we have time and/or money, talent, and motivation for. Beyond ethics and efficacy, the more prescriptivist we are, the more people we exclude, because we don’t offer meaningful work that motivates them and puts their talents to work. The demand for active volunteers is high. They can always find another issue that motivates them with groups behind those issues that will welcome their work instead of endlessly insisting it’s the wrong kind of work.

8. So some of us find church-state separation law motivating, and we (in the U.S.) become members or follow action alerts from the Freedom from Religion Foundation or Americans United for Separation of Church and State or American Atheists or the ACLU. Some of us follow politics very closely and sign up with the Center for Inquiry’s Office of Public Policy or the Secular Coalition of America. Some of us are particularly concerned about science education and support the National Center for Science Education. Some of us want to see big-name speakers in front of crowds promoting our agendas and support the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science or the James Randi Educational Foundation. Some of us like the think-tank approach of CFI and its related organizations and publications. Some of us work with our local groups to create change in our own communities.

9. Some of us are particularly in developing younger activists and support the Secular Student Alliance, have joined Secular Woman because we’re motivated by the assault on women’s rights to bodily autonomy, or feel that the Black Skeptics Group Los Angeles do important work with young adults that no one else is doing. Or we’ve joined some other specialized affiliation group that speaks to our interests. Some of us take our advocacy for skepticism or secularism with us into our other advocacy work because those principles can and should make our most important work better. Some of us consider our advocacy for skepticism and critical thinking our most important work and insist that we apply these principles to our shared advocacy work do for exactly the same reason. And on and on and on.

10. Some of us don’t work with existing groups at all. We’re writers or vloggers or filmmakers or singers or graphic designers or interviewers who are producing independent content. We volunteer at our kids’ schools to improve education and watch what our local school boards are up to. We encourage our kids to ask questions and do their own hard thinking. We stop the annoying email chain letter with an annoying link to Snopes. We talk about politics and religion around the dinner table. We send letters to the editors of our local papers and make sure to talk to our politicians when given the chance. We share cool science articles, xkcd strips, and “I fucking love science” memes on social media. We do a thousand and one things to make the tiny differences as well as the large ones.

Several stick figures holding hands.11. All of that is working toward common goals, even when it isn’t working hand in hand. It’s working together without having to agree at every point or even to work closely with anyone else. Everyone gets to do what motivates them–to a point. We do still have to consider ethics and efficacy.

12. I’ll assume I don’t have to get into ethics at this point. I will later if it becomes necessary.

13. When we’re talking about promotion of ideals and behavior, attending to efficacy is particularly important and not always easy. I recommend two resources highly. The Skeptical Activism Campaign Manual (pdf) by Desiree Schell, Maria Walters, Trevor Zimmerman, and K.O. Myers is an amazingly detailed resource for thinking your way through activism, including who your target audience is, how you expect to reach them, and how you’ll measure your success. I would also recommend Todd Stiefel’s presentation on Strategy and Leadership that he’s given at a couple of conferences. It covers a similar sort of planning but at the organizational level and over a longer period. Both resources strongly promote an “eyes on the prize” perspective.

14. That’s an important perspective. We become emotionally invested in the groups and activities in which we invest our efforts. If we hear that we’re not successfully reaching everyone we’d like to, it’s all too easy for us to find reasons to dismiss that feedback or blame the failure on others. Setting benchmarks ahead of time protects us from our own biases–as well as those of other people who might have their own reasons for persuading us to change.

15. Sometimes that analysis of our efficacy will lead us back to a single, more prescribed approach. For example, we may want to craft a single message that can be broadcast to as many people as possible while alienating as few as possible. Sometimes it will lead us to use more parallel approaches, perhaps because we expect an issue to be important to different demographics for different reasons. Either way, our behavior going forward will be based in evidence rather than our innate or learned biases.

16. So, in short, we work together by not always insisting we all have to work closely on the same projects in the same ways and by keeping an eye on our ethics and efficacy in order to make sure we don’t overlook opportunities for outreach.

Images: Courtesy of lumaxart. Some rights reserved.

