• I Support Ron Lindsay


    Right now, there’s a campaign to get Ron Lindsay fired from his position because of the welcome talk he gave at Women in Secularism. If, like me, you do not want to see someone removed from their position for such a thing, then please follow suit and write to CFI (address below).


    To: info@centerforinquiry.net, tflynn@centerforinquiry.net
    Cc: rlindsay@centerforinquiry.net
    Subject: I Support Ron Lindsay

    Dear Secretary Flynn and CFI Board of Directors,

    I wish to express my support for Ron Lindsay amidst recent criticism of him for the speech he gave to open Women in Secularism.

    In the interests of full disclosure, I was not at the conference (although I fully support the goals and motivations for WiS) so I am therefore relying on the written version of the speech posted soon after on his blog.

    Reading the CFI mission statement I see that “no topic should be placed off limits to scrutiny”. It puzzles me, therefore, that this is even an issue. Dr. Lindsay’s speech seemed to me to be polite, civil and reasonable. More than anything, it seemed to be strongly pro-feminist. The concerns he expressed in his talk have also been raised by other feminists such as Julie Bindel and Becca Reilly-Cooper. He set the stage for his points of concern by saying that there can be disagreements within feminism, and articulated these concerns in a nuanced way while showing empathy and compassion for the issues that women face.

    I was heartened by his willingness to engage openly and honestly with these issues. I had been worrying for a while that there are certain prominent individuals who not only seek to set certain topics off-limits for debate, but actively attack and libel those who hold an opposing view to their own. To see someone in Dr. Lindsay’s position challenge these positions publicly gives me hope that ‘freedom of inquiry’ (from the mission statement) is something that CFI takes as seriously as it ought to.

    Dr. Lindsay does not deserve the overblown criticism of his speech and maligning of his person that seems to be getting worse by the day. “He treated us with contempt”, says one blogger. Another blogger (from the same blog network) writes “You assholes make me sick […] Stay the fuck away from us.” A Twitter user calls him a “raging misogynist”. Many are calling for the board to remove him from his position as CEO and president of CFI.

    Even if there are things wrong with the timing or the content of the speech (perhaps it wasn’t suitable for a welcome talk, but I prefer challenging, cerebral introductions to mere pleasantries), no rational person would respond to a speech like Dr. Lindsay’s in this way. Criticism of ideas is healthy, but to date I’ve not seen any of Dr. Lindsay’s critics say why his opinions are misguided. If he is wrong, I’d like to learn why, but it is difficult to encounter rational criticism in a sea of moral outrage. This is not an environment that skeptical, rational inquiry can thrive in.

    It is up to CFI to stand up for its stated values, and I sincerely hope that it will.

    Yours sincerely,

    [The author of Notung]


    Category: Miscellaneous

    Article by: Notung

    I started as a music student, studying at university and music college, and playing trombone for various orchestras. While at music college, I became interested in philosophy, and eventually went on to complete an MA in Philosophy in 2012. An atheist for as long as I could think for myself, a skeptic, and a political lefty, my main philosophical interests include epistemology, ethics, logic and the philosophy of religion. The purpose of Notung (named after the name of the sword in Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen) is to concentrate on these issues, examining them as critically as possible.

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    • zenspace

      Excellent letter. I wrote a similar one and sent it in earlier this week. Hopefully Lindsay will receive a great deal of similar support.

    • Thanks. Yes, send out those letters!

    • Thanks for inspiring me to write a letter. I did not copy it verbatim and instead wrote a shorter letter just expressing my support for Dr Lindsay.

    • Great stuff!

    • ool0n

      Ahh focus on the content on the speech angle… What about the unprofessional blog posts after the speech for which he skipped the CFI fund raising dinner?

      Good disclosure there. Have you seen anyone supportive who was at the conference? I found one positive Ron post from an attendee… Interested to know if there are more.

    • I focused on the content because that’s what I think is at issue. He’s already apologised for the controversial part of the subsequent posts.

      I’m not sure about attendees, though it doesn’t matter that much IMO. I did notice that about half of the speakers didn’t sign the ‘speakers’ petition’ that was critical of him.

    • Brive1987

      The issue is not the content of the speech. The issue is whether his actions are consistent with his paid position as CEO and host.

      The “content in context” of his speech was appalling. He has the right to his opinions – but he had a job to do at that moment and with his CEO/host hat on. He failed in a monumental fashion.

      His skipping of most of the event was unprofessional. His choice to avoid the dinner to spend time attacking a speaker in terms even he had to later apologise for is indefensible.

      His limited non apology was a travesty – basically “sorry for the language but I was right so there”

      The above behaviour is fine, anyone can troll if their chosen forum allows it. But not as organising host and CEO on “company time”. Damn right there should be consequences.

