Ronald A. Lindsay – Future Bioethics

August 30, 2008

Ronald A. Lindsay is a bioethicist, lawyer, and chief executive officer and senior research fellow of the Center for Inquiry. He is also executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism. For many years he practiced law in Washington, DC, and was an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and American University, where he taught jurisprudence and philosophy courses. His new book is out now called Future Bioethics: Overcoming Taboos, Myths, and Dogmas.

In this discussion with D.J. Grothe, Ronald Lindsay reframes the debates surrounding current controversies in bioethics. Carefully examining and dissecting claims made by many policy makers and ethicists on topics such as assistance in dying, genetic engineering, and embryonic stem cell research, bioethicist, Lindsay shows that all too often these claims are based on instinctive reactions, beliefs that lack factual support, and religious or ideological dogma. Through his insightful analysis, Lindsay demonstrates how to achieve pragmatic, progressive solutions to these controversies.

This is point of inquiry for Friday, August twenty ninth. Two thousand eight. 

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I’m pleased to have Ron Lindsay on point of inquiry. He’s a bioethicist and lawyer and chief executive officer and senior research fellow of the Center for Inquiry. He’s also executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism for many years. He practice law in Washington, D.C. and has been an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and also American University, where he taught jurisprudence and philosophy courses. He joins me on point of inquiry to talk about his new book, Future Bioethics Overcoming Taboos, Myths and Dogmas. Welcome back to a point of inquiry Ron Lindsay data. 

Thanks for having me on your show again. That’s always a great pleasure to talk with you. 

Well, I’m looking for a conversation about your book, Future Bioethics. This is a book that Publishers Weekly just said is a must, not just for those involved in the biological sciences or like the medical profession, but also for lawmakers and anyone else concerned about these issues. So, Rhonda, start off. What are these issues? Bioethics is really just affects when it comes to what life questions these big culture war issues like stem cell research, cloning, abortion, bioethics certainly would encompass those topics as I use the term. 

It’s I think the way most academics are also people interested in these policy issues use it. It’s a field of study that focuses on ethical and legal controversies arising out of the practice of medicine, health care, biomedical research, biomedical technologies. So it would encompass issues like stem cell research. In my book, I address several different topics assistance in dying, conscientious objection by health care workers, the regulation of genetically modified plants, the use of human enhancement technology, and in particular, whether we should ban it. And then the funding of stem cell research will run there. 

A lot of books out there that get into these issues, these big culture war issues that people fight about in society, abortion, the others that you mentioned. Why are you adding to the heap? What’s different about future bioethics? 

Well, I think a couple of things. First of all, most of the books out there fall into one of two categories that are either written for fellow scholars and academics and therefore use specialized vocabulary that may not be accessible to the to the ordinary individual or they’re written in a polemical fashion. They’re written basically to push one point of view and often to generate simply into the use of slogans as opposed to argument. I’m trying in my book to to write something that is accessible to the ordinary person who’s interested in these issues while at the same time maintaining a certain rigor in my arguments and making the arguments, I think, explicit, trying to engage the reader in the reasoning as we go along. So in fact, one thing I do in each when I come to each topic is a set for I hope in a clear fashion the various assumptions are making that the premises I’m gonna be relying on and I invite the reader to examine those as we proceed Jim Underdown. 

But you’re pushing for a point of view. 

I certainly have a point of view. There’s no mistaking that a come to conclusions at the end of each of these substantive chapters pushing forward. I would say that I am offering reasons to adopt certain policies, and I’m hoping to persuade the reader that as they go along, they examine the arguments I’m offering and I make clear what premises I’m relying upon that they will be persuaded. Especially since, unlike many books and I know you’re familiar with a lot of academic literature and ethics and philosophy, you know, typically philosophers have certain, let’s say, theories of normative ethics that they adopt with utilitarianism, content, ethics, Aristotelian ethics or what have you. And they essentially either give a very good, long winded argument for these theories or they just assume that the reader is going to accept these theories. And the end of the day, what you have is a number of disagreements about this or that, because obviously not everyone’s a utilitarian or the ontology. I try to cut through that by relying on what I call common morality theory, which essentially uses as a starting point the moral norms that virtually everyone accepts Jim Underdown. 