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15 Responses to “Strand 1 Opening Statement by Stephanie Zvan”

  • I do not agree with this:

    “5. snip white, cisgendered, educated, middle-class to upper-class men who have shaped the traditional concerns of our movements.”

    It ascribes to someone an intrinsec identity because of their sex, race, or sexual orientation. This is not acceptable, regardless of “oppressor”, “oppressed”, or minorities. It shouldn’t come into account for what someone has to say.

    The rest of the statement seems quite good, though.

  • Submariner says:

    1. I agree with this with reservations. I’m not certain there are “myriad” solutions to “promoting reason, critical thinking, science, skepticism, atheism and secularism”. There are a handful of methods which will be more efficient to prioritize depending on efficacy

    2. I agree with this with reservations. All of the sciences? Some have had issues with several of the “soft” sciences. Sociology and evolutionary psychology are examples from either “side”.

    3. I agree.

    4. I agree. This statement is odd in that taken alone, I would not be able to tell which “side” was being referred to.

    5. I disagree. How is it possible for reason, critical thinking, science, etc. to have a white, middle class, wealthy and born gendered “relationship”? These things are clearly defined. Reason is reason regardless of one’s skin color, gender, economic status etc. This principle is the core of the “equality” argument, in that it does not matter the characteristics of the person with the idea, just the idea matters.

    6. I agree. See #4 above.

    7. I agree. See #4 above.

    8. I agree.

    9. I’m having trouble parsing this paragraph as it’s a bit vague, so I’ll withhold conditional agreement/disagreement until it is clarified.

    10. I agree.

    11. I agree with reservations. Ethics, if universally applied (to theists, purveyors of various woo, and other members of the group which hold no belief in deities) is agreeable. If different ethics hold for different groups, them I disagree.

    12. N/A

    13. I agree with reservations. Behavior is not one of the topics on the table at this time. Including behavior in this paragraph seems to be a version of prescriptivism, which was decried in paragraph 7 above. Perhaps, I’m reading to much into it though. I will request clarification on why behavior was included here.

    Also, what is “the prize” to be kept an eye on? If it is the values at the top of this page (as set out by Mr. Nugent) then I agree.

    14. I agree.

    15. I agree with reservations. This word behavior appears again and with no further explanation as to it’s intent, I’m hesitant to agree here.

    16. I agree with reservations. See #11 above regarding the “ethics” argument.

  • 16bitheretic says:

    1: Agreed, there is never a “one true path” approach to widening the exposure and adoption of evidence based worldviews and philosophies over those of faith and superstition. The amount of approaches are as varied as the number of people involved.

    2. Agreed. Scientific methodology and progress requires a large number of people specializing in various specific endeavors from research to education to labwork, otherwise the process just wouldn’t work. The days of one forward thinking genius revolutionizing an entire field singlehandedly are over as the knowledge and skill set requirements of specific fields increase dramatically as more knowledge is acquired.

    3. Agree: see point #2

    4. Disagree: I view skepticism as just a label for the foundation of the scientific methodology and inquiry, and both labels as somewhat separate from atheism/secularism since one need not necessarily need science or skeptical thought to be an atheist. I also don’t see the specific causes of secularism being dogmatically tied to one approach from within the secular community. Certainly some have expressed concern over the public aggressiveness of some American Atheists campaigns or accusing some humanism groups of being too accommodating of theists, but I don’t think that on the whole those interested in promoting the atheist and skeptic causes are all clamoring for a “one true path” approach to be adopted by the community as a whole. I think if there was this massive swell of demand for one single-minded approach we wouldn’t see secular advocates promote the confrontational rhetoric of Hitchens as much as the warm and engaging educational approach of people like Sagan. I think any coalescing of thought behind “one true path” ideals is more coming from peripheral political and social issues that aren’t part of this current discussion from this post.

    5. Disagree. Sure, there’s always been a debate between just how much skepticism can say about god or gods, there always will be that debate. There’s also alot of pondering about how to get atheism/secularism to be more accepted by various racial and ethnic minority groups, and I don’t think we have a clear answer on that problem. As an Asian-American person I can’t explain how or why my particular ethnicity in the US is less religious than African-American or Hispanic-American ethnicities, and I really don’t see too much discussion about it in the wake of the debates over politics and feminism in the past 2 years.