      Oh and any speaker employed by CFI or on their board were not placed in an impossible position by being asked to sign You may want to edit your post for the sake for accuracy.

    • Thanks for the comment.

      I wasn’t at the event, so I can’t comment on how he conducted himself in person (skipping the dinner, etc.). I’m concentrating on his talk, and it seems to me that most of the complaints are also concentrating on that.

      I felt that his apology for “North Korea” was sincere and justified. If he doesn’t believe that the substance of what he said was wrong, then he shouldn’t apologise for the substance. So I don’t see that it’s a travesty.

      I think calling it ‘trolling’ is begging the question somewhat. If he was trolling then I agree, it was out of order. But I don’t agree it was trolling.

      I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re referring to at the end there. I’m happy to post an update if I got something wrong. Could you clarify for me?

    • Brive1987

      Correction, I was referring to your comment about a number of speakers not signing. Your OP does not mention this and is not in error.

    • Oh, the comment to oolon? I don’t see how that’s inaccurate. By my calculations, 10 people didn’t sign and 13 did, which is just under 50/50, i.e. ‘half’.

    • Brive1987

      To be pedantic 23 speakers, 4 recused for clash of interests = 13/19 = 68%. Of the 6 outstanding who knows whether they have separately complained. At work if I got a 68% down vote for my performance I’d be out the door.

    • Well, if we go down that road then we have to start wondering what factors/peer pressure etc. caused the people who did sign to sign. We can’t just assume that the 13 made a completely free, rational choice and the other 10 (or 4 of them) really wanted to but didn’t for whatever reason. In short, you can’t have it both ways.

      Also, even if 100% signed it, it wouldn’t make them right, and it was hardly an indicative cross-section of women’s voices in the movement (I notice that a large number of the speakers are personal friends/co-bloggers…)

    • To reply to your edit:

      I do not understand why you ignore the meat to focus on the tone of individual posters ie you quote the emotional responses rather than the analytical.

      I didn’t focus on that. I wrote one short paragraph about the increasingly hyperbolic rhetoric.

      Dare I say “shut up and read”.

      No – nobody will be told to ‘shut up’ on this blog, not me or any of the other commenters, whatever side they’re on.

    • Brive1987

      I didn’t bring the fact that “nearly” 70% of the speakers signed the letter, you did. The irony drips. 🙂

      I would take it as read that the overwhelming response by the constitutes was negative. It would give me a well needed smile to hear that is not your opinion.

      Otherwise we return to the question of Ron’s professional failure on the weekend in question. And believe me you can still be anti A+ and find his behaviour professionally at flaw – if that helps.

    • I didn’t bring the fact that “nearly” 70% of the speakers signed the letter, you did. The irony drips. 🙂

      It was a reply to oolon, who asked if I knew what attendees thought. I felt it was a relevant reply.

      I would take it as read that the overwhelming response by the constitutes was negative. It would give me a well needed smile to hear that is not your opinion.

      Certainly, it is a huge amount of people, even if only 50%. It’s not surprising though, when you look at who those people (probably) are. So I don’t think it tells us anything we didn’t already know, namely that certain people really don’t enjoy being challenged on certain issues.

      And believe me you can still be anti A+ and find his behaviour professionally at flaw – if that helps.

      That’s right, but as I said, I can’t really comment on something I didn’t witness.

    • Brive1987

      I assume you do actually realise that the “shut up..” form is shorthand for “stop talking long enough to understand a position you may find quite alien, and only then rejoin the conversation”. In this case you either haven’t read the substantive debate or chose to ignore it in your argument. Neither is an informed approach and both really require you to take a moment

    • You don’t know what I’ve read, and you don’t know what I do or don’t understand. If I’ve missed some fact or crucial argument, then tell me what it is and how I’ve missed it. Don’t just assert that I’ve missed something and tell me to stop talking until I’ve read whatever it is I’ve missed.

      I might as well just say “shut up and re-read Ron’s talk, and read Sagan’s A Demon Haunted World (especially the ‘Baloney’ chapter) until you finally get it“. But that would be a cop-out, and not conducive to rational discussion.

      Anyway, I get tired of these discussions where we have to hash out what rational discourse looks like – it should be elementary stuff.

      Let’s get back to the argument in question.

    • Brive1987

      I agree. My original point was that Ron failed professionally that weekend. This is subject neutral so we should be able to find some agreement here. It wouldn’t have mattered if it w a KKK meeting, Rotary or pure atheism – it was a monumental fail. This was not acknowledged in your OP or comments but is fundamental to the problem.