All of this is really heady stuff. You’re arguing that people could wrap their heads around it because of the tack you take. You don’t need to be a philosopher. You don’t need to have a background in law to get these arguments. 

That’s correct. I certainly that that was my aim. And if I have succeeded, then. Yes, anyone you know, anyone who’s interested these issues, anyone with a basic background in reasoning, some awareness of some of the factual issues should be able to understand this book. And as I said. I do have a point of view. I’m hoping to persuade the reader. But even if I don’t. At least it will be clear to the reader where they disagree with me, because I don’t rely simply on slogans like either sanctity of life or autonomy or, you know, the right to control one’s body or the elder the zygote as a human being or etc., etc.. I mean, I give reasons for the positions I take. And again, I should be clear, at least I aim to be clear in a book about what those reasons are so that we can determine for herself or himself which premises she or he might disagree with. 

I want to stay on this question of your bias for just a moment. You are a secularist. You’re a humanist and atheist, non theist, whatever you wanna call yourself. I mean, your head of the Council for Secular Humanism, you’re CEO of the Center for Inquiry. So what do you say to someone who really says, look, when it gets down to Iran, this is a book pushing your secular humanist agenda? 

Well, I would say they’re wrong. In fact, I don’t think if you look at the index, I don’t think you’ll see an entry for secular humanism. Yes, I am a secularist, a secular humanist, Iran. 

That could just mean that you’re really good at being under the radar. 

That could mean that that’s true. But I think the proof is in the pudding, as they say. I mean, you could pick up this book and it’s it offers reasons that do not are not conditioned on any metaphysical world view. I mean, this is not a book, for example, attacking religion. This is a book about ethics. And you could be a religious person and accept all the arguments I set forth. It doesn’t require you to reject belief in a deity. Certainly my arguments don’t assume that you’re an atheist, agnostic, secular humanist or what have you. So it’s not in any way pushing a secular humanist agenda. Now, obviously, since I’m a humanist, I do believe the view set forth are consistent with what many humanists would accept. But they could be consistent with religious worldview as well. 

There’s the kind of disconnect that you just said, that this isn’t an attack on religion, but you go on in the book to say that religion in no way can provide the right answers to these big questions. In bioethics, you need a kind of morality that doesn’t rely on religion. 

Right. Religious dogma cannot provide the answers here, in part because people disagree about religious dogma. Religion is a conversation stopper. And when we’re talking about the public policies that we should adopt and this is a book that focuses on public policy, we need reasons and facts that are accessible to debate by everyone. So, yes, religion cannot provide the answers to these questions. That’s not to say that you can’t be a religious person and accept the policies. I propose just that when we when we talk about these things, when we discuss them and we have dialog about them, we have to be able to offer reasons that we can all discuss when we can’t just say, well, look, the Bible says this. End of discussion. I mean, that’s especially true in an area such as bioethics where I mean, let’s face it, I mean, the Bible, as everyone knows, is written over a period of hundreds of years, thousands of years ago. To my knowledge, there’s not a passage in there that discusses stem cell research, human enhancement technology, genetically engineered plants. Of course, that doesn’t stop some people from trying to mine the Bible or other sacred text for four passages that they think somehow touch on these issues. But I think that’s a very misguided effort. 

So just now, you argued the Bible’s kind of outmoded. It doesn’t really touch on these issues. But hasn’t religion, in fact, been historically the place that most people get their answers to these ethical questions? 

No question. I mean, as a matter of fact, it is true that people tend to look at their religious beliefs as the source of moral values. And one of the purposes of this book is to show, at least indirectly, you don’t have to have to do that. You don’t have to rely on religion to do that. In fact, it’s counterproductive to do that because, again, as I mentioned, you’re not able to reason with other people about these issues. If you’re going to say, look, I believe this because the Bible says this, what the Koran says this or the Bhagavad Gita says that’s the end of the discussion. So, yes, historically, again, that’s a matter of fact that people have looked at religion as a source of values. I think that’s increasingly less so, especially in Europe to some extent in the United States. I think people are beginning to realize that we can base our public policy on shared secular values. And in fact, if we’re going to have public policy that reflects the democratic discourse and democratic dialog as the only way to go. I don’t think. Let me just add. I don’t think it’s an accident, by the way, that the decreasing reliance on religion called. Signs with the expansion of democracy. 

