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An Interview with Pat O’Brien (Part One)

February 15, 2016

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 10.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Six)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: February 15, 2015

Issue Publication Date: May 1, 2016

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 2,906

ISSN 2369-6885

Pat O'Brien.png

Abstract

An interview with Pat O’Brien. He discusses: geographic, cultural, linguistic, and family background; Center for Inquiry Canada and intellectual affirmation of skepticism; other moments that piqued interest in humanism, secularism, and other “-isms” associated with the skeptical worldview; Humanists see light at end of subway tunnel and the definition of humanism and formalized statements about the humanist worldview, and the big and small aspects of humanism; unique opportunities and representations for the sub-population of the “unaffiliated,” “no religious affiliation,” “no religion,” “none,” and so on, in British Columbia (B.C.), Canada; Without God, The Story of Secular Humanism and work with Dr. Robert Buckman; and the core message meant from Without God, The Story of Secular Humanism  and the apparent reaction to the final production.

Keywords: Center for Inquiry Canada, Dr. Robert Buckman, God, humanist, humanism, Pat O’Brien, Vancouver.

An Interview with Pat O’Brien (Part One) [1],[2],[3],[4]

*Please see the footnotes throughout the interview, and bibliography and citation style listing after the interview.*

1. In terms of geography, culture, and language, where does your family background reside?

Vancouver B.C.

2. Your biographic information from the Center for Inquiry Canada (CFIC/CFI Canada) website describes brief personal information about the pivotal moment for transformation into the skeptic mentality, as follows:

At the age of 8 when told “watched water never boils”, Pat put a pot of water on the stove and proved the adage wrong, thus began the life of a skeptic. Pat did not begin his official involvement in the secular/skeptical movement till 2001 when he was researching a documentary on Humanism.[5],[6],[7]

What other pivotal moments in early life stimulated intellectual affirmation of skepticism?[8]

I was raised a Catholic but from an early age I liked to ask questions and the church never seemed to have satisfactory answers. My education from grade 1 – 5 was in a Catholic school where we were taught by nuns and they did not have any answers either so it was a gradual realization that the teaching of the church, since they could not be backed up by facts, must be in some way wrong.

3. What about other moments which piqued interest in humanism, secularism, and other “-isms” with relative correspondence, or reasonable conceptual overlap, with aspects of the skeptical worldview?

I was always a contrarian. I liked to take the “other” side of an argument because it seemed the best way to learn about the argument. I never took someone’s word for anything, I always wanted proof. This is the basis of scepticism and although I did not know it at the time, that is the first step towards atheism.

4. In an article entitled Humanists see light at end of subway tunnel, you defined humanism, as follows:

Humanism is neither a religion nor a theology and the fact that a person can live a moral life, without deferring to any deity, has been recognized and accepted by religious and secular communities.[9],[10]

Organizations such as American Humanist Association, for instance, defined humanism within the Humanist Manifesto, in one of its three forms, in a similar frame of reference.[11],[12],[13],[14],[15] A suite of associations, societies, and organizations exist for the secular humanist community – which can create a chary sense in the less secular, less humanistic, and more religious – in British Columbia, other provinces, the territories, and the nation at large.[16],[17],[18],[19],[20],[21],[22],[23],[24],[25],[26],[27],[28] Of course, the major continental and international organizations for the secular humanist movement exist too.[29],[30],[31],[32],[33],[34],[35] These remain theories and collectives, though.  What does humanism look like in one’s real life to you – big and small aspects?

This will sound arrogant and is something I criticize the religious for but I believe that we are all Humanist at our core. I don’t think people get their morality from religion, I think religion gets its morality from humans and our shared evolutionary past that imprinted morality not on our hearts but in our DNA. So to answer the question, Humanism is the articulation of that morality that is inherent in most of us (there will always be the Clifford Olsen’s) and our shared humanity, our feeling of what is right and wrong is innate in us, in a naturalistic way. So unlike religion where one must constantly have their religious version of morality reinforced by prayer church attendance etc. we Humanists simply live a moral life without much thought to it most of the time.