    Separate from that my main reason for saying disagree is that science and skepticism are methodologies to determine the factual status of claims and hypothesis, it has nothing to do with one’s gender, race, sexual orientation or expression. It also has little to do with the subsequent identity politics and tribalism that are so popular and so divisive in online discussions.

    6. Agree for the most part. These words do tend to be used in absolutist terms that aren’t helpful in debate or discussions.

    7. Agree, seems we’re retreading ground from the first couple posts .

    8. Agree, as this is a re-iteration of the initial premises with more detail and promotion of active groups. it is worth noting as an aside that some of the groups listed need not require their members to be secularists, atheists or even skeptics. For example, I’m not sure the ACLU cares what your stance on homeopathy is if you’re aiding them in their fight to stop discrimination of black people in voting districts, and it;s possible to be a theist and promote the cause of the National Center for Science Education.

    9. Agree. I don’t necessarily tie my own stances on racial and gender equality to my atheism since my views on social issues were in place long before I disbelieved in gods, and nowadays I’d have no personal problems with doing something like charity work along with people who have superstitious beliefs.

    Mod note: One sentence removed by moderation team to keep dialogue within the guidelines.

    10. Agree, not much to say here. In fact this more describes me than the previous couple of posts since I’m not a member of any national atheist/secular or skeptic groups.

    11. Agree, see previous points addressing this.

    12. Agree. you don’t have to go into ethics. That’s sort of a separate issue from atheism, secularism, science or skepticism.

    13. Neither agree nor disagree, I’ve never read any of these materials so my opinion on them as of now is irrelevant.

    14. Agree. I think the emotional aspect of advocacy for causes has been one of the central issues to the tribalism and division of the last few years. I’m not advocating that we become Vulcans, but we need some level of detachment from emotion to analyze things properly without escalating rhetoric and division.

    15. Agree for the most part. Some failed messaging or efforts will lead to one conclusion that may not be applicable to a different failed effort to spread a message or achieve a goal. I don’t necessarily think all people base their responses on evidence however, so I will disagree on that particular point, but the overall point of different approaches resulting from the processes is a valid one.

    16. Agree. See previous points (since this is a conclusion point)

    .

  • Woo says:

    I agree with most of this. Wasn’t sure what to expect as I don’t read Zvan much :)

  • oolon says:

    12/3. Agree, multiple approaches is a strength.
    4. Agree. One “true” way contrasts to point 1. No absolute “truth” in many of these issues.
    5/6/7/8/9. Agree, no “imposing” on anyone
    10. Fits me more, agree.
    11/12/13/14 Agree
    15. Agree. QFT.”…will be based in evidence rather than our innate or learned biases.”
    16. Agree. Cool summary on how as a community to work towards common goals! Couldn’t find anything to disagree with, and I was trying.

  • John Greg says:

    1. I strongly agree.
    2. I agree.
    3. I agree.
    4. I agree.
    5. I disagree, with reservations — the reservations are based on the fact that I find the statement to be vague and somewhat confusing. I think it should be clarified with the quite awkward “we may not or we may or we must” straightened out and clarified.
    6. I agree.
    7. I agree.
    8. I agree, with reservations — the reservations are because I am not certain that this statement answers the opening question.
    9. I disagree, with reservations — the reservations are because I am not certain that this statement answers the opening question, also there seem to be some possibly unsupported claims: ” the assault on women’s rights to bodily autonomy” strikes as too general and vague.
    10. I disagree, with reservations — the reservations are because I am not certain that this statement answers the opening question.
    11. I agree.
    13. I agree, with reservations, in that providing resources is always a good idea, but what is “the prize”, or perhaps more specifically, what is an “‘eyes on the prize’ perspective”?.
    14. I agree, with reservations (see 13, above)”
    15. I agree.
    16. I strongly agree.

