Pharyngula

I have a new favorite charity!

Check it out: The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science is an Anglo-American secular charitable organization that is in the process of being set up. They have a long list of causes they will support—science and education on the top of the list, but also many other traditional charitable goals—and all with an overt secular mission. It is a brilliant idea I can get behind, and I think it has the potential to give a visible focus to the good efforts of godless people everywhere.

Comments

  1. #1 amphioxus
    September 22, 2006

    Sorry, somewhat off-topic but: Upon following your first link I learned that we have to be appreciative to no one less than George W. for the existence of RD’s ‘The God Delusion’.

    “(….)After four years of Bush, my literary agent changed his tune. He started begging me to write The God Delusion. And publishers around America are now falling over themselves to bring out atheistic books from which they would have run a mile only a few years ago(…..).”

    Perhaps the fundamentalists have gone just too far, and it starts to backfire on them.

  2. #2 Miguelito
    September 22, 2006

    If it’s based on atheism, perhaps he can apply for a charitable grant from Bush’s faith-based initiatives? How well would that go over?

  3. #3 Joshua
    September 22, 2006

    It wouldn’t, Miguelito, because atheism is not a religion. It’s also very clearly a secular group, rather than an explicitly atheistic one. There is a difference between the two.

    Anyway, this is pretty awesome. We need more secular charities!

  4. #4 Bechamel
    September 22, 2006

    we have to be appreciative to no one less than George W.

    There *is* someone less than George W.?

  5. #5 Kleyau
    September 22, 2006

    That’s one of the coolest things I’ve seen this year.

    You think they’ll schedule meetings and events during church on Sunday?

  6. #6 Dianne
    September 22, 2006

    Do you think he’d be willing to fund my research? It’s got the entirely secular goal of reducing the number of people who die of cancer, heart disease, and stroke and getting funding for that sort of thing from the government is getting harder…

  7. #7 George
    September 22, 2006

    Religious kooks in the hands of an angry Dawkins. Go get ‘em Richard!

    Good site with good articles. I’m glad he is ratcheting up his efforts to antagonize the nutballs.

    That a site in support of science and reason is necessary in the 21st century is just astonishing.

  8. #8 j.t.delaney
    September 22, 2006

    Does anybody know of a list of secular charities? To be honest, other than this one, the only other one that I’m aware of is the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation. There’s United Way, but that’s more of a “non-denominational” umbrella. Here in the Netherlands, there’s Humanistisch Instituut voor Ontwikkelingssamenwerking (HIVOS), but what else is there?

    -Joe

  9. #9 James Allen
    September 22, 2006

    Speaking of Dawkins, I was at Wal-Mart last night looking through the books for my Mom’s birthday. You can imagine my shock at finding out that they carried Anne Coulter’s Godless but not Dawkin’s The God Delusion. That was of course in addition to 2 of the 7 rows of books being “inspirational” and another one being “personal growth”, which is just more “inspirational.” The non-fiction section consisted of Coulter, O’Reilly, and Dr. Phil and a bunch of cookbooks. It’s no wonder middle America has its head up its ass.

  10. #10 reason
    September 22, 2006

    Dianne – “It’s got the entirely secular goal of reducing the number of people who die of cancer, heart disease, and stroke..”

    I take it you are an anti-smoking campaigner.

  11. #11 reason
    September 22, 2006

    James Allen…
    You were shocked?

  12. #12 Warren
    September 22, 2006

    If it’s based on atheism, perhaps he can apply for a charitable grant from Bush’s faith-based initiatives?

    Contrary to Joshua’s (valid) objection, I’d suggest it’s worth a try, since right-wing nitwits everywhere are constantly spewing the line that atheism is as much a faith-based claim as is religiosity. Well, if they really think it’s faith-based, why not try Miguelito’s suggestion and see what happens? If we end up with a court challenge, for instance, we’d eventually be reduced to a concession that there is no proof that a god exists, and therefore any assertion made as “factual” that begins from that premise is invalid.

    Claiming atheism is faith-based is akin to saying denial of a unicorn’s existence is as much faith-based as asserting their reality, which is obviously not true. Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence; but it certainly is not an argument in favor of one’s cherished belief. And the less likely a given claim appears to be, the less faith it takes to deny its legitimacy.

    The evidence for the existence of a god is essentially nonexistent, and the prima facie evidence against a god — embodied in the outrageous supernatural claims made by adherents to the mythology — is considerably stronger.