So you think there’s a direct relationship between people being less religious in appealing to the supernatural for public policy arguments and democracy flourishing? 

That’s correct. Because, again, if we’re going to treat each other as equals in our democracy, everyone has a right to speak about these issues and to discuss them. If we’re gonna pursue that discussion as equals, someone can end it by saying, well, I don’t care what you say, because this is my diet. This is what I believe. The subtitle of my book is Overcoming Taboos, Myths and Iowas. And I do think we have to get away from the mentality that is the way to resolve moral issues is simply to invoke some sort of taboo or dogma. Jim Underdown. 

I’d like to let our listeners know that you can get a copy of Future Bioethics through our website point of inquiry dot org. Ron, let’s touch on some of the specific arguments in future bioethics. You spend a lot of time talking about assisted suicide. Isn’t a doctor obligated, on the other hand, to try and extend life to heal a patient to first do no harm? The Hippocratic Oath Primum no, no. Saray, whatever it is you advocate actually assistance in dying, which on face value seems to be the opposite of what doctors are supposed to be about. 

Perhaps superficially. But I guess a couple of things. First of all, the Hippocratic Oath is not actually use. Now in most medical schools because it’s outmoded for a variety of reasons, including one provision that doctors haven’t honored for a long time, and that is that a doctor would not charge a fee for services. It actually hasn’t been filed or administered to medical school graduates in most medical schools for a long period time. 

The rate the big doctor bills could sure be harmful. 

So talk about avoiding Hami. I’m not sure that they’re doing that or having doing that. But in any event, I see that the physician’s primary duty and this is consistent with the view of many physicians and ethicists as providing care for the patient. And you’re right. In most circumstances, that care will mean that you do what you can to restore the patient to health. That is a primary goal of medicine, but it’s not the exclusive goal of medicine because we have to think of care in a broader sense. And when you’re talking about the terminally ill, it has now been accepted, for example, that palliative care, that is cure that is aimed not had restoring the patient to health because you may have a patient that simply can’t do it. 

The patient is terminally ill, but you provide cured to relieve the pain and anxiety. The patient may be suffering. Well, there are people in such extreme circumstances that traditional palliative care can’t achieve that goal. Either the person is suffering so horribly that the only way to end that suffering is for the patient to hasten his or her death. So I see assistance in dying as part of the continuum of care that a physician offers. Are the focuses on care for the patient, not on some objective, you know, restore the patient to health. Because, again, in some cases, that simply can’t be done. So if you take a view of the physicians a mission as simply and exclusively restore the patient to health when the business and can’t do that, you’re saying, OK, well, the physician can wash his hands of the patient and just walk away? Well, I don’t think that that is what physicians should do. 

Another topic that you treat in the book, while you’re a big booster of new technologies, both when you’re talking about genetically modified foods and about biologically enhancing people, you dismiss the objection of those who say we shouldn’t be tampering with nature’s design, which we shouldn’t be playing God. But aren’t there actually big risks in trying to improve on the natural state of things, whether plants or people? Often there are big unintended consequences. 

I suppose I would bring my answer into two parts here. First of all, in the book, I question the argument that is often made regarding new technologies that somehow they’re unnatural. I mean, that is an argument that is trotted all the time. And it’s one is it’s actually a slogan. As I said, I try in my book to get away from slogans, but that is what you hear from a lot of people. We can’t do this. We can’t have genetic engineered science. We can’t have drugs that would enhance our cognitive capacity because these are unnatural. Well, you know, that argument is essentially just empty words because you can describe any activity, any conceivable activity is unnatural. I mean, when we invented the wheel, that was unnatural. I mean, we weren’t born with rotating this on our feet. I mean, if you look at the course of human history, we’ve been developing technologies to improve our condition for as long as we can tell. And I see the new technologies as really just a continuation of that process. So, you know, to say it’s wrong because it’s unnatural, I don’t think it’s that’s not really a very informative objection. Secondly, with respect to the risks. Yes. Any technology has risks. There’s no question about it. And I certainly do not think that we should not regulate these new technologies. Obviously, we need need to do it, but we need to do it on an informed, rational and objective basis using standard techniques of risk assessment. What people on the other side and I feel these are the people to whom my arguments are heard to some extent counter are people like Leon Kass. Francis Fukuyama. People have been on President Bush’s Council of Bioethics who have advocated a ban, for example, on human enhancement technology. Emeny examine the reasons they offer for that. If you want to call it that, they really they don’t hold up and withstand scrutiny. Ultimately, they devolve into this argument that somehow it’s unnatural or that’s going to change our way of life. Well, yes, it will change our way of life. But I think it will change our way of life for the better. 

