Episode 42: Blumner Is Wrong: All Individuals Are Important To Humanism
Robyn Blumner of the Center of Inquiry took the opportunity, in a recent editorial, to slam identity politics, woke progressives, and took a cheap shot at the American Humanist Association.
“Humanism believes that the individual attains the good life by harmoniously combining personal satisfactions and continuous self-development with significant work and other activities that contribute to the welfare of the community.”Corliss Lamont The Philosophy of Humanism 8th Edition 1997 p.14
The preciousness and dignity of the individual person is a central humanist value. Individuals should be encouraged to realize their own creative talents and desires. We reject all religious, ideological, or moral codes that denigrate the individual, suppress freedom, dull intellect, dehumanize personality. We believe in maximum individual autonomy consonant with social responsibility. Although science can account for the causes of behavior, the possibilities of individual freedom of choice exist in human life and should be increased.
We deplore racial, religious, ethnic, or class antagonisms. Although we believe in cultural diversity and encourage racial and ethnic pride, we reject separations which promote alienation and set people and groups against each other; we envision an integrated community where people have a maximum opportunity for free and voluntary association.
We are critical of sexism or sexual chauvinism – male or female. We believe in equal rights for both women and men to fulfill their unique careers and potentialities as they see fit, free of invidious discrimination.Humanist Manifesto II (1973)
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Doug Berger 0:00
If you’re going to transcend those divisive, parochial loyalties, it’s not about ignoring or glossing over whether or not somebody is trans or black or gay. It’s acknowledging that somebody in your movement is trans or black or gay or a woman and celebrating that acknowledging people are different but bringing everybody to the table to work on common common issues or common goals, and that’s a consensus we work by consensus. And for me to be have a good sustainable humanist community. You need to include everybody.
Voice Over 0:39
This is glass city humanist, a show about humanism, humanist values by a humanist. Here’s your host, Douglas Berger.
Doug Berger 0:48
In this episode, I take a look at a recent editorial by CFI President Robin Blumner. She claims identity politics is ruining the Humanist Movement. But is it? if the individual is important to humanism, why aren’t all individuals important to humanism,
Voice Over 1:07
Glass City Humanist is an outreach project of the Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie, Building Community through Compassion and Reason for a Better Tomorrow.
Doug Berger 1:22
As many people know that I am not only the host of Glass City Humanist, I am also the founder and president of the Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie. And so I am a leader in the Humanist Movement. I’ve been a leader in the Humanist Movement for many years, including my time as president of the humanist Community of Central Ohio and been on the board. And so one of the things that I’ve that I learned as being a leader in the Humanist Movement, and and I, I could probably say this should be for leadership in general, that if you lead a group, one of the one of the traits that you need to have is you need to be diplomatic. And what that means is, is you might be dealing with people that you personally don’t like, or maybe you personally have an issue with them. And sometimes you have to set that aside and try to work together on things that you can, where you can find common ground. You don’t express your displeasure, or you don’t take cheap shots at people or groups that you find are going down the wrong path. Yeah, there’s other ways of expressing it without taking cheap shots and without being angry about it. And so that’s one of the things that you learn as being a as a leader. And so the other day a friend of mine, who happens to have a subscription to free inquiry magazine, which is the official magazine of the center Center for Inquiry, which is a secular humanist group are well, it’s really a catch all they have skeptics, agnostics, freethinkers. Humanists, but it was originally founded by a secular humanist, Dr. Paul Kurtz. Anyway, so the current president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry had an editorial in the upcoming issue. Well, it’s been released the June and July 2020, to issue a free inquiry. And the President’s name is Robin Blum owner. I think she’s been the president since 2017, something like that. Previously, she was with the Richard Dawkins Foundation, and they merged with CFI. And so now she’s in charge of CFI. Before that, she was a journalist in Tampa, Florida. And her claim to fame was that she was an out and out atheist and she wrote columns that support a church and state separation. So she was kind of a celebrity in the free thought community. And so this editorial just kind of shocked me when I read it. And so I need to comment on it. I normally, if another group does something I think I disagree with, you know, most of the time, I may comment privately to people or I might send an email complaint or, or concern or something like that. But this I have, I have to speak out about this because this is an example of what you don’t do. When you’re a leader of a free thought group. What her editorial is something that you Don’t do not only because it’s it’s an irrational diatribe against marginalized groups. And it but it also is just, there’s a includes a cheap shot against the American Humanist Association. And being that we’re a chapter or group is a chapter of the AHA, you know, you just kind of have to respond. But basically I just want to go through this, this editorial couple parts of this, this editorial, the, and I’ll have a link up to it, I think it’s online now a friend of mine sent me scans of it. And I might, I might include the scans in the show notes for people that can’t get it online. Anyway, the title of, of the editorial is “Identitarianism Is incompatible with Humanism”. And lucky for us that she defines her terms Identitarian – a person or ideology that espouses that group identity is the most important thing about a person, and that justice and power must be viewed primarily on the basis of group identity, rather than individual merit. And then, the first thing that jumps out at you is the source of that definition is the Urban Dictionary.