  • Steersman says:

    1) I agree with reservations: While it is quite true that there are “myriad solutions to each of these problems”, I also think it important to realize that not all solutions are created equal, that we should guard against being overly “politically correct”, and against allowing over-concern for feelings to militate against calling a spade a spade. As Carl Sagan put it: “The well meaning contention that all ideas have equal merit seems to me to be little different from the disastrous contention that no ideas have any merit.” (1)

    2) I agree with reservations: While science certainly has some significant and well-recognized benefits, I also think it has some serious limitations that we ignore at our peril. Which has been, I think, illustrated by the relatively recent discussions on Sam Harris’ The Moral Landscape, the upshot of which is, apparently, that science is rather poor at developing the values that must undergird our societies. As I’ve argued elsewhere, logic and reason and science are rather good at working from a set of premises to a conclusion, but rather bad at coming up with premises and values in the first place – hence the necessity for putting some value on feelings, on what we “care” about.

    And relative to that point, I also think that more consideration should be given to the question of how we reason and argue, and what the limitations of the processes might be: slight differences in the premises we all start from can produce very different, if not contentious, conclusions. A recommended starting point is the post The limits of reasonable discourse (2) by the philosopher/biologist Massimo Pigliucci.

    3) I agree.

    4) I agree with reservations: “The One True and Proper Way to conduct the campaign for the Pure and Shining Platonic Ideal of…whichever issue we happen to be promoting” is just as much a problem with secular organizations as it is for religious ones. While the former don’t have to deal with latter’s reliance on supernatural causation, I think the atheist/skeptic movements suffer from the lack of a “we hold these truths to be self-evident” type of guiding statement of principles. While “self-evident” might be if not should be a stumbling block for most skeptics, something of that nature clearly seems to be required.

    5) I agree with reservations: Relative to the question of “working relationships with religious institutions with similar goals”, I think that a clear statement of goals – as discussed above – is necessary to facilitate that quite reasonable concept and objective. While one might reasonably argue that some goals of some religions might be entirely antithetical to atheism/skepticism ones – as Ibn Warraq argues in his Why I Am Not a Muslim (3) relative to Islam and democracy (particularly Chapter 7: Is Islam Compatible with Democracy and Human Rights?) – I think it unwise to argue, particularly a priori, that that is always the case.

    As for “white, cisgendered, educated, middle-class to upper-class men”, I think that qualifies as some highly questionable stereotyping, and probably also qualifies as an ad hominem attack on that group. Seems to me that the history of philosophy shows significant contributions to the fields of atheism/skepticism by all races, creeds, colours, and sexes.

    6) I agree with reservations: Again, without a “mission statement” as a guiding policy document, questions of which “prescriptive” statements and policies should be supported become rather difficult to adjudicate.

    7) I agree with reservations: While it is certainly true that “we can take as many approaches as we have time and/or money, talent, and motivation for”, with the lack of a cohesive and well articulated statement of principles and values, we are, I think, likely to wind up “riding madly off in all directions”, and lose some of the benefits of “strength in numbers”.

    8) I agree.

    9) I agree.

    10) I agree.

    11) I agree.

    12) I agree with reservations: As suggested earlier, I think that different values – arguably the essence of ethics – is the proximate and fundamental cause of these “rifts in the atheist and skeptic communities”, the bridging of which is apparently the purpose of these dialogs. In which case I feel that significant efforts should be expended to elucidate precisely which values are supported by whom and what their definitions are of them. Absent which the scene seems reminiscent of a couple of kids counting stars: “Did you count that one? You mean that one just to the left of that group?, No, no; that group!” Very easy to get lost in the weeds of imprecise language and terms.

    13) I agree: Seems like quite a useful set of resources.

    14) I agree.

    15) I agree.

    16) I agree with reservations: While I quite agree that we don’t “all have to work closely on the same projects in the same ways” all the time, unless we define some set of working principles and objectives I expect the results will be less than optimal. While I think the questions of feminist ideology are a large part and parcel of what is driving these “rifts”, I’m not sure that they are the only ones or even the biggest ones. As I’ve argued elsewhere (7) in somewhat more detail, I think one of the problems “plaguing” the atheist and skeptic movements is the question of a vision – even if an inchoate one – of what it is that they and we hope to achieve or contribute to what the BBC and the mathematician Jacob Bronowski called “The Ascent of Man”. As the anthropologist John Hartung (8) put it, “Ways and means are not the issue. The question remains, ways and means to what?”