    Thus atheism is not a declaration of faith. It’s the logical conclusion of a rational interrogation of nature. Those who say otherwise simply haven’t followed the argument to its natural terminus.

  13. #13 James Allen
    September 22, 2006

    Shocked as in “shocked”. Sorry, forgot the quotes.

    Interesting, now that I’ve read the site I see that Dawkins had a simiar experience. I guess great minds think alike. :-)

  14. #14 Millimeter Wave
    September 22, 2006

    “Does anybody know of a list of secular charities?”

    Start with the international red cross…

  15. #15 JB
    September 22, 2006

    Secularits already have the public universities, which I pay for through heavy taxes.

    Dawkins is also subsidized by the state.

    He ain’t gettin any more from me!

  16. #16 Alexander Vargas
    September 22, 2006

    Its great to have more secular charities around…I, however, do not like the name of this one…
    I wonder what someone like dawkisn would do if he had the power to decide the funding of evolutionary research…I mean, if his selfsih gene framework (which I do not agree with) was upheld as “mere reason”, he could find it completely fitting not to fund me, or other colleagues with “unreasonable” ways of thinking.
    This is why I distrust anyone making naked claims to reason. Be it the pope, be it Dawkins, it can lead to the enforcement of errors claimed as reason. Pretty bad, huh?
    For an analysis of why “reason for the sake of reason” (rather than reason put to something) is an ultimately vacuous concept , read the historian and philosopher José Ortega y Gasset. “Man and crisis” is an excellent book. He had plenty of “rationalism” to look at in the 30’s. Interesting thing, it truly differed in nothing from that of Dawkins. Just before the greatest war of all…

  17. #17 Lola Walser
    September 22, 2006

    If anyone’s counting: I’m another atheist and scientist, which sounds like I ought to belong to Dawkins’ camp, but I’m quite uneasy about the association. I’m not a meek creature, I’ve battled through a number of acrid philosophical and political debates–in a small, ultra-Catholic, conservative European country no less–but Dawkins’ heart-stopping arrogance and simplifications make his books a tough read, and whenever in position to recommend sound biological theoretical thinking to a layperson, I reach for Gould and Mayr (both staunch and proclaimed atheists, btw), not him, although they tend to make subtler, more difficult to grasp points.

    I’ve only had the time to glance at the homepage so far, so please excuse the superficiality of this criticism, but: the banner is tasteless, comically so (Dawkins silhoutted against the sun, Dawkins on a cliff shot grandly from below etc.), and the string of Dawkins’ quotes are somehow… well, immodest. You may respond these details don’t matter, but they leave a bad first impression.

    The man’s a great polemicist (so say many), not a great scientist. Maybe I’m missing the point here, but I’d feel better if the strongest voice (or at least, the most exposed figure) defending science today belonged to a good working research scientist, whose research record might actually justify such apparent self-glorification.

  18. #18 Dylan Llyr
    September 22, 2006

    Contrary to Joshua’s (valid) objection, I’d suggest it’s worth a try, since right-wing nitwits everywhere are constantly spewing the line that atheism is as much a faith-based claim as is religiosity. Well, if they really think it’s faith-based, why not try Miguelito’s suggestion and see what happens? If we end up with a court challenge, for instance, we’d eventually be reduced to a concession that there is no proof that a god exists, and therefore any assertion made as “factual” that begins from that premise is invalid.

    Cool. Essentially a court case we’d actually want to lose in order to prove a point? Sounds like an interesting idea!

    Don’t think it would work though. If secularists tried something like this then wouldn’t fundies simply go along with it and merrily use it as PROOF that “atheism is faith” after all? I’d imagine they’d be happy to see such an initiative receive grants since the propaganda victory would be pretty valuable to them.

  19. #19 Stogoe
    September 22, 2006

    Oh, Vargie, you’re always ready to spew another hork of Vargasity at us. Ooh, what if Christians actually had to think about non-christians as actual people rather than convertibles? Booga Booga!

  20. #20 Siamang
    September 22, 2006

    I have an idea, Lola.

    How about you start the organization you’re describing.

    I like Richard Dawkins, and part of the reason is his Richard Dawkins-ness. Sure, he does things I wouldn’t do, and says things I wouldn’t say, or at least not in that way. I’m sure he turns people off.