Jim Underdown the most challenging part of your book to me, Ron, is your chapter entitled Saving Embryos for the Trash. When you talk all about stem cell research, the arguments for which also kind of push for the listeners of abortion, I think you argue that the embryo does not have the status of a person. Spell out that argument for me. 

Well, it doesn’t have the spouse of a person for, I guess, three or four different reasons. And again, this is when I make this argument, the block. I make it clear that there are obviously be some people who, for religious reasons, aren’t to be persuaded. I mean, the best I can hope for, for those people who have that type of approach is to essentially show some inconsistencies in their position. First of all, it’s clear that the embryo doesn’t have the capacities of an adult human right. I mean, I think most people concede that we don’t have embryos who do point of inquiry shows or things like that. 

But there are a lot of adult humans who don’t have high functioning brains. 

Right. Well, we’ll get to that in a moment in terms of whether we use, you know, kind of capacity as the criterion for moral status. So footnote that and I’ll get back to it. The argument you traditionally get, though, for people who can see that as well, the embryo has the potential to become a human being. And in fact, again, President Bush’s Council on Bioethics, when they came out with their book on this issue, the majority of the council said, well, the embryo has the status of an adult human because it inevitably will become an adult human. Well, that’s simply wrong. The embryo by itself cannot develop into a fetus and then a child, etc. Among other things, you need a uterus. And so the idea that this is inherent potential in the embryo that left by itself, it will become an adult human. That’s simply wrong. One of the other facts that’s often ignored is the tremendous amount of spontaneous abortions, as they’re sometimes called, that take place. Essentially, what that means is that roughly 60 to 80 percent of these zygote would be conceived. Egg never come to term. They’re lost in some way through miscarriages, et cetera, et cetera. 

Yet the religious right’s not picking that fact. 

That’s right. They’re not. And if you think about it, I mean, if in fact, you believe that embryo has the status of an adult human being, we should just stop all the other health care research we’re involved in. 

I mean, forget the war on cancer. We shouldn’t invest, you know, tens of billions of dollars in an effort to make sure these embryos are carried to term because, as I said, 60 to 80 percent of these young human beings are dying. I mean, there are millions of them dying each year. 

Naturally, naturally. I mean. 

So if, in fact, they actually believed what they say, that is the embryo is the same as an adult human has the same moral status, then our policies are totally misdirected. I mean, no one no one in President Bush’s Council for Bioethics has made that suggestion. And I think that shows a very deep inconsistency in their position. The other inconsistency, of course, is that the whole debate over stem cell research is over the funding of stem cell research. No. One. Well, I wouldn’t say no. And actually, there are some religious right extremist who’ve said this. But for the most part, people who are opposed to funding say, well, you can have the researchers as we can’t use tax dollars to support it. Well, if, in fact, this research is killing humans and that’s how they describe it, it should be banned. It’s not a question of whether it should be funded. It should be stopped. I mean, we don’t carry out research on adult human beings and say it’s OK if there’s some risk involved, maybe they’ll die as a result, the research. But, you know, as long as we don’t fund it with tax dollars, that’s fine. No, we just say we can’t do it. Illegal, immoral. So, again, there’s a deep rooted inconsistency in the views of those opposed to stem cell research. The fact of the matter is deep down. Based on their attitudes and views on other issues, they don’t really recognize that the embryo is an adult human being. 