Doug Berger 6:24
Now for people that go for, you know, science and evidence, and, you know, especially skeptics, you know, they they’re like, you know, you gotta gotta prove that that’s accurate, and it’s got to be truthful. Picking a definition out of the Urban Dictionary is the complete opposite of that. The Urban Dictionary, for those that don’t know, is a crowdsourced dictionary. That means anybody can make up a word and then a definition to a word, and put it in the urban dictionary and people can use it. So it’s like slang, slang terms, mainly. The other thing that the other quote that she uses to start off her editorial is the affirmations of humanism. From the affirmations of humanism, we attempt to transcend divisive parochial loyalties based on race, religion, gender, nationality, creed, class, sexual orientation, or ethnicity, and strive to work together for the common good of humanity. That was Paul Kurtz Free Inquiry spring of 1987. So that’s how she starts out so you immediately know how this is going to go. And she opens up with the humanist project is at a dangerous crossroads. I fear that our cohesion as fellow humanists, is being torn apart by a strain of identity and Arianism. That is making enemies of long standing friends and opponents of natural allies, just at a time when it is essential for all of us to come together to work arm in arm against Christian nationalism, and the rise of religious privilege in law, humanism is facing a schism within its own movement. It is heartbreaking to watch and even more disheartening to know that the continued breach seems destined to grow. The Division has to do with a fundamental precept of humanism, that enriching human individuality and celebrating the individual is the basis upon which humanism is built. Humanism valorizes, the individual and with good reason, we are each the hero of our own story. Not only is one’s individual sovereignty more essential to the humanist project than one’s group affiliation, but fighting for individual freedom, which includes freedom of conscience speech and inquiry is part of the writ large agenda of humanism. It unleashes creativity and grants us the breathing space to be agents of our own lives. So that’s how she starts out. One of the first points the problem one of the first problems I have with this essay, besides the use of the Urban Dictionary as a definition source, is this notion that enriching human individuality and celebrating the individual is the basis upon which humanism is built. That’s not quite correct. individualism, the individual is important in humanism. Because and I agree with her on this point, that one of the things about humanism is we fight for individual freedom, freedom of conscience, speech and inquiry. But if you look at the human consensus and the different writings about humanism, the individual is part of it of the process or part of the equation. It isn’t the top, it is equal, and it’s equal with the community. And if you go in and look at some of the things, she quotes Paul Kurtz the affirmation so humanism that he that was a document that he wrote when he created CFI was he called it the affirmation of humanism. But he also helped to write the Humanist Manifesto to 1973. And even back in 1973, Dr. Kurtz believed that humanist humanism was the individual along with the community. And in one of the points on Humanist Manifesto to the right, he wrote or helped draft, human life has meaning because we create and develop our futures, happiness and the creative realization of human needs and desires individually and in shared enjoyment. Our continuous themes of humanism
Doug Berger 11:06
also went on in manifesto to that the preciousness and dignity of the individual person is a central humanist value. Individuals should be encouraged to realize their own creative talents and desires. We reject all religious, ideological or moral codes that denigrate the individual suppress freedom, don’t intellect, dehumanized personality, we believe in maximum individual autonomy, consonant with social responsibility. Although science can account for the causes of behavior, the possibilities of individual freedom of choice exist in human life and should be increased. And then we take a look at even later on when Paul Kurtz Dr. Kurtz left CFI and started another group. He started a think tank for secular humanism. He wrote a statement what was the title of the statement, it was called a NEO humanist statement of secular principles and values, personal, progressive and planetary. And this was published in 2010. And he states about individuals should be granted the right to make their own decisions and actualize their own values, so long as they do not impinge on the rights of others. We submit that to terms left wing or what right wing are holdovers from earlier periods in history and have little meaning on the current scene. Very few object to the role of the Federal Reserve, the United States similar government bodies, etc, etc. Neo humanists recognize that humanity needs to move beyond egocentric individualism, or the perspective of chauvinistic nationalism. So we see that Blum Center, and by extension, because she’s the president, CEO, CFI, and this is an editorial in the official CFI magazine, that CFI believes that the individual is the primary concern of humanism, when in fact, if we look at the humanist consensus, that is the documents and the information we get from other humanist groups and leadership leaders over the course of history, including Dr. Kurtz. It’s, it’s a balance between the individual and the community. So that was one of the problems I had with the editorial.
Voice Over 13:40
For more information about the topics in this episode, including links used, please visit the episode page at class city humanist dot show.