    His organization is not the organization I’d build if organizations came into being by sitting back in an armchair puffing on a pipe and dreaming.

    But I’m very interested to see where this goes, and I’m glad someone’s doing SOMETHING.

  21. #21 Alexander Vargas
    September 22, 2006

    Gould was our guy… his legacy remains!!!
    And Mayr was pretty good too. Good choices Lola!

  22. #22 stillwaters
    September 22, 2006

    “Any other secular charities?”

    Well, I know that the American Humanist Association collected donations for Katrina victims. See Humanists Support Katrina Relief Efforts for more info.

    And there’s also the Secular Humanist Aid and Relief Effort, or SHARE, sponsored by the Council for Secular Humanism. They seem to make an extra effort when disaster strikes, but I think you can donate to them any ol’ time, if you want.

  23. #23 George
    September 22, 2006

    Richard Dawkins is a breath of fresh air in a world gone rancid with religion. The whole NOMA idea is for the birds. It’s a way of avoiding the basic fact that science and religion are fundamentally at odds. We need more arrogance from atheists and scientists, not less, because what the nutcases believe – that an invisible being controls our lives – is an absurd notion. There is no point in humoring people for the sake of getting along or not offending them. That’s how we end up where we are today, with the U.S. being taken over by a bunch of lazy-minded self-absorbed religious nuts.

  24. #24 Keith Douglas
    September 22, 2006

    j.t.delaney: I volunteer at a small NGO in Montreal, Canada called The Social Justice Committee which is secular in character. (Curiously, it originated not, but shed its original association.)

    As for the RDFFRDS, I found the support of research to be interesting. I am glad someone is willing to do this, but I would also want several other research projects done in the area eventually too. One would be on social mechanisms of peer pressure, and that sort of thing, as I imagine the social aspect is very important. Unfortunately, I live in neither country so I do not think I can contribute so easily … on the other hand, if it ever expands to Canada (and we need it to some extent here too!), I’m in …

  25. #25 Kristine
    September 22, 2006

    After four years of Bush, my literary agent changed his tune. He started begging me to write The God Delusion. And publishers around America are now falling over themselves to bring out atheistic books from which they would have run a mile only a few years ago

    Another example of faint hearted ignoramuses showing their ignoramusness. So much for Dawkins’ “Dawkins-ness.” Which pulls me in, by the way.

    Perhaps the fundamentalists have gone just too far, and it starts to backfire on them.

    I wish. There’s always lower to go, even if we cannot imagine it; they seem to be able to.

    I like Richard Dawkins, and part of the reason is his Richard Dawkins-ness.

    Someone else said it; I second it. I can’t help it, and I don’t want to! ;-)

    Sure, he turns people off, but history will remember him fondly, I think. I’m not qualified to judge whether someone is a great scientist or not, but I do think that Dawkins will be remembered for The Extended Phenotype (and I’m quite amazed at Dawkins’ gentle, and thoughtful, treatment of Gould’s objections in the book, considering that Gould made Dawkins out to be a bogeyman, at least in this young girls’ view as I read him growing up–what an opportunity lost).

    I applaud what he’s doing. And he can put his dashing self on his banner if he wants to.

  26. #26 Kristine
    September 22, 2006

    I should add that I am grateful to Gould for his popular writings, and I esteem Mayr, very much. I do not mean to imply that I don’t. Gould’s passing was a real loss to me.

  27. #27 RedMolly
    September 22, 2006

    Apparently our Borders is carrying The God Delusion… but behind the counter. You have to ask for it. As if it were a pack of freakin’ tarot cards or something.

  28. #28 RedMolly
    September 22, 2006

    Oh yeah… and though I mentioned these on a different thread a while ago, here are two excellent secular charities I support:

    Plan USA (child sponsorship charity–we sponsor a boy in Guatemala and a girl in Sudan)
    Medecins sans Frontieres/Doctors without Borders (one of the few relief organizations still working on the ground in Darfur)

  29. #29 George
    September 22, 2006

    Apparently our Borders is carrying The God Delusion… but behind the counter. You have to ask for it.

    Seriously? It’s being treated like porn?

  30. #30 Stogoe
    September 22, 2006

    I think it’s because if any DFWs or TFMs out there saw the title while passing by it they would explode. Kind of a messy aisle after fifteen minutes, I would think.

