Posts Tagged ‘Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science’
The Daily Mail states (emphasis added):
In typically incendiary style, Professor Dawkins said the mental torment inflicted by the religion’s teachings is worse in the long-term than any sexual abuse carried out by priests.
What did Dawkins actually say in 2006 in The God Delusion (emphasis added):
“Being fondled by the priest simply left the impression (from the mind of a 7 year old) as ‘yucky’ while the memory of my friend going to hell was one of cold, immeasurable fear. I never lost sleep because of the priest – but I spent many a night being terrified that the people I loved would go to Hell. It gave me nightmares.”
… if your whole upbringing, and everything you have ever been told by parents, teachers and priests, has led you to believe, really believe, utterly and completely, that sinners burn in hell (or some other obnoxious article of doctrine such as that a woman is the property of her husband), it is entirely plausible that words could have a more long-lasting and damaging effect than deeds.
Not actual, but plausible. His further clarification since the article (emphasise added):
Anecdotes and plausibility arguments, however, need to be backed up by systematic research, and I would be interested to hear from psychologists whether there is real evidence bearing on the question. My expectation would be that violent, painful, repeated sexual abuse, especially by a family member such as a father or grandfather, probably has a more damaging effect on a child’s mental well-being than sincerely believing in hell. But ‘sexual abuse’ covers a wide spectrum of sins, and I suspect that research would show belief in hell to be more traumatic than the sort of mild feeling-up that I suffered.
Mission set out above now
One wonders if the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (RDFRS) will fund such research into psychological impact of believing in hell, because I remember when promoting the foundation at conferences in 2007/8 one of the aspirations was:
“Among its planned activities, RDFRS will finance research into the psychology of belief and religion, finance scientific education programs and materials, and publicise and support secular charitable organisations.” (Wikipedia)
This was on the website at the time in 2007, with a host of other points, as the mission statement. Going there now you find:
Mission Statement for the US Foundation
The mission of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science is to support scientific education, critical thinking and evidence-based understanding of the natural world in the quest to overcome religious fundamentalism, superstition, intolerance and suffering.
Yet I remember the mission to fund research, which Wikipedia retrieved from the mission statement, in 2006.
Try looking up http://richarddawkinsfoundation.org/foundation,ourMission and it no longer exists which listed 11 mission points. Whether you see this as an old site being taken down, or 1984 deleting of history up to you.
Fortunately bloggers out there did copy and paste the original mission statement of RDFRS which reads on research:
1. Research. We intend to sponsor research into the psychological basis of unreason. What is it about human psychology that predisposes people to find astrology more appealing than astronomy? At what age are young people most vulnerable to unreason? What are the correlations between religiosity and superstition on the one hand, and intelligence, educational level, type of education etc. on the other? Research of this kind would be supported in the form of grants to universities in America and Britain or wherever the best research can be done.
Was this aspiration (ranked number one) just dropped, because as far as I am aware no scientific research has been funded by the foundation. Yet this was something we really were excited about as campaigners so many years ago raising funds at the Atheist Alliance International Conference in 2007 for the RDFRS from willing donators when asked what would RDFRS be doing.
The most recent statement from Richard Dawkins mentions nothing about this aspiration when asking for donations.
Richard, time to put the foundation’s money where your mouth was.
Related blogs: What hell is this?
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog
I wrote about my concerns for the Out Campaign (site here ) in a blog a month ago after Dawkins had assured me via twitter the Out Campaign was fine. Having e mailed the Out Campaign my concerns and had no reply felt I needed to readdress this in the light of his foundation asking for donations. I write this as someone who has volunteered both on the website and at conferences in the past. I enjoyed those experiences, and have no axe to grind having stopped being a moderator due to other commitments before the forum was wound up.
The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science are asking for donations. Among the things that funds are to help with:
We have made strenuous efforts to increase our worldwide presence by completely redesigning our already successful website. Our expert web team has created a website that can grow to meet the needs of what we hope will be a rising tide of atheism and secularism in the future. Our team is taking advantage of new developments in technology, as well as popular social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
Great except see how they are using twitter for the Out Campaign:
No tweets in about three years.
We will continue growing the OUT Campaign, supporting child care for national conferences, assisting student and local organizations to raise money, and working with national groups on conferences and joint objectives such as the Reason Rally.
It mentions grass roots, but the blog roll has not been updated for 11 months:
Featured sites for two years:
And the story feed is nearly three years out of date:
The links to the relevant part of the Out Campaign site can be found in the previous blog here.