      Secondly your OP did not acknowledge any of the substantial criticisms on the content of Rons speech. I will made a wild guess here and say you don’t habitually read Greta ‘s blog. Her comments are far better structured then my rehash would be so. See her June 30 post.

    • But the question is ‘did he fail professionally?’ That’s what’s at issue!

      I think I briefly covered the bit about context when I wrote:

      …perhaps it wasn’t suitable for a welcome talk, but I prefer challenging, cerebral introductions to mere pleasantries

      As for the Greta post – I actually quote it (albeit briefly) in my letter. I read both of those posts, and thought they were completely over the top. You’d think he’d pulled out a machine gun and started gunning down the attendees, with rhetoric like Christina’s.

      I thought the best criticism of RL was Dan Fincke’s, but I still disagreed with it (although at least he isn’t calling for Lindsay’s head on a platter).

    • Shadow of a Doubt

      Glad to her that. “Shut up”, whether amended with “an x” or not is not a way to do anything other then stifle conversation.

    • Indeed. Yes, we should listen, read and think, but telling someone ‘listen!’ or ‘think!’ implies that they’re not doing that, which is often presumptuous and arrogant. ‘Shut up’ added to it just makes it more aggressive and likely to get under their skin.

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    • bismarket 1

      OK, i got my mail off to them, let’s just hope were in time to stop the invasion of Poland.

    • Brive1987

      You mention Fincke – even though you “still disagree” – a bit each way there, don’t know what you really mean to bring him up. But let’s see what he says anyway seeing you have referenced him as somehow more nuanced then Greta.

      “.. a misuse of his position as the head of the
      organization sponsoring the event ..”

      [Ron’s, possibly inadvertent, message was] “that women
      don’t deserve the same basic respect and civility that is routinely afforded to your average conference speakers and participants.”

      “I sympathize with the visceral outrage and incredulousness of many of the women attending the conference and reading about it online.” – apparently not over the top for him!

      “Ron Lindsay was an egregious violator of civility principles by being such a disrespectful host and then poisoning the well against Rebecca Watson in his post replying to her counter post to his talk and to his first blog defense of it”

      “on the subject of incivility and thinness of skin, it
      is especially we straight, white, cisgendered, neurotypical, non-disabled men who should be the ones taking planks out of our own eyes during such discussions before taking specks out of the eyes of the marginalized”

      Yes he supports the notion that debate should not be
      closed down by feminists – but he acknowledges that this is the position of the majority of femanists –

      “By highlighting his anxieties with the worst instances of feminist activism as though they were the most central and pressing concerns related to feminists Lindsay inadvertently sent this message: When I think about feminism the first thing that comes to mind is how feminists act counter to rational ideals. Given feminism’s vital accomplishments, feminism’s hugely important substantive
      goals, and the long history of women being misogynistically mistrusted as inherently irrational, Lindsay could not have sent a worse signal.”

      Bottom line?

      Even the critic you bring up cataloged a large number of appalling
      actions and labeled Ron’s actions “an abuse of his position and an embarrassment”.

      Alas that Fincke didn’t step up to the inescapable conclusion
      that this from a pure governance position requires Board involvement.

      But then he doesn’t directly say it shouldn’t either. “Abuse of position” is pretty unambiguous as is “egregious violator”

    • I don’t know what you’re trying to prove. I said Fincke’s was the best, but that I disagreed with it. I disagreed with it a lot. It was waaay OTT, and you helpfully highlight the most problematic passages. The fact that this one is the best speaks volumes about the quality of the criticism there’s been.

      Actually, the very best point against Lindsay that I’ve heard is that he had been warned in person by some people about accommodating (and giving speaking positions to) the people now calling for his head. He didn’t listen, and now he’s paying the price.

      I think that’s a bit harsh on him – yes, he should have listened but this stuff is still all undeserved.

    • Brive1987

      Re “You’d think he’d pulled out a machine gun and started gunning down the attendees, with rhetoric like Christina’s”

      Are you serious? Greta Christina opened her ‘content’ blog with the words:

      “That doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. We all screw up. But it means… well, it means that you screwed up. At the very least, it means you should maybe listen to your supposed allies who are howling with rage. You should maybe consider the possibility that, even if this was not your intention, you did something that was seriously troubling, and you need to stop and think about it”

      And the “rhetoric” remains no ‘worse’ than Fincke’s for the rest of the post.

      Yep she is critical of Ron and you may not agree with her, but at least she does an honest job of presenting analysis and reasoned conclusions.

    • Well obviously I’m not talking about that passage. I mean things like “…the context in which this did happen was reprehensible. He treated us with contempt. And it is absolutely unacceptable.”

