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. This group is also for people who think that extremism & political polarization are serious problems that need to be addressed.
The purpose of "Political Agnosticism" is to avoid approaching politics as a "culture war" or clash of political ideologies that are essentially "secular religions". Instead, we try to look at all sides of an issue, acknowledge uncertainty and tradeoffs, and then look at potential solutions that encompass everything we've learned.
Our general approach is based on the concept of "pluralistic rationalism" – i.e. a personal commitment to reasoning, regardless of one's worldview. We are committed to creating a space for non-partisan political discussion based on adherence to logic & empiricism, combined with mutual respect & civil dialogue.
* Note: To learn more about "pluralistic rationalism", check out the website for The Circle of Reason, a Twin Cities Minnesota-based international society of theists, atheists, conservatives & liberals who espouse this social philosophy and use it to structure their discussions: http://www.circleofreason.org/
The goals for this meetup group are:
(1) We try to understand why people are predisposed by both inherent psychological traits and cultural upbringing to have certain moral & political views. Typically, we use a mix of the Five Factor Model of personality, Jonathan Haidt's "Moral Foundations Theory", Daniel Kahan's "Cultural Cognition" model, and Geert Hofstede's "Cultural Dimensions Theory".
(2) In addition to moral psychology, we also look at moral philosophy to try to better understand how values 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 legal philosophy, political philosophy, and normative theories in the social sciences.
(3) We try to increase our level of political rationality by learning how to spot logical fallacies, flawed applications of statistics, and cognitive biases. To help with this, we often draw on insights from the skeptic & rationalist blogosphere, especially Eliezer Yudkowsky's Less Wrong sequences & Spencer Greenberg's ClearerThinking.org.
(4) We try to educate members on both the fundamentals and the latest findings in the social sciences, 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 data/explainer journalism sites, econ & policy blogs, as well as the major public intellectuals & pundits from across the political spectrum. To get an idea of the expert consensus on political issues, we usually turn to meta-analyses, systematic review papers, and polls of experts such as the IGM Experts Panel & NABE Surveys in economics, the CFR Preventative Priorities Survey & the TRIP Program's SNAP polls of international relations scholars, the Bright Line Watch's recent polls of political scientists, and Pew Research Center's surveys of experts in various fields.
(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 UN Human Development Index, the Fraser Institute & Heritage Foundation's Economic Freedom Indices, the Cato Institute's Human Freedom Index, Freedom House's Freedom in the World Report, the Economist's Democracy Index, the Social Progress Index, the UN World Happiness Report, Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index, 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 radical centrist. Recently, this has often involved looking at ideas emerging from various online intellectual hubs like the "rationalist community" (e.g. Scott Alexander's SlateStarCodex blog & Julia Galef's Rationally Speaking podcast) and the so-called "Intellectual Dark Web" (e.g. Sam Harris's podcast, Glenn Loury's Bloggingheads channel, Claire Lehmann's Quillette, Helen Pluckrose's Areo Magazine, Jonathan Haidt's Heterodox Academy), as well as sites that foster discussion of political & social science issues like TED Talks, Big Think, Freakonomics, Edge.org, Cato Unbound, Munk Debates & Intelligence Squared.
(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 Frank Burton's Circle of Reason, Jonathan Haidt's Asteroids Club, Ravi Iyer's Civil Politics, Liz Joyner's Village Square, Joan Blades' Living Room Conversations, David Blankenhorn's Better Angels project, Sandy Heierbacher's National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD), Marshall Rosenberg's Non-Violent Communication (NVC) groups, Charles Wheelan's Centrist Project (now called "Unite America"), and others.
If you want to discuss social issues, economics, foreign policy, and the political process but don't feel a sense of belonging to the other 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...