What we're about

This is a meetup group for people in the Philadelphia area who are concerned with the current political turmoil in America, but who also feel that the prevailing liberal-vs-conservative political paradigm is unnecessarily limiting our ability to think rationally about politics & search for policy solutions. If you like to talk politics but you've got some eclectic or moderate views that leave you feeling out of place at most of the activist groups, party meetings & political rallies in our area, this meetup is for you!

"Political Agnosticism" is a term I came up with back in 2015 to represent a non-dogmatic approach to politics that acknowledges uncertainty and the validity of multiple perspectives, and looks for practical solutions without worrying about adherence to an overarching political ideology. The purpose of this agnostic, skeptical & free-thinking approach is to avoid treating politics as a "culture war" based on group identities or a clash of "political religions" based more on devotion to a party than knowledge of the issues. Instead, when we cover a political issue, we look at what experts in various disciplines know (and don't know) about it, tease out the ethical implications, note the tradeoffs between different policy approaches, and then look at potential solutions that encompass everything we've learned.

The only political values that are prerequisites for members are a belief in civility & tolerance towards those we disagree with, a belief in traditional civil liberties like the freedom of speech, freedom of thought, and freedom of association, and respect for institutional norms like separation of church & state, academic freedom, press freedom, government transparency, and due process. These principles of an "open society" form the preconditions for the existence of a non-partisan political forum like ours.

We are affiliated as an independent salon of the Burke-Paine Society (BPS), a national organization that takes its name from Edmund Burke & Thomas Paine, two Enlightenment-era political thinkers that exemplify the conservative & progressive strands of the "classical liberal" tradition. The BPS is based on 4 core values - Inclusiveness, Empathy, Intellectual Curiosity, Humility - and is committed to 3 objectives: (1) rebuild cross-partisan trust, (2) redefine the national identity, (3) ignite a political renaissance. To learn more, visit their website: https://www.burkepainesociety.org/

Our general approach to politics is based on a concept we've borrowed from another organization, the Circle of Reason, called "pluralistic rationalism" – i.e. a personal commitment to reasoning, regardless of one's worldview. We start by assuming that reasonable people can differ in their cores values, whether it's framed as a preference for freedom vs security, tradition vs progress, religion vs secularism, individualism vs communitarianism, meritocracy vs egalitarianism, patriotism vs cosmopolitanism, etc. However, this approach is also premised on the belief that we should all commit to following the rules of logic & evidence-based reasoning. "Pluralistic Rationalism" is based on 3 tenets that are complementary to the core values of BPS - they are: (1) Factualism (as opposed to Denialism) for sourcing knowledge, (2) Skepticism (as opposed to Dogmatism) for vetting knowledge, and (3) Moderation (as opposed to Emotion) for expressing knowledge. To learn more about "pluralistic rationalism", see the Circle of Reason's website: http://www.circleofreason.org/

We are committed to creating a space for non-partisan political discussion based on intellectual honesty, mutual respect & civility. That means adopting the conversational principles of charity & good faith, avoiding name-calling, and trying to understand the best arguments that can be made for each side.

The goals for this meetup group are as follows:

(1) We try to understand why people - including ourselves - are predisposed by inherent psychological traits, cultural milieu & life experiences to have different moral intuitions & political orientations. We generally use a mix of the Big Five personality traits & Jonathan Haidt's Moral Foundations Theory.

(2) We look at moral philosophy to try to better understand how moral axioms logically connect to one another and form ethical systems like deontological ethics, utilitarianism, and contractarianism. We examine how these ethical systems form the basis for political philosophy, legal philosophy, and normative theories in the social sciences.

(3) We try to increase our level of rationality by learning how to spot logical fallacies, cognitive biases, flawed statistics, and irrational forms of thought like conspiracy theories & moral panics.

(4) We try to educate members on both the fundamentals and the latest research from the social sciences, and we discuss how this relates to current events & trending political topics. Aside from looking at academic research, a lot of our reading material comes from data/explainer journalism sites, econ & policy blogs, as well as the major public intellectuals & pundits from across the political spectrum.