      “The content of Lindsay’s talk was… well, an ill-informed, baffling, patronizing, insulting concoction of straw-feminist rhetoric taken directly from the mouths of hostile anti-feminists. It was pretty damn bad. The context of the talk was dripping with contempt.”


    • Brive1987

      “I thought the best criticism of RL was Dan Fincke’s, but I still disagreed with it”

      This was in hindsight way too jello to engage with. My mistake.

      Too many words spilt here. I will simply reassert what I originally stated and what hasn’t really been addressed:

      You have not properly acknowledged or dissected any of the many, specific and detailed criticisms of Ron – on the professional, content or context fronts. Instead you appear to recoil from any instance of negative adjective regardless of context.

      With your letter you have simply replaced the consensus conference constitutes view of “reality” with your own personal take – which is of limited value to the overall debate.

      There is way too much IP out there now to dismiss it all with a “I reckon … and to all who disagree – well you are wrong and hysterical” approach.

      It also seems disingenuous. For instance the comment “I’ve not seen any of Dr. Lindsay’s critics say why his opinions are misguided” is simply wrong.

      This was, and remains, my concern with your counter call to arms.

      I can only assume you disagree with the critiques of Ron on a self-evident, “objectively wrong” basis. So we will simply have to agree
      to disagree.

    • Keep in mind that this was a letter of support for RL that I sent to the CFI board. It wasn’t an essay titled ‘Why RL’s Critics are Wrong’ or ‘On Bad Argumentation’.

      I have written my own post about the ‘shut up and listen’ slogan, my own post about ‘privilege’, and my own post about Atheism+.

      Ok, so there are some critics that have (partially) tried to address the content of the talk, but it’s pretty hard to find after you distill all of the hyperbole and the “I can’t believe he said that” stuff. My point is that the outrage drowns out the possibly worthwhile reasons they have for disagreeing with the talk, and that’s a shame – for their sake more than anything else.

    • Reginald Selkirk

      because of the welcome talk he gave at Women in Secularism

      You acknowledge it was a ‘welcome talk.’ And yet, oddly enough, Lindsay went out of his way to deliberately not welcome attendees.

    • Flatface7777 .

      I gather that it’s accepted as a given that “Women in Secularism” is a pointless euphemism for a gathering of feminists that consider themselves skeptics. Anyone telling that crowd anything that didn’t reinforce their ideological beliefs was presuming too much of the audience, as events have since shown.

    • sezit

      Ron Lindsay is bad at his job. His position as the CEO of a multinational organization is to 1. Attract and retain members, and 2. Attract donations.
      How does telling conference members that he does not welcome them, then hijacking the front page of the org’s website to engage in a personal attack! … on one of the speakers!…. during he conference! accomplish either of those objectives? And, oh, yeah.. he apologized to the speaker, but not to me and the other attendees and the org’s members who were taken for a ride in his personal rant vehicle.
      How can any speaker at future conferences trust him to resolve issues in person and not do an public, personal attack?
      Bad judgment, unprofessionalism, making paying customers unwelcome? Job fail.

    • From the talk:

      Of course you are welcome here. We’re very happy to have you with us, but this is something you know already, and, although I don’t want to appear ungracious, why take up time to state the obvious, because the reality is we have much work to do, and presumably you came here for substance not rhetoric.

    • The purpose of my letter is to concentrate on the talk he gave at the beginning, since that’s what most critics now seem to be concentrating on. He apologised for the other bits, but if you feel that was inadequate for you then that’s between you and RL, and none of my concern.

      I think attracting members and donations is important, but it is important to do so without compromising the values of the organisation. I think deliberately not saying something because some people are offended by it compromises the values of the organisation.

    • Brive1987

      I will actually read your posts, I mostly stop by here to try and understand your view points, even though I generally disagree with them. I think there is a chicken and egg thing happening here. People are angry because there is valid criticism – they aren’t looking for logic post hoc to anger.

      I still maintain that even removing the A+ layers as a paid professional he still missed his KPIs or the job at hand. But as I said we will have to disagree for now.

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    • Evangeline Claire

      It’s such a shame! Ron Lindsay’s comments on the use of privilege was right on, and the actual issue was even more innocent than I thought… how can someone seriously demonize this? He’s telling people not to use someone’s genitals to tell them to just shut up. That’s right. If you can’t argue your point without going “You’re a man and I’m not so trumped” then maybe you shouldn’t be saying anything. Shit’s not always because someone’s a man. They have female critics, and men on their side as well, but when their men speak we are not saying “you’re a man and I’m a woman, score!”

      I can’t believe they tried to get him fired for making this -very important- point. No one mistreated them at all. These people are so dishonest.