5. What unique opportunities and representations exist for the sub-population of the “unaffiliated,” “no religious affiliation,” “no religion,” “none,” and so on, in British Columbia (B.C.), Canada?[36],[37],[38],[39],[40],[41],[42]

I think we have a lot to offer the general public, mostly in the area of science and the discovery of the natural world and how that creates a most beautiful way of looking at the world. Some, like Oprah, think atheists cannot have awe or wonder. I think the opposite is true because we see things as they really are, not as we would like them to be. The beauty of a rainbow is not enhanced by thinking a celestial painter did it, but by the understanding of light and refraction. To paraphrase one of the brightest physicists of the 20th century, Richard Feynman; is it not more awe inspiring to have a complete understanding of the way a phenomenon like a rainbow is created than to have an answer that is almost certainly wrong?

6. Your CFI Canada biography continues with elucidation of some professional film work:

The documentary “Without God, The Story of Secular Humanism” with Dr Robert Buckman aired on Vision TV, and CBC Newsworld.[43]

What instigated involvement with Dr. Robert Buckman for the filming, editing, and eventual production of Without God, The Story of Secular Humanism?[44],[45],[46],[47],[48],[49],[50],[51],[52],[53],[54],[55],[56] 

I was researching the documentary when I happened to come across the B.C. Humanist Association. I sent an email to the web site and got a reply from their board. I met with several of them who proved to be most helpful in the making of the film. It was one of them that suggested Rob. When I contacted him he was very excited about the project and jumped on immediately. We decided that he would be an excellent on air narrator as he had a lot of experience in front of the camera and with that one of the most influential relationships of my life began.

7. What core message did Dr. Robert Buckman and yourself want to come across with, and what seemed to emerge from the viewership in reaction to, the final product of Without God, The Story of Secular Humanism?[57],[58],[59],[60],[61],[62]

We wanted to show two things, first of all, what exactly a Humanist is and more importantly, why we are in fact as, or more moral, that the religious. It is well known that atheists have a bad reputation and we wanted people to know that we are just like every one else with the same basic hopes, dreams and sense of right and wrong.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Board Vice-Chair, Center for Inquiry Canada (CFIC/CFI Canada); Past President, Humanist Canada; Past President, British Columbia Humanist Association.

[2] Individual Publication Date: January 22, 2016 at www.in-sightjournal.com/2016/02/15/an-interview-with-pat-obrien-part-one ; Full Issue Publication Date: May 1, 2016 at www.in-sightjournal.com/2016/02/15/an-interview-with-pat-obrien-part-one .

[3] Bachelor of Science & Bachelor of Education, Science, Biology, and Education.

[4] Photograph courtesy of Pat O’Brien.

[5] Please see Center for Inquiry Canada (2015). CFI Canada Board of Directors. Retrieved from http://centreforinquiry.ca/about-us/cfi-canada-board-of-directors/.

[6] According to the reportage of Pat Johnson, with partial quotations from O’Brien, in the article entitled Pacific Spirit: Atheists demand proof for God’s existence (2014):

When Pat O’Brien was eight or nine years old, his father told him that a watched pot never boils. “So I got a pot, put it on the stove, never took my eyes off it and it boiled,” says O’Brien. “From that moment on I was a skeptic. I wouldn’t believe anything until I actually saw it for myself.” Pretty soon, he was applying the same criteria to religion. . . . [Pat] is a board member of the Centre for Inquiry Canada, whose mission is to advance “skeptical, secular, rational and humanistic inquiry.

Please see Johnson, P. (2014, June 12). Pacific Spirit: Atheists demand proof for God’s existence. Retrieved from http://www.vancourier.com/community/pacific-spirit-atheists-demand-proof-for-god-s-existence-1.1127233#sthash.ehr1flAN.dpuf.

[7] Please see Johnson, P. (2014, June 12). Pacific Spirit: Atheists demand proof for God’s existence. Retrieved from http://www.vancourier.com/community/pacific-spirit-atheists-demand-proof-for-god-s-existence-1.1127233#sthash.ehr1flAN.dpuf.