(5) 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 looking at various "maps of the policy landscape" like the Cato & Fraser Institutes' Human Freedom Index, SPI's Social Progress Index, the Economist's Democracy Index, the UN World Happiness Report, and others.

(6) As part of our effort to break away from the narrow range of ideas represented by the two major political parties, we often look at constellations of ideas that could be described as syncretic, contrarian or heterodox. This often involves looking at ideas emerging from various blogosphere niches like market urbanism, civic hacking, ecomodernism, effective altruism, futurism & strategic forecasting, and the rationalist & skeptic communities. We also look increasingly to intellectuals who've been excluded from academic orthodoxies or "canceled" in mainstream media narratives, such as the scholars associated with Jonathan Haidt's Heterodox Academy, Gary Kasparov's Renew Democracy Initiative, Yascha Mounck's Persuasion, and the ideologically diverse thinkers of the "Intellectual Dark Web" (e.g. Sam Harris, Brett & Eric Weinstein, Glenn Loury & John McWhorter, the various writers at Quillette & Areo Magazine).

(7) In order to do our part combatting political polarization, we borrow ideas from a range of organizations that are currently working on enabling mutual understanding & civil dialogue, such as Mark Beall's Burke-Paine Society, Frank Burton's Circle of Reason, David Blankenhorn's Braver Angels project (formerly Better Angels), Liz Joyner's Village Square, Joan Blades' Living Room Conversations, John Gable's AllSides team, David Nevins & Debilyn Molineaux's Bridge Alliance, Tim Dixon & Gemma Mortensen's More In Common project, David Brooks's Social Fabric Project (a.k.a. Weave), Charles Wheelan's Centrist Project (now called "Unite America"), and others.

Upcoming events (5)

Free Thought Live: Michael Shellenberger on Eco-modernism

EVENT TITLE: "Eco-modernism: Michael Shelleberger's New Vision for Environmentalism" "Free Thought Live" is a new online live event series produced by Quillette & Think, Inc. that aims to help people grapple with the current moment by giving a platform to bold thinkers, unafraid to challenge the dogmas held by political tribes. WHO ARE THE EVENT HOSTS, QUILLETTE & THINK, INC.? Quillette is an online magazine, founded in 2015 by Australian journalist Claire Lehmann, offering free thought to readers around the world, primarily in the realm of culture, science, tech, politics and current affairs. Their guiding principles include: (1) Respect for civil and open debate, (2) Commitment to the search for objective truth, (3) The desire to move towards a consilience between the arts and sciences. Think Inc. is an Australian-based intellectual touring company, founded in 2014 by director & producer Suzi Jamil, that specializes in staging live public events that present & promote new ideas. Their mission is to build a vibrant and diverse intellectual culture through innovative, entertaining, and accessible events. They are active advocates for free speech, even-handed debate, and are deeply passionate about raising rational discourse both nationally and globally. REGISTERING FOR THE ONLINE EVENT: This is an online event, and General Admission and the After Party are FREE, although you'll need to register here: https://events.humanitix.com/eco-modernism-mike-shellenberger There is also a Salon portion that offers paying participants to ask the speaker questions, but it costs AUD $200 (USD $145.55). You'll get an email with more detailed instructions on how to access the event closer to the date. If you have any specific questions you’d like answered, send an email to [masked]. EVENT DESCRIPTION: What’s the best way to tackle climate change? Does economic development always conflict with conservation efforts? How do we secure a safe and prosperous future for our civilisation as well as our planet? Michael Shellenberger’s new book *Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All*, seeks to answer these questions while tearing down the rigid orthodoxies that have beset environmental activism for the last thirty years. Shellenberger was an environmental activist for thirty years, he co-created the predecessor policy to today’s Green New Deal, helped save the last unprotected redwoods in California, and has led efforts to keep nuclear plants in operation as alternative clean energy sources. But in recent years, he has been driven to speak out against climate alarmism as apocalyptic predictions have become increasingly untethered from available evidence. Shellenberger’s concern is that while alarmism is rife and spreading, awareness of basic facts regarding energy and the environment are not. His 2019 article "Why Renewables Can’t Save the Planet" remains Quillette’s most-read article of all time - https://quillette.com/2019/02/27/why-renewables-cant-save-the-planet/ WHAT'S THE EVENT SCHEDULE? Free Thought Live events are split into three sections: Main Event - this is open to absolutely everyone for free. It will be livestreamed to their website - https://thinkinc.org.au/events/free-thought-live/ Afterparty - this is only accessible to those who register, just as you've done when you claimed a free ticket. This is a space for people to further explore the ideas presented during the Main Event. A link will be provided for this on event day. Salon - this is only accessible to those who purchase a paid ticket and offers them the opportunity to speak with the event's speaker directly. A link will be provided for this, for ticket buyers only, on event day. The Main Presentation will start at 10pm EST, running for approximately 1 hour, directly followed by both the Afterparty and Salon, both running for approximately 1 hour each. .............................................................................