Ron, earlier you had me footnote the notion of cognitive capacity. Just because an embryo doesn’t have cognitive capacity, doesn’t excluded from the personhood category, just as an adult Jim Underdown might not have the same cognitive capacity as you or me. 

That’s correct. There certainly are adults who have differences and from, let’s say, normal. I know that’s a loaded term. But in the standard cognitive capacity or the cognitive capacity of that that many adult humans have, first of all, I am not someone who buys into that theory that how you determine moral status is by lists of properties, whether they’re cognitive or otherwise, that certain individuals may or may not have. I think that’s actually mistaken. And that’s not to say that cognitive passes is irrelevant. But I’ll think it’s the touchstone or the key point for determining moral status and a moral status. This ties in with another theme of my book. I think a mistake that’s often made when we talk about moral issues and public policy issues is we fail to look at the underlying rationale for norms. 

I mean, if morality is to have a point, it has to serve a purpose. I know many people have the idea that morality is simply a set of rules that dictated from on high and we just fallen blindly. I hope that’s not the approach that listeners of your show take or most intelligent people will take. Instead, I think we need to look at our norms and figure out, well, why do we have these rules? I mean, what is the purpose of morality? I think ultimately the purpose of morality is to allow us to live together in peace, to facilitate cooperation among us so that we can ameliorate our conditions. And as a third, achieve certain practical goals. Looking at that from that perspective. If you had to make a decision about whether or say someone with some deficiency should be included within the scope of our moral norms, I would be inclined to say yes, because in fact, that person is typically a member of some family, has certain emotional ties and bond Jim Underdown even a developmentally disabled adult can have plans and projects or connections. Exactly. And so they’re a member of the moral community. And therefore, I think they should be covered by our norms, whether or not they have precisely the same cognitive capacity as, say, other adults. Jim Underdown. 

But the same rules don’t apply to embryos. 

That’s right. Especially when these embryos are used for stem cell research are essentially spare embryos. In other words, there are embryos that have been developed through in vitro fertilization procedures. And because the standard way of doing that is to have more embryos than you probably will need. Well, you have like, you know, a dozen or more embryos that are fertilized and then stored and then a couple will go through them until they get the right one. The rest are just basically put aside and eventually are discarded. So the choices would have been made by the biological parents not to do anything with this embryo. So they’re not a member of the moral community. The alternative to using them in stem cell research is essentially to discard them. And that’s why I say the policy. The Bush administration on stem cell research can essentially be characterized as saving embryos for the trash because that’s what happens to these these embryos that aren’t utilized for research. 

So this is the foundation of your argument for stem cell research. But isn’t the whole controversy kind of moot? Because now we can technologically for medical science, develop stem cells without actually even needing to destroy embryos? I mean, we can do the scientific research without setting off the right to lifers. Right. 

There have been a number of recent developments in the area of stem cell research that would indicate that it may be possible not to use the traditional method of generating a stem cell line, which is essentially as you take an embryo or the blastocyst stage and you separate the outer mass from the inner mass and take on the intermap cells and get a stem cell line. The most promising new development is the use of what’s called induced pluripotent stem cells. Essentially what that means as you take a regular somatic cell cell of your body skin cell that they use in the research and you put certain viruses into that. And essentially you turn the genetic clock back so that you had what’s called a differentiated cell, neller, which is the skin cell or a muscle cell or what have you. You we store is potency. You make it into a stem cell. And yes, that is something that has been developed. But I guess a couple points. First of all, it’s still very much untried. I mean, we’ve tried it a few. Is not that successfully I mean, the success rate for generating a stem cell line is something like one in 10000. So it’s not a very reliable method. Secondly, when it’s been used in mice, it typically results in after a period time development of cancer because you’re injecting these viruses into the cell. That change the genetic makeup. And over time, they cause certain mutations and abnormalities. So not clear yet whether we could actually rely on it in any event. The scientists themselves who developed this technique, they’ve all said, oh, yes, this is good. We should follow this line of research. But why give up traditional embryonic stem cell research? Because if our goal is to develop therapies that will help millions of people as quickly as possible. You don’t give up one line of investigation. It’s like any other branch of scientific research. You don’t say, well, gee, this one method seems pretty good. We’re going to abandon all other methods, especially ones that actually have a record of success. It doesn’t make any sense rationally to do that. So, yes, the new techniques certainly are welcome. They should be pursued. They should be funded. But embryonic stem cell research should be funded as well. And finally, just you know, again, the main argument against embryonic stem cell research is the embryo is the same as a person at least has the potential to be a person. If you take that argument as the logical conclusion, as I said, with the induced pluripotent stem cells, what you’re doing is simply turn the clock back. So you you turn a skin cell back into a stem cell, you can actually take the process further, at least in theory. And in some animals, this has been done already. You can turn it back into essentially an embryo so that if potentiality is the key, potentially all the cells in your body could become embryos again. So, you know, you think you’re just one person deejay, but actually you’re a collection of millions of individuals. 