[8] Please see Center for Inquiry Canada (2015). CFI Canada Board of Directors. Retrieved from http://centreforinquiry.ca/about-us/cfi-canada-board-of-directors/.

[9] Please see Peat, D. (2009, March 6). Humanists see light at end of subway tunnel. Retrieved from http://www.torontosun.com/news/torontoandgta/2009/03/06/8647786-sun.html.

[10] In addition to this definition of humanism, other terms within the canon of the unaffiliated with religion have definition by O’Brien; for instance, in On Atheists, he defined atheism in the following manner:

Atheist: noun – One who holds the position that the theists have not met their burden of proof…Atheism is simply one position on one issue; whether a god or gods exist. Atheism says nothing about a person; except that they are not convinced by the evidence the theists have shown, that a god exists.

Please see O’Brien, P. (2014, August 12). On Atheists. Retrieved from http://www.companyofdisciples.com/on-atheists-by-pat-obrien-of-cfi-canada/.

[11] The American Humanist Association Humanist Manifesto connects to the Humanist Manifesto I (1933), Humanist Manifesto II (1973), and Humanist Manifesto III (2003). The Humanist Manifesto III provides the cultural, ethical, philosophical, and scientific codification of the humanist worldview.  Each development – 1933, 1973, and 2003 – provides an incremental improvement, an accruement, of the ideological values for humanists with explicit statement for them. Here’s one segmented quotation for some perception of the four prior categorizations of humanist belief:

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity… Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis. Humanists find that science is the best method for determining this knowledge as well as for solving problems and developing beneficial technologies… Humans are an integral part of nature, the result of unguided evolutionary change. Humanists recognize nature as self-existing… Humanists ground values in human welfare shaped by human circumstances, interests, and concerns and extended to the global ecosystem and beyond… Humanists long for and strive toward a world of mutual care and concern, free of cruelty and its consequences, where differences are resolved cooperatively without resorting to violence… Humanists are concerned for the well being of all, are committed to diversity, and respect those of differing yet humane views… The responsibility for our lives and the kind of world in which we live is ours and ours alone.

Please see American Humanist Association (2015). Humanist Manifesto III: Humanism and Its Aspirations. Retrieved from http://americanhumanist.org/Humanism/Humanist_Manifesto_III.

[11] Please see American Humanist Association (2015). Humanist Manifesto I. Retrieved from http://americanhumanist.org/Humanism/Humanist_Manifesto_I.

[12] Please see American Humanist Association (2015). Humanist Manifesto II. Retrieved from http://americanhumanist.org/Humanism/Humanist_Manifesto_II.

[13] Please see American Humanist Association (2015). Humanist Manifesto III: Humanism and Its Aspirations. Retrieved from http://americanhumanist.org/Humanism/Humanist_Manifesto_III.

[14] Please see Society of Ontario Freethinkers (2015). Our Humanist Principles. Retrieved from http://www.sofree.ca/our-humanist-principles/.

[15] Please see Secular Connexion Séculaire (2015). Goals and Principles. Retrieved from http://www.secularconnexion.ca/goals-principles.html.

[16] A non-exhaustive list of the national, provincial, and territorial unaffiliated with religion organizations under individuated banners of humanist, secular, and so on.

[17] Please see Ontario Humanist Society (2015). Ontario Humanist Society. Retrieved from http://ontariohumanists.ca/.

[18] Please see Humanist Association of Toronto (2015). Humanist Association of Toronto. Retrieved from http://humanisttoronto.blogspot.ca/.

[19] Please see British Columbia Humanist Association (2015). British Columbia Humanist Association. Retrieved from http://bchumanist.ca/.

[20] Please see Secular Connexion Séculaire (2015). Secular Connexion Séculaire. Retrieved from http://www.secularconnexion.ca/.

[21] Please see Society of Ontario Freethinkers (2015). Society of Ontario Freethinkers. Retrieved from http://www.sofree.ca/.

[22] Please see Vancouver Skeptics (2015). Vancouver Skeptics. Retrieved from http://vancouverskeptics.org/.

[23] Please see Canadian Secular Alliance (2015). About. Retrieved from http://secularalliance.ca/about/.

