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This is a meetup group for people in the Philadelphia area who are passionately interested in the public policy implications of the latest findings in social & economic research, but who also feel that the prevailing liberal-vs-conservative political paradigm is unnecessarily limiting.

Many people have found that the more you know about a subject, the more you realize the extent of what you do not know - and so it goes with politics, economics and social theory.   When we delve deep into the latest social science research, the picture we get of our world is a series of highly complex interlocking political, social, economic & technological systems.   We have to seriously face the likelihood that a perfect political ideology is impossible, and that the best we can do is to try to push public debate in a less polarized & more rational direction, and focus on strategies for living in a world we don't fully understand.  The alternative would be to deny the uncertainties and shoehorn the facts into the standard "liberal" or "conservative" worldview we grew up with.  

The purpose of "Political Agnosticism" is to avoid approaching politics as a clash of "secular religions" or as a "culture war".  Instead, we acknowledge uncertainty and tradeoffs on policy issues, and try to construct more rational methods for thinking about & discussing political issues.  This is basically what a lot of the skeptic & atheist movement is doing with traditional religion & morality, but we're just extending our skepticism to the "political religions" represented by the major political parties.

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The goals for this meetup group are four-fold:

(1) We try to understand why people are predisposed by both inherent psychological traits and cultural upbringing to have certain political views.  Typically, we use a mix of the Five Factor Model, Jonathan Haidt's "Moral Foundations Theory", Geert Hofstede's "Cultural Dimensions Theory", Bryan Caplan's concept of "rational irrationality," Dan Kahan's "cultural cognition" model, and Daniel Kahneman's work on cognitive biases. 

(2) We try to educate member on both the fundamentals and the latest findings in the social sciences - especially political science, social psychology, public choice theory, behavioral economics, and game theory - and we discuss how they relate to current events & trending political topics.  Aside from looking at academic research, a lot of our reading material comes from the rationalist forums & skeptic blogosphere (Less Wrong, Slate Star Codex, Overcoming Bias, Omnilibrium, Ribbonfarm, Rationally Speaking, Sam Harris), data journalism sites (Pew Research, FiveThirtyEight, Freakonomics, NYT's Upshot, Vox, RealClearPolitics), and today's major public intellectuals and highbrow media pundits from across the political spectrum (basically anyone writing in The Atlantic, New York Times, NY Magazine, NPR, Slate, Washington Post, Salon, Guardian, National Review, The American Conservative, Reason, TED Talks, Edge.org). 

(3) We try to imagine alternative types of political & economic systems that could provide better outcomes  for the future based on both theory & empirical data. This often involves connecting ideas & strategies from various points on the traditional political spectrum and analyzing political philosophies that could be described as syncretic, contrarian or radical centrist.  We'll look at things like organizational change, urban design, social innovation, the impact of new technologies & disruptive innovations, new forms of governance, and various alternative economic models.  

(4) We aim to network with like-minded meetup groups & internet communities, including Jonathan Haidt's Asteroids Club & Heterodox Academy, Ravi Iyer's Civil Politics, Liz Joyner's Village Square, Joan Blades' Living Room Conversations, Julia Galef's Center for Applied Rationality (CFAR), Spencer Greenberg's ClearerThinking.org, Charles Wheelan's Centrist Project, Sandy Heierbacher's National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD), Laurence Kotlikoff's Purple Plans, TEDxPhiladelphia, the Ethical Society of Philadelphia, and others.

If you're dying to discuss social psychology, sociology, economics & political theory but don't quite feel a sense of belonging with the typical political activist meetups in our area, come out and enjoy some spirited discussion with the Philadelphia Political Agnostics!

NOTE: Also check out our Facebook political discussion group, "Beyond Left/Right Politics", at https://www.facebook.com/groups/95327159138...


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Applying Rationalism & Skepticism to Politics

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Founded May 7, 2015

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