    ——
    1) Broca’s Brain, Carl Sagan, pg xii
    2) “_http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.ca/2010/10/limits-of-reasonable-discourse.html#uds-search-results”;
    3) “_http://www.scribd.com/doc/62513165/Ibn-Warraq-Why-i-Am-Not-Muslim”;
    4) “_http://www.centerforinquiry.net/blogs/entry/the_heads_meeting_your_input_requested/P50/”;
    5) “_http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminist_ideologies”;
    6) “_http://blog.iblamethepatriarchy.com/”;
    7) “_http://slymepit.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?p=79744#p79744”;
    8) “_http://strugglesforexistence.com/?p=article_p&id=12”;

    Mod Note: Moderation team removed, with the author’s knowledge, several adjectives from section (5) and several paragraphs of discussion from section (12) in order to keep dialogue within the guidelines.

  • Coel says:

    This all seems sensible and acceptable. There is nothing I would particularly disagree with.

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  • Edward Gemmer says:

    1. Strongly agree. Diversity is the spice of life. It’s also very underrated on the internet. Finding value in each other seems like a good way for us to start as atheists, because after all, each other is all we have. It’s really hard to value each other sometimes, but we should certainly try.

    2. Science is awesome. On this I hope we can all agree.

    3. Scientists are awesome too. Mod note: One sentence removed by moderation team to keep dialogue within the guidelines.

    4. I agree so, so, so much. Individuals working towards the One True Way is a good thing, but it is so, so important to go back and read Number 1 again. Not everyone is going to agree on the One True Way. No one will ever agree on the One True Way. We are a diverse group, and we all have different ideas on what that One True Way is. Promoting your own personal One True Way is fine and good, but be careful when criticizing or demonizing someone else’s One True Way.

    5. I’m not totally certain I understand 5. I tend to think all of us are very guilty of being authorities on how other people should think and act.

    6. Absolutely.

    7. Absolutely, and to even further expand on it, we should be pushing for more volunteer work, even past science. It’s no secret that as atheists, we have an image problem. Work towards charity and promoting things we agree on would be wonderful. In fact, if anyone has any good ideas about that, I’m all ears and arms and legs to try and help.

    8. Yes. Maybe I jumped the gun on 7.

    9. Yes yes yes.

    10. Or we represent juvenile delinquents! (Shameless self-promotion)

    11. Absolutely. We have a diverse population with diverse interests and diverse talents.

    12. I think we can and should go into ethics. One issue with atheism and skepticism and all the ‘isms associated with them is that we don’t really have any central ethic. We have kind of poked around the edges of it, but it strikes me that people just bring whatever ethics they had with them into the movement and don’t understand why other people don’t share the same values.

    13. Will do.

    14. Yes, yes, many times yes. Not only does doing the work require our time and effort, but dismissing or demonizing people is so ridiculously easy on the internet. A button press, a few key strikes, and someone else is either blocked out of existence or ruthlessly insulted, and then it’s even easier to ignore and dismiss them. We don’t have much in the way of face to face time, and I imagine that if we did, people would feel a lot differently about each other.

    15. I think so. I also think a value of educating and learning is really good. It’s easy to be an expert on the internet, and a lot harder to be a pupil.

    16. Definitely.

  • A Hermit says:

    1.Agree

    2. Agree

    3.Agree

    4.Agree

    5. Agree

    6. redundant, but agree

    7. Agree

    8.Agree

    9. Agree

    10. Agree. many of us are like me, I am not an activist, organizer or conference goer, just an observer who self identifies as a humanist and a doubter with a personal interest in skeptical issues, (including those regarding religious beliefs) and occasional participant in internet conversations and to the extent that I do participate in my own small way all of the above applies to me and to many others like me.

    11. Agree, with the observation that while we have different roles to play we should try to be aware of the roles others are playing and ask ourselves if anything we are doing might complementary or detrimental to those other efforts.

    12. I fear ethics will have to be brought up, but we’ll see…

    13. Agree and thanks for the links.

    14. Agree

    15. Agree

    16. Agree

    …Well that was easy. ;-)

  • GG says:

    1) Agree with strong reservations. Given the limited resources available to the skeptic community we should focus our efforts in ways that maximize the return on invested resources. This is an empiric question which, being rationalists, we are highly qualified to answer, but raises the additional question of what metric should be used to measure return. There will necessarily be significant disagreement over an appropriate metric.