We are developing parallel websites for specific populations, such as ex-Muslims, secular families, African Americans, Latinos, Women, LGBT and others. Our Spanish site will be the first of our foreign language sites to be launched. It will not only translate articles from the RDFRS website, but will host articles and discussions about issues specific to the Spanish speaking world.
In 2008 the idea was to have volunteers with linguistic abilities to help out RDFRS. On the old website here
So nearly five years later the RDFRS is going to actually deliver on the idea of having the website and RDFRS material in foreign languages.
What I am getting at is not the lack of funds, but leadership in ensuring that the Out Campaign site is up to date. When Dawkins is personally involved these things may work better; but he did not seem to know the free speech (with respect to fellow posters) that reigned on the forum part of the site that bared his name for sometime. Looking at the site I am concerned that these things are not running smoothly because no one is watching, or caring to run them properly.
The idea that RDFRS can be an umbrella like organisation for secular activity when they cannot organise the Out Campaign website for years suggests more than money is the issue. You do need the right people ensuring things happen, and run things. If the aim is to help get key speakers involved for other societies campaigns, and help with the cost of training/activism of grassroots even better.
Like those loyal volunteers on the forum website who were suddenly told their services were no longer needed having given hours day in day out for months for free making an online community a reality for the Dawkins website.
I hope to get answers to these questions, because silence is never that reassuring. Above all I want to see the Out Campaign really doing things on a regular basis with a website that shows that off, updated on a regular basis. If funding will be made available for that with new donations great.
Thing is that should already have been happening. Which makes me think for grass root activism look to local and national secular and humanist organisations with an active track record to financially support. Support RDFRS for the headline grabbing attention they can do and speakers they can put into the field by all means, and what is the main website to go to for freethinkers.
After five years RDFRS should have already been leading on supporting grassroots activism. That time has been a missed opportunity. Increasingly I have looked to organisations like the British Humanist Association and the Council of Ex Muslims as having talented and above all active people at the top getting involved with the day to day as well as the big picture, so things happen.
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog
On the Facebook feed for the Richard Dawkins Foundation (RDFRS), a post that was a copy of information from the Zeitgeist movie was sent to everyone that likes the RDFRS:
The information is inaccurate, and not helped by the fact that December 25th was not universally recognised in the Calender during the hey day of these deities.
It took me a few moments to realise that the above photo had inaccuracies – for a moment it looked like a great Christmas Card.
Misha Krul has painstakingly researched what is stated in the above photo. Their research is shown below:
I would hope that when debunking religion people do know their stuff. The excuse for this being posted to freethinkers who would know this was not entirely accurate was that it came from credible sites. That is rather a weak argument from a rational, free thinking organisation. Evidence is what we need, not assertions no matter how regarded the source might be.
However, people are still prepared to defend Zeitgeist and you can find their source book here.
There are enough myths that predate Christ to make the extraordinary claims of his life unoriginal. There is no need to embellish such details. Personally, I think taking the supernatural away from Jesus, and emphasising the human makes his ministry and ethics more interesting for the time he lived in.
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog
There has been a change in the guidelines on the forum – which is to safeguard the charitable position of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science – with regards to content. There has always been discussions about moderating the forum between staff members, and I will not allude to the positions we took in those discussions – they were ongoing and with a view to making the site the best we could. Richard has made the position clear, and with the best of reasons for doing so:
THIS site is focused around reason and science, coupled with strong opposition to unreason, including religion.
I acknowledge that it is also a place where people make friends. It is a community, and that is a valuable part of it. Many of our forum threads have an atmosphere of friends going out for a drink and chatting. I think that is valuable, and I don’t think we should insist on sticking to serious topics. That would be a good way to stifle the sense of community, and that would be a real shame (although I can think of better things to be “almost in tears about”).
On the other hand, the parent organization of this site is two charities, one in Britain and one in USA. We fought long and hard (much longer and harder than most charities have to) for our charitable status. You wouldn’t believe how innocent were the things we had on our website that the lawyers made us remove for fear of offending the Charity Commissioners. You wouldn’t believe the innocent things we had on our website that the Charity Commissioners queried, and advised us to remove before we could proceed to charitable status. You wouldn’t believe the money we spent (I spent) on all that legal advice.
Now, the issue of “censorship”. Don’t be so silly. Censorship is PREVENTING people from speaking or writing freely. Censorship is seizing books and impounding them. It is NOT censorship when a publisher refuses to publish a book, for whatever reason. The publisher is simply saying, “Thank you, I don’t want to publish your book. Perhaps another publisher will.” That’s not censorship. Same thing with newspapers. When you send an article in to a newspaper, or a letter to the editor, the chances are they won’t publish it. But they are not CENSORING you, they are just exercising editorial discrimination.
