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Categorized | Humor, Organization, Personal

On Freethinking, Objectivism, and Plagiarism

I’ve recently learned about the plagiarism in a recent post and think that some sanctions are necessary. Therefore, together with our stakeholders and board of directors, we, the official leaders of FF, have decided to suspend Karlo from his post as official FF writer indefinitely until he edits his post and publicly apologizes and says ten Hail Marys.

But seriously.

First of all, the FF is an informal group. Although we’ve been trying to get organized, herding cats is close to impossible. Nor would freethinkers want to be herded anyway. I’d thought that we — the original members of FF — made this clear from the beginning, but apparently we haven’t, and for the benefit of nonmembers and new members here it is again:

The Filipino Freethinkers is not a formal group with an official, homogeneous stand on anything.

We do not have an official stance on gods — although many are atheists, we have agnostics, deists, pantheists, panentheists, apatheists, etc. We even have several theists — Catholics, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Spirituals, and yes, even a Satanist.

We do not have an official stance on politics — although most prefer democracy and capitalism, we have all sorts of socialists, anarchists, and even one fascist (that I know of).

We do not have an official stance on anything. I thought this was unnecessary, but maybe each post on our blog should be introduced by a disclaimer: The views on this post are my own, and do not reflect those of any other member of FF.

What we do have is a common language that we do try to speak: freethinking. You are freethinking when you try to use reason and evidence to figure something out for yourself. At least that’s my definition. Others may have their own definitions, which is why our members are so varied. And that’s a good thing.

What we — the original members — tried to achieve with FF when we started it was not a WE (a group of people with the same thoughts on everything) but a WHERE. You could compare FF to a room where anybody could come in and talk to each other about whatever. The only thing is, the people in the room speak in the language of reason and Science, and your enjoyment in that room would depend on your fluency at freethinking (our lingua franca).

Obviously, people define Reason and Science in different ways, from the absolutist definitions of Objectivism to the relativist definitions of Postmodernism. But even with the wide range of interpretations, I believe we can all agree on some things:

One, that freedom to talk about things is a good thing, and that no idea is too sacred to justify its permanent status as Truth. In short, nothing is sacred, so there’s no such thing as blasphemy. Even Science does not grant such status to any theory. (Indeed, if it did, it would cease to be Science.)

Two, that assertions made without supporting arguments can be dismissed without any argument. That an argument is only as good as the reason (critical thought free from fallacies) and evidence (repeated and repeatable, peer-reviewed and scientifically valid) backing it up.

Three, although freely thinking (and talking) about something (One) in a way that is rational and evidence-based (Two) is the best way to arrive at conclusions, those conclusions may be different, especially with complex and complicated topics. And even when a group of people — however rational and scientific — somehow reaches the same conclusion, that conclusion does not gain the status of Absolute Truth (One).

Again, I hate to have to say this, but this is MY point of view and it may be different from those of the other FF members.

Now let me share some of my thoughts about this conflict with Objectivists, particularly VB and some of his friends. First of all, we have at least three members (that I know of) who are now Objectivists. Geri was once an Objectivist. I read enough Ayn Rand to understand her philosophy, and although I do not agree with all of her conclusions, I do think she deserves to be called a Philosopher (some FF members think otherwise) and as a writer I particularly value her thoughts on the writing process (I have both her books on the topic).

So I have nothing against Objectivism. In fact, several times I’ve invited Josh Lipana, and through him, VB, to attend our meetups and even to write about Objectivism on our blog. (Both invitations are still open, by the way.)

This was before all the free farter talk on VB’s blog. Personally I do not appreciate personal attacks used in rational discourse. And besides, it only weakens your argument — when you have to resort to it, it usually means you’ve run out of reason.

But things have been said and the discourse has devolved into name calling, unfortunately on both sides. And where there is some semblance of reason it has been quite irrational — again on both sides. Because of the support of some members (myself included) for the RH bill, all of our members have been called irrational, unscientific, and even a fellowship of death. As if the only proper way to be rational and scientific is to agree with Objectivism. And some FF members have called Objectivism a cult of Randroids, lumping together all Objectivists, even though there are those who do value the ideas without any reverence for Ayn Rand.

This has led to the ugly situation we have now. I’d rather we all move on and talk about something more relevant, say HIV/AIDS and the Vatican scandal, but that’s just me. If some members still want to wage an all out war with VB, that’s fine. But please, when you argue with someone, be it VB or anyone else, make it clear that you are arguing for yourself and as yourself — not as a representative of FF.

Sadly, any argument between VB and an FF member has been framed as a battle between Objectivism and FF. Please guys. Keep it between yourselves. The way you have been arguing you might as well have a Yo Mama contest.

Which brings us to the latest attack against Karlo for the plagiarism in his first article. This attack on Karlo is an attack manufactured by those who want to discredit the FF and can be compared to anti-semitism, the Holocaust, and the recent attacks on the Catholic Church.

But seriously. In case your bullshit detector wasn’t on in my first paragraph, we do not have stakeholders and directors and official leaders. We do not even have full-time editors, let alone fact-checkers. I say full-time because sometimes our volunteers fix mechanical errors — spelling, grammar, etc. — and even peer-review articles before posting. But these editorial fixes will remain a rarity until we get volunteers who can dedicate a lot of their time to the necessary work. Or until we get a lot of money (any takers?).

This bears repeating: We are a group of volunteers. We are not paid for what we do.

But still, I agree with the comments so far that Karlo should take responsibility for his actions. He has already replied and said that he will fix the plagiarism in his post. Do I think Karlo should be punished for what he did? Personally, not so much. But again, that’s just my opinion. If you think plagiarism, particularly what Karlo did, is a grave matter deserving of excommunication, do say so. Write a post about it if you like. You will not be censored. But please, try to stick to the issues and avoid the insults.

I’ve already passed the TL;DR point a couple of paragraphs ago, so let me end this rambling (sorry for any errors in spelling, grammar, or plagiarism) with this:

If FF is to be about something, it is not about shared conclusions but shared conversations. Once conclusions are reached conclusively the conversation is over, and a fellowship without conversation is a fellowship concluded. Peace!

DISCLAIMER: The opinions in this post do not necessarily represent the position of the Filipino Freethinkers.