    It is also the case initiatives have the potential to be counter-productive.

    2) Agree.

    3) Agree.

    4) Agree with reservations. It is unlikely that there is a singular path to promotion of skepticism etc., but my response to item 1 applies here as well.

    5) Statement is vague; what thesis is being asserted? Also, intersectionality of race/gender/class is certainly an important consideration, but that is going to be addressed in a later strand, yes?

    6) Statement is vague; what thesis is being asserted?

    7) Strongly disagree. “Individual voices should be heard regardless of race, gender, class, …” is a prescriptivist statement with an inclusive, rather than exclusive, effect. See also reasoning from item 1.

    8) Agree.

    9) Agree.

    10) Agree.

    11) Agree with strong reservations. This assumes the existence of common goals which have yet to be clearly articulated. It also remains to be demonstrated whether this mode of operation is optimally efficacious.

    12) Discussion of ethics will eventually become necessary. For example, it’s difficult to discuss expanding skeptical activism to include social justice issues without also discussing the ethical bases for such activism and their relation to the core issues of reason, critical thinking, …

    13) Agree with reservations. We’ve yet to establish what “the prize” is and how progress towards it is to be measured.

    14) Agree.

    15) The sentiments in this item seem to be in conflict with the anti-prescriptivist sentiment from item 7. Please clarify your stance with respect to prescriptivism.

    16) Agree.

    Mod Note: Moderation team removed an example from the end of (1) in order to keep dialogue within the guidelines.

  • tamerlane says:

    1) Unable to judge, as “solutions”, “strategies”, & “ways” are used interchangeably. Please use more precise terminology. Example:

    Goal/Ideal: Greater acceptance of atheist views
    Objective: Encourage atheists to “out themselves”

    Strategy 1: Highlight famous atheists
    Tactics: advertisements; story placements; guest appearances

    Strategy 2: Encourage private individuals to speak out
    Tactics: Create & distribute atheist merchandise & apparel; promote social network activity; create a ‘how to come out’ guide

    Also, each goal & objective must be specified, else cannot be signed onto;

    2) & 3) Unable to judge, as the Science field analogy is obtuse. Roles envisioned must be clearly defined;

    4) Unable to judge. Within the set of “ways to conduct the campaign” exist two exclusive sub-sets, “effective ways” and “useless or counterproductive ways.” Please propose specific “ways”;

    5) Disagree. The several objectives must not be conflated;

    6) Disagree. Any endeavor or line of inquiry must be subject to certain constraints. Also, it is reasonable for an individual to specify ‘deal-breakers’ before entering a compact;

    7) Disagree. Valid only if the “many approaches” all work toward a commonly-held objective;

    8), 9) & 10) Agree to as statements of fact, but the underlying point is elusive;

    11) Disagree. The list is jumbled: while some items represent alternative strategies & tactics toward a common goal, others are separate objectives which should not be conflated;

    12) Define “ethics”;

    13), 14) & 15) Agree that setting clear, achievable ends, and devising feasible means to realize them, is paramount. Reservations with linked activist manual. Skimming revealed some useful organizational tips, but also excessive emphasis on “disruptive” and “confrontational” actions. Also intermingled high-level elements with bookkeeping & other minutia. Recc. instead, Phillips & Rasberry: _Marketing Without Advertising_;

    16) Agree, if intent is to pursue a separate track for each separate objective. “Ethics” has yet to be defined. Examples of “opportunities for outreach” should be given.

  • Aneris says:

    1) I agree with this. Everyone brings in their perspective, which gets scrutinized, supported, weeded out or voted up. Good things eventually emerge.

    “Feynman was all genius and all buffoon. The deep thinking and the joyful clowning were not separate parts of a split personality. He did not do his thinking on Monday and his clowning on Tuesday. He was thinking and clowning simultaneously.”