[24] Please see Center for Inquiry (2015). Center for Inquiry: Vancouver. Retrieved from http://www.cficanada.ca/vancouver.

[25] Please see Comox Valley Humanists (2015). Comox Valley Humanists. Retrieved from http://cvhumanists.org/.

[26] Please see Center for Inquiry (2015). Center for Inquiry: Okanagan. Retrieved from http://centreforinquiry.ca/author/cfi-okanagan/.

[27] Please see British Columbia Humanist Association (2015). Fraser Valley Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists. Retrieved from http://bchumanist.ca/communities/fraser-valley/114-welcome-fraser-valley-humanists.

[28] Please see British Columbia Humanist Association (2015). Vancouver Island Humanists. Retrieved from http://bchumanist.ca/communities/oceanside.

[29] A non-exhaustive list of the international humanist, secular, and other organizations.

[30] Please see International Humanist and Ethical Union (2015). International Humanist and Ethical Union. Retrieved from http://iheu.org/.

[31] Please see Atheist Alliance International (2015). Atheist Alliance International. Retrieved from https://www.atheistalliance.org/.

[32] Please see The European Humanist Federation (2015). The European Humanist Federation. Retrieved from http://humanistfederation.eu/.

[33] Please see Rationalist International (2015). Rationalist International. Retrieved from http://www.rationalistinternational.net/.

[34] Please see International League of Humanists (2015). International League of Humanists. Retrieved from http://www.intlh.com/bh/.

[35] Please see Sunday Assembly (2015). Sunday Assembly. Retrieved from http://sundayassembly.com/.

[36] Bearing in mind, the global number of individuals in the unaffiliated categorization equates to about 16%.  The continental, North American, count comes to 17.1%.  The national, Canadian, count comes to 16%.  The provincial, British Columbian, quantity sits around 35.88% or ~35-36%. Please see following footnotes for appropriate bibliographic reference redirections.

[37] Those without affiliation with religion come with numerous self-identifications including agnostic, atheist, “bright,” “freethinker,” humanist, non-believer, non-religious, skeptic, and many others, with an emphasis on a novel definition, which includes many of the previous definitions in relation to religion, “unaffiliated.” Both national and international evidence attest to the comparable affiliation with religion, in December of 2012, to the Canadian quantification, in 2001, at ~16%, and the higher than global number with the province of BC’s affiliation with religion at ~35.88%. A BC “no religious affiliation” sub-population divided by the total BC population: 1,388,300/3,868,875=~35.88%.

PEW Research Center (2015, April 2). The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050. Retrieved from http://www.pewforum.org/2015/04/02/religious-projections-2010-2050/.

[38] Please see PEW Research Center (2015, April 2). The Future Of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050: North America. Retrieved from http://www.pewforum.org/2015/04/02/north-america/.

[39] Please see British Columbia Humanist Association (2013, June 19). BC Religious and Secular Attitudes. Retrieved from http://bchumanist.ca/news/110-bc-religious-and-secular-attitudes-poll.

[40] Please see PEW Research Center (2012, December). The Global Religious Landscape. Retrieved from http://www.pewforum.org/files/2014/01/global-religion-full.pdf.

[41] Please see PEW Research Center (2012, December 12). The Global Religious Landscape. Retrieved from http://www.pewforum.org/2012/12/18/global-religious-landscape-exec/.

[42] Please see Statistics Canada (2005, January 25). Population by religion, by province and territory (2001 Census): (Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon). Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/tables-tableaux/sum-som/l01/cst01/demo30c-eng.htm.

[43] Please see Statistics Canada (2005, January 25). Population by religion, by province and territory (2001 Census): (Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon). Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/tables-tableaux/sum-som/l01/cst01/demo30c-eng.htm.

[44] Please see IMDB (2015). Rob Buckman. Retrieved from http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0118721/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm.

[45] Duly note, the late Dr. Robert Buckman held the presidency of the Humanist Association of Canada in 2004. A doctor and author with a specialty in oncology, or the study and treatment of tumors. He died in sleep during a transatlantic flight.