  31. #31 John Owens
    September 22, 2006

    Dammit! I just came up with almost exactly this idea myself on Tuesday (on Talk Like A Pirate Day, no less, although not affiliated with Pastafarianism). It occurred to me that while there are plenty of religious charities, of course, and also many charities that aren’t overtly religious, there was a lack of charities that were explicitly atheistic, agnostic, or secular. Along with no support structure comparable to that of established religions. I was even checking out the details of 501(c)3 etc., and that Dawkins has to go and beat me to the punch! Well, that does it, he’s off the list of patron saints now! ;)

    I also had the idea of going for faith-based funds; part of the point is also to give something to point to as an example of “atheism as a religion,” to help differentiate it from “just plain atheism.” Though that might be too nuanced for a lot of folks.

  32. #32 John Owens
    September 22, 2006

    Lola: I think one point would be that the “good working research scientist[s]” you’d want are all too busy doing, you know, research to head up this kind of thing. I don’t know if anyone could ever do both without giving short shrift to one or the other.

  33. #33 Kristine
    September 22, 2006

    I don’t know if anyone could ever do both without giving short shrift to one or the other.

    Absolutely agree. Massimo Pigliucci wrote in his book Denying Evolution: Creationism, Scientism, and the Nature of Science that he did not even think it was right to require a professor to simultaneously do research. Certainly few can do justice to all three (teaching, research, and engaging in educational/activist activity on behalf of the public). Pigliucci praises the idea of the foundation chair which Dawkins currently fills and thinks that the U.S. should have one as well.

  34. #34 matthew
    September 22, 2006

    I think Dawkins CV speaks for itself, all 16 pages of it.

    The intro video for RDF is really inspiring. I espcially like how Ann Coulter has her own special place on the website, right under the title “the ugly.” SNAP!

    I’m excited about this.

  35. #35 Jonathan Badger
    September 22, 2006

    Absolutely agree. Massimo Pigliucci wrote in his book Denying Evolution: Creationism, Scientism, and the Nature of Science that he did not even think it was right to require a professor to simultaneously do research.

    If a professor would have to give up one of the two activities surely it should be the teaching — after all, doing research is what graduate school prepares one for. Hiring someone with a doctorate and not having them do research would be a waste. Even most “teaching colleges” know this, although professors at such places often have excessive undergraduate teaching loads that interfere with their research. Perhaps there could be a separate program similar to that for preparing high school teachers that could produce lecturers for undergrad courses.

  36. #36 fyreflye
    September 22, 2006

    Apparently our Borders is carrying The God Delusion… but behind the counter. You have to ask for it. As if it were a pack of freakin’ tarot cards or something.

    Here in Northern California Borders stores feature large cases full of tarot cards and stack more on the shelves. But they don’t carry the new Dawkins; you have to order it. I’m proud to say, though, that the Sonoma County Library system has purchased one (1) copy – probably just to satisfy me and Phil Plait.

  37. #37 False Prophet
    September 22, 2006

    I think I’ll go ahead and order a copy of The God Delusion for my library system. That’ll learn ‘em for putting the atheist in charge of the religion section. ;-)

  38. #38 George
    September 22, 2006

    For those who don’t have God Delusion yet, a chunk of chapter 7 is here:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/newsnight/5372458.stm

  39. #39 Kristine
    September 22, 2006

    Perhaps there could be a separate program similar to that for preparing high school teachers that could produce lecturers for undergrad courses.

    A two-track program: teaching or research? I think it makes sense.

    That’ll learn ‘em for putting the atheist in charge

    You rock, False Prophet!

  40. #40 Rey Fox
    September 23, 2006

    Immodest, feh. I’m perfectly fine with someone taking the fight to them for once.

  41. #41 Herb West
    September 23, 2006

    Dawkins “charity” consists of giving Dawkins money to print his pamphlets, sell Dawkins Merchandise, send himself on a lecture circuit, and fund research (I use the term loosely) proving that religious people have screwed up brains. He gives charity and research a bad name. If atheists were smart they’d put Dawkins in the attic and start a true charity that serves others rather than themselves.

  42. #42 Puskara
    September 23, 2006

    Every time I hear someone complain about Dawkins arrogance I see a battered spouse in my head say “But he/she loves me…”

    Seriously folks, you may not like him, you may even find him unbearable, but is he wrong? Frankly I am tired of Atheists and Scientists (including those that are religious but do not let that get in the way of the facts) cowering in the closet.