    2) I disagree with this, mainly as I don’t see where this is going. Scientists, in whichever fashion are not my priests. Their job description is not what matters, but a commitment to finding the best approximation of a truth. The best method known is the scientific method. As a movement, we should strive to advance what is currently best supported by evidence and discuss everything with as much rigor and disagreement as deemed necessary. As the ultimate truth is unknowable, we commit ourselves to recognize which truth-candidates are the best available approximation, and if there are multiple, adjust our stridency accordingly towards these other views. We need to be able to see where others are coming from and that our understanding of a topic might be as limited as theirs. Despite disagreement, we should learn to get along with each other and not get caught up in proxy wars of various academical disciplines. Unless they are truthology and woo, which should always be opposed. I trust in the community, including its opinion leaders, that such views won’t have a chance anyway.

    “[...] is an adversarial process [...] adversarial in the same sense that a court of law is adversarial, committed to the belief that through a contest over information, some ultimate truth will emerge. The system works best when people are contesting every claim that gets made, taking nothing at face value” – Henry Jenkins (2006)

    3) I disagree with this. Most of us don’t do science, it is not my concern who thinks who does whose job. This is not to say that I don’t value “experts” or “authorities”. It is however, their consistent excellence in advancing rational or proven ideas that make them reliable.

    “Nothing is static, nothing is final, everything is held provisionally.” ― Jocelyn Bell Burnell

    4) I agree with reservations. Everyone should be able to promote their own course of action and criticize other effort constructively, including debunking unsound ideas. Nobody can dictate anything in a true open, participatory and diverse community. It is a constant negotiation between opinion leaders, bloggers, organizers, big names and the participants, fans, commenters or attendees. I have a positive view of people and think that the right ideas will emerge when everyone, especially those with more range, act responsible. This also means that when people don’t wish to participate in groupthink, it doesn’t mean they are opposed to it, it just means that they are, for whatever reason, not willing to participate in that particular groupthink. …

    “We are trying to prove ourselves wrong as quickly as possible, because only in that way can we find progress.” ― Richard P. Feynman

    Mod Note: Moderation team removed 1 sentence from (4) in order to keep dialogue within the guidelines.

    5) I disagree with this. While I do recognize that we have different personal experiences shaped by what we are in the real world, none of this necessarily carries over into the online space. It is a place where people of different age, gender, sex, skin color, shoe size, origin, background and any other criteria can freely meet in ways that would be unlikely otherwise. I strongly object to supremacist views in whichever guise they come along. Everyone is also free to appeal to a different audience, including those that are perceived as not yet included well enough. …

    “Be less curious about people and more curious about ideas. ” ― Marie Curie

    Mod Note: Moderation team removed 1 sentence in order to keep dialogue within the guidelines.

    6) I agree, and I don’t like it.

    7) I agree with this. Especially from a pluralist and individualistic perspective. I am interested in the things that interest me. Tautology being tautological. I believe people should mix and match whatever they like, if they want to focus on atheism and environmentalism, for whatever reason, it’s their thing.
    8) That’s probably true.
    9) I disagree with this. Joke. Do whatever you like.
    10) That’s probably true.
    11) Like science that converges on increasingly better approximation of truth, we should work towards common goals, but how to get there can be as individual as pluralistic as there are people.

    “New forms of community are emerging, however: these new communities are defined through voluntary, temporary, and tactical affiliations, reaffirmed through common intellectual enterprises and emotional investments.” – Henry Jenkins (2006)

    12) That is probably true.

    “I believe that a scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy.” – Richard Feynman

    13) That’s probably true.
    14) I agree with reservations. Those who organize and plan should probably think it through. I certainly won’t set any benchmarks. That might also be a good point to remind that issues are also very different in other countries and places.
    15) I agree with this. See above.
    16) I agree with this with reservations. Again, this is the top-down kind of approach. Yes, everyone can personally think about where to spend their energies best, but I also believe people need to do what they like to do, regardless of what others think would be better. This can only be solved by inviting, not demanding, people to participate in more efficient endeavors.

  • William Sinda says:

    Para 5 disturbs me greatly. No gender-ideological point of view can be proffered as part of the skeptic universe. If such is gleaned from tradition, it should be excised, but this does not entail singling out “white, cisgendered, educated, middle-class” men as if this were a blot on their character. Unacceptable.


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