IHS Event: "Divided We Fall"

Online event

Event Title: "Divided We Fall": A Conversation Between David French and Jonathan Rauch Event Topic: How Do We Reanimate Pluralism, Toleration, and Good-Faith Dialogue? What is the "Institute for Humane Studies"? The Institute for Humane Studies (IHS) is a libertarian nonprofit organization founded in 1961 by Dr. F. A. Harper, an economics professor at Cornell University. Part of a generation that lived through two devastating world wars and saw the rise of totalitarian dictatorships, Harper set up an institute devoted to research and education with the conviction that a greater understanding of human affairs and freedom would foster peace, prosperity, and social harmony. The institute is currently located on the Arlington campus of George Mason University. IHS is known for hosting free weekend-long summer seminars for university students that offer a libertarian perspective on history, economics, philosophy, law, and political science. To find out more about IHS, check out their website at https://theihs.org/ Registering for the Online Event: This is a FREE event, but you'll need to register. Go to the following link & fill out the registration form, and when you hit "register" you'll receive an email with a link to the Zoom meeting room before the event starts: https://theihs.org/graduate-students/graduate-seminars-workshops/lecture-series/divided-we-fall/ Event Description: Political and cultural tribalism is undermining the commitment to classical liberalism that is the foundation of the American experiment. Americans’ deepening inability to trust or tolerate each other has degraded our discourse and democracy. How can we overcome our ideological differences and reanimate pluralism, good-faith dialogue, and mutual respect? Join the Institute for Humane Studies on Tuesday, October 27—one week before Election Day—for a virtual conversation between David French, author of the new book *Divided We Fall: America’s Secession Threat and How to Restore Our Nation*, and Jonathan Rauch, an IHS distinguished fellow. IHS president Emily Chamlee-Wright will host the conversation, which will be followed by a Q&A. About the Book: The New York Times Book Review calls Divided We Fall “an admirably measured book” in which French, senior editor of The Dispatch, “convincingly argues that polarization is putting America on a perilous path to disunion.” About the Speakers: * David French is a senior editor at The Dispatch and formerly a staff writer for National Review. He graduated from Harvard Law School and went on to become a major in the U.S. Army Reserves and the author of several books. A conservative Christian, French has long advocated for the core liberal principles of toleration and pluralism. This advocacy has drawn some other conservatives’ ire: In 2019 writer Sohrab Ahmari declared himself “Against David Frenchism” in a widely read First Things essay and the two later engaged in a debate moderated by New York Times columnist Ross Douthat. * Jonathan Rauch is an IHS distinguished fellow and a Brookings Institution senior fellow in governance studies. He is a contributing editor of The Atlantic and recipient of the 2005 National Magazine Award, the magazine industry’s equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize. His six books include *Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought* and *Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America*. Rauch’s recent writings include “The Cancel Culture Checklist” in Persuasion and “It’s George Wallace’s World Now” in The Atlantic. * Emily Chamlee-Wright is the president and CEO of the Institute for Humane Studies. An economist and author of several books, she writes frequently about liberalism, civil discourse, and higher education. As IHS president Dr. Chamlee-Wright led the 2020 launch of The Discourse Initiative, a series of conversations—in-person and written—aimed at drawing scholarly attention back to the broad intellectual tradition of liberalism. .........