Doug Berger 13:55
One of the complaints that Blumner makes for creating this editorial is and I’ll quote from the editorial says good people with humanist hearts have been pillar pillared if they don’t subscribe to every jot and tiptoe of the Identitarian gospel. A prime example is the decision last year by the American Humanist Association ha to retract his 1996 award to Richard Dawkins as humanist of the year the man who has done more than anyone alive to advance evolutionary biology and the public’s understanding of that science, who has brought the light of atheism to millions of people, and whose Marisa floriferous opposition to Donald Trump and Brexit certainly must have burnished his liberal cred became radioactive because of one tweet on transgender issues that the HA didn’t light. Apparently decades have passed. Good Works are raised by 280 characters just poof. No wonder in New York Times, poultry recently found that 84% of adults say it is very serious or somewhat serious problem that some Americans do not speak freely because of fear of retaliation or harsh criticism. And once again, blunder is not quite correct. She is correct that the HA did resend its humaneness to the Year award that was given to Richard Dawkins in 1996. But it wasn’t for just one tweet. Dr. Dawkins, unfortunately, is a very smart man, and is a very good scientist. But he is very bad at Twitter. And there have been several incident incidences over the years for the last 1010 years, even of him putting his foot in his mouth, and Dawkins being that he is a, quote, celebrity unquote, in the free thought movement has a very large platform. And he’s chosen on a number of occasions to denigrate individuals. The tweet in reference, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back, try to equate transgender people who are trying to be the gender that they believe they should be with a woman who in 2015, had falsely claimed to be black, and committed fraud and doing so. And so basically, he’s equating transgender people with being frauds. And I don’t know if this was like a British thing, or what, but it just seems like a lot of British people, a lot of British people in the media, not a lot of people, a few people like JK Rowling. And and Ricky Gervais, and Richard Dawkins, are anti trans. And I don’t know what it is, if it’s just like a British thing that they that that’s the Patar that they’re going to throw themselves on is denigrating individuals for the choices that they make. Which if we remember at the beginning of Blum nors, article, she said that, that villainizing, the individual was the basic foundation of humanism. So here we have Richard Dawkins, denigrating individuals, and then claiming to be the victim when an award that gets pulled away from him. I mean, that’s like, how entitled does he think he is that he’s claiming to be a victim, because an award has been rescinded. You’re not entitled to that award, the American Humanist Association can honor whoever they want, however they want. And the the award II really has no place no part in that. So the fact that he thinks that he’s a, he’s a victim in this. And the thing is that if you went out on the street and asked people about the humaneness of the Year award, I would say probably 90% of them wouldn’t even know what it is. It’s not like it’s a Pulitzer or a Nobel Prize, where it’s gonna get some press. But he, he’s such such a snowflake to bring the right wing terminology. And he’s such a snowflake, that he had the president and CEO of a group that is associated with him write this nasty editorial defending him. And it it, it’s not about free speech.
Doug Berger 18:55
You know, it’s not it’s not violating his free speech, to have an award taken away, because he’s still making the speech. He’s still just as you know, shortly after he was the word was taken away. He put his foot in his mouth on Twitter, you know, and he’s still tweeting. He’s still making public appearances. He’s still on TV. He’s still on the radio. He’s still right. He’s still getting money from his books. He hasn’t been canceled. You know, the American Humanist Association decided that they will, that his actions and expression of his opinion about certain individuals was just over the line. And they said, Nope, we’re not going to honor you. And so, you know, and then the argument that she makes the blunder makes in here, about apparently decades have passed good works are raised by 280 characters. That sounds exactly like the arguments that that the Neo Confederates were making. A couple of summers ago. When Confederate statues all over the country were being removed. You know, how can you remove that statue of Robert Ely? He was a great general, even even the former president, what’s his name? Trump said the same thing. You know, it’s like, yeah, well, Lee was a confederate. He was a general on the losing side, how good of a general could he have been? If he was on the losing side, he lost the Battle of Gettysburg. He had to surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, and we’re going to give him a statue on the on the public square really. You know, that that’s, that’s what will amaze me about, about bringing up Dawkins in this editorial. You know, if you’re, if you’re a real, I’m not going to do the real Scotsman argument, I’m sorry. But if you have any familiarity about humanism, even a passing idea about humanism, you know, that we are subjected to looking at at all the evidence, and changing our our viewpoints, if we get new information that causes us to change our viewpoint. And the fact that, that trans people are people who deserve basic worth and dignity. And it’s not debatable. And here he is, Richard Dawkins trying to debate the existence of trans people. It’s ridiculous. And this is coming from a group that believes the individual is the primary foundation of humanism. Well, they just showed that it’s not. If you believe that the individual is the primary foundation of humanism, then you should not give a crap if somebody is trans, or gay, or black, or Native American. And if you did that, then you would be subscribing to what you quoted Dr. curves, talking about