Jim Underdown potentially can get a group discount when you go to the movies. 

So this at the end, that just shows, again, the essential absurdity of the argument from potentiality. 

If the right to life for argument was consistent, they’d be defending the right of every cell in your body that could potentially become an embryo. 

That’s right. And given the fact that we lose thousands of cells a day, when we brush our skin, brush her hair, and we basically I think the I forget the exact time frame, I think is every seven years. Most of the cells in her body have been replaced and renewed. That would essentially mean that, you know, millions of individuals have died during that period, time or potential individuals. 

Ron, one other point I want to touch on. You covered in your book, but it was in the headlines recently when President Bush argued for the right of conscientious objection among health care workers, people who would be involved in abortions to be able to not provide that care. 

That’s correct. I mean, I think that is a very important public policy issue that’s being debated right now. It will have significant consequences of that regulation is adopted. And I am firmly against this view that health care workers have a so-called right to conscientious objection. I think it’s based on a misleading analogy to the traditional conscientious objector who is someone, of course, who has been drafted into the military and may have a religious objection to bearing arms in that case in the military conscientious objection case. What you’re doing is telling an individual, hey, you have to serve in the military. Here’s your rifle. And whether you’re a pacifist or not, you have to do it. Well, you know, people thought that was wrong. We want to protect the integrity of people. And also, it’s kind of counterproductive to give someone a rifle. They’re not going to use it. Right. So we’ve recognized conscientious objection status in the military. No one is forced, to my knowledge, to become a physician, a pharmacist, a nurse, any other type of health care worker. These are choices these individuals have made to provide health care. Moreover, no one is forcing a pharmacist to take emergency contraception or a nurse to refuse lifesaving treatment. What these pharmacists, nurses, physicians, etc want to do is not make choices for themselves, which they have a right to do. Obviously, they want to dictate the health care choices of their patients. And so to say this is conscientious objection I think is is ridiculous. It’s a misleading analogy. 

It’s one person’s conscience objecting to another person’s conscience, essentially. 

Right. It is an attempt of the pharmacist, nurse, et cetera, to impose their values on the patient. I mean, if in fact, you know, my choice of a drug is somehow this Buzby reflection of the pharmacist choice as the pharmacy is going to pay for my medication. I mean, I haven’t seen them offer that. The other misleading point of that analogy to the traditional conscientious objector is in the military. If you’re a Quaker or a member of some other group that is a pacifist group, you just don’t get our military service. You have to provide alternative service. In other words, there is a certain burden, a certain penalty to invoking the right of conscientious objection. But what this proposed regulation would do and what those who are pushing for conscientious objector status for pharmacies, etc., what they want is essentially to be able to refuse services without any penalty whatsoever to keep their job. There is basically a pick and choose. You know, I don’t do emergency contraception. I don’t do this. What have you. But I still want to have my position and suffer no penalties of the consequence if, in fact, this right that they’re insisting on is so precious to them, if they have such deep seated moral objections to whatever it is, whether it’s abortion or emergency contraception. You would think they’d be willing to bear the burden of their personal integrity and say, well, gee, this is something so objectionable, I’ll be fine if I get disciplined or have to go to another job. I want to do that. Now they just want to and they say be able to impose their values on on patients while suffering no consequence whatsoever themselves. 