We on RD.net are in the position of publishers and editors. Publishing costs money, believe it or not. We are specialist publishers, specialising in reason, science, and opposition to unreason and religion. As an extra service, we subsidize conversations on topics of general interest among friends who come here in the first place because they are interested in the primary focus of the site. But we are under no obligation to publish EVERYTHING that comes our way. Would you expect a site devoted to ornithology, or model railways, to publish, at their own expense, conversations on fist-fucking? Especially if they are vulnerable, on a year by year basis, to losing their charitable status?
As for the abrupt timing, I feel I should apologise for that. I received such forceful complaints from veteran members of the forum, mostly about a sadomasochistic thread, that I thought I’d better have a look at the thread for myself (I had no idea of its existence before). I read it through the eyes of a charity commission lawyer, which explains the haste with which I picked up the phone to Josh (who also was completely unaware of its existence).
I’d now like to start a constructive discussion on how to preserve the sense of fellowship and community on our forum, without departing so far from our stated aims of reason and science that we jeopardize our charitable status.
I know that some members have moaned about freedom of expression on the forum, some making their position very clear in signatures. However, the charitable consideration of RDFRS are of greater concern than the lewd behaviour that some people wanted to talk about. Soon no doubt it will be water under the bridge, and I hope people realise that the aims of the Foundation are more important.
It has meant that OBC is no longer the site administrator of the forum. His comment on that is the measure of a man that not only takes responsibility but is a fine guy that has devoted a lot of hours and time on behalf of the website and RDFRS as a volunteer, and for that I am thankful and want to pay tribute to Wayne publicly for that:
I feel that I should make this announcement about the recent controversy and the miss placed attacks. As the Site Admin this is my fault. The subjects, while I did not really partake in them, I did argue on behalf of them. I thought I was acting in the best interest of the community. There were others that expressed there concerns of this. I should have listen to them, if I had none of this would have probably happened. The owners were put in a tough potion, that I unintentionally put them in. They had no choice to act the way they did, which I fully support. By me not tacking action to curb the tone of the threads, we now find ourselves in this situation.
Please try to understand, if I had acted and removed the outlandish threads there would be some unhappy, but we would not find ourselves where we are now. The owners are acting responsibly regarding the content of the forum. Please stop directing your anger at them, it is me that you should place the blame on. I was the one responsibly, the buck stop here. They if anything are cleaning the mess I put us in. We need to move on, and heal as a community, this to shall pass. [source]
Richard Dawkins is not only Darwin’s Rottweiler; he is for many the intellectual heavyweight in the battle for reason and the scientific method over faith based conclusions over the natural world. His talk at the conference was an immediate highlight as the first guest speaker on what really would be a good Friday.
The argument from design is one that not only shows “failure of imagination” but also the ”lamentable state of education”. Darwin’s explanation about the appearance of design is the opposite of chance. The argument that life existing at all without a designer is akin to a hurricane in a scrap yard forming a 747 is fanciful when “god is the ultimate 747″.
The supposed persecution of those that support intelligent design as a credible scientific theory is to be parodied in a film by RDFRS called Expelled: No Storks Allowed that will suggest that stork theory is a credible alternative to sex theory in the propagation of the human race.
In an earlier blog I talk about PZ Myers being expelled from the actual Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed showing at the American Mall. Dawkins commented that the film was utter rubbish in it’s “execution, unartistic and just plain incompetent from a film making point of view”.
There are real scientific controversies that we can discuss: extinction of the dinosaurs, man made contribution to global warming. This really is one that a discussion is taking place and one where arguments and evidence count to reaching a theory which is supported by a body of facts.
Sometimes the savagery in which Dawkins goes for the jugular of creationists makes people wonder if we should be more polite – whether the hammer or feather approach. The feather approach would be one that we can have faith and evolution (Ken Miller) and that Dawkins is rocking the boat (Eugene Scott).
One idea to counter that is this: some religious people claim that evolution and faith are incompatible – if we demonstrate the fact of evolution then we will destroy religion. Yet clearly the fact of evolution has not destroyed faith – it also suggests that the feather school wants a compromise that is not going to happen. The hammer approach is no respect would be unwarranted and that we have the right to question faith claims. One significant way is to encourage comparative religion – especially as fundamentalist christians would hate it as “children learn about faiths, see the incompatibility and draw their own conclusions”.