[46] Please see Langan, F. (October 11, 2011). Renowned oncologist Robert Buckman dies at age 63. Retrieved from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/renowned-oncologist-robert-buckman-dies-at-63/article2198113/?utm_medium=Feeds%3A%20RSS%2FAtom&utm_source=National&utm_content=2198113.

[47] Please see Jones, T. (2011, October 12). Rob Buckman Obituary. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/oct/12/rob-buckman.

[48] Please see The Times (2011, October 15). Rob Buckman. Retrieved from http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/obituaries/article3194806.ece.

[49] Please see Q&Q Staff (2000, October). Robert Buckman hits the funny bone. Retrieved from http://www.quillandquire.com/authors/robert-buckman-hits-the-funny-bone/.

[50] Please see The Telegraph (2011, October 30). Rob Buckman. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/medicine-obituaries/8985526/Rob-Buckman.html.

[51] Please see [DocAlTulonge] (2007, August 9). Without God – Part 1 of 5. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7IoSDKBAMU.

[52] Please see [DocAlTulonge] (2007, August 9). Without God – Part 2 of 5. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8BAgfVlbbA.

[53] Please see [DocAlTulonge] (2007, August 9). Without God – Part 3 of 5. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dN0nKsiY7qA.

[54] Please see [DocAlTulonge] (2007, August 9). Without God – Part 4 of 5. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqIEBY1Gsi0.

[55] Please see [DocAlTulonge] (2007, August 9). Without God – Part 5 of 5. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LG1-yGZJk1Y.

[56] Duly note, one obituary written by the famed Terry Jones of Monty Python.  Therefore, a query in direct relation to instigations brings the fame of popular British comedy, such as Monty Python, into the fray with Dr. Robert Buckman, a comedian; not an accident for this phraseology.

[57] Please see IMDB (2015). Rob Buckman. Retrieved from http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0118721/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm.

[58] Please see [DocAlTulonge] (2007, August 9). Without God – Part 1 of 5. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7IoSDKBAMU.

[59] Please see [DocAlTulonge] (2007, August 9). Without God – Part 2 of 5. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8BAgfVlbbA.

[60] Please see [DocAlTulonge] (2007, August 9). Without God – Part 3 of 5. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dN0nKsiY7qA.

[61] Please see [DocAlTulonge] (2007, August 9). Without God – Part 4 of 5. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqIEBY1Gsi0.

[62] Please see [DocAlTulonge] (2007, August 9). Without God – Part 5 of 5. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LG1-yGZJk1Y.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. An Interview with Pat O’Brien (Part One)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal [Online].February 2016; 10(A). Available from: www.in-sightjournal.com/2016/02/15/an-interview-with-pat-obrien-part-one .

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2016, February 15). An Interview with Pat O’Brien (Part One). Retrieved from www.in-sightjournal.com/2016/02/15/an-interview-with-pat-obrien-part-one .

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. An Interview with Pat O’Brien (Part One)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 10.A, February. 2016. <www.in-sightjournal.com/2016/02/15/an-interview-with-pat-obrien-part-one >.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2016. “An Interview with Pat O’Brien (Part One).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 10.A. www.in-sightjournal.com/2016/02/15/an-interview-with-pat-obrien-part-one .

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “An Interview with Pat O’Brien (Part One).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 10.A (February 2016). www.in-sightjournal.com/2016/02/15/an-interview-with-pat-obrien-part-one .

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2016, ‘An Interview with Pat O’Brien (Part One)’, In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 10.A. Available from: <www.in-sightjournal.com/2016/02/15/an-interview-with-pat-obrien-part-one >.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2016, ‘An Interview with Pat O’Brien (Part One)’, In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 10.A., www.in-sightjournal.com/2016/02/15/an-interview-with-pat-obrien-part-one .

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “An Interview with Pat O’Brien (Part One).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 10.A (2016):February. 2016. Web. <www.in-sightjournal.com/2016/02/15/an-interview-with-pat-obrien-part-one >.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. An Interview with Pat O’Brien (Part One) [Internet]. (2016, February); 10(A). Available from: www.in-sightjournal.com/2016/02/15/an-interview-with-pat-obrien-part-one .

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© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 2012-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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