Ron, are all these bioethics issues something everyone can get involved in or is this just something to be battled out in the courts or the legislatures or with the think tanks on Capitol Hill? 

It’s something that everyone needs to get involved in because all these issues are very important. I mean, they touch everyone’s life in some aspect or another. I mean, whether it’s a question whether you can get emergency contraception, whether it’s the question of whether you can get genetically engineered plants in your supermarket, whether you’re going to have therapies that may come out of stem cell research. These are all very important topics and they are going to directly affect each person’s life. And I think it behooves these person to look at these issues, to study them and get involved. And clearly, ISIS, as you pointed out, I have a certain point of view. I am making certain public policy suggestions. I hope readers will be persuaded that my suggestions have merit. But whatever their point of view, I think this is something the these topics, these issues are so important to be indifferent to them, to kind of shrug your shoulders and say, no, I don’t get involved in that. And it gets a serious mistake. It is very important. This is not something that should be left simply to so-called experts, many of whom are just self designated in one way. I think that people can get involved is first as historic. Visit the Web site for the Center for Inquiry. The Office of Public Policy, which we have in D.C., has put together a number of position papers, some of which address these issues should look at those. And I think get involved with the work of the Center for Inquiry. We are very active in this area. 

We’re really the only secularist organization on Capitol Hill doing this kind of work. 

That’s correct. We are that we are a secular organization that is not limited to traditional church state issues. Obviously, the center, frankly, is very interested in church state separation, but we go beyond that. We’re interested in having public policy reflect secular values. And all these issues are being debated either in Congress or in very state legislatures. And it’s something that the organization has been heavily involved in and will continue to be heavily involved in. And we clearly could use the support of people who are interested in these issues. 

Thank you very much for joining me on Point of Inquiry, Ron Lindsay. 

Thank you, D.J., for having me. It’s been a pleasure talking with you. 

You’ve seen the headlines, Bill seeks to protect students from liberal bias. The right time for an Islamic reformation. Kansas School Board redefined science. These stories sum up the immense challenge facing those of us who defend rational thinking, science and secular values. One adviser to the Bush administration dismissed as the reality based community. Who could have imagined that reality would need defenders? The educational and advocacy work of the Center for Inquiry is more essential than ever. And your support is more essential than ever. Show your commitment to science, reason and secular values. By becoming a friend of the center today, whether you are interested in the work of psychology and skeptical Inquirer magazine, the Council for Secular Humanism and Free Inquiry magazine, the Commission for Scientific Medicine, or a Center for Inquiry on campus. By becoming a friend of the center, you’ll help strengthen our impact. If you’re just learning about CFI, take a look at our Web site. W w w dot center for inquiry dot net. We hosted regional and international conferences, college courses and nationwide campus outreach. You’ll also find out about our new representation at the United Nations, an important national media appearances. We cannot pursue these projects without your help. Please become a friend of the center today by calling one 800 eight one eight seven zero seven one or visiting w w w dot center for inquiry dot net. We look forward to working with you to enlarge the reality based community. 

Thanks for listening to this episode of Points of Inquiry to get involved with an online conversation about today’s episode. Go to our online discussion forums at Center for Inquiry dot net slash forums. Views expressed on point of inquiry aren’t necessarily the views of the Center for Inquiry, nor its affiliated organizations. Questions and comments on today’s show can be sent to feedback at point of inquiry dot org or by visiting our Web site points of inquiry dot org. 

Point of inquiry is produced by Thomas Donnelly and recorded from St. Louis, Missouri. Executive producer is Paul Kurtz. Point of Inquiries Music is composed for us by Emmy Award winning Michael. Contributors to today’s show included Sarah Jordan and Debbie Goddard. I’m your host DJ Grothe. 

DJ Grothe

D.J. Grothe is on the Board of Directors for the Institute for Science and Human Values, and is a speaker on various topics that touch on the intersection of education, science and belief. He was once the president of the James Randi Educational Foundation and was former Director of Outreach Programs for the Center for Inquiry and associate editor of Free Inquiry magazine. He previously hosted the weekly radio show and podcast Point of Inquiry, exploring the implications of the scientific outlook with leading thinkers.