Doug Berger 22:29
transcending divisive, parochial loyalties based on race, religion, gender, nationality, Creed. So and that’s the thing is, if you’re going to transcend those divisive, parochial loyalties, it’s not about ignoring or glossing over whether or not somebody is trans or black or gay. It’s acknowledging that somebody in your movement is trans or black or gay or a woman and celebrating that, and bringing them to the table and working together, that they’re not asking people that want to do that to want to be inclusive, like our group, the secular humanists of Western Lake Erie, is we acknowledge that people are different. See, that’s the difference is acknowledging people are different, but bringing everybody to the table to work on common common issues or common goals. And that’s a consensus, we work by consensus. Now, if we were to do some kind of programming, whatever the topic is, and some group, let’s say, trans people, came to us and said, you know, that’s very disappointing that you’re doing that programming, because it hurts us in this particular way. Then I would say, Oh, well, how can we change it, so it’s not hurting you and still provide the programming that we want to provide? That’s how you work with groups, different groups. And in a humanist community, you know, it’s not it’s not we’re not glossing it over? You know, we did that. You know, it used to be I tell the story, I’ve told the story quite often. In in private, that when I was involved with the humanist Community of Central Ohio, down in Columbus back in the, in the late 90s, we would have these contentious group discussions for whatever topic it was. And some people would have a male white male cisgendered viewpoint. That was kind of kind of offensive sounding. And this black woman in that we only had maybe two or three black, black people in our group at the time, and this black woman raised her hand She said you all are just a bunch of old white men with computers. And asked distinctly because it was true, well, I wasn’t old at the time, not like I am now. But there were several people that were, it was like a group, group panel discussion. They were white men with computers. And so when you point stuff like that out, then you need to do something you need to change and be more inclusive. And for me to be have a good sustainable humanist community, you need to include everybody, you need to include trans people, gay people, you need to include black people, Native American women, people with low income, people with high income, you need to bring them all to the same table. And work on how you can create a humanist community that is strong and vibrant, and includes the viewpoints of all the groups. That’s what blunder misses, with this editorial misses the entire point. So there is there is a schism in humanists and Humanist Movement. But it is perpetrated by people like Robin Blum owner, and Richard Dawkins, and, and flamed by people who support them. And complain about identity politics, because most of the time, people that complain about identity politics are either white cisgendered men who are already at the top of the heap. Or they might be people who are unusually marginalized groups who have enough money to paper over the reality that people that they don’t want to identify with.
Doug Berger 27:10
You know, they don’t they don’t see themselves as in the marginalized group, they want to be with the white cisgendered man who are at the top of the heap. So it’s easy for somebody like Richard Dawkins to say, hey, let’s just all do away with all the identities and just be one big happy family and sing Kumbaya, you know, because he’s already at the finish line. You know, he just, he constantly fails to understand that there’s people that for whatever reason, are not there yet. And we need to help them to bring them to the finish line, we need to do everything we can to bring them to the finish line. That is our job. You know, that’s what a humanist group is supposed to do. We’re supposed to fight for social justice and marginalized groups. You know, if all we fight for is the individual, then we’re not a group. You know, we’re just, we’re just a collection of individuals really. You know, and if you remember your history, you remember the old adage, united, we stand divided, we fall, we’re stronger together than we are as a collection of individuals. You know, and so that’s the main point I want to make about this editorial. Besides the fact that she also brings up some right wing talking points, like California de emphasizing calculus and, and somebody at a secular conference, saying that if you don’t have a uterus, you have no business speaking about abortion, and she complained about that. The main thrust that I wanted to talk about with this editorial is that, again, through the whole entire humanist consent, consensus, so all the documents that I’ve read, including Dr. Kurtz, you know, in order to have a strong, vibrant humanist community, we have to bring in everybody to the table as individuals, but then we operate on as a collective as a consensus to build a humanist community for a better tomorrow.
Voice Over 29:39
Thank you for listening. For information about the topics in this episode, please visit the episode page at glasscityhumanist.show. Glass City Humanist is an outreach of the Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie, and is supported in part by a grant by the American Humanist Association. And the AHA can be reached at americanhumanist.org SHoWLE can be reached at humanistswle.org. Glass City Humanist is hosted, written and produced by Douglas Berger and he is solely responsible for the content. Our theme music is Glass City Jam composed using the Ampify studio See you next time
[Transcript is machine generated and lightly edited]
Written, produced, and edited by Douglas Berger and he is entirely responsible for the content. Incidental voice overs by Shawn Meagley
The GCH theme is “Glass City Jam” composed using Ampify Studio
This episode by Glass City Humanist is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.