To aid in that focus it is crucial that we use our resources on long lasting matters rather then token gestures. That we concentrate on stem cell research, tax free status of faith groups as opposed other groups, and a proper education that is denied in a Madrassa. That rather than Pyrrhic victory that plays into the hands of extremists like defacing dollars or the public situation of the ten commandments. In the Q & A Dawkins accepted that if the use of “In God We Trust” was being used to further encourage religious faith in political discourse because it is on the currency (only since 1950s) then may be it was not a token gesture as he had mentioned.
The issue is that we do not want to come across like the stereo type “fuss pots” being “propaganda for christian fundamentalists”. We do not want to make it easy for politicians ignoring us nor let them get away with it, something which Ellen Johnson touched on. Consciousness raising is what this is about and mentioning the token issues are a good example of that whether the dollar bill or the pledge of allegiance. Just as feminists made us more aware of the language we use, let us make it clear that labelling children by their parents faith is not only wrong but ridiculous and that we should not label children as a christian child anymore then we would a conservative child.
Nor should we feel that we have to use our atheism in making the long lasting cases that will make a difference. This goes back to what Sam Harris said about not lying in the chalk outline that fundamentalists paint for us. There is hope for the future, concentrating on the issues that matter. In doing so we are promoting education, and civil rights.
In case you have not heard the story this may well make you laugh your socks off
I first heard that Expelled was going to be shown at the Mall of America on Thursday night when Healthy Addict (known, to her amusement, in RDFRS circles as Banana Girl for her Richard Dawkins signed fruit that she posed with at the AAI Conference that actually belonged to a guy that played Jesus). The thought of going to see a film that would portray ID as being another different scientifically plausible theory struck me as being as much fun as having a bunch of Jehovah’s Witnesses trying to explain that just because they were wrong to say impending Armageddon they do not lack credibility on telling you these things. Even if free this would not appeal.
So other RDFRS crowd went while I stayed at the hotel to meet up with the other volunteers. Among those going to the film at the Mall of America was PZ Myers. Who was recognised at the showing and told that he was not allowed to view the film. Then later told that he was not allowed to be in the Mall.
What makes this ironic is that his family was allowed in and so was Richard Dawkins.
Met up with PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins and the others in the bar, we had another story to tell. We had gone out to lunch at Brenda’s – an organic, serving vegan desserts kind of place. Going to we passed a ’90s Gay bar that had a Happy Hour but presumably was at least merry the rest of the night.
While discussing life the universe and everything a man at another table asked us all if we were at school then if our parents were paying the bill. This rather bizarre take on us (we are mostly in our late twenties, accept for me always trying to be different at 30) seemed as a way to talk to us as he revealed that he was at a spiritual conference.
My curiosity was heightened because the lady next to me on the plane was also going to a spiritual conference, and thankfully she told me this and that it was about hearing the voice of God while we landed rather than when we took off (nine hours would have been longer). He produced a card that explained everything:
the slow burning love of god by saying Hu (pronounced Hue) with a feeling of love expelled as you hold the sound. Repeat for twenty minutes and feel the one with the divine.
Glad to be here instead. Rushed blog as need to have shower and set up RDFRS stall. Catch you later!
It seems like ages ago (December 07) that I was invited to help out RDFRS at the American Atheist Conference coming up over the Easter weekend (21-24) in Minneapolis. Now it is fast coming!
Tomorrow just before midnight I will start my journey down to Gatwick South terminal for my flight to Minneapolis-St. Paul International. Just purchased coach tickets. From hotel, coach, plane tickets all have been done over the internet – the ease of doing these things a welcome to someone that prefers arriving to the travelling. My printer however is making the job more difficult (despite repeated head cleaning only best quality is readable taking 5 minutes a page to print, and even then not really top quality). Out of A4 blank paper so using lined paper. So much of what I get from the internet I save on my computer – as much for saving space as for environment reasons.
Which leaves me needing to get health/travel insurance, not least after having watched Sicko. My hope is that I will sleep on the plane, arriving with the energy and no jet lag to shop at the Mall of America (touchdown is early afternoon local time), and hopefully catch up with other’s who may have decided to arrive a day earlier. Might wear my A shirt hanging out at the hotel so people can recognize me as a delegate. Please feel free to approach – no caution necessary!
As to fun on the last day of conference, idea is to go to the Mall. The Aquarium is open (biggest in the world) Easter Sunday, but I have no idea if transport will be running (half an hour away on public transport) but I imagine it will be. Hopefully answers to these questions will be found on Wednesday as Thursday will be much about organising the stall and meeting up with people. There are some bands performing in the evening with the conference proper starting Friday morning.
If you are attending look forward to meeting up with you – especially if you will be there Wednesday at the Marriott hotel where the conference will be!