Archive for October 22nd, 2010
Until May 18, 2010, Paul Kurtz was a member of the boards of the the Center for Inquiry, the Council for Secular Humanism and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. He was also the Editor in Chief of CSH’s flagship publication, Free Inquiry. On May 18, 2010, these three organizations announced that Kurtz had resigned from each of these boards and as Editor in Chief.
At my request, Kurtz agreed to an interview, which I published here at Dangerous Intersection on October 2, 2010. On the day I published Kurtz’ interview, I invited the Center for Inquiry to respond. A few days later, I was contacted by Ron Lindsay, President and CEO of CFI. Lindsay agreed to an interview of the same general format (both of these were written interviews and both were guided by about 20 questions from me. What follows is my interview with Ron Lindsay:
EV: What attracted you to join CFI? Briefly describe your association with CFI.
RL: For over 25 years, the Center for Inquiry or its affiliates have been an important part of my life. (CFI itself was not founded until 1991.) In 1983 or 1984, I became acquainted with the Council for Secular Humanism and its publication, Free Inquiry. (Paul Kurtz had contacted me about representing the Council in a church-state lawsuit.) Once I became familiar with the Council, I found myself in agreement with the approach that the organization took on key issues. In particular, I agreed that religion should not be spared from critical examination and that it was important to develop and foster a humanistic ethics, that is, a naturalistic ethics based on human interests. I’ve considered myself a secular humanist, as well as an atheist, ever since.
I did volunteer legal work for the Council and CFI over the next 20 years or so. I also had about a dozen articles published in Free Inquiry and was listed as a contributing editor or senior editor. I also served on the board of directors for the Council for roughly four years. (I believe I served from 1988 until 1992 or 1993.)
In March or April of 2006, Paul Kurtz contacted me regarding the opening of CFI’s Washington, D.C. office, and he asked me to assist the office in its work. I told him that might be difficult because I was in the process of leaving my law firm to take an in-house position with a corporation, and the corporation probably would not permit pro bono work for CFI or its affiliates. Paul then asked me to consider working for CFI as its in-house lawyer. We both understood that CFI could not pay me anywhere near what I would earn elsewhere, but I decided to accept this offer because of my commitment to the work of the organization. I thought that at this point in my life—I was 53 at the time—, I could sacrifice income to pursue an opportunity to work full-time on causes to which I was personally dedicated.
I worked in the D.C. office starting in July of 2006, and Paul Kurtz then promoted me to various positions. First, he made me a vice president; he then appointed me to CFI’s Executive Committee; and finally, he appointed me to the position of executive director for the Council for Secular Humanism. I did not request any of these positions, so presumably these appointments reflected Paul Kurtz’s confidence in my abilities and my dedication to secular humanism.
Then, on or about June 26, 2008, the board of directors (including Paul Kurtz) offered me the position of president and CEO. I have held this position since that time.
EV: Why is Paul Kurtz no longer a Board member of CFI, CSH, or CSI? Why is he no longer editor-in-chief of Free Inquiry?
RL: Paul Kurtz voluntarily resigned from his positions with CFI and all its affiliates, including his position as editor-in-chief of Free Inquiry. His email announcing his resignation from these positions stated that he was resigning because he believed he did not have any “effective authority in these organizations.” His resignation announcement made no reference to being placed under duress. Any suggestion that Paul Kurtz was forced to resign or was “expelled” is without factual support. No one who has made such a claim has ever provided any specifics regarding who supposedly pressured Paul Kurtz to resign, what pressure was applied, when the pressure was applied, and so forth. The myth of Paul Kurtz’s expulsion or ouster from CFI is just that: a myth that does not withstand critical examination.
EV: Do you contest the accuracy of any of the facts asserted by Mr. Kurtz in his interview?
RL: Yes. Virtually all of Paul Kurtz’s answers in his interview contain serious inaccuracies. I will highlight a select portion of them here.
[More . . . ]
I’ve followed and admired Ralph Towner for many years. Now keep in mind that I play the guitar, sometimes professionally, and I do play some jazz. But I have no idea how he creates lush pieces like the one in the video below. I only know that I love listening to his creations. And consider that he didn’t even start learning to play the guitar until he was 22. This is a small sample of what he can do, a song without a name (if you like this, Youtube offers many of his other performances):
Towner formed an incredible group called Oregon in 1970. If you haven’t heard any of their music, you owe it to yourself to click on the video below. They created quite a few albums over the years, and they sound exotically fresh every time I listen. And yes, that’s Ralph Towner in the following video playing jazz piano.
The NAACP says the Tea Party has racists, and needs to do a better job of policing its ranks despite Tea Party efforts to kick out avowed racists.
But, an even more sinister effort seems to be underway by concealed and veiled contributions to Tea Party efforts in general and those for voter suppression in particular. Two billionaire brothers have seemingly set up the financial foundation for the Tea Party and other groups’ efforts to oppose any change in the political environment that the brothers deem unacceptable to their extreme far right wing philosophy. The efforts of the groups supported by the billionaire brothers apparently are now are focused on voter suppression in states such as Illinois, Wisconsin and Nevada where key Democratic seats in the US Senate are up for re-election in two weeks. The seat once held by President Obama, the seat held by Senate Majority leader Harry Reid, and the seat held by the Democratic author of campaign finance reform, Russ Feingold are all in play. Republicans or the Tea Partiers are involved in alleged “voter security” efforts in all three states. See, also, this video. And see here, here, here and here.
In Nevada, Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle has run a number of highly charged ads about alleged support by Senator Reid of “illegal aliens.”
[More . . . ]
A friendly word of advice. In case someone dies while sleeping in your car, don’t do what this woman did.
According to Wikipedia, “Neoclassical economics dominates microeconomics, and together with Keynesian economics forms the neoclassical synthesis, which dominates mainstream economics today.” At Scientific American, Robert Nadeau argues that neoclassical economists have no clothes.
[[Neoclassical economics] can no longer be regarded as useful even in pragmatic or utilitarian terms because it fails to meet what must now be viewed as a fundamental requirement of any economic theory—the extent to which this theory allows economic activities to be coordinated in environmentally responsible ways on a worldwide scale. Because neoclassical economics does not even acknowledge the costs of environmental problems and the limits to economic growth, it constitutes one of the greatest barriers to combating climate change and other threats to the planet.
What are the false assumptions of this still widely cherished model? Nadeau lists them:
* The market system is a closed circular flow between production and consumption, with no inlets or outlets.
* Natural resources exist in a domain that is separate and distinct from a closed market system, and the economic value of these resources can be determined only by the dynamics that operate within this system.
* The costs of damage to the external natural environment by economic activities must be treated as costs that lie outside the closed market system or as costs that cannot be included in the pricing mechanisms that operate within the system.
* The external resources of nature are largely inexhaustible, and those that are not can be replaced by other resources or by technologies that minimize the use of the exhaustible resources or that rely on other resources.
* There are no biophysical limits to the growth of market systems.