NCC Event - "Social Media & Election Disinformation"

Online event

Event Title: "Social Media Platforms and the Fight Against Election Disinformation" Date & Time: Thurs., Oct. 29, 2020, 7:00 P.M. EDT * PLEASE NOTE: This is an online event due to the ongoing COVID-19 quarantine. Be sure to register in advance at: https://constitutioncenter.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_CNg5Yd3iTz-JlCQSEzjkSQ Cost: FREE About the Event: Nate Persily, co-director of the Stanford Program on Democracy and the Internet, and others explore what social media platforms are doing to tackle disinformation, foreign interference, and fake news during this election season. Jeffrey Rosen, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center, will moderate. This program is presented in partnership with the Freedom Forum. About the Speakers: * Nathaniel Persily is the James B. McClatchy Professor of Law at Stanford Law School, with appointments in the departments of Political Science, Communication, and FSI. He received a B.A. and M.A. in political science from Yale (1992); a J.D. from Stanford (1998) where he was President of the Stanford Law Review, and a Ph.D. in political science from U.C. Berkeley in 2002. Prior to joining Stanford, he taught at Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and as a visiting professor at Harvard, NYU, Princeton, the University of Amsterdam, and the University of Melbourne. His scholarship and legal practice focus on American election law or what is sometimes called the “law of democracy,” which addresses issues such as voting rights, political parties, campaign finance, redistricting, and election administration. His current work examines the impact of changing technology on political communication, campaigns, and election administration. He is codirector of the Stanford Cyber Policy Center, Stanford Program on Democracy and the Internet, and Social Science One, a project to make available to the world’s research community privacy-protected Facebook data to study the impact of social media on democracy. * Jeffrey Rosen is the president and CEO of the National Constitution Center, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization devoted to educating the public about the U.S. Constitution. Rosen is also professor of law at The George Washington University Law School and a contributing editor of The Atlantic. ..................................................................................................................... ..................................................................................................................... ............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................ ...................................................................................................................... ..................................................................................................................... ..................................................................................................................... ..................................................................................................................... ............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................ ...................................................................................................................... ......................................................................................................................

Braver Angels Online Workshop: Depolarizing Within

Online event

Event Title: "Skills for Bridging the Divide Workshop" Registering for the Online Workshop: This is a FREE event; however, you'll need to register for it. Go to the following Eventbrite link & fill out the registration form, and when you hit "register" you'll receive an email with a link to the Zoom meeting room 24 hours before the debate starts: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/national-online-hybrid-workshop-for-depolarizing-within-registration-123051631743 NOTE: Registration for this debate will close 12 hours prior to the scheduled starting time. This allows the admins time to make their arrangements based on the number of participants, providing adequate size Zoom meetings with appropriate staffing. If you have any questions, please contact the workshop organizer: Orlando Rodriguez - [masked] What is "Braver Angels"? Formerly known as "Better Angels", Braver Angels is an organization founded in 2016 to depolarize American politics through grassroots organizing. They do this primarily by hosting events for cross-partisan dialogue & civil debate. To learn more, go to https://braverangels.org/ What is a "Depolarizing Within" Workshop? Much of today’s polarization is driven by how we talk with like-minded people about those on the other side. Too often, we stereotype, dismiss, or ridicule our fellow citizens who support the other political party, its leaders, and its policies. This free workshop teaches participants: * How to be more aware of their own “inner polarizer” * How to be critical without demonizing, dismissing or stereotyping large swaths of the population * Strategies for intervening constructively in social conversations with like-minded peers when these conversations veer into contempt and ridicule for people who hold other political views. Workshop Format: This is a two-part workshop combining an online eLearning course and an online, interactive workshop offered over Zoom. (1) Part one consists of this 40 minute, interactive course. You complete this online before the workshop. There are two course options, one for "reds" and one for "blues." - https://braverangels.org/online/online-skills-training/ (2) Part two is practicing what you’ve learned in the two-hour, online workshop. Who Can Attend? Anyone interested in examining their own inner polarization and learning strategies to disagree without condemning or ridiculing others. Unlike a Red/Blue workshop, "Skills for Bridging the Divide" doesn't require even numbers of "Reds" (conservatives) and "Blues" (progressives). These workshops can also be larger, up to 50 people. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

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