    Arguably the best response to a charity you don’t approve of is to set up your own. I am certain Dr. Myers would be happy to plug any secular charity.

  43. #43 Alexander Vargas
    September 23, 2006

    what, you are saying he actually does nothing but “promote reason” (himself) with the money???
    I thought he’d be helping kids with aids or something like that…
    Is he such a douche, really?

  44. #44 PZ Myers
    September 23, 2006

    Yes, let a thousand secular flowers bloom.

    One of the important things about Dawkins’ charity is that it specifically encourages cooperation between the UK and US — the idea is not that you’re giving money to Dawkins, but that his foundation is acting as an exchange to simplify donations from the UK to US, and vice versa.

    There’s also a bit of a subtext here: we are the benighted savages who need foreign largesse to help pull us out of our pit of ignorance. It’s sad but true.

  45. #45 Alexander Vargas
    September 23, 2006

    Yh, w r ll rlgs r cwrng n th clst. Smpl xplntns, fr th smpl-mndd dwkbt.
    Trth s, f lts f rlgn scks, Dwksn ds nt gt fr pss fr syng stpd r fls thngs, rght? Lk sch slly jdgmnts f hs cllgs. W hv ll th rght t cll n hs smplstc vws, bth n vltn nd scty.
    Th rsn Dwkns s s pplr s bcs rlgn-ngry 12 yr ld cn thnk nd tlk th wy h ds. H jst sys wht y ll lrdy fl, thnk nd wnt t hr, nd cllcts th mny, f crs.

    [your meds are wearing off, Vargas.]

  46. #46 PZ Myers
    September 23, 2006

    Follow the links I gave. That’s a complete misrepresentation of the charity. You can, if you want, specify where your donated money will go, and it is most definitely not going into Dawkins’ pocket. Read the explanation.

  47. #47 Alexander Vargas
    September 23, 2006

    K. Thr s hmntrn spct, nmbr 7 f th lst f 8…nd ts nt gng drctly t dwkns pckt, bt hy…y cn’t py fr prgnd ths gd. Th nm f th dd s rght thr n th ttl.
    ll th rst s fr m mny dwn th drn, rlly. “Physlgcl bss f nrsn”?? Pffff. Yh, y hv t st p sm chrty fr rsrch lk tht, cs y r nt gng t gt ny mny fr tht “stff” frm th sl srcs fr scnc, n´t y

  48. #48 Alexander Vargas
    September 23, 2006

    PZ, tht cmnnt y dsmvwlld s rspns t th mschrctrztn y nd dwksn cntnlly prpmts f yr rsrchng cllgs
    Fck y.

    [ Your hysteria is getting a bit much. If you can’t get your obsessions under control, I’ll be deleting your comments. And if that gets to onerous, you will be banned. ]

  49. #49 Alexander Vargas
    September 23, 2006

    W r nt rlgs r hdng n th clst fr dsgrng wth Dwkns r th grt dsmvwllr.
    f PZ prfrs pndrng t th gnrnt nd nnyng hs cllgs t s hs wn bldy chc

  50. #50 Alexander Vargas
    September 23, 2006

    ts nt my prblm, PZ. bhv. t’s sbjct thng. Crtcsms t dwkns mst b kpt “sft”. nd s tht dsgr ms tk crp ll th tm.
    t s YR prblm.

  51. #51 Alexander Vargas
    September 23, 2006

    Jst thnk bt t. f thr s ny frnss lft n y

  52. #52 Will E.
    September 24, 2006

    I’m a little late posting, but I had a disheartening experience looking for both Dawkins’s book and Sam Harris’s “Christian Nation” at Borders as well. They did not have the Dawkins book in stock, and it took two clerks 15 minutes of hunting around for Harris’s book, which was supposed to be on hand, to finally just give up. WTF?

    Eventually I called my local independent bookstore–a place I don’t like to frequent because I was *fired* from there some years ago–and they had God Delusion. When I went in to pick it up, I saw they had a freaking stack of the Dawkins book, and Harris’s, on a table with a bunch of other new religion titles. I had had an inkling that something like this was gonna happen… I bought the Dawkins book, and so far it is quite good. I think a lot of his arrogance can be written off due to his somewhat overly proper Englishman’s English which sounds patronizing to Americans.

    PS: I just found out Chris Mooney, author of Republican War on Science, is speaking at this independent